Which is the best software solution for skill management in my organization? We recently asked this question at the Skill Management Conference of the German Association for Human Resource Management (DGFP) and tried to answer it on the basis of an international market survey with a comparison of 15 selected software solutions.

Why Skill Management is becoming more relevant

The progressing digitalization and changing technologies are driving the need for companies to bring new skills into their organizations, while other existing skills lose their relevance. It is not easy to get an overview of the extent to which employees already have the skills they need, which they should develop through training or whether companies can better find them externally through recruiting. In practice, the increasing difficulty of structuring this volume of data can only be achieved with the help of AI-based skills management software. Accordingly, a successful implementation of skill management will determine the future competitiveness of your organization.

Structured representation of skills

All observed skills, regardless of whether they already exist in the organization or not, must be logically connected and presented in a structured manner. This is to a large extent taken over by a skill management software, in addition to that a curation by responsible persons of the organization is necessary, in order to make (enterprise-specific) adjustments. Skill management software solutions offer different possibilities for structuring, the most common are the two organizational methods skill taxonomy and skill ontology. These terms are often used synonymously, are similar in their meaning and therefore lead to confusion. The key differentiator is their thematic focus.

Definition of Skill Taxonomy

A skill taxonomy is a hierarchical overview of skills divided into categories and related subcategories. The goal of the skill taxonomy is to systematically classify and group skills. For example, the category communication includes the more specific subcategory communication skills.

Definition of Skill Ontology

A skill ontology is a semantic representation of the relationship between different skills, i.e. their proximity or distance to each other. This makes it easier to understand the dependencies between skills, such as for example the connection between communication skills and presentation methodologies.

Skill Ontology vs. Skill Taxonomy

In simplified terms, a skill taxonomy is comparable to a menu in a restaurant, where the different types of dishes are organized by appetizer, main course and dessert and further subdivided into, for example, main courses with fish and vegetarian options. A skill ontology is rather comparable to a city map on which streets and buildings are marked for a more recognizable proximity to each other.

Neither of both approaches is inherently better or worse. Both create coherence and organization. However, the successful implementation of skill management practices depends much more on organization-specific requirements and individual objectives.

Therefore, the initial analysis to choose a specific software solution is much more important than distinguishing between the approaches:

  • What do you want to achieve?
  • Which of your sub-goals has the highest priority?
  • What dependencies exist between the various HR and IT processes?

You can find a complete overview on the topic of skill management in our Skill Management Guide 2023: