HR Insights
Quick Read
March 28, 2024

How to build the next generation of skills in-house

Skills gaps aren’t new, but they continue to grow as new and necessary workforce skills continue to emerge. Futurist Alexandra Levit explores how to diminish these gaps by building next-generation skills in-house.


It’s common for employees to want to build skills at work, but an effective learning infrastructure isn’t as common. As organizations grow, they tend to lose track of their people’s skills. Leaders don’t know the competencies employees have acquired at work, what they can do next, and the skills they can develop to grow their contributions to the organization. 

Employers often don’t dig too deeply either, preferring instead to seek fresh talent externally when a need presents itself. But even if the current job market could support it, it’s difficult to maintain the hiring pace needed to source emerging skills from the outside. This reality leads to persistent understaffing and longer role vacancies.  

It’s imperative to build a skills-based organization that can flex to evolving business and employee needs. But where to start? 

The following five strategies may prove helpful as you seek to solve today’s labor shortage conundrum with your own reliable and already proven workforce. 

Understand the size and composition of your workforce 

Using analytics programs, employers should determine the current internal and external trends in workforce supply and demand. Examine the gap between the skills possessed by your workforce today and the skills your business requires to be successful now and in the future.  

It might be beneficial to use a skills segmentation matrix that includes the variables of scarcity (how common or uncommon the skill is in the market), criticality (how essential or non-essential the skill is for work to be successfully completed), and volume (how much volume of this skill the business requires).  

Seek feedback on your matrix from a diverse group of stakeholders across the organization, and during your investigation, determine the in-house superstars in in-demand areas. You can then enlist the help of these employees in crafting appropriate strategies and training to boost the organization’s overall level of skill competency. 

Deploy AI-based matching tools 

Talent intelligence is a relatively new technology that harnesses AI to assess skills adjacency – or the concept that a person with Skill A is likely to know or be easy to train in Skill B. By also considering a global database of standardized job descriptions and requirements, talent intelligence opens non-typical ways to fill vacancies with existing employees who may not have experience doing the exact task needed but do have the core capabilities required.  

As an example, if you have been unable to source automation oversight skills, completing a skills profile for every employee in your organization may surface matches you never would have considered otherwise and provide guidance on how to get employees where they need to be to take on a new role.  

Infuse your employee experience with upskilling and reskilling opportunities 

Upskilling refers to teaching employees additional skills related to their current roles, while reskilling involves training them in new occupations. Organizations that want to build an internal arsenal of emerging skills require both upskilling and reskilling initiatives, but these must be adequately funded, sourced, and delivered.  

Employees must have dedicated time to proactively pursue additional education during their workdays. Learning experiences should be a mix of in-person and virtual coursework, on-the-job training, job shadowing, and cross-functional projects. And continuously communicated support from your leaders will help ensure that ongoing upskilling and reskilling becomes embedded in your culture.  

Skilling programs, especially those involving competencies that are new for nearly everyone (such as generative AI), should be delivered via a learning portal that is seamlessly integrated with the onboarding and performance management experiences. Badges and certifications can prove motivating and may also provide an objective measure for how your employees are progressing in new skill areas for which they often won’t have traditional degrees. 

Use your internal talent marketplace 

Over the last several years, many organizations have built digital platforms designed to encourage internal mobility. However, if these aren’t easy to use or if there isn’t a mandate in place to post open requisitions to the marketplace first, your platform won’t achieve its full potential.  

An effectively executed internal talent marketplace serves the dual purposes of building up in-demand skills within your organization and redeploying your top people to the areas of the business that need them most.  

Don’t forget about change management 

It wasn’t long ago that employees weren’t expected to do much learning beyond the degree program that allowed them to get a job in the first place. If they did participate in a standalone program or two, the HR department essentially did all the work for them.  

The fact that employees must now take responsibility for their own learning is a new proposition, and one that requires a comprehensive change management strategy. Unfortunately, Dayforce’s 14th Annual Pulse of Talent survey revealed that only four in 10 employees think their employers are good or excellent at communicating change.  

So, an approach that includes town hall meetings, explanatory and training materials embedded into the online employee experience, and promotional pieces highlighting skill acquisition success stories is essential – and this goes double if you are introducing new technology such as talent intelligence. 

Organizations that take ownership of building the next generation of skills in-house will be best prepared to weather labor shortages caused by demographic shifts and other unpredictable factors. They’ll also have a leg up when it comes to standardizing employees’ education in emerging skill areas and avoiding the risks and costs associated with hiring in-demand skills from outside the organization. 

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