Technical skills: a complete guide for HR leaders

Learn why so-called “hard skills” are here to stay

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By Nicole Schreiber-Shearer, Future of Work Specialist at Gloat

Companies that aren’t setting their sights on skill-building risk getting left behind. As the pace of digital innovation continues to accelerate, 98% of businesses are eager to embrace skill-based strategies and 90% of organizations are already experimenting with them.

While many leaders are looking to build their workforce’s capabilities, most businesses are still in the early stages of their skills transformations. Nearly one in four employees believe upskilling and reskilling opportunities are hard to come by, while 55% of HR managers think their skills information only partially meets their needs.

As leaders aim to solve the challenges holding their skills strategies back, they must also turn their attention towards bridging a particularly dire knowledge gap: a lack of technical skills. While developing the capabilities needed to work with technology has always been important, it’s going to be even more crucial as digitalization advances—which is why building technical skills deserves a spot at the top of HR’s priority list.

What are technical skills?

Technical skills refer to the set of abilities, knowledge, and experience needed to perform specific tasks in a job. These skills are usually related to working with technologies, such as computers, software, and other industry- or job-relevant equipment.

Many modern jobs require new technical skills to be mastered (especially in the tech industry) and they are often designed to make tasks easier and more efficient to complete. It’s important to understand how technical skills can be used in various situations and how this knowledge can be harnessed to streamline workflows.

Why are technical skills so important?

Technical skills are becoming increasingly important as the pace of innovation continues to accelerate. According to IBM, the half-life of technical skills is now just 2.5 years—meaning that the knowledge employees learn becomes outdated approximately every 30 months. To keep up with new technological breakthroughs and unlock career agility, employees must continuously develop new technical skills.

Creating pathways to help employees develop technical skills can help companies save on talent acquisition expenses in the long run. Rather than relying exclusively on external hires to bring new, in-demand competencies into the organization, companies that prioritize skills development can tap into internal talent pools to fill high-priority roles.

What are the benefits of technical skills training?

There are several advantages associated with developing your workforce’s technical skills.

4 steps to help your employees improve their technical skills

Here are a few best practices that leaders can harness to promote technical skill-building across their organization.

#1. Identify high-priority skills

Not all skills are created equally. Some technical competencies will become increasingly important for companies to develop to stay competitive in the new world of work, while other types of knowledge will fall out of priority as industries move past them. Rather than guessing where to focus L&D efforts, many companies are turning to workforce intelligence solutions to learn which capabilities are gaining relevancy.

Some systems even include skill and job benchmarking to show whether a specific competency is on the rise or on the decline. Workforce intelligence also gives leaders a complete picture of the skills their organization has, empowering them with insights to pinpoint skill gaps before they snowball into bigger problems.

#2. Increase access to experiential learning opportunities

Employees need opportunities to put the technical skills they’re learning into practice. Projects, gigs, and job shadowing give workers the on-the-job experience they need to utilize new skills with confidence. To ensure every employee can tap into experiential learning, companies are harnessing talent marketplaces to generate suggestions for projects and gigs based on the skills employees have and the knowledge they wish to acquire.

#3. Prioritize mentoring

Mentoring is a win-win when it comes to skill building: the employee who is getting mentored will learn in-demand technical skills, while their peer who is doing the mentoring will gain valuable experience by training their colleague. The most impactful mentoring initiatives take a skills-based approach, meaning employees are matched to mentors in the organization based on the capabilities they’re looking to learn.

#4. Centralize learning and development resources

In addition to experiential learning opportunities, employees need access to courses and content that are designed to help them build new technical skills. Workers often struggle to find these materials because many organizations use a disparate array of tools and systems. In fact, companies have an average of 70 different applications for employee development.

Rather than letting bottlenecks hinder learning and development, leading organizations are utilizing an opportunity hub to centralize all volunteering, learning, training, and wellbeing resources so that employees can spend less time searching and more time building technical skills.

To learn more about the capabilities that will be essential in the new world of work, check out The Ultimate Guide to the Skills-Based Organization.

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