READ TIME: 5 minutes.

Is your workforce ready for what’s next? Use these five skills-based talent management strategies for developing an effective workforce for the future.

We live and work in a world where previously inanimate, unconnected machines, vehicles, and gadgets are increasingly interconnected and interdependent. Artificial intelligence is getting baked into everyday home and work products, tools, and systems. It’s a force that’s affecting every business, every country, every industry, every economic sector in our global community. Will your workforce be ready for the jobs of the future? Use these five skills and competency-based talent management strategies to develop an effective workforce for the future.

1. Lead with Skills Data for Workforce Insights

The worst-kept secret of skills-based talent management is that the targets keep moving. The initiatives you’ve taken to build and integrate your competency model into your workforce development program and processes is an essential first step. Yet, supporting today’s employees in closing their current skills gaps is not enough. To create a talent-ready workforce, look to the data to define future skills and manage future skills gaps.

Assessing employee skills can help you spot talent trends, gain insights into emerging skill sets, and help you measure how well you’re keeping up with the pace of change. Use forecasting data and planning metrics to map emerging job categories, skills requirements, and supply and demand projections to shape your recruiting, training, reskilling, and performance management priorities.

PRO TIP: A skills-gap analysis tool, like Avilar’s WebMentor Skills™, converts talent management intentions and intuition into fact-based insights.

2. Recruit for Work Skills Today and Into the Future

Artificial intelligence (AI) and automation are two significant forces shifting labor demands globally. In May 2024, McKinsey Global Institute published A new future of work: The race to deploy AI and raise skills in Europe and beyond, saying, “Our updated modeling of the future of work finds that demand for workers in STEM-related, healthcare, and other high-skill professions would rise, while demand for occupations such as office workers, production workers, and customer service representatives would decline. By 2030, in a midpoint adoption scenario, up to 30 percent of current hours worked could be automated, accelerated by generative AI (gen AI).”

To execute a successful talent management strategy, align your recruiting and hiring initiatives with a longer-term view of organizational needs.

  • STEP ONE: First, assess the skills and competencies to determine the talent potential of your current workforce.
  • STEP TWO: From that workforce intelligence, determine what skills you’ll need next. Despite headlines touting robots replacing hospitality workers, for example, there will still be a need for people to conceive and improve the machines.
  • STEP THREE: Update job descriptions to reflect the skills you need today and tomorrow.
  • STEP FOUR: Adopt a skills-based approach to hiring to strategically recruit the people who have those skills.

Remember … occupational skills are only part of the puzzle. In addition to job-specific capabilities, future workers will also need the right professional and leadership skills to navigate the workplace of the future. Alongside advanced IT skills, for example, the same McKinsey article calls out creativity, leadership, and planning skills as among those in high and growing demand.

PRO TIP: Review and update your competency model at least annually. Then, update job descriptions, recruitment practices, and onboarding programs to attract new employees with the skills you need.

3. Make Learning and Upskilling a Constant for Developing an Effective Workforce

Talent gaps cannot be solved with recruitment alone. Especially with our tightening labor markets, employers can no longer simply hire skills-ready employees with new and emerging skills. To close accelerating skills gaps, there is often no qualified talent pool, no instant hiring fix. However, reskilling and upskilling can help to close essential skills gaps while improving employee retention and engagement.

Upskilling and reskilling can convert potentially displaced workers into valuable contributors with the skills needed for future jobs across old and new industries alike. A continuous learning program benefits future workers and their employers. It’s a shared responsibility, supported by enabling technologies and motivations. A robust culture of learning supports the employment mobility and mid-career transitions necessary for developing an effective (future) workforce.

Keep in mind that adopting AI in your workplace may not only prompt new skills requirements but also help to close your skills gaps. AI, for example, can help with skills gap analysis, learning plans, and reskilling initiatives.

PRO TIP: Even in fields that are adding jobs, AI and automation may significantly shift the work activities and required skills. Track the increasing and decreasing demand for skills in your market, so your employees are constantly developing the skills that you (and they) need to thrive.

4. Embrace Workforce Diversity for Broad and Deep Skill Sets

Research consistently demonstrates the many benefits of workforce diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI). Yet employers lament the difficulty in finding talent for key specialist roles. The good news is that embracing workforce diversity is a win-win approach to growing a workforce and building relevant skills and competencies.

Hiring and engaging people with a diversity of gender, age, ethnicity, culture, education, and other backgrounds and experiences doesn’t happen by accident. It’s a strategic move that starts with setting specific goals regarding talent diversity. Then:

  • Review/update job descriptions to focus on skills, not backgrounds. This includes stripping out unnecessary academic degree requirements.
  • Scrutinize your recruitment processes to root out unconscious biases. Push your team to be inclusive in how and where you post your job openings.
  • Use skills assessments as part of your hiring process.
  • Ensure your managers, performance review processes, and succession plans are aligned with your goals, as well, so you develop, recognize, and promote people from all backgrounds.

PRO TIP: By keeping DEI at the forefront in your workforce strategies and practices, you will build a team that is representative of today’s world and is adept at finding solutions to today’s complex challenges.

5. Build a Pipeline of Broad Talent

Future employees and leaders will need to master cross-functional roles that require technical, social, and analytical competencies. Traditional succession management planning, where current employees follow an established track to potentially step in for a leader who leaves the organization, is an outdated approach. By the time a leader leaves, skill requirements for the position have changed.

Instead, HR leaders must build a pipeline of talent that is constantly learning and growing. From prospective to established employees, individuals should have clear visibility into the skills required to succeed on the job and their progress toward building desired skills for today and the future.

Support job mobility and job rotation in your organization. When the moment arrives for a new person to step in, you can move quickly to fill a role with someone who has a cross-functional background and the agility to carry them (and the organization) through your next chapter.

PRO TIP: Look for employees with the skills and aptitude to grow and change. From day one to the final day on the job, individuals who thrive in a changing environment will serve you (and themselves) best, since they will need to continually prepare for jobs that aren’t yet imagined.

AI and automation are here. They are just the latest forces driving shifts in how we live and work. There will be more – including changes we can’t yet envision. Developing an effective workforce for the future will involve establishing a skills-based approach to workforce management that is meant to shift with the times. Only then will you and your employees be positioned to meet demands and deliver value in the future marketplace.


If you are working on a strategy or planning to optimize the ways you future-proof your workforce, download our Competency Management Toolkit to see how a skills-based approach to workforce management can help. Or contact us to see if Avilar’s WebMentor Skills™ can advance your initiative.


Note: This post was originally published June 08, 2017 and has been updated to provide more accurate and up-to-date information on developing an effective workforce for 2024 and beyond.


Five Ways AI Can Help Close the Skills Gap of Your Workforce
How to Create Learning Opportunities for the Full Employee Lifecycle
How is AI used in the workplace? Is your workforce ready?
Closing Workforce Skills Gaps with Reskilling
Unlocking Success: 8 Benefits of Assessing Employee Skills