The Skills Abyss. Are you Terrified or Ready to Enjoy the Ride?

We’ve all heard of the skills gap: “Nearly 9 out of 10 executives say they are facing a skills gap” McKinsey 2020 survey. But new evidence shows that “the skills gap” doesn’t even slightly do the crisis justice; we are now on the precipice of a skills abyss.

What on earth does that mean and how do we survive the fall?

The simple answer is that the skills gap can no longer be plugged, and we must all learn to live in a constantly evolving skills market…. read on to find out how…

Change is the New Status Quo

The pace of change in workforce skills used to be relatively slow: we could identify a gap and spend the next decade filling it with targeted education systems and training programs. But now the skills needed are changing too quickly: in a recent IMB study it was found that many skills now have a half-life of just 2-5 years. And this isn’t just a one-off event …


This isn’t just a temporary hole we can fill, it’s a permanent chasm we need to learn to live with.


According to the World Economic Forum we are on the brink of the fourth Industrial Revolution where, as the machines take over the routine cognitive tasks, the human value in the world of work will be about creating new knowledge and exploring the unknown. This means that the things that drive success will constantly change, and the skills required with it:


“Reskilling and upskilling will be a norm. Just like we add and remove applications on our phones, we will gain new skills and “delete” the old ones.” Heather E McGowen, Future of Work Strategist.


So how does all that practically equate to managing a workforce in the real world?


Well, simply, if you are stuck in the old models of long-term training and redeployment strategies you will fall into the abyss and won’t come out.


The good news is that there are innovative new ways of adapting to a brave new world of constantly evolving skills markets.

Will you fall into the abyss, or will you put on a jetpack and bravely dive into the new frontier?

According to the 2021 Talent Trends Survey, most companies recognise that they do need to do something about the skills crisis but don’t know how. So here are a few solutions that might make the crucial difference between success and failure in a rapidly changing world:

Step One – properly understanding what you have, the holistic way

Many are advocating the importance of doing skills gap analysis. That is understanding what skills you have in your organisation and what you are missing. For many, “skills” simply means a list of qualifications or areas of expertise. But, there is a lot more to skill…

At Cognisess we not only measure Hard Skills and Soft Skills using innovative AI – we also measure Skills Potential: the cognitive ability to quickly learn skills; and Skills Motivation: the personality and behavioural preferences that will drive people to effectively use their skills.

We can holistically assess thousands of people in a matter of hours – to give a meaningful gap analysis.

Step two – dynamic analysis, this isn’t just a one-off event

In a constantly evolving skills market, analysing your people just once isn’t enough. Once you are using the Cognisess platform you can quickly, efficiently, and regularly analyse your people as soon as there is any change and when new skills are required. At the drop of hat, you can quickly find the people that are ready and able to step up to new tasks, or you can create dynamic skills maps and start preparing people as new frontiers emerge.

Step Three – Change is the new status quo

When things are constantly evolving it is vital to have leaders in place that are good at dealing with change and managing people that might struggle with change. At Cognisess we assess key personality traits like: openness-to-experience, communication-skills, resilience and empathy. We can help you find the people with the qualities needed to successfully lead in a changing world.

Step Four – invest in Human Potential

New hires are no longer just about having the relevant skills for a particular job. As we enter this fourth industrial revolution it will be vital to find people with the cognitive ability to adapt and quickly learn new skills and/or the personality traits that enable innovative teamwork. Humans are no longer going to be doing the routine physical or cognitive tasks (machines will be doing that) – but we will be working together in diverse, innovative, and creative teams. Cognisess can help you find the creative, adaptable and empathetic people that are most likely to succeed in this brave new world.

The idea of a “Skills Abyss” might sound terrifying and, many companies are likely to fail as the world rapidly changes. But I for one see this as an exciting opportunity to discover the true potential of humanity. If we adapt and bravely dive into the skills abyss, I hope those that succeed will emerge to a liberating new era of human work, where people are fulfilled and we value unique human qualities.

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© Cognisess Limited, 2021