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Workforce planning

Hiring for potential – the strategy for the future of work

Embracing the hire-train-deploy model for future-proof workforces.

Content Insights

Artificial intelligence and automation continues to dramatically alter how we work.
76% of Gen Z employees wanted more opportunities to develop new skills.
Growing your own talent is not a quick fix.

Table of Contents




2023 was a year dominated by will-we, won’t-we return to the office debates, the impact of Gen Z on workforces and an economic downturn that saw hiring budgets squeezed and the cost of living grow.

And while some of the past year’s business trends look set to fade away – quiet quitting, anyone? – there is one that is going to continue to worry business leaders throughout 2024.

The problem of skills shortages and finding the right talent was a huge challenge for many organisations in 2023 and it’s not going to change any time soon.

In October, the Confederation of British Industry (CBI) reported that more than two-thirds of UK businesses (71%) had been hit by labour shortages in 2023, with 77% believing that access to skills was a threat to labour market competitiveness.

This is a problem requiring a long-term solution. More than eight in ten of those surveyed (82%) said that access to skills would still be a problem in five years time, with many businesses turning to skills-based hiring and internal workforce development as a means of bridging the talent gap.

“It is crystal clear that while labour shortages are making it more important than ever to focus on productivity, they are also making it harder to invest and grow, stifling the economic transformation needed to deliver sustainable growth,” said CBI chief executive Rain Newton-Smith at the time.

“More often and more effectively adopting technology will be key to improving living standards. And in doing so, we’ll need to help employees add to their skills,” she added.

Hire, train, deploy

If skilled talent is increasingly hard to find, then hiring for potential and training employees in the skills needed for the future of work is a strategy that makes sense. Recruiters can widen the talent pool they’re hiring from, better engage employees by offering them development opportunities and also increase workforce flexibility by being able to move talent into different roles as the business requires.

While the hire, train, deploy model is not new, what makes it increasingly attractive to talent leaders in 2024 is the pace of change they face.

Ken Brotherston, CEO of TALiNT Partners comments ‘’ Hire-train-deploy, when done well, has the potential to help employers get the skills they need, get young people work-ready at scale, and play an important part in supporting social mobility. What’s not to like?’’

Artificial intelligence and automation continues to dramatically alter how we work and the jobs we do. The introduction of Gen Z into the workforce and the advent of the 100-year life means that retaining and engaging employees is more complex than ever. The speed at which things are changing means that the skills you need today, may not be the ones you need tomorrow. Flexibility is key.

The speed at which things are changing means that the skills you need today, may not be the ones you need tomorrow

Dealing with these myriad challenges means that the old ways of attracting, hiring and retaining talent are becoming less and less effective. This also means that the way companies evaluate the right talent fit is also changing. In the new world of work, an individual’s ability to adapt, learn and be flexible is just as important as their past experience and skill sets.

One high-profile advocate of the hire, train, deploy model is LinkedIn CEO Ryan Roslansky. In this podcast with Harvard Business Review, he explains how business leaders and hiring managers have traditionally relied on experience, education and personal networks as a way of assessing talent. Not only has this created shallower talent pools and poorer diversity, but it also no longer leads to the best hires.

“If you take the same job role from 2015 to 2022 that existed in the world, roughly 25% of the skills needed for that job will have changed. When the labour market is moving much quicker, we really need something to focus on. I think that alternative, flexible, accessible path is really going to be based on skills,” he says.

How to grow your own talent

For organisations looking to implement the hire, train, deploy model, it’s important to note that this is a long-term approach to solving talent shortages, requiring business leaders to evaluate the existing skills of their talent pool and identify future requirements.

A starting point for many businesses is creating and implementing a skills taxonomy. To truly understand the skills your people have – and the ones you’ll need in the future – organisations need a way of evaluating and ranking skills.

As HR thought leader Josh Bersin points out, this is not a new phenomena. Businesses have been building skills taxonomies, development frameworks and evaluating potential for decades.

What has changed is how this can be applied to wholescale workforce planning.

“What is new is the technology, applications of AI, and the idea of using skills in an integrated way for recruiting, development, internal mobility, and pay. So while I’m very optimistic and excited about all the SkillsTech being introduced, don’t forget the basics you already know,” warns Bersin.

The hire, train, deploy model of workforce planning is a long-term approach to ongoing talent shortages.

If technology has the ability to revolutionise how we evaluate skills and the potential of our people, then the same can be said for the learning and development opportunities we provide to help them grow.

A 2021 LinkedIn report on employee wellbeing found that opportunities to learn and grow was the number one driver of a successful work culture. Another LinkedIn report from 2022 revealed that 76% of Gen Z employees wanted more opportunities to develop new skills and expertise.

Employees understand that the future of work will require them to develop new skills and be flexible. To truly succeed in the hire, train, deploy era, business leaders need to provide modern learning experiences that are personalised, utilise technology and allow individuals to develop at their own pace. There is little point in investing in skills development if your training programmes are not up to scratch.

The benefits

Growing your own talent is not a quick fix. It requires a strategic approach to evaluating existing talent and abilities, the patience to hire new employees based on soft skills like flexibility and willingness to learn over hard technical skills, and the ability to create engaging, personalised learning programmes.

However, for many organisations there is little alternative. Talent shortages in many sectors are forecast to increase in coming years, so developing internal skills and creating a flexible workforce will be key to future growth.

There are also many business benefits beyond a more engaged, rounded workforce. Hiring and promoting based on potential rather than past experience can diversify your workforce, opening up routes into work for people from under-represented backgrounds. It also allows business to scale more effectively, deploying talent where it is most needed by building a more flexible, rounded workforce. Finally, it creates more engaged employees, who grow new skills as the business and wider working world require.

The hire, train, deploy model of workforce planning is a long-term approach to ongoing talent shortages. Get it right and you can future-proof your talent strategy for years to come.


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