Upskilling Internal Talent Using Data

Published on Jul 22, 2021

Updated on Mar 29, 2023

Written by Lindsey Dingman

The current labor market is tight. With more job postings out there than people available (or wanting) to fill those roles, acquiring talent is as competitive and expensive as ever! Internal upskilling is emerging as a way to cope with these new conditions.

Many employers have modified their talent acquisition strategy from solely buying external talent to incorporating internal upskilling to fill their hiring needs. Upskilling is investing educational resources to help build upon and advance your employee’s current skills. Often thought about in a Learning & Development type context, this tactic not only helps businesses transition employees into open roles, but also keeps their talent pipeline flowing by building up the next generation of talent.

If you’re caught in the middle of wanting to upskill due to the talent shortage, the transition may seem daunting and you may not be sure where to start.  We’re here to help! 

By looking at the insights that skills data provides, your company can feel confident and informed in their upskilling decisions. Skills data can help you discover career pathways for employees that will bode well for your long-term talent strategy. 

Why start the upskilling process with skills?

Skills are the building blocks of each job. They tell you what competencies an individual needs in order to meet the expectations of a role. By gathering data from job postings, resumes, and profiles of individuals who make up the current labor market, you can become an expert on which skills you want the roles at your company to be comprised of. 

As you start identifying the skills that your company is looking for, you may start to question:

  • Are the skills you’re looking for even available in your area? 

  • Will the search for the perfect match be more difficult for one role as opposed to another? 

  • Are you asking for a combination of skills that are hard to find in an individual?

These are GREAT questions to be thinking about!

By breaking down the roles you are hiring for into the skills they’re made up of and prioritizing which of those skills are most important, you are able to make informed decisions about certain roles that may be smarter to upskill for, rather than waste time and money trying to find a needle in the haystack of the undersupplied labor market.

But this is only one side of the coin! You can also look at the skills data of your current roles to see which skills already exist in your company. You will want both perspectives in your strategizing process. 

It’s like making cookies. You first have to choose a recipe (determine the skills you want in a role). Then you look in your pantry and identify what you already have (existing skills from current employees). Then you use those for the recipe (upskilling) and buy remaining ingredients only when necessary (hiring). By looking at skills data, you can identify what you have, what you need, and which roles are the most promising for upskilling. 

And that’s just scratching the surface! Here are some in-depth insights that you can glean from your analysis of skills data to set you on the right path for a successful upskilling  strategy.

Insights to glean from skills data:

  • Skill comparison: Compare the skills required for certain roles to the skills already existing in your company.

  • Career pathways: Discover logical pathways, both to and from roles.

  • Internal recruitment: Which roles are easier to backfill internally by upskilling employees rather than hiring for?

Skill Comparison

By looking at the skills within your roles, you can understand the granularity of what you’re looking for when trying to fill talent gaps in your company. You can also see if the combination of skills you are wanting candidates to possess is rarely found in job seekers If this is the case, upskilling would occur whether you hire externally or transition internally, so that an employee to have the mix of skills needed to meet the expectations of their role

Let’s use an example to illustrate how this works.

Say you have John a Software Engineer 1, and some turnover happened in your Data Management team. If you know the “skill recipes” that make up both your Software Engineering 1 and Sr. Data Analyst roles for your company, you can take inventory of the skills that John has, and cross reference those with the skills of the Sr. Data Analyst role. By looking at the skills that John already has and what John will need to be trained on to become a Sr. Data Analyst, you can decide whether or not John would be a logical candidate for upskilling, or if you need to look for another candidate (external or internal) that might be a better fit to transition into the open role. 

Once skills are identified for each role, companies may begin to see “specialties” emerge within specific roles (like being bilingual, specific software knowledge, a specific medical practice, etc.). These specialties make hiring difficult in “normal” labor market conditions because you’re narrowing the talent pool to fit those skill requirements. Today, with a decreased pool of job seekers to choose from, these specialties create an even longer, and more expensive search for the right candidate.

But if you can identify roles in your company that are already giving employees experience in those “specialties”, you can mitigate the arduous process of searching for a new employee and simply upskill a current employee to fit your needs.

Career Pathways

By looking at the skills of your roles, you can easily identify where there may be overlap in skills across roles. By identifying these overlaps, you can determine specific skills that need to be taught in upskilling someone from one role to another. This is especially helpful for roles you’re having a hard time hiring for due to the challenging labor market conditions or the complexity of the skills your job description is asking for. 

This insight can be helpful in a multitude of ways for the future of your talent acquisition strategy. 

One of the ways is by helping you create early career pathways for employees through your company. Early career pathways are great for college (or high school) graduates entering the workforce because it helps guide their future career growth and give a picture of what goals and skills they can expect to work toward in order to progress through the company. 

These pathways not only help the company keep talent in their pipeline to shift as positions open up, but they also give a clear track to employees. This hopefully instills a spirit of lifelong learning and loyalty throughout your company.

Internal Recruitment

Let’s not forget that turnover happens in positions at every level of every company. At the same time, when companies grow, more roles are needed to satisfy the demands of business.When either of these situations arise, you’ll need to be ready to identify an acquisition strategy to fill these gaps. 

If you know the skills those roles are made up of and the skills of the talent that exists in your company, you can determine whether or not it will be more complex to hire for outside talent, OR if you already have talent that would be easier to transition because of the knowledge about your business that they already possess. 

Your talent upskilling strategy should be well informed

The labor market is shifting, so your talent acquisition strategy should too. Using skill data as a guide will help you create a plan to feel confident in deciding whether or not you should upskill current employees into open roles or head to the market to find job seekers with the skills needed to satisfy your hiring needs.

If you would like to learn more about how to incorporate upskilling into your talent acquisition strategy, fill out the form below!

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