Many employers believe they have a skills gap. In 2016, the World Economic Forum predicted that 7.1 million jobs would disappear by 2020 because of disruptive technologies. To remain relevant, organizations must prioritize skills assessment and talent alignment. Furthermore, a renewed sense of urgency due to COVID-19-related digital transformation and changing operating models have tested our current ways of working. To deliver on company strategy, organizations require quick adoption of future-state skill sets.

Before rolling out new ways of working or new strategic priorities, organizations need to consider the employee journey, the upskilling potential they have and how to account for skill gaps. Human resources (HR) and learning and development (L&D) professionals have a critical role in working with business leaders to define the skills required for transformation and to provide a gap analysis. In deploying skills assessments, L&D can more effectively target training to areas of the organization that require certain skills.

The Need for Upskilling

The rate of change we are now experiencing makes it clear that as skills evolve, employees need to adjust at a faster pace. Do you know who in your organization has the required skills of the future? Does your succession plan and leadership pipeline have an inventory of skills and areas that need strengthening?

Companies need to be agile in their approach to assessing their talent and aligning it to expected skills. Traditionally, the approach to strengthening skills has been training programs. How targeted are your learning plans? It is more difficult to align talent to the right roles when you don’t have a process of analyzing the gaps.

Often, the easy way out is to recruit externally for future-state skills. While this approach may be the right one in some cases, leveraging your current talent to accomplish your new strategy is not only a cost savings; it also increases employee engagement and fosters a culture of learning. Also, consider that many employees are upskilling on their own through online platforms. They are expanding their skill sets, but for many of them, their organization does not have a way to capture these newly acquired skills. As a result, some of these employees may leave to find a better fit elsewhere.

In “The Upskilling Crisis: Effectively Enabling and Retraining Employees for the Future,” a 2019 survey by West Monroe Partners, 56% of respondents said that “their organization’s skills gap is moderate to severe,” while “only 6% [said] they don’t have a skills gap at all.” Conducting an effective skills assessment and gap analysis is the first step to gaining invaluable insights into your workforce.

How to Identify, Develop and Track the Skills of the Future


Action Steps Human Resources and Training Considerations Stakeholder Engagement
Conduct a current-state inventory of skills. Consider skills-based recruitment.
Develop relevant skills assessments.
Employees can track hidden skills and new learning conducted on their own.
Understand future skills demand. Set up learning committees, and tie business priorities to required future skills.
Share data and participate within your industry through strategic groups and business councils.
Engage with business leaders to understand the future skills requirements required to accomplish the business strategy.
Create incentive and development plans around future skills. Invest in human capital development, both through in-house training and specialized third-party experts.
Give employees a stake in their learning by matching contributions toward training and professional development courses.
Involve business leaders and learners in the investment in learning and development through recognition and reward programs.
Sustain motivation and participation.  

Build learning into performance assessment.
Incorporate reskilling and upskilling efforts in career guidance and mentoring programs.
Link training to new roles that require the new skills.

Align anticipated skills to recruiting and selection teams.
Train mentors and coaches to incorporate upskilling in their guidance.
Use skills analytics and gap analyses to identify internal talent mobility opportunities.


Your skills assessment may uncover that some employees lack future-state skills; however, they are still the best resource to tackle disruption and prevent a skills crisis, particularly in a time of high-velocity change. Employees are aware of their own abilities, and they expect their employers to provide development opportunities.

Skills assessment may be an undertaking, but consider its long-term value. According to the Institute for Research on Labor and Employment at the University of California, Berkeley, it costs an average of $4,000 to hire a new employee, a figure that rises to $7,000 for professional and management-level employees. If deployed routinely with a gap analysis aligned to strategic objectives, a skills assessment is a worthwhile effort for both employees and the business.