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Skills development – Mind the gap


Train people well enough so they can leave. Treat them well enough so they don’t want to.’ Richard Branson.

Corporate attrition persists, but one way to win employees back is to develop their knowledge, attributes, experiences—in short, their human capital. (1)

Yuval Noah Harari writes:

By2050, it’s agreed that machine learning and robotics will change every line of work – from producing yoghurt to teaching yoga.

To prosper, individuals will need to constantly re-invent themselves throughout their careers. People who will do well are those who have the capability to keep changing, keep learning and develop skills for the future.’ (2)

Companies and individuals are facing a huge challenge.

The pace of change has accelerated the need for the development of new workforce skills – 58% of senior leaders in a recent global survey agree there’s an urgent need to build new skills in their workforce to future proof their business. (3)

In a recent article, McKinsey report that:

‘The rapid rise of digitalization and remote work have placed new demands on employees who now require different skills to support how work gets done and deliver the business priorities their companies are setting.’ (3)

‘The challenges will grow.

According to recently published research, the skills now in demand as work changes are:

  • Leadership and managing others
  • Critical thinking
  • Decision making
  • Project management
  • Adaptability
  • Basic digital skills
  • Interpersonal skills (communication, empathy)
  • Data analytics and mathematical skills
  • Quantitative and statistical skills
  • Complex information processing and interpretation
  • IT skills and programming
  • Design thinking. (4)

 The message is clear.

Training, training, and more training. (5)

But there’s one big problem.

Companies see training as a cost – not an investment.

‘I am staggered that in business, training, growth, and real development are rare. A course here and there, a meeting now and then but not a consistent professional approach. Let me be clear. This holds for a 6-person outfit where everyone is central as well as a multi-national company.’ (6)

Following the pandemic, 87% of companies say they have skills gaps now – or they predict they will have in the near future. (7)

Here are four key discussion points for leaders to think through - given the environment.

Discussion point 1 - assessing what is needed at a company – and individual level – is a dynamic process – the skills that are needed to be successful in the work environment are changing faster than ever. But companies need to be as clear as possible about the skills they require.

  • LinkedIn compared the skills members thought were the most important for jobs in 2015. By 2021, when the survey was repeated, a quarter of those skills had changed. LinkedIn report that ‘in most cases the pace of change accelerated during the pandemic. If it continues at this pace, between 25-44% of skills needed at work will change by 2025 – with digital skills disrupting every aspect of the way we work.’ (8)

Discussion point 2 - skills are quickly evolving in every job, but many of the top skills of today are similar to those of the past - workers in these fields may be able to upgrade and refresh their skills easily. Are there examples of this in companies – where ‘quick wins’ can be achieved?

  • For example, data analysis has been a skill recognized as important - today, Microsoft Power BI has emerged as one of the new top skills for this job. But if an individual already knows data analysis, then learning Microsoft Power BI is not as difficult as it would be otherwise. (9)

Discussion point 3 – the way ‘job fitness’ is assessed is changing. The ‘Financial Times’ reports that ‘employees are increasingly looking to what candidates can do rather than their formal qualifications. A degree may be a useful indicator of mastery of core knowledge in, say, physics and math’s but ‘casual’ qualifications and on-the-job training are becoming more important.’ Companies need to review what qualifications and training are truly needed for each role. (10)

Discussion point 4 – the days when learning took place in the classroom have long since gone. The rise of digital learning – learning in bite sized chunks when convenient – as the way information is consumed - continues to evolve. A LinkedIn survey found that 58% of employees prefer to learn at their own pace – driving the need for the development of individual learning paths.

Leaders need to drive clear development plans – that play to the strengths of each individual in the team. (11)

These are important issues - and are critical to the well-being of both company and individual moving forward. Volumes have been written about the ‘great resignation’ and why employees are leaving their roles – and the reason that comes up regularly is a lack of personal development.

Filling the skills gap is clearly a win-win for companies and individuals.





1.     Learning and earning: The bold moves that change careers, McKinsey,15 July 2022

2.     21 Lessons for the 21st Century, Yuval Noah Harari

3.     Three keys to building a more skilled post pandemic workforce, McKinsey, 30 July 2021

4.     Covid 19, implications for business, McKinsey, 4 August 2021

5.     The quote ‘training, training and more training’ was said by Admiral Chester Nimtz, commander in chief, after being asked why America was unprepared for Pearl Harbor

6.     Excellence now, Extreme Humanism. Tom Peters

7.     The skillful corporation,

8.     See Future of skills,

9.     See Future of skills,

10.  Six insights into how Business can bridge the skills gap, Financial Times, 19 June 2022

11.  Workplace learning report 2018, LinkedIn

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