Accelerated digital adoption. Global market volatility. An intentional pivot to sustainability. These macro trends have triggered an ongoing talent shortage in the Asia-Pacific region, with 75% of APAC employers saying their country still has a digital skills gap.

And it’s not just technical digital abilities that are in short supply. To future-proof your talent model, highly transferable core human skills—adaptability, communication, collaboration, critical thinking and empathy—matter more than ever. The World Economic Forum’s Future of Jobs report found analytical thinking, creative thinking, and adaptability topping the employer skills wish list in 2023. It also estimates 44% of workers’ skills will likely need to change in the next five years, making upskilling and reskilling a business-critical strategy.

So, how can you attract and keep the people who have these in-demand future skills? It starts with understanding everyone's unique technical abilities, behavioral competencies, and personal identities.

Moving towards skills-based hiring

This is a ‘whole person’ approach to skills-based hiring and retention—one that assesses how people work, as well as who they fundamentally are—through their traits and drivers. It can help you identify the high-potential skills that may be hiding in plain sight and open doors to new career opportunities within your organization.

“There’s a spectrum of organizations on a skills-based journey in APAC,” observes Rupali Gupta, Korn Ferry’s Senior Client Partner based in Singapore.

“Some are leading the way—they have phenomenal amounts of data. They've got insights into what their people want, the skills they have now, and the skills they need to develop for the future. Then there are others who think it sounds complex and overwhelming. They can see their peers or global headquarters moving towards skills-based practices. But they don't know what it means for them or how to get started.”

There’s a compelling business case for embarking on a skills-based journey. Our data shows organizations who do are 57% more likely to be able to anticipate and respond to market changes.

Regardless of your organization’s current stage, here are six skills-based principles to consider.

1 Bring skills to life on a personal level

A skills-based approach to hiring looks beyond education and experience to understand the whole person. For example, you could have two people with the ability to use a programming language. But one is more adaptable and can apply that technical skill across different use cases—and they are also more energized by your organization’s purpose. Understanding that difference can help you fit the right person to the right project or team.

“Skills don’t work in isolation. You also need to understand the person behind the skills,” says Gupta. You can train technical skills and assess behavioral competencies—but it is very difficult to change someone’s values, beliefs, or identity.”

2 Rethink how work is organized

Gupta says some organizations underestimate the significant organizational design reinvention that a skills-based approach requires.

“The real hard work happens after the skills architecture or technology is deployed,” Gupta explains.

“You’re changing how people deliver on work, come together to collaborate, how teams are defined. You’re changing the role of HR. Most importantly, you’re changing the fundamental way you structure and design work—instead of a job, it might be a set of responsibilities aligned to a project or strategy.”

She says one example could be creating micro-jobs to support hard-to-hire roles, such as aged care nursing staff. “Here, a new candidate with the skills to help prepare meals might have a micro-job at peak lunch and dinner periods, or there could be a project role for an external provider for speech therapy or art activity sessions,” she suggests.

3 Discover untapped potential with a skills hub

Recent studies suggest employees have more skills than their companies hire them for. That means there are likely valuable skills hiding in plain sight within your organization—and the people with those hidden skills are potentially underutilized. These could be useful skills both within and outside the organization.

A central skills hub is the source of truth for your organization’s current and future skills, competencies, and capabilities. This makes individual skills data more visible­­ and accessible—but it needs to be kept up-to-date and managed in real-time.

4 Focus skills assessments on future potential

Performance reviews should be skills-based conversations about strengths, interests, aspirations and future career opportunities. But too often, they’re focused on past performance.

With a central skills hub, employees can be encouraged to create and maintain their own skills profiles and view opportunities to explore their career choices. Feedback ensures these skills are validated, and technology is able to nudge employees and managers to fill skills gaps through training or on-the-job experience.

“Careers are changing. They’re no longer straight lines but squiggles, with internal mobility across different roles, teams, functions, or locations,” says Gupta. “Companies that excel at internal mobility can retain their talent for on average 5.4 years—roughly two times the attrition average in Asia.”

Instead of thinking about an employee having one or two jobs within your organization, use skills-based paths to enable two diverse career opportunities.

“If you challenge people to grow and maintain their career relevance with you, they don't have to go anywhere else,” says Gupta.

“If you challenge people to grow and maintain their career relevance with you, they don't have to go anywhere else.”

5 Use predictive modeling to scale skills management

Data drives a skills-based model, and technology underpins its success. Especially when some multinational companies have an employee footprint akin to a small nation’s population.

“Let’s say you have 200,000 employees, and they each have at least 30 different skills. It would be overwhelming to manage this manually,” explains Gupta.

“AI-enabled skills technology helps you create a scalable platform. It helps you define critical skills for the future, pick and predict based on individual CVs, LinkedIn profiles, organization training, mentoring and experience. It takes all of that data, infers what the relevant skills might be, and makes it easy to validate.”

6 Build a fair, inclusive and equitable culture

Having a consistent framework for skills visibility could also level out the playing field for under-represented talent groups. Promotions are based on skill attainment and competency, rather than educational qualifications, exposure, visibility, or ‘who you know’.

skills-based strategy can help you build a more inclusive work culture, which in turn can amplify the return on time and resources invested.

“Our data tells us a safe and supportive environment with high trust and inclusivity can lead to higher engagement, more productivity, better collaboration and business outcomes,” says Gupta.

Organization Strategy

Change starts with people

Start your skills-based evolution

In the past, people were assigned a job in which they completed the work that was assigned to them. But today, work needs to be far more fluid, predictive and agile. A fixed job mindset will not work for the future of work.

“Change is a given. Change doesn't happen once in a hundred years. It’s happening every single day at a pace faster than ever before,” observes Gupta. 

“If you have people who resist change, or who depend on the old model of change management, they won’t last very long. Organizations need people with resilience and the ability to communicate and collaborate. You need sharp critical thinkers,” she says.

And when you have those people, work organization can become a more fluid ecosystem. 

“You’ll have jobs, projects, gigs, mentoring, and shadowing. You’ll have two-hours-in-a-week projects as well as core responsibilities. There are a whole range of options for work, and a diverse pool of people now available. Those opportunities are more likely to help you attract, retain, and develop the core skills your organization needs to respond to constant change.”

To learn more read our eBook, The New Skills Landscape.