Despite record inflation and a global economic crunch, one thing hasn’t changed over the past few years: a massive workforce skills deficit. The combination of rapid technological change, a huge uptake in remote and hybrid work, and evolving market demands has altered many of the fundamental needs businesses must juggle, making keeping pace even more challenging.

Modern businesses need multi-skilled professionals with expertise and experience that can stay relevant in these rapidly changing times. For many, that means adapting their workforce-building strategy from a focus on higher education experience to a focus on the specific skills and areas of expertise needed. But according to General Assembly’s The State of Tech Talent Acquisition 2023 report, businesses “aren’t adopting skills-based hiring fast enough to meet demand.”

So, what’s the best way to address these needs? And how can ongoing, comprehensive learning programs help keep your workforce’s skills fresh and relevant?

Why comprehensive learning is the new focus for modern teams

When it comes to experience vs. education, it’s best to have a mix of the two. However, with the skills required by modern job markets changing so frequently,  specialized higher education courses become obsolete far too quickly. 

By the time a graduate enters the workforce, the details of their studies may no longer be relevant, resulting in much of the global skills shortage we face. Similarly, longer-standing team members will likely find their skills becoming less relevant with time as technological innovation accelerates.

As a result, organizations must take a dual-pronged approach, which requires a shift in thinking from the typical “experience vs. degree” binary. Today’s business leaders increasingly understand talent in terms of people’s ability to absorb knowledge, learn skills, and apply those skills practically rather than the specific nature of their training.

The first new approach, therefore, involves upskilling and reskilling existing talent to meet changing needs through a comprehensive learning strategy. The second is to hire people with the right skills and the potential to learn (and teach) rather than seek the perfect combination of degree and experience.

How to take advantage of Comprehensive Learner Records (CLRs)

A Comprehensive Learner Record (CLR) is a new approach for tracking and enhancing the skills and capabilities of your current and future workforce. It records all the learning your people have undertaken and tracks the skills they might have obtained inside and outside their studies or work.

A CLR provides professionals with an intuitive and flexible way of communicating their skill sets. As Kelly Hoyland, director of higher education programs with 1EdTech explains, “The CLR also furthers the trend away from degree requirements and toward skill-based hiring by providing a trusted record that gets away from simple summary grades and more toward the specific competencies someone has.”

By assessing CLRs, your HR department can undertake a more specific analysis of the skill sets you have and those you need. You can also make sure that both new joiners and existing team members can continue to learn skills that will help you remain competitive. Equally, it can help you provide targeted and effective training programs for your people.

How to build a skills-based workforce

As Wayne Elsey, founder of The Funds2Orgs Group, puts it, “The days of mastering one skill set are over because of the evolution of technology. Employees no longer spend 30 years of their career honing in on one skill set.”

The key to building an agile organization lies in a continuous process of upskilling, reskilling, and multi-skilling. Investing in appropriate training will help your people respond and react to changing business needs, helping you stay up to date as the world evolves around us. 

In your training programs, focusing on soft skills such as communication and teamwork is important. This is especially critical now with professionals working across globally dispersed teams and collaborating with new technologies such as AI. These are the kinds of skills that will enable them to adapt, keeping your business flexible and helping you stay ahead.

HR tech: Your indispensable aid in leveraging the talent marketplace

Global HR analyst Josh Bersin points to the dramatic changes facing global organizations, led by four major disruptors: a changing workforce demographic; the redefinition of industries as technology advances; the need to grow revenue and reskill people while keeping costs down; and the restructuring of organizations to accommodate hybrid work and cross-functional teams.

As Bersin writes, “The pressure on CEOs and CFOs to improve productivity means companies must focus on organization design, upskilling, and new models of pay, performance management, and rewards.” 

By concentrating on recruiting, retaining, reskilling, and redesigning (Bersin’s “4-R” model), he argues that CEOs and other senior leaders can chart a safer course through the turbulent waters we face.

HR tech is essential for tracking and facilitating skills and competencies within your teams and can help you unlock talent marketplaces. It’s a way of reformulating how your business works and allows team leaders to connect people to projects, mentors, opportunities, and “liquid teams.”

According to leading predictions, this kind of system will eventually contain all of your learning programs, career development, and performance management information in one place.

Skills-based workforces are the future

So, can experience be substituted for a degree? The short answer is yes, as long as business leaders invest in continuous learning programs that help their people remain relevant. As technologies and working practices evolve, companies need fluid skill sets and capabilities to respond effectively to changing business demands.

By leveraging talent marketplaces and modern HR tech, you can build a resilient, adaptable workforce, lift your retention rate, and support the future success of your business.

Tali Sachs

From Tali Sachs

Tali is a content marketing manager at HiBob. She's been writing stories since before she knew what to do with a pen and paper. When she's not writing, she's reading sci-fi, snuggling with her cats, or singing at an open mic.