Skip to content

Contact sales

By filling out this form and clicking submit, you acknowledge our privacy policy.

Why hiring people to fill your skill gaps won’t work in 2024

Pluralsight VP of Global Professional Services Mary-Christine Nolan shares why in an applicant's market, fostering your internal talent will be crucial.

Apr 15, 2024 • 6 Minute Read

Please set an alt value for this image...
  • Public Sector
  • Engineering Leadership
  • Business
  • Professional Development
  • Team Development
  • Learning & Development

It goes without saying that your organization needs a sustainable advantage to set you apart from your competition. Normally, companies turn to the two P’s for this: product and prices. After all, the product is what your customers want, and the prices are the friction factor that can make or break a sale.

However, if you’re looking to get an edge over your competitors, there’s a third P that should be getting your attention: people. People are the ones who make and maintain your product, who help you sell and improve it. Without people, you’re on your own — could you imagine Microsoft or Amazon being as large as they are without great people underneath it all?

However, nobody is born great — they learn to be that way! If you get into the statistics, there’s a lot of research showing the more skilled your people are, the better the business outcomes. Organizations that have a skills-based approach are 63% more likely to achieve results, and if you raise the training level of an employee by 5%, you get a 4% increase in business value

So the question then becomes, “How do I get those great people?” Unfortunately, the approach many organizations have been using up until now to do that is all wrong.

You can’t treat people like poker cards

In poker, you’re dealt a hand of cards, and you rarely start out with a great set. To get one, you discard the bad cards and hope you draw some good ones to fill the gaps, until you’ve got something that will help you win against everyone else at the table. Much like a company, you’re betting on the cards you’ve got in your hand to pull you through. 

Unfortunately, this is also the way many companies think about having skilled employees. They “manage out” the unskilled workers, and rely on the recruitment process to bring in the brightest and the best.

However, there’s an immense fallacy with this approach. With cards, you can firmly keep hold of them. People, though, can leave. In fact, they can jump right from your hand and into someone else’s.

Right now, it’s an applicant’s market, and all the signs point to 2024 being no different:

What this means is the net for recruitment has been cast so wide, it’s hard to find that perfectly skilled employee. And once you do have them, if they’re frustrated with their progression or connection with the company, it’s not hard for them to look elsewhere — they’re no longer constrained by locality or industry.

So, if you’re in the habit of discarding your employees like bad poker cards — or simply not investing in them — your company may soon be left with an empty hand. What you need to do is work with the cards you’ve already got, and that requires a paradigm shift.

The path forward: A mutually-beneficial career journey

These days, research shows us employees want five key things: strong leadership, visible career options, upskilling opportunities, a feeling of impact, and an inclusive, engaging work environment. And to be honest, all of those things sound great, right?

In fact, your need for skilled employees and an employee’s desire for these things can be complimentary. By providing all of these things to your employees as part of their career journey, this can help boost business value and increase employee retention.

But how to do that? You need to take a three pillared approach: Attract and Retain, Align and Inspire, and Engage and Promote.

1. Attract and retain

This is the first start of an employee’s career journey. You attract great talent based on the meaning of the work, and make sure to retain them beyond the first 90 days by supporting their onboarding and integration. Studies show in the post-Covid era, almost a third of employees leave their jobs within this onboarding period, so making this a positive experience is crucial for retaining talent.

Position your company as a leading name in the industry, not just for product advancements, but as an employer of choice. By nurturing your staff and promoting this type of culture, you can create a brand that professionals aspire to be part of, making it easier to attract talent.

Instead of a traditional, one-time onboarding, create a ‘flywheel’ that continuously improves and accelerates employee integration into the company culture and workflows. Create ‘culture carriers’ who embody and promote your company’s values and culture, strengthening it even as your company grows and evolves. 

Finally, find out those barriers that are hindering employee performance and satisfaction. It could be bureaucratic procedures, or lack of resources and support — whatever is getting in the way of their success. 

All of this helps the company just as much as the employee: better incoming talent, staff retention, less process barriers, and a more prevalent culture.

2. Align and inspire

Update the definitions of roles and the required skill sets to align with current and future industry trends. This ensures that employees are equipped with relevant skills and are engaged in roles that are both meaningful to them and beneficial to the company. Make sure they have the ability to achieve these new skills by providing them with access to learning opportunities.

Don’t forget to constantly ask “What’s in it for me?” when communicating with employees (WIIFM), because they certainly will! Make sure to highlight the benefits of engagement and growth within the company from the employee's perspective, making sure they understand and appreciate the personal gains from their contributions and development.

Finally, foster a culture where curiosity is valued. It involves creating an environment where employees feel encouraged to ask questions, explore new ideas, and innovate, and where such behaviors are recognized and rewarded. This also helps develop their critical thinking skills, which can be immensely beneficial to the business.

3. Engage and promote

A diverse, equal, and inclusive (DEI) workplace is both ethically right and provides your company with huge benefits:

  • Different groups of people working together fosters greater innovation.

  • People coming together and bringing their own style of working helps increase productivity.

  • Newer opportunities when the door is opened to a wider audience, reducing the threat of homogeneous thinking.

  • People from different backgrounds can look at problems differently, leading to faster problem solving.

Offer a variety of work experiences, such as project rotations, cross-functional teams, or flexible working arrangements. This keeps employees engaged and allows them to develop a broad range of skills and perspectives. Ensure that all employees, regardless of their background or role within the company, have equal access.

Help employees see how their work contributes to the larger picture and how their career goals can align with the company's trajectory. Make career paths, development opportunities, and the necessary skills for advancement clear and accessible to employees. This involves transparent communication about how employees can grow within the company and the tools and resources available to them to achieve their career goals.

Conclusion: Achieving the three pillars helps everyone

If you manage to tick the three boxes above, you’ll be in a great position to foster and retain talent, instead of making it all one big gamble. Strive to upskill and inspire your employees. After all, what’s the worst that could happen — you wind up with a talented, engaged workforce? Becoming the brand known for investing in people, not just product and prices, can really set your brand apart and set you up for future success.

This article is part of Mary-Christine Nolan's presentation from Pluralsight Navigate 2023. If you want to learn more about how leading organizations invest in their workforce, watch the video keynotes here. You can also read our key takeaways article for Pluralsight Navigate 2023.

Mary-Christine Nolan

Mary-Christine Nolan

Mary-Christine Nolan is Pluralsight's VP of Global Professional Services, with over 22 years in technology and business transformation. Prior to this, she worked at McAfee transforming global engineering practices for their cybersecurity products. Mary has significantly contributed to the profitability and scalability of professional services by integrating systems, improving operational efficiency, and enhancing customer satisfaction. Her expertise in software development life cycles and organizational change management has been pivotal in her role at Pluralsight.

More about this author