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SHRM Foundation to Establish National Center of Excellence to Accelerate Adoption of Skills-First Hiring and Advancement Initiatives

ALEXANDRIA, Va – Today, SHRM and the SHRM Foundation proudly announced the establishment of a cutting-edge Skills-First Center of Excellence (SFCOE), in partnership with Walmart, Charles Koch Foundation, and a wide range of leading collaborators including the Workday Foundation.

Continuing to build on the SHRM Foundation’s Skills-First at Work initiatives, this marks another step forward towards modernizing the traditional hiring and advancement landscape. The SFCOE will make it possible for employers to unlock the full potential of candidates by prioritizing their skills, talents, aptitudes, and competencies over the sole use of proxies like degrees.

“To meet the world of work of tomorrow, we need to transform our hiring and advancement practices today,” said Wendi Safstrom, President, SHRM Foundation. ”We commit to being a key convener and catalyst for skills-first practices, focusing on creating centralized, enterprise-level solutions that drive scale and trust. We are dedicated to supporting HR-inclusive innovation and employer-inclusive collective action to make it possible for all workers and workplaces to thrive.”

SHRM and the SHRM Foundation anticipate the center to launch in early 2025. In the next decade, the SHRM Foundation aims to transform hiring and advancement practices for 100,000 employers and 500,000 HR professionals, managers, and executives.

The four main components of the SFCOE are:

  • An AI-based skills advisor: will help employers see where they stand in their skills journey and to provide them with specific tools, trainings, and actions to accelerate their progress.
  • A library of skills-first resources: will help employers select tools by compiling and tagging resources from different providers and offering a collection of relevant case studies.
  • A skills-tech clearinghouse and solutions lab: will help HR professionals assess the quality of different HR systems and establish a community for talent champions.
  • A skills-first credential: will formally certify HR professionals, hiring managers, and C-suite executives in skills-first practices.

Currently, companies are turning to skills-first strategies for solutions to their talent needs. However, according to SHRM Foundation research, while 90% of employers acknowledge the benefits of skills-first hiring, only 15% actively implement it, showing a significant implementation gap. This research has identified three core barriers hindering the widespread adoption of skills-first strategies: challenges related to the ROI, lack of trust and knowledge among HR professionals and executives, and the absence of standard operating practices in the field.

“Walmart has been investing in skills-based systems for over 10 years,” said Julie Gehrki, vice president, Walmart Foundation. “We believe in creating more hiring and advancement opportunities for all, and our work with SHRM has helped accelerate the broader adoption of skills-first practices. We’re excited to see the Center of Excellence serve as a resource for other employers, no matter where they are in their journey.”

“The momentum of skills-based hiring is encouraging, but there is a risk it does not go far enough,” said Ryan Stowers, executive director, Charles Koch Foundation. “Employers need tools that are designed to support culture change. That is why this Center of Excellence is an exciting example of how SHRM helps employers empower their workers to pursue meaningful careers. By rethinking talent strategies to look at the full set of capabilities that people bring, companies can experience tremendous mutual benefit. Workers who are aligned with the vision of the organization see purpose in their work, understand the value they create, and are motivated by the role they play. Employees who are more fulfilled in their work are also more likely to innovate, grow, and stay at an organization.”

“At Workday, we believe that skills are the new currency of work, and skills-based hiring is a key strategy for organizations to move their business forever forward,” said Carrie Varoquiers, chief philanthropy officer, Workday. “The Skills-First Center of Excellence aligns with the Workday Foundation’s commitment to help reduce barriers to employment and unlock substantial career opportunities for those that have the talent and skills to succeed, but not always the right access. We are excited to support SHRM on this initiative so we can build a more innovative and diverse workforce together.”

The SFCOE is a collaborative effort drawing on expertise from across the skilling space. Additional collaborators in the SFCOE are anticipated to include: Opportunity@Work, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation, the Business Roundtable, Jobs for the Future, Education Design Lab, SkillsFWD, the Competency-Based Education Network (C-BEN), Grads of Life, and SHRMLabs, among others.

About the SHRM Foundation

SHRM Foundation empowers Human Resources as a force for social good. As the nonprofit arm of SHRM, the world's largest HR professional society, the Foundation believes that HR holds a unique position to lead change in the face of complex challenges within the world of work. SHRM Foundation believes that HR holds a unique position to lead change. The organization mobilizes and equips HR to ensure the prosperity and thriving of talent and workplaces. The Foundation works by widening pathways to work for more skills-first candidates and more kinds of talent; tackling societal challenges, with a current focus on workplace mental health and wellness; and strengthening the HR field with even more diversity, growth, and readiness to address these needs. SHRM Foundation works with SHRM, courageous partners, and bold investors to generate awareness, action, and impact to build a world of work that works for all. Discover more at

About SHRM

SHRM is a member-driven catalyst for creating better workplaces where people and businesses thrive together. As the trusted authority on all things work, SHRM is the foremost expert, researcher, advocate, and thought leader on issues and innovations impacting today’s evolving workplaces. With nearly 340,000 members in 180 countries, SHRM touches the lives of more than 362 million workers and their families globally. Discover more at