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23 - 24 April 2025 | ExCeL London

17 - 18 April 2024 | ExCeL London

The Skillful Advantage: A 5-Step Playbook for Developing a Skills-Based Learning Strategy

Thursday 12 October 2023

The Skillful Advantage: A 5-Step Playbook for Developing a Skills-Based Learning Strategy

David James
The Skillful Advantage: A 5-Step Playbook for Developing a Skills-Based Learning Strategy

Today, organisations are facing a significant challenge: the skills shortage. It's an issue that is impacting organisations both large and small, preventing business growth. With the accelerated pace of business, skills are becoming obsolete faster than ever and the market is falling short in meeting the demand for emerging skills.

So, what's the solution to closing skills gaps—a challenge that looms over L&D leaders and organisations worldwide? The answer lies in moving towards a skill-based operating model.

This cosmic shift is already happening. Many companies are now applying skills-based models to meet the demand for agility, agency, and equity. And the benefits are clear. In fact, a recent report by Deloitte found that skills-based organisations are 98% more likely to have a reputation as a great place to grow and develop.

As L&D leaders, we play a critical role in unlocking skills management at scale by implementing skills-based learning solutions that help upskill and reskill our teams. In this article, I share a five-step playbook for developing a skills-based learning strategy, enabling organisations to better perform today and outperform tomorrow.

First, let’s look at how leading companies are shifting to skills-based organisations.


How companies are rethinking talent

Traditionally, organisations have assessed talent management based on the specific duties and responsibilities associated with individual job roles.

Now, many companies are rethinking resource allocation and talent management through a fresh approach to empower skilled people—by emphasising skills instead of jobs. One notable example of such a company is Unilever. Anish Singh, Head of HR of Unilever in Australia and New Zealand, explains, “We’re beginning to think about each role at Unilever as a collection of skills, rather than simply a job title.”

In response to tightening marketing conditions, other companies have also shifted from jobs to skills. For example, Zapier has expanded its internal mobility program to find new ways for talented people to apply their diverse skills outside fixed roles.

But to make the shift to a skills-based model, organisations need to understand when and where specific skills are required. Up until now, it’s been difficult to achieve this due to skills mapping being a time-consuming, complex, and costly process, often rendering skills ontologies outdated before they’re even shipped. But with the introduction of the right AI-powered tool, this process can now be made a lot simpler.

So, what role does L&D play in transitioning to a skills model? That’s where skills-based learning comes in.


What is skills-based learning?

While a skills-based strategy typically falls under the HR or talent function, L&D teams are instrumental in acting on that strategy. In other words, we play a critical role in developing skills-based learning programmes that will upskill and reskill the workforce. This is the area where we can significantly support employees to grow while ensuring we develop the skills our organisations need to be competitive.

As an approach, skills-based learning focuses on understanding the existing skills within your organisation and knowing where your employees want or need to go next then launching upskilling or reskilling programmes to get them there.

Read on to discover how to keep a pulse on the skills in your organisation and close skills gaps for good with 360Learning’s five-step playbook.


Our 5-step playbook for developing a skills-based learning strategy

Step 1: Map the skills in your organisation

First, you need to identify and map the skills within your organisation. This step lays the baseline for understanding your employees’ skills levels.


You’ll need to develop a skills ontology specific to your organisation’s talent needs. The process involves defining the skills for every job title. Then, you can tag your existing library of learning content to highlight the specific skills you want to develop via each learning experience. This will go much faster if you have an AI-powered skills solution in place.


Step 2: Identify the skills gaps at the employee level

Now that you understand the skills you have in your organisation, it’s time to identify the skills gaps associated with each employee. This could be for their current role, future role, or a different department.

You’ll need to understand the expected performance level of the role and what skills employees need to perform better through career path modelling. Here are some examples to consider when developing your strategy:

Upskilling for a future role: You will need to identify how the employee can upskill their current skill set so they can be promoted.

Reskilling employees: You will need to identify an employee population that you want to move from job A to job B and determine which skills need to be learned for the new role.

You can ramp up the skills gap process by leveraging a learning system that empowers you to understand the gap between a learner’s current and future role based on data provided by the learner and by the skills and workforce planning data provided by your team and/or the talent team alongside an AI-powered tool.


Step 3: Partner with subject-matter experts to develop missing content for your academies

In addition to identifying the skills gaps in your organization, you’ll also need to identify the content gaps in your learning catalogue needed to close the skills gaps. By leveraging an AI-powered skills solution, you’ll be able to reveal the missing content and identify subject-matter experts best suited to creating that content.

Working in collaboration, you and your internal experts can develop skills gap-specific Academies to create learning experiences that address the missing knowledge and skills. To make it easier for your experts to contribute, you can also leverage AI to generate learning content from existing proprietary documentation so that they’re not starting from scratch, simply reviewing and contextualising the information.


Step 4: Use AI-powered recommendations to prescribe content

Next, you can use AI-powered learning recommendations to ensure employees get the learning they need to close skills gaps and apply themselves to new and different projects.

The best way to run this process smoothly is to leverage a learning experience platform (LXP) that offers native AI-powered recommendations.


Step 5: Measure your impact

Lastly, it is time to measure the impact of your skills strategy and iterate where needed.

A great place to start is by measuring how well your learning experiences are closing skills gaps and increasing the flexibility of your workforce. Here are some key metrics to help get you started:

  • Percentage of employees performing at the expected skill level (target 100%)
  • Percentage of employees ready for senior roles (maximise-should feature only those assessed as having the correct skills for their present role)
  • Percentage of reskilled employees prepared for new roles
  • Average time to reach required skill levels (minimise)
  • Percentage of skills not addressed by current learning assets (ideally 0%).


The right AI-powered system makes the skills transition easier

So, that’s our five-step playbook for pivoting to a skills-based learning strategy.

However, no matter how robust your strategy may appear, leveraging an AI-powered skills solution is the best way to make a measurable impact. The right tool for your team and strategy will let you map out your skills ontology at pace, analyse learning needs efficiently, and deliver the right content to the right learners when they need it.

Looking to learn more about skills-based learning? Join us on November 14th at 4pm GMT for a milestone keynote on what you need to do to make skills-based learning work effectively for your organisation and how to map, measure, and close skills gaps with AI and collaborative learning.


David James David James

Chief Learning Officer at 360Learning


  • companies
  • Content
  • employees
  • job
  • learning
  • organisations
  • skillful
  • skills
  • skillsbased
  • strategy
  • talent
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