Accelerating LxP Adoption – Roles or Skills?

Adopting an LxP can feel like the chicken or the egg paradox, given you don’t know what comes first. However, based on our experiences, we have found that starting with roles can be an excellent foundation for your LxP and allows you to begin mapping skills to the right roles.

But first, organizations need to pivot from intuitively creating new learning solutions for every need to a ‘curate first’ mindset, as well as thinking of skills, not roles, to implement an LxP successfully.  Almost immediately, when organizations start to curate learning in an LxP, they begin to see a pattern and realize that multiple roles require many of the same skills. Sometimes, these skills are different by position, function, and level, but we can often address this through skill competency levels.  We also recommend that an organization offer a deeper dive into these skills through embedded opportunities to reflect, discuss, and apply. This new way of thinking makes learning curation and managing the LxP easier, more effective and, a much better learning experience for employees.

Think about it. When you look for learning content or want to develop your skills, what would you look for? Your role or the skills you need to build? Most would search based on skills.  Content providers worldwide have libraries of existing content based on skills. And, organizations often struggle to take full advantage of these libraries because they are not yet speaking the skills language internally. So, back to the original question – should roles or skills be the focus? Why not both?

Here are our Top 3 recommendations for using roles and skills to help manage your learning experiences, focusing on how you can leverage skills to accelerate the adoption of the LXP.

Before we start, it’s helpful to share that we use three different lenses to determine our curation strategy and implement these recommendations within an organization.

Those lenses are:

  1. Delivering a superior learning experience
  2. Meeting the learning objectives
  3. Making it sustainable

Recommendation 1: Note the difference between Topics & Skills

Defining a skill should be one of your first steps. It is a critical component to make sure that everyone is on the same page. What is a skill? Reference the examples below to understand the difference between topics and skills.

For the following two topics, you can see related skills:

TopicCommunicationProject Management
WritingRisk Analysis


When you think of project management, other broader skills are also imperative to success, for example, critical thinking. However, as you determine your content strategy, you should think about whether critical thinking will apply to individuals beyond project management. Suppose the critical thinking required for project management tasks is different from what might be essential within other topic areas, for example, application programming or people management.  Of course, the answer might again be in competency levels. However, it could also be a skill that is highly topic-specific that it becomes critical thinking for Project Management. Notice how we didn’t say critical thinking for project managers.

The entire organization will likely need at least a beginner-level understanding of what they should do to apply critical thinking skills and why they are essential. So, you should think about this skill and the possible applications as you curate for intermediate, advanced, and possibly expert levels.


Recommendation 2: Sourcing roles and skills

There are multiple sources for identifying the roles and skills used and required by the organization. Typically, the best starting point is the Human Capital Management System (HCMS), which serves as the HR system of record.

Your HCMS will typically hold structured data such as the employee role and other employee-related data. Larger organizations may struggle to extract a list of roles that they can trust, and in some cases, you may need to map titles and roles because multiple job titles equal one job role.

HCMS Job TitleMapped Role
Project ManagerProject Manager
Project Co-ordinator
Project Analyst


An alternative to the HCMS is to source your list of skills is from a 3rd Party Provider. Companies such as Burning Glass and LinkedIn have some of the most accurate skills taxonomies. However, they may not cover all the skills in your organization, so be prepared to augment any datasets and allow the employees to add skills that may be missing.

We have seen some of the best approaches use a hybrid model where a list of roles is extracted from the HCMS, mapped to a common taxonomy or competency model, and then cross-referenced against 3rd party skills listings.

Recommendation 3: Building a Skills Architecture

As you begin your curation journey through the LxP, you will need to maintain and build your Skills Architecture. Much like a garden, you will need to weed and re-seed your architecture, and depending on the ‘shelf-life’ of your skills, you may want to set shorter or longer periods for a skills architecture review. Enabling an accurate and up-to-date set of topics, roles, and skills is the foundation for compelling learning experiences that meet business objectives and employee needs.

Organizations can then manage their learning strategy through a Skills Architecture, which is defined as follows:

“Managing the relationships between skills, roles, and competency levels (certifications) required for skills. “

The Competency Levels mentioned earlier can be listed numerically (1,2,3,4,5,6) or levels (Beginner, Intermediate, Advanced). This structure enables you to cross many roles and/or levels of employees through a topic and skills-based curation strategy, eliminating the need to replicate the same learning across many different roles within an organization.

As with any Architecture, the best way to determine these lists is by using visual tree structures and diagrams. These should be reviewed and maintained on a regular cadence with a team of subject matter experts.  Of course, spreadsheets can also provide a great way to manage and upload your skills to an LxP.

Skill Taxonomy


Since most organizations are still focused on roles, initial mapping of skills to those roles and deploying an LxP with this foundation is a great start. However, the learner experience is driven by skills, and the organization should begin adapting a skills language to enable a successful LxP adoption. Ultimately, an LxP is meant to enable your employees to build relevant knowledge and skills. Therefore, most organizations will need to begin with roles but transition to skills to deploy and grow with an LxP that meets your employees and your organization’s growing needs. 

We would love to hear from you! Let us know your thoughts and challenges your organization is facing when implementing an LxP in the comments below.


Outlook and Trends Impacting Learning & Development

On today’s episode, we look at Part 2 of the current business landscape for L&D, what are the trends that are driving change, and what are the implications on Learning within organizations.