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| 2 minutes read

Everyone is talking about skills – here’s why

If you’re reading this article you will be well aware that the recruitment market is incredibly hot right now.  That is being driven by growth (for now), by record employee turnover and by a shortage of talent.  In both the US and the UK there are now more open vacancies than there are unemployed people.  Companies are struggling to retain their existing talent and struggling to hire new talent. 

In business we have talked about skills for years – the ‘hard skills’ required to do a particular job or task and the ‘soft skills’ which are the personal qualities we bring to our roles.   In theory we hire new talent for our organizations based on those skills, we help employees develop their skills and we progress employees throughout our organizations by matching their skills to new opportunities.  In practice many companies struggle to do all three of those things. 

To make the situation more challenging, the skills we require for our businesses are changing rapidly.  According to LinkedIn “skills sets for jobs have changed by around 25% since 2015. By 2027, this number is expected to double”.  So as well as understanding the skills that we require today we need to understand how those skill requirements are likely to change.

As I wrote recently, Hiring Managers understandably look for candidates that can hit the ground running and can be productive quickly.  As such they and recruiters seek and evaluate candidates based on the extent to which they can demonstrate that they have done the job before.  They are looking for the perfect job-ready candidate.  That means that they are fishing in the same small pool of candidates as all of their competitors and they’re missing potential talent – candidates that may have transferable skills from another sector or discipline.  By focusing on skills rather than proven experience we can expand our talent pools, increase the diversity of our new hires and also hire talent that may be a better long-term fit for our organizations (thereby helping to tackle employee turnover).  Companies that are taking this approach are seeing the benefit – as per the Forbes article below, those companies hiring based on skills are “60% more likely to find a successful hire compared to those not relying on skills as part of the hiring process”.

Whilst businesses may think in terms of skills, many don’t have a common way of describing the skills that they require and employ (a taxonomy) and they therefore don’t have a way of viewing or evaluating the skills that they have across their businesses or the skills that they will need in the future.  What is changing in this space is the rapid expansion of what Josh Bersin refers to as SkillsTech – “tools that help categorize, assess, manage, and improve skills at work”.  And many of these tools include AI to help identify internal talent (and skills) to future requirements.  With effective technology in place we can understand the skills that we have within our organizations, we can design and deploy learning and development interventions to help employees upskill and reskill, we can better progress and retain our existing and valuable talent.

With the deployment of the right skills technology, the skills-based approach that can be applied to Talent Acquisition, Learning and Development, Talent Management and Internal Mobility can now integrate for the first time.  That’s why organizations are getting excited about skills again and why we’re seeing the creation of roles such as Integrated Talent leaders. 

Is this integrated skills-based approach the silver bullet to better hiring and retaining talent?  Probably not, but I’m convinced that those organizations who take this approach will fare considerably better than their competitors.

Skills have always been the currency of work, but the way companies source skilled workers is on the brink of a major shift. According to data from LinkedIn, 40% of hirers on LinkedIn used skills to fill open roles—up 20% year-over-year. These employers are 60% more likely to find a successful hire compared to those not relying on skills as part of the hiring process.


ams, future of work, hr tech, reskilling, life sciences, talent acquisition, tech skilling, talent retention, talent climate, candidate attraction, assessments, upskilling