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David James


Chief Learning Officer

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Why skills-based learning is key to solving your talent shortage

What is skills-based learning and why is it the right approach for talent attraction and development today? David James, CLO at 360Learning, shares his thoughts.
selective photography of green leaf plant, depicting skills growth

Talent shortages are nothing new in business but they are getting more severe. From labor shortages in the construction industry to the green skills shortage which is holding back the renewable transition, businesses across the globe are struggling to hire the right talent for their open roles. One recent survey found that a staggering 75% of employers in 41 countries can’t find the skilled employees they need. 

To close the talent gap in hiring, you need to re-frame your learning strategy. This involves employing a skills-based approach to learning that broadens your talent pool and helps you find enthusiastic talent who you can upskill with the right skills for the job. Here’s how it works. 

What you need to know about skills-based learning

Skill-based learning is a learning strategy that focuses on the skills required for people and organisations to grow. This makes it easier to arm employees with the skills necessary for today and the future.

As well, by moving away from focusing on jobs, skills-based approaches make it more straightforward to upskill and reskill employees into areas of the business that need the right people. 

Start with a skills ontology

Before you begin, you need a skills ontology. With an ontology, you can see the current skill levels across the business, such as by using internal job descriptions, and work out what is missing. Then you can use this data to help upskill and reskill employees to power the business forward.

AI can play a key role here in helping you to map out the skills currently and the skills needed and then constantly keep this updated. If a skills ontology isn’t live and active, it’s pretty much useless. 

Make it easy to identify your learning content with skills

Now you know what skills you need, you need to start implementing training and upskilling. Having a tech platform that allows you to tag your learning content with skills makes it easier to identify, create and prescribe content that will close skills gaps. This means you can match the right content and training for the right employee at the right time.

Make the most of your internal experts

Building content that works is just as important as having the right platform to deliver it. Use collaborative learning by getting insights from the specialists in your teams (subject matter experts) to understand what people need to succeed and help to get them there.

For instance, if you need to upskill your sales team in communication, resilience and client management, then you can find relevant content from experts inside the business who understand your values to help deliver the right training at the right time. 

What does skills-based learning have to do with hiring?

When implemented correctly, skills-based learning can fill skills gaps in an organisation and prepare its employees for the future. It can also change how you approach hiring. 

Tier 1 versus tier 2 candidates

All companies want Tier-1 candidates, likely from a top university and relevant experience at a big-name competitor. You could hire them and on the first day, they would come into the role with the necessary experience and skills to make a difference to the team.

A Tier 2 candidate, on the other hand, won’t be as far along in their career as the Tier 1 candidate, has worked for smaller companies and may have worked in different roles so isn’t on the same direct career path, which would impact how they get started in the role. 

Pursue those with potential

With a skills-based approach to learning, companies can hire Tier 2 candidates with potential and put them through the appropriate training to help them become Tier 1 employees.

Through upskilling, in line with an organisation’s growth strategy, this becomes a more effective way to cultivate the skills needed and broadens the talent pool available to companies. As well, this approach also enhances the employee value proposition (EVP) by committing to development that leads to opportunity, which is attractive to ambitious candidates and existing employees alike. 

It can also help to minimise the time and money spent on hiring and avoid layoffs. Imagine a scenario where your business is expanding in a new area and that means you don’t need a certain team anymore. Instead of making a team redundant, you can re-skill them in the areas that you now need. This saves time and money in hiring an expensive new team, prevents layoffs and retains the institutional knowledge that can be so hard to build in new recruits. 

Closing the skills gap down the line 

The digitalisation of industries means workers who don’t upskill and learn new skills will be left behind.

Take the advent of generative AI in the past 12 months. Businesses are embracing it for its ability to cut down on administrative tasks and help workers be more productive, but there is a learning curve to get employees up to speed with the new tech. It’s only going to become more important: AI has been named as one of the World Economic Forum’s skills priorities for 2027, along with big data, analytical and creative thinking. 

Having a skills-based learning approach means that L&D teams will be regularly on the lookout for new technologies that will make a difference to an organisation, and update their skills ontologies to implement them in the right way. This can help to make companies more competitive and successful in the long term.

Interested in this topic? Read The three main steps for designing a holistic skills strategy

Author Profile Picture
David James

Chief Learning Officer

Read more from David James

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