Closing the Future Skills Gap in Talent Selection and Development

The World Economic Forum has recently predicted that at least 50% of the workforce will have to be reskilled by 2025. That translates to more than 120 million workers and only if considering the 12 largest economies globally!

The reasons for this dramatic shift in the talent landscape are:

  • The rapid pace of technological adoption by most companies, and,
  • The impact that such disruptive technologies (e.g. Artificial Intelligence) will have on the concept and execution of work.

One of the key disruptions organizations will face because of the above is a rapid outpacing of existing skills. Consequently, most organizations will face skills gaps in their critical operational areas. And while universities will continue to form the basis of graduate education, organizations will increasingly have to bridge the gap of future-proofing their onboarded (and existing) talent.

So, when companies recruit new hires, they need to pay particular attention to acquiring individuals that will be amenable to upskilling, agile in their learning approaches and show good potential for critical future-proof competencies.

In addition, organizations that want to remain competitive in this new talent marketplace will be well served by future-orientated capacity and skills audits of their existing talent pool. This will not only ensure that the right people are in the right positions but also serve as a guide to any future learning and development interventions to up- or reskill employees.

Selecting future-proof employees: The case for future skills

Based on surveys such as Aon Assessments’ HR Pulse Survey and others, researchers have identified six core skills that define future-proof talent.

These are:

  1. Leadership
  2. Resilience
  3. Digitalization
  4. Insights
  5. Excellence
  6. Interconnection

Each of the six core skills can be further subdivided into three areas each, making for a total number of 18 areas relevant to future skills:


  • Idea generation: cultivating new ideas and innovation through creativity and thought leadership.
  • Empowerment and inclusion: inclusive leadership skills that empower others.
  • Digital adoption: driving the adoption of digitization and automation.


  • Agile mindset: a strong drive to learn in flexible ways.
  • Change mastery: adapting skilfully to change and a highly dynamic work environment
  • Risk management: balancing risk-taking and risk mitigation.


  • Digital business acumen: understanding the changing digital business landscape.
  • Tech development: working with application design, UX, and related fields.
  • Agile methods: implementing agile project management and business methods and practices.


  • Data and analytics: dealing with increased access to data and applying analytical thinking.
  • Business intelligence: working with data visualization and applying BI best practices.
  • Complex solutioning: interpreting and working with complex information.


  • Customer awareness: Being aware of customer demands and being able to iterate and apply innovations based on these quickly.
  • Digital marketing and sales: Understanding and working with increased demands for digital marketing and sales approaches.
  • Process design and automation: Promoting automation and efficient process design.


  • Virtual working: the capability to work as part of a virtually distributed team.
  • Digital impact: communicating with high impact in a virtual, digital working environment.
  • Borderless collaboration: working cross-functionally across national and cultural boundaries.

It is important to note that while some of the skills and areas may reference technical abilities (e.g. Understanding agile project management principles, UX design, etc), they largely transcend traditional technical skills (e.g. proficiency with applications) to focus on competencies that will most likely prepare the individual to function within an environment that is digital, rapidly evolving, and complex.

Given that new jobs are being created at a far more rapid pace than traditional tertiary institutions can cope with, organizations will not necessarily have the luxury of having “ready-made” talent to recruit from early career candidates as was the case in the past.

The answer is therefore to focus more on:

  • Selecting employees with a high degree of future skill potential who can then be upskilled according to the hiring organization’s unique future demands and challenges, and
  • Identifying existing employees who are able to meet the changing demands placed on the organization and its functions
  • Enabling existing talent to accelerate their development of the necessary future skills identified in capacity audits and related assessments.

A roadmap to selecting and developing future skills

Using Aon’s experience as a global partner to hundreds of client organizations and the resultant Future Skills Framework, we can sketch out a roadmap to designing a robust assessment process that can meet the talent priorities identified above:

Step 1. Gain a thorough understanding of existing skills gaps in the organization, both current and potential future skills by conducting a future-orientated talent and capacity audit.

Step 2. Benchmark talent strengths and gaps against best-practice norms and standards.

Step 3. Define future requirements in terms of technical and global future skills.

Step 4. Design a measurable process and link this to graduate strategies, succession planning, job architecture, learning and development, and assessment strategies.

Ultimately, robust assessments are called for that can measure not only the behaviors and abilities that have been traditionally valued but also those associated with future skills requirements.

Assessing for future skills

As mentioned above, Aon’s Future Skills Framework represents a massive step forward in not only providing talent professionals with an assessment-ready skills framework but also bringing to bear globally-recognized and award-winning assessments like the ADEPT-15 for accurate and benchmarked assessment delivery.

In deciding the appropriate assessment strategy for bridging the skills gap, talent professionals will need to be closely guided by their organizations’ business model and strategic objectives for new hires as well as those relevant to talent development and succession planning.

A critical feature of this model is the combination of skills and competencies into capabilities that will ensure optimal functioning within a complex, fully digital working environment. In such contexts, leaders and employees will have to adapt to a rapidly changing technological disruption as well as the behavioral analogs of such change.

For instance, using Aon’s digital readiness framework, employees can be assessed for their capacity to work within a dynamic, flexible digital working environment.

Aon’s digital readiness model shows that the core foundational competencies of agility, curiosity, and learnability are essential for future work in a more automated and digitized organization. In addition to these core competencies, digital readiness also includes constructs such as resilience, curiosity, adaptability, and flexibility.

It, therefore, stands to reason that assessing for these competencies should be on any assessment or talent professional’s agenda now or in the very near future.

Put simply, digital readiness is an individual’s ability and enthusiasm to navigate new ways of working. It is about embracing constant change, adapting to ever-developing technologies, and benefiting from the advantages they offer.

In addition, highly digitally ready new hires and existing talent alike are more likely to engage in life-long learning and be more open to learning from others and their own mistakes.

In an ever-moving work environment where technical skills age quickly, these are vital behavioral competencies to look out for when hiring talent and cultivating existing employees.

Final thoughts

The rate at which knowledge and skills become outdated is accelerating. For instance, the World Economic Forum recently predicted that the half-life of skills has shrunk to five years.

This means that five years from now, an organization’s current skill set will be worth around half as much as it is right now.

Because of this instability, organizations need to focus less on developing specific skill sets and more on hiring for future-proofed and future-ready competencies. When selecting talent or planning for development, organizations have a unique opportunity to meet the challenges of a digitally complex world of work in a robust, scientifically credible manner.

And using globally recognized assessment products like the ADEPT-15 and other Aon assessments can go a long way to meeting that requirement and bridging the future skills gap.

If you are interested in assessing for future skills, auditing existing talent, or understanding how to address the skills gap, why not speak to us at