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Moving toward a skills-based talent strategy

By Kevin Pennington, Robert Tate, Brandon Yerre; PwC US Principals, Consulting Solutions | Published: Sept. 21, 2023 | Read time: 5 minutes

The questions, the answers and the tech that can help transform your skills-based strategy into a day-to-day reality. 

Organizations are in a constant balancing act: racing toward the future while bending to the tensions of today. Over 50% of CEOs say skills shortages and tech disruption will impact profitability over the next decade. Figuring out how to attract, retain, develop and deploy talent in creative ways will be critical to maintaining growth and innovation — and profitability — during these disruptions.  

But to be successful, workforce and HR strategies should meet the needs of the organization while engaging their people at the same time. The majority of CEOs agree. Roughly 75% of companies are focused on investing in automation, upskilling and deploying advanced technology. Developing a skills-based talent strategy — one that provides opportunities for upskilling, meaningful work and adaptive ecosystems — can help accomplish these goals.  

Preparing your talent strategy for the future 

A more traditional structure that focuses on titles rather than capabilities can slam the breaks on innovation and nimbleness when you need those qualities the most. A skills-based talent strategy shifts the focus from jobs to skills, enabling organizations to augment growth and innovation opportunities with resilience and agility. Organizations can respond to change more quickly and efficiently, and collaboration and communication flows more freely.  

The future of technology may very well fundamentally change the way businesses operate. Blockchain, IoT, AI, 5G and virtual and augmented reality technology continue to evolve and connect us to a broader, global network of business and community. Meanwhile, other emerging possibilities in generative AI, quantum computing and Web3 have the opportunity to reshape different aspects of our society.  

But the promise of a new world can bring looming concerns if the technology is not used responsibly. While generative AI can automate high-volume tasks and provide insightful analyses, it can also produce irrelevant, inaccurate or even legally problematic outputs. AI models will still need the right prompts in order to deliver value. For that to happen, organizations should encourage a human-led and tech-enabled approach. New cyber risks are also emerging, including the ability for bad actors to generate deep fakes and facilitate other cyber attacks at scale. For businesses to successfully and proactively address these challenges, they will need people to operate advanced iterations of AI ethically, securely and responsibly. That takes specialized skills and training.  

Yet, many organizations don’t know what skills they have, what skills they need or what needs to be changed to align to business and talent strategy. Barely one in four leaders can definitively identify skills they’ll need in the future. Taking a skills-based approach can help prepare your organizational environment, culture and talent for what’s to come. And having a skills-based talent strategy can help you navigate these concerns by answering key questions:  

  • What skills do we have today?  

  • What skills will be needed to succeed in the near future?  

  • How do we close the skills gaps? 

 Let’s explore these questions — and how you can answer them — more closely. 

1. What skills do our people have today?  

To understand if you have the right mix of talent, roles and skills, many organizations can look to their talent and job profiles. This information can be typically found in human capital management (HCM) platforms and human resource information systems (HRIS). Unfortunately, the employee information needed for data-driven decision making is often distributed between several systems, making it challenging to see a holistic view of the available talent data. 

To get a baseline understanding of skills, organizations should enlist a tech solution that can gather this information in one place and collect a repository of skills — in a low-touch and easy-to-scale way.  

With ProEdge, a PwC product for upskilling, organizations can pull information from HR information systems, resumes and other third-party sources to build a skills repository. It compares these skills to job market data, emerging roles and organization-based skill priorities to summarize and analyze data. Leaders can understand the roles and skills they have now across the organization, pinpoint skill gaps — and get AI-generated learning pathways to help fill them with targeted, hyper-relevant content.  

2. What skills will be needed to succeed in the near future?  

Forty-eight percent of CFOs want to boost capabilities in data analytics, AI and cloud to reduce costs, reinvigorate workforce and drive revenue. But to maintain a pipeline of in-demand skills, organizations should know how to identify and bridge talent skills gaps continuously and automatically. Yet, only 23% of business and HR leaders admit they use workforce analytics to monitor and predict skills gaps.  

Upskilling is a key part of this journey but it can’t be a one-off exercise. Keeping tabs on emerging skills and roles — and what other companies are doing to meet them — should be a repeatable, ongoing process so upskilling efforts and learning content can adapt and evolve with the times. 

Industry benchmarking and HR analytics can help by allowing you to compare yourself against peers. Leaders can see what industry peers are doing in their functions to prepare for the future and see how much they’re investing in upskilling and recruiting. With hundreds of metrics and unique benchmarks, Saratoga, a PwC HR benchmarking solution, helps you answer questions like, “Do we have the skills we need to succeed?” and “Are we developing our employees well enough?” 

With continuous access to labor data and predictive analytics, organizations can get real-time visibility into the ever-evolving roles needed to move an organization forward and keep it competitive. 

3. How do we close the skills gaps?  

Organizations can arrange their recruiting, hiring and training requirements to begin fostering a skills-based culture by encouraging non-degreed candidates to apply, creating a skills-based interview rubric, mapping out skills for new employees and more.   

Skill-building opportunities help your employees grow careers in areas the business needs while also helping individuals get to the next level of the career ladder. This is a big benefit for the employee in terms of engagement, experience and career growth. In return, the organization can remain growth-minded by becoming early adopters of critical skills and technologies.  

But how do you determine what employees want or need on an individual level? Where do they think they fall short and can you be there to help them before they phone it in or jump ship? Give them a say in defining and designing their path. Employees who see their organization investing in their long-term development will be more likely to trust leaders and feel happy and cared for and therefore less likely to quit — allowing for less disruption and more employee engagement in getting your organization future-ready. 

You can also deepen your skills-based approach further with employee listening. Survey and analytics tools like the Listen Platform, a PwC product, informs more personalized and targeted upskilling efforts by delivering a more realistic  and up-to-date snapshot of a person's skills profile. Organizations can gather their perspective on the skills they have and wish to develop, their upskilling preferences and provide feedback on the learning and development tools you’ve implemented — or the types they wish you would.   

All of this insight, including the HR benchmarks, skills repository and analytics can be incorporated within the upskilling journey, completing a multi-pronged approach to your skills-based talent management. 

Business transformation could depend on a skilled-based talent strategy 

Continual digitization and transformation helps fuel the need for more specialization of skills. Fail to predict what kinds of skills your business will need and you may miss out on opportunities for growth and innovation. Fail to anticipate how these new roles will continue to change, and your once specialized skills may become less valuable or even obsolete, stopping innovation in its tracks. 

Asking the right questions is the first step to figuring out the solutions needed to help you solve these challenges along the journey to becoming more skills-based. PwC offers deep industry experience and tech solutions to tackling these questions. We can help you analyze existing and future business shifts and market changes to create a more dynamic workforce — one that can preempt your business challenges with skills of the future on deck. 

Leverage tech towards a skills-based talent strategy

ProEdge  Close skills gaps with personalized, AI-generated learning pathways and visibility into workers’ upskilling journeys. ProEdge provides highly targeted curated content, function-specific experiences and industry-recognized credentials through an approach based on our proprietary skills framework and the latest learning methodologies.  

Listen Platform  Set your skills-based approach on a course for success. Listen Platform is a survey and analytics product that helps you understand your employees’ opinions, attitudes and experiences. AI-driven analytics and business linkages, with configurable dashboards and reports, help you quickly uncover areas of opportunity within your workforce.   

Saratoga  Inform your skills-based strategy using data, amid a rapidly changing world of work. Saratoga is a benchmarking platform covering 40+ years of history and measurement from over 2,000 clients globally to help compare your organization to industry peers for deeper insights into your workforce.  

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