Development & Retention

How to Increase Your Talent Pool in Times of Skill Shortages

Talent needs are changing faster than ever, and increasing your talent pool may seem like an impossible task when the labor market is constantly evolving.

The World Economic Forum estimates that 85 million jobs may be displaced by digital transformation while an additional 97 million new roles may develop by 2025. The rapid pace of change drastically affects the skills organizations need to adapt and thrive in the new economy.
A comprehensive talent strategy can keep your business functioning at a competitive level. While external talent pools for highly skilled talent keep shrinking, you have a wealth of untapped skills potential brimming beneath the surface of your existing workforce. A robust workforce reskilling program can draw that potential from your employees.
Here’s how a workforce reskilling program can increase your talent pool, empowering your company to overcome skill shortages.

Develop a Robust Reskilling Program

With a reskilling program, you can develop the skills you’re struggling to find on the market internally instead. Your existing employees already have institutional knowledge and transferable skills that make them ideal candidates for open positions within the company.

Inventory Current Workforce Skills and Pinpoint Gaps

Before developing a reskilling program, you need to identify the skills you have in your current workforce. Use assessments to inventory your company’s organizational capabilities. Individual assessment data —viewed in the aggregate—provides a complete picture of your current workforce’s skills and abilities.
Do market research to compare your workforce’s skills to your competitors. Identify the skills your top-performing competitors are looking for on the market. Use this information to consider where your workforce may have talent gaps.

Project Upcoming Talent Needs

Review your company’s business strategy to identify the talent and skills you need to build internally. Consult with business leaders to determine their specific talent needs and pinpoint the skills gaps that could undermine your business plan. This knowledge is crucial to developing a targeted reskilling program that drives the business forward.
Plan to revisit this conversation frequently. As business needs change, so will talent needs. To continue providing strategic value to the company, you must ensure alignment between your talent strategy and the company’s business priorities.

Develop Upskilling and Reskilling Tracks

With a comprehensive portfolio of skills you have and the skills you need, you can develop upskilling and reskilling tracks designed to fill the gaps. As you develop these tracks, consider delivery as well as the content. For example, it may be easier for employees to learn if skills development courses are delivered as microlearning modules.
Attach reskilling tracks to specific career pathways and let employees gravitate towards routes that match their aptitudes and interests. Include specific examples of how each skill can be used in different roles, and offer suggestions for applying those skills in practice.

Lay the Groundwork for Internal Mobility

Make it easy for employees to move within the organization.

Develop clear career tracks for each role. These tracks should provide insight into options for growth within the company and remain flexible enough that employees can customize their own paths through collaboration with their managers. Include opportunities for both promotions into higher-level roles and lateral moves into entirely different tracks.

Train Managers as Career Coaches

As you bring new, digitally-competent talent into the workforce, help your existing talent specialize and make career moves. Direct managers are your best resource for developing employees. Train managers to interpret assessment reports and help employees identify their unique strengths using the results.
Educate managers on the reskilling programs your company offers so they can help employees find the right tracks to align with their aptitudes.
Empowering mobility means that employees may leave their department and current manager. But managers often tend towards talent hoarding, preventing high-potential employees from finding their ideal position within the company. Find ways to incentivize managers to help place employees in jobs that optimize their strongest skills, even if that means losing them to another department.

Elevate Top Talent Internally

Your company probably already employs high-potential candidates for specialized roles. By giving them opportunities to grow and move within the company, you can engage and retain your top talent for more extended periods.

To help employees find their potential within your company, make it easy to cross-train in other roles.

Assessment reports can provide recommendations for positions where employees can excel, but they need to be interested in those roles, not just proficient in them. Engagement and a sense of purpose are vital to exercising skills effectively.
Most companies offer a poor internal candidate experience because they don’t differentiate between internal and external applicants. Don’t make internal candidates fill out forms or retake assessments already on file. Develop internal hiring processes that make it easy to transfer applicant data into your applicant tracking system.

Hire for Broad Potential, Not Specialized Skills

With effective workforce reskilling and internal mobility programs in place, you can then adjust your talent acquisition strategy. Instead of looking for highly specialized skills on the market, your reskilling program can hone those skills internally—giving you leeway to build talent pools based on innate skills and qualities rather than the whims of the labor market.

Define Potential for Your Workforce

Pinpointing the skill sets you should look for on the market depends on the base traits and competencies that lead to success in your workforce. If your workforce strategy is based on employee education and mobility, you should look for candidates with high aptitudes for learning.
The digital readiness model offers a sound starting point. Candidates with the foundational competencies of digital readiness—learnability, agility, and curiosity—have a more significant potential for growth within your company.
  • Learnability refers to a candidate’s capacity and willingness to embrace continuous learning and self-improvement. Candidates who score high on this trait will seek opportunities to learn and do more.
  • Agility is the ability to react quickly and flexibly under pressure. Candidates who score high on this trait can bend without breaking and often contribute innovative solutions to the problems they face.
  • Curiosity refers to an openness to experiencing new scenarios and circumstances. Curious candidates aren’t afraid of change and enjoy applying new concepts in novel situations.
Learnability, agility and curiosity provide a strong foundation for reskilling and internal mobility. Candidates with these qualities can learn quickly and move within the organization until they find their optimal role.

Redefine What It Means to Be a Qualified Candidate

Hiring for potential is a long-term strategy that helps create a resilient workforce. Instead of hiring to fill an immediate need, you’re laying the foundation for an agile future. With a robust reskilling program and clear opportunities for mobility, you can create a self-sustaining internal talent pool to fill highly specialized roles. You no longer have to rely on the whims of the external labor market to achieve your business goals.
Using this strategy, you must redefine what you need from external candidates. Identify the transferable skills necessary for each role, such as teamwork, communication and adaptability. Transferable skills, like digital competencies, provide a reliable basis for specialization once candidates decide where they fit best within the company.

Expand Your Talent Community

Since the qualities that signal potential—like learnability, agility and curiosity—are grounded in personality traits, you can significantly expand your talent search. Finding highly specialized skills narrows your talent pool to candidates with specific experiences and certifications. But the characteristics that drive potential success in the workplace aren’t limited by degree programs.
Hiring for potential opens new talent pools that often remain untapped, especially from historically underrepresented communities. Expanding your talent pool to include diverse demographics and experiences brings a wealth of personality traits and perspectives to your workplace.
Implement assessments in your recruitment process to identify candidates who score highest in the intangible qualities that drive success in your company culture.

Overcome Skill Shortages With a Learning Culture

Skill shortages in the labor market don’t have to hold your business back. By developing a workforce reskilling program to hone the skills you need internally, you can increase your talent pool to include qualified internal candidates and high-potential external candidates.
A strong learning culture is your greatest weapon against skills gaps. When employees are empowered to learn, have the resources they need, and have room to grow within the company, your business will thrive. A culture of learning drives other benefits, too. It builds loyalty among existing employees and can give you an edge against your competitors when attracting talent externally.
Increase your talent pool by prioritizing transferable skills and competencies, and lay the foundation for your company’s future success.

Aon | Assessment Solutions

Aon's assessment solutions provides clients with powerful tools and insights to help them make better talent decisions at every stage of the employee lifecycle. This includes pre-hire assessments, identifying future leaders, screening for digital skills and agility, and AI-enabled solutions.

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