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Practical ways to boost essential skills for business success in 2024

We explore 3 skills-based predictions for HR and L&D in 2024 with an essential skills lens, to bring you practical ways of addressing the challenges and make the most of the opportunities.

What are essential skills?

Essential skills are defined as those highly transferable skills, which 92% of adults see as important to their work and lives – but only 14% of adults last year felt that they had received structured learning opportunities for skills based development. These skills are needed to do almost any job, and support the application of technical skills and knowledge. There are eight complementary but distinct skills: listening and speaking; creativity and problem solving; aiming high and staying positive; teamwork and leadership. 

1. Going skills-based  

Many of the business challenges organisations are facing - from AI integration to Net Zero or CSR goals can be solved with the right people with the right skills. Forbes cites going skills-based as one of the major disruptions in the workplace, with recruiters set to be increasingly flexible to get the right talent. 

While others are saying the quiet hiring trend is set to continue “also known as silent or stealth recruitment in which organisations focus on acquiring new skills without increasing employee headcount.” says HR Magazine. 

On top of that a recent estimate from KPMG suggests that 40% of UK jobs could feel some impact from generative AI, which makes investing in the complementary ‘human’ skills priority.

Together, these trends signal a broader trend of organising work around skills rather than roles, titles or experiences. Employers need to find ways to reliably and robustly define the skills required for roles along with the processes of measuring them through recruitment. 

Doing so can lead to accessing a far wider talent pool than simply filtering by experience or education level, with almost two thirds (64%) of working age adults more likely to apply to a role if it clearly and transparently explained the essential skills required in the job description. At the same time, higher levels of essential skills have been shown to be a predictor of career success across industries and job types.

Take a first step: Review your job and role descriptors. Are the expectations clear for each level of role? Check the essential skills Framework for a chosen skill

2. Delivering a learning culture 

A recent edX study found that “while half of executives believe their organisation provides employees with a strong culture of learning as well as the time to spend learning, that's not what most employees think.” 

This learning culture is going to remain key to improving the engagement and retention of high performing employees, and closing this gap is attainable through providing opportunities to build essential skills. Skills Builder found last year that over half (56%) of UK working age adults would consider getting a new job for improved skills building opportunities. Keeping your employees skilled will keep them happy, but beyond that will put adaptability front and centre for emerging business needs. 

Essential skills like aiming high, staying positive, creativity and problem-solving will help people transfer effectively from one role to another. When nearly half (45%) of large employers believe that most roles they’ll be hiring for in 2030 don’t exist today, it’s never been more important to develop the learning culture to enable your people to pivot. 

Take a first step: Think about the functions you have across your business. What skills do they have in common? Individuals can take an essential skills assessment on Skills Builder Benchmark to understand their strengths and areas for development. 

3. The rise of meaning and purpose

Beyond future-proofing skills, people are increasingly motivated by finding meaning in work, a trend that has spiked since the pandemic. 

Higher levels of life, job satisfaction and wellbeing are associated with higher levels of essential skills, like creativity, or teamwork. In fact, when controlling for individuals’ job type and age, we find that essential skill score is just as powerful a predictor of job satisfaction as income, to the tune of up to £55,000. 

Given that many employers are already implicitly rewarding higher levels of essential skills through higher pay, there is potential to unlock mobility through transparency and clarity about the value of these skills in the workplace. This transparency should extend to recruitment, where clearly identifying essential skills could lead to better identifying their existence and high performers who may not have the education background or CVs traditionally sought after. 

For businesses as a whole, promoting real, impactful opportunities for participation will also be key, with 29% of respondents in the Annual CSR Insights Survey saying their company had either increased or introduced skills-based volunteering opportunities. These then link to the benefits associated with increased skill scores, as it is only those who have quality opportunities to develop that will build their essential skills. 

Take a first step: Connect employee desire for meaning with positive social impact by providing opportunities to volunteer their skills for worthy causes. Skills Builder Partners get three opportunities a year to be matched with local schools for skills-based Career Insights volunteering sessions. 

Take the next step: Download an employer prospectus to learn more about boosting skills as a Skills Builder Partner. 

Download prospectus