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Build employee skills now for the work of tomorrow

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By 2028, changes in the world of work will disrupt 44% of worker’s skills. This rate of disruption is about twice as fast as 2015 to 2023 (25%), according to the World Economic Forum’s 2023 Future of Jobs Report.

Change is increasing so rapidly that skills gaps will inevitably get worse without intervention. What employers need to navigate this change is a skills strategy. A successful employee skills strategy will make measurable business impact on organisational agility, engagement and more.

In this article, you’ll learn how leading employers are building skills strategies that prepare employees for the work of tomorrow.

Launching an employee skills strategy

An effective skills strategy begins with insights on existing skill gaps. This process is a skills gap analysis. Once an organisation has a clear understanding of current gaps, it can define a scalable plan for closing gaps. Then, after closing the gaps for current employees, it can integrate the new skills into the talent processes.

As with other strategies focused on agility, this process will be continuous. Harvard’s Ryan Roslansky highlights some key principles for deploying of a successful skills strategy:

  • Talking about skills across the organisation. By discussing it regularly, leaders can create common understanding, clarity and alignment on the company’s skills strategy. This may include discussions about skill strategy generally, upskilling, re-skilling and cross-skilling.
  • Applying skills in talent processes. HR can integrate skills into talent acquisition, development, management and retention practices in a consistent and holistic manner.
  • Using skills to optimise work. Job and work architecture models rely on skills to inform capabilities requisite to completing high priority work.
  • Using technology to inform skills insights. Leaders can leverage AI and analytics tools to inform current and future skills needed as well as skill gaps. Insights from these tools can then guide development solutions.

An effective skills strategy should also focus on the employee and how their skills create value. By investing in the employee first, you can set a new direction for getting work done while supporting retention.

Business benefits of a successful skills strategy

A focus on the organisation’s skills strategy unleashes workforce capacity, builds employee engagement and cultivates business agility. Unlike traditional approaches to talent management, a skills-based organisation places employees at the center of work.

That is, the company views employee skills as unique assets to nurture. In doing so, this approach keeps organisations nimble, responsive and fast-acting while employees experience growth, opportunity and equity.

A strategy focused on employee skill development also offers other benefits, including:

More efficient labour markets and greater employability

As reported in the UK Barnsley Employment and Skills Strategy Study, “The labour market is complex and changing.” The study identified skills that businesses absolutely need to grow. Skills like problem solving skills and creativity are essential to growing and diversifying the economy. They’re also key to improving employability and expanding human and business potential.

Improved talent mobility and employer brand

The tight labour market has empowered employees. A skills-based organisation shows employees that the organisation believes in them and is investing in their professional development. It also shows the organisation supports employee careers and long-term goals by aligning skills to meaningful work.

Greater employee productivity

Keeping top talent today is no easy task and a top priority. By encouraging employees to learn new skills and increasing employee value, leaders can significantly improve people outcomes.

Organisational agility

Leading organisations are operating without a grace period. Being adaptable is their key to success. By matching the most skilled employees with the most critical work, they’re able to be agile and keep up with fast-changing business priorities.

Enhanced fairness and equity

Leading organisations are upskilling, re-skilling, and cross skilling all employees regardless of their role, level, status or age. Driving learning and skills equity offers every employee the opportunity to flourish. This results in lower labour turnover and employees with high morale.

Together, these benefits yield an improved overall employee experience, leading to greater employee engagement and enhanced organisational agility. Most importantly, these benefits make companies more competitive.

Getting ROI on your employee skills strategy

Getting a measurable return from your skills strategy is a result of at least three actionable principles:

Get started now

First, if they haven’t already, forward-looking HR leaders need to start designing their skills strategy now. Organisations continue to struggle with retaining key talent, drops in productivity and a strong need to improve agility.

Deploying a skills strategy prepares an organisation to mitigate potential future disruption caused by each of these forces. Without knowing when the next disruption will occur, it’s best to design and deploy the skills strategy now.

Work cross-functionally

Next, HR and business leaders should work collaboratively to connect work to skill requirements and talent development. Leading organisations are communicating transparently across the organisation. This gives leaders the opportunity to directly address the future of skills and business needs.

Transparent cross-functional communication will also set proper expectations with the workforce. For employees, it will give them the opportunity to opt in or out of gaining new needed skills. Some employees will ignore the mandate. However, most will embrace the opportunity to grow their skills and exercise mobility opportunities.

Leverage technology

Finally, high-performing organisations use technology to facilitate the deployment of a skills strategy. Automated data insights inform leaders of what skills gaps exist and forecast what skills gaps may be ahead. This allows managers and HR team members to create development plans and assign work efficiently.

Beyond identifying gaps, technology democratizes employee development by identifying career journeys suitable for employees based on their unique skills and interests and work requirements. And, AI-powered software programmes like learning experience platforms enhance skill-building through personalised employee training programmes.


As organisations move into the future of work, employees will continue to expect internal mobility and development investment. Leaders can meet these needs with effective employee skills strategy.

Organisations with skills strategies purposefully help their workers grow, learn and develop critical, modern-day skills. In return, employees give the organisation a competitive advantage and the agility to navigate the next business interruption. Planned, or unplanned.