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Why prioritising skills in professional development is more important than ever

15 March 2024
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To maintain a high level of practice within an evolving professional landscape, prioritising skills is crucial. More specifically, organisations should be focusing on the continual assessment and development of role-specific skills. This includes identifying current skill sets as well as anticipating future needs based on shifting job requirements.

Why is this the case? Factors such as technological advancements and the rise of economic inactivity have contributed to a skills shortage in the UK. This is a challenge being faced by numerous high-stakes industries, from cyber security finance and law.

How can this be addressed? Alongside changes to external hiring processes, a skills-first approach should be adopted internally. Upskilling and reskilling current talent offers an effective solution, leading to an adaptable and highly competent workforce.

At Kaplan Assessments, we support a wide range of organisations with tailored assessment solutions, helping you identify and resolve skill gaps.

Get in touch today.

Prioritising skills in an evolving professional landscape: Why it’s important

External developments have an influence on the nature of roles, from a change in responsibilities to the emergence of new expectations. As a consequence, there is more of a focus on specific competencies rather than a broader knowledge base. This reflects the demand for agility and specialisation, enabling professionals to fulfil their roles to a high standard.

And because these developments are happening at pace, the need to address work-based skills is ongoing.

Disruption is the new normal

Skill development priorities will look different for different organisations, however, there are some common themes.

For instance, industries are beginning to integrate technology into various aspects of work, whether that’s communication or the automation of tasks. In the finance industry alone, traditional methods are being replaced by more innovative solutions, such as the use of fintech. This is also true for the business industry, where especially small businesses are integrating customer relationship management (CRM) software and online booking systems - allowing them to provide a better service to users and increase productivity.

With every new advancement or market shift, there is an increased emphasis on the resilience of professionals. This can only be achieved if organisations are willing to prioritise continual professional development, in the form of targeted qualifications.

Addressing skills shortages across high-stakes industries

As of 2022, official government figures have indicated that 15% of organisations have at least one skill gap, up from 13% in 2017. In this context, a skill gap equates to an employee who is not fully proficient in their role, suggesting a misalignment between the requirements of the job and the employee’s level of competence.

So, is the demand for skilled professionals being met? The statistics say otherwise…

For organisations, skill gaps highlight areas where employees might need additional development or upskilling. This insight is invaluable and can be turned into a positive outcome, with a suitable method of assessment that delves deeper into specific competencies.

On the flip side, a lack of investment in assessing current shortages and providing relevant support can be detrimental to an organisation’s long-term success. Figures show that only 60% of organisations have funded or arranged development programmes for employees over the past 12 months - a decrease from 66% in 2017. Without a cohesive skills development programme in place, productivity can suffer and, by extension, overall organisational effectiveness.

Can’t find a qualification that is relevant to your organisation or the required skill sets of your employees? Turn to Kaplan Assessments.

Upskilling your workforce in the era of AI

To remain competitive in today’s landscape, organisations are beginning to embrace AI, to varying degrees.

Although highly effective in driving innovation and improving the efficiency of tasks, the integration of AI brings its own set of challenges. In particular, organisations will need to foster a more collaborative approach between humans and AI technologies.

This will require a shift from professionals who specialise solely in their industries to multi-skilled professionals who are proficient in soft skills as well as industry-specific skills, including complex problem-solving, collaboration, and adaptability (to name a few). Digital literacy will also be an essential skill.

As a relatively new development, the integration of AI can be tricky for organisations to navigate. That’s where professional assessments come in.

With work becoming increasingly AI-driven, professionals need to be able to use AI technologies to a high level. Assessments can be designed to test for this particular skill, either through scenario-based questioning or, on a more explicit level, in the form of an AI technical skills assessment.

Keen to introduce an AI-focused assessment into your organisation? Contact our expert team today.

Taking professional assessment to the workplace: A practical approach

Having identified a skills shortage, it’s about looking at ways to resolve this on an organisational level. Specifically, how a skills-based approach to developing talent can be achieved.

In a dynamic workplace, the purpose of assessment has shifted from testing a candidate’s theoretical knowledge to testing their on-the-job skill set. Of course, professionals should have a deep understanding of the intricacies of their industry. However, it’s the practical application of this knowledge that is crucial.

There are countless benefits to this approach:

  • It gives a clear indication of whether a candidate is proficient in their role
  • It also assesses how a candidate responds to real-life situations
  • It aligns talent and skills with specific role requirements
  • It allows for customised skill development
  • It improves workplace performance and enhances productivity

Action-oriented vs theoretical assessment

Practical skills assessments provide clearly defined and measurable outcomes, ultimately giving a more accurate picture of competence. Compared to an essay-based exam, for example, the assessment format is versatile and can range from hands-on tasks to simulations, allowing for a direct demonstration of skills.

This is an approach that focuses on addressing gaps within an organisation first, as opposed to simply hiring external talent.

By nurturing and maximising the potential of existing talent, organisations will be able to create a workforce that is resilient to change. Plus, by giving employees the opportunity to showcase their capabilities outside of academic assessment types, it is also more inclusive.

Gaining work-based skills through micro-credentials

Most organisations will have a priority skills list which serves as a strategic road map for talent development. This is essentially an outline of required skills which also align with industry demands and wider organisational goals.

The challenge is not only ensuring that your employees are competent in these skills but that they are willing and able to acquire new skills where necessary.

If you’re looking to upskill your workforce, micro-credentials offer an effective solution. As a shorter form of qualification, micro-credentials can be tailored to the most relevant skills, whether that’s specific to a role or in relation to wider developments. And, as the demand for targeted skill acquisition grows at a faster rate, they enable professionals to stay up-to-date.

Designed with practicality at the forefront, they seamlessly bridge the gap between assessment and application.

Discover how this can be achieved with Kaplan Assessments.

Meeting the expectations of a Gen Z workforce

Yes, the growing talent gap in high-stakes industries has brought a sense of urgency to upskilling and reskilling professionals. But would a skills-based approach to assessment be a priority regardless?

With 29% of Gen Z and millennial study participants claiming that learning and development opportunities were a deciding factor when it comes to choosing an organisation, it’s clear that this is now an expectation rather than a nice-to-have.

If anything, this indicates that skills development is just as much a concern for employees as it is for employers.

With the evolving nature of work, the ability to remain adaptable as an organisation goes hand-in-hand with employee engagement. The result? A workforce who are motivated to continually review and update their skill sets.

So, if you want to attract and, more importantly, retain top talent, you should be investing in professional qualifications that are skills-focused and offer a flexible development path.

Not sure where to begin?

Kaplan Assessments are the experts in designing and delivering skill-specific assessments and qualifications

At Kaplan Assessments, we design, develop, and deliver impactful assessments and qualifications that address key skill gaps within your organisation. Our solution is based on a collaborative approach that allows for flexibility where needed, ensuring the right skills are being assessed by the right methodologies.

Whether you’re after a regulated or non-regulated qualification, comprehensive programme or focused micro-credential, we can help.

Get in touch to discuss your requirements.

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