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How CXOs Can Develop the Skills Of Their Existing Workforce

Even though firms minimized hiring in response to the pandemic, the talent they seek may already exist within the workforce.


Finding great talent is hard, but what’s even more challenging is keeping and developing the talent to support your wider goals. The revival of economy post Covid-19 will require organizations to have a renewed skill-based approach in terms of finding talent. Yet, as many firms froze or minimized hiring in response to the pandemic, the talent they seek may already exist within the workforce, just waiting to be discovered and developed.

Take for example, a recent Gartner report which noted that 58% of the workforce needs new skills to get their jobs done. But HR leaders and CXOs are finding it increasingly difficult to quickly find and develop talent with the most in demand skills.

Alison Smith, director in the Gartner HR practice, many organizations have focused on talent acquisition to get the skills they need, however we see that 74% of organizations froze hiring in response to COVID-19 in an earlier report.

“In today’s environment, hiring is not possible for many organizations. Instead, companies can look at current employees who have skills closely matched to those in demand and utilize training to close any gaps,” Smith said.

The analyst firm also said that the total number of skills required for a single job has increased by 10% year-over-year since 2017. Furthermore, one in three skills in an average 2017 job posting in IT, finance or sales are already obsolete. Emerging skills gaps due to ongoing business disruption and rapidly evolving needs have accelerated as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. And these factors are sufficient to look for internal stakeholders and nurture their potentials to remain productive.

The third edition of the World Economic Forum (WEF)’s Future of Jobs Report also echoed similar thoughts. It said that the workforce will need to reskill in the coming years, as the “double-disruption” of the economic impacts of the pandemic and increasing automation transforming jobs takes hold. But the very technological disruption that is transforming jobs can also provide the key to creating them – and help us learn new skills.

Analyzing data from LinkedIn and online learning platform Coursera, the WEF report said organizations need specialized skills in product marketing, digital marketing and human computer interaction, which are in demand across multiple emerging professions. And according to the report, the vast majority of CXOs (94%) now expect their existing employees to pick up new skills on the job – a sharp rise from 65% in 2018.

“The pandemic has accelerated the trend of online reskilling, as CXOs are looking at existing employees or even new hires to expand their skills in product development and data, cloud and AI,” the report said.

Respondents to the Future of Jobs Survey estimate that around 40% of workers will require upskilling or reskilling of six months or less, but that number is higher for those in the consumer-facing industry and in the healthcare industry. But in the financial services and energy sectors, that share of workers who can be reskilled within six months is lower because they will need more time-intensive programs.

Training will be delivered internally, according to 39% of employers. But, Founder and Executive Chairman of WEF, Professor Klaus Schwab noted, this will be supplemented by online learning platforms (16% of training) and external consultants (11% of training).

In this regard, Gartner sees the role of human resources has changed greatly in a short amount of time, and it will continue to adjust in the months ahead. While considering skills adjacencies, the analyst firm recommended that HRO should:

  1. Collaborate with other CXOs and gain better insight into employee skill sets: Employees and their managers must be empowered and encouraged to main a portfolio of skills that are visible to HR, which will then enable HR to maintain a current view of skills for the organization.
  2. Understand and prioritize skills adjacencies. Gartner mentions that leading organizations are using machine learning and large data to identify and unlock the power of skills adjacencies at scale. Some progressive HR leaders have partnered with their own internal data science teams to ground upskilling efforts in current knowledge of employee capabilities and prioritize immediate skills application.
  3. Encourage flexible career progression. skills adjacencies begin to uncover new connections and career options, career paths will need to be more fluid and unrestricted by traditional roles and skills requirements, as Smith explains, “Career paths need to be flexible enough to enable employees to move around in — often unconventional — ways that allow the organization to best leverage employees’ skills adjacencies.

To sum up, in the post-pandemic era, HR will play an instrumental role in steering organizations towards a paradigm shift. Both the studies and other research reports have emphasized the fact that no matter which skills employees learn or the tools companies deploy to support, engage and train their workforces, it will require flexibility and a willingness to learn, as well as consistent engagement and collaboration between HR departments, CXOs and their team. And there can be no better time to rethink and develop new ways to keep employees engaged and productive.

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Sohini Bagchi
Sohini Bagchi is Editor at CXOToday, a published author and a storyteller. She can be reached at