Empower your organization with the skills-based canvas.

Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you’re probably feeling the pressure of economic headwinds. After a historic bull run fueled by a cocktail of interest rates and government subsidies, the recession is most likely starting to hit the economy and your industry with full force. Yes, the world of work is shifting once again, creating new business imperatives for big corporations and SMBs alike. And one of the top imperatives for 2023 and beyond? Upskilling employees to prepare them for an uncertain future.

In this new economy where overhiring is being replaced by hiring freezes and layoffs, companies need to do more with less. Maximizing the output and talent of existing workers by developing their skills instead of hiring new employees will become the default strategy and, for those who master it, a competitive advantage for the future.

3 reasons why modern businesses need to get smarter with hiring and retaining talent.

Business realities and employee expectations have changed significantly in the past few years. Companies that want to thrive now and into the future must shift their approach to hiring and retaining talent, and adapt to this new reality. Here are 3 key reasons why organizations big and small need to adjust their hiring and retention strategies:

1. The labor shortage market

Employers face a complex labor market as we navigate a recession, mass layoffs, and a labor shortage all at once. As baby boomers retire, the population of working-age people is decreasing in most developed economies. Not only that, but millennials and Gen Zers are more likely to seek out part-time and gig work rather than full-time, permanent roles.

This all means that hiring top talent is as challenging as ever, making it that much more critical to hire the right people to begin with. And once you’ve hired them, you need to offer an exceptional employee experience — with growth, development, and learning opportunities — if you want to keep them around.

The labor shortage is not a new problem […] Now, driven by the latest headlines, it is becoming painfully clear that the companies that invest in their people will be the companies that thrive in the decades ahead.

– Josh Bersin, Labor Shortage In The Middle Of A Business Slowdown?

2. A tough fundraising market

Raising capital has become increasingly difficult for startups and scale-ups over the last year. VC funding dropped with each quarter that passed, and now many small to midsize businesses are feeling the pressure to perform.

But funders aren’t looking for a flashy pitch deck and hiring spree — they want to see a solid foundation, product-market fit, an extended runway, and a team that’s well-equipped to succeed. Now is a time to do more with less, rather than arbitrarily growing your headcount. As TechCrunch put it:

“In 2023, we will see two worlds emerge. The companies with the best talent, products and positioning will command capital at normalized market prices, and everyone else will experience a depressed market.”

3. The need for more generalists

Gone are the days of a hyper-growth hiring approach with long lists of open roles. Companies of all sizes today might not be able to afford to hire technical experts in niche functions, so it’s time to shift the focus from specialists (depth of skills) to generalists (breadth of skills) — also known as ‘T-Shaped’ employees.

For the early growth stage of a business, teams of generalists are well equipped to tackle complex problems and work collaboratively towards common goals. Even at larger organizations, people with dynamic skill sets are more adaptable to change, and more resilient in the face of adversity.

“In highly-predictable environments, specialization allows you to solve problems very efficiently. In unpredictable environments, however, efficiency isn’t as important as creativity. And the environment of innovative startups is anything but predictable.”

– Forbes, Generalist Vs. Specialist Teams: How To Build A Highly Creative Startup

Today, the best recruitment and retainment strategies are all about investing in employee learning, development, and experience. It’s essential to both build the strengths of current employees, and hire culture-add candidates with dynamic and cross-functional skill sets.

3 benefits of shifting from a role-based organization to a skills-based organization

What does a focus on skills development and strengthening your existing workforce look like in practice? One of the best starting points is to map the skill sets on your team, to get a sense of where you stand, what your strengths are, and where you need to focus more attention. Here are 3 benefits to becoming a skills-oriented workplace:

1.  Building a more agile company  

When the focus is less on each person’s job title and description and more on the broad skill set they possess, it’s easier to improve your team’s velocity and efficiency. Skills mapping gives you a 360 view of your organization, helping you unlock the potential of every employee and team. As priorities, goals, and markets shift, your business will be adaptable enough to keep up — outpacing the bigger, slower competition.

2. Building a flatter organization and culture of ownership 

Alongside agility, a skills-based approach breaks down hierarchy and breeds autonomy as people cling less closely to titles. This helps flatten your org chart, encouraging employees to see one another as collaborators rather than authority figures. Instead of asking for permission from higher-ups, teams take ownership and accountability of their deliverables and objectives.

3. Accelerating your talents 

Finally, fostering a culture of learning and development at your organization encourages a spirit of intrapreneurship. When people feel empowered to upskill and reskill on the job, they’re more likely to see a real future with your company. Your team members will not only be more engaged at work — they’ll grow faster, in turn becoming more valuable as employees. Simply put, what’s good for your people is also good for your bottom line.

3 modern companies leveraging skill mapping to leapfrog their competition

Looking for inspiration from other organizations that have taken a skills-based approach? Here are 3 companies that doubled down on employee skills development:

1. Shopify

Next up, Shopify takes employee growth and skills development seriously. Cross-skilling is something they’ve long since encouraged, having had an internal movement team in place since before the pandemic. This team’s mandate is to help employees understand the internal opportunities available to them and make it easier for them to pursue those opportunities.

“At Shopify, it has always been our approach that throughout people's career journey, they may want to try new things and do different things. And giving them the opportunity to do that within our organization is a priority for us as both an opportunity for retention and the chance to give our top talent room to flourish.”
– Kimberley Mullins, Director of Talent Development at Shopify, Protocol

Shopify prides itself on encouraging employees to develop new skill sets and seek out learning opportunities within the organization. And, they’re dedicated to keeping their talent’s skill sets sharp, even implementing a re-training program for developers returning from extended leaves of absence.

2. Unilever

Employee upskilling and reskilling are a pillar of Unilever’s company culture. A global leader of consumer goods, Unilever is committed to keeping their employees engaged, performing, and up-to-date on the skills they need to thrive at work. Unilever’s skills mapping and development program begins with employees narrowing in on their purpose. In their own words:

The core belief underpinning our approach is that people with purpose thrive. And to ensure they do thrive, we have a duty to help our people adapt to the impact of evolving technologies and ways of working.

– Unilever, Providing skills for life

Once employees have pinpointed what gives them a sense of meaning at work, they can develop a career path and outline the skills and strengths they need to develop. From there, they join the company’s bespoke learning hub with personalized learning materials. Employees can also pursue hands-on training and development through working on special projects with other teams.

3. Adobe

Mapping out career paths and offering on-the-job training and development is central to Adobe Systems’ employer brand. In particular, Adobe is committed to welcoming new graduates and employees early in their career, supporting them in envisioning their future. While many major players focus on recruiting more established talent, Adobe invests in the next generation to keep the business one step ahead of the competition.

It's all about learning, exposure and the opportunity to be part of something that’s bigger than themselves. If someone early on in their career knows there’s a path for growth and career progression, that’s super important.

– Donna Morris, Executive VP of Customer and Employee Experience at Adobe, Forbes

To set new recruits up for success, Adobe uses their “Check-In” system, developed to replace annual performance reviews. This gives new employees a chance to reflect on their skills and consider where they might want to develop. Check-In is a space where employees can set and track goals, receive performance feedback, and explore opportunities for internal mobility and advancement at Adobe.

How to get started with skill mapping at your organization

Larger corporations like the examples above might have the time and money to develop large-scale upskilling programs. But that doesn’t mean small and medium-sized businesses can’t also build — and reap the benefits of — a skills-oriented company culture.

More than ever, companies must do more with less to survive and thrive in this new economy. And at Workleap Skills, we believe organizations of all sizes should be able to understand their employees’ skill sets, and maximize the value of their workforce. That’s why we’re empowering companies to map out employee skills, get to know their strengths, and spot opportunities for growth.

3 strategies to start skill mapping your workforce

  1. Assess your team members: Have employees self-assess and peer-evaluate both their hard and soft skills. This gives them a clear view of their skill set beyond their job description, helping them see potential growth paths. And, it gives managers and leadership an overview of the skills represented in your teams.
  2. Uncover your team’s strengths: With the data gathered from your assessment, you’ll start to notice where your employees and teams really shine. This is valuable information that you can use to best empower your workforce. You can use employee strengths to develop work methods, company values, and even business priorities.
  3. Spot opportunities for growth: What’s missing in your skills map? Pinpointing the skills that are lacking in your organization helps you plan for the future. Which of the skills that are less represented would really add value to your business? Use that to guide your training efforts for existing employees and what you look for in new hires.

Reskilling and upskilling are no longer a nice-to-have in this changing economy. They are a must-have for organizations that want to grow their teams efficiently and retain their top talents. Profitability is the new ‘growth’, and maximizing resources is the new business imperative. Investing in your talents is not only a sound strategy in the short term to navigate tougher times, it's also the cornerstone to building a more resilient workforce that will become the most defensible competitive advantage of your business for years to come.

Curious to know more about the skills-oriented future of work we envision at Workleap Skills? Book a demo with one of our product specialists to chat more about skills mapping at your organization.

Monitor, support, and optimize your team's professional development.