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Unlocking agility: Embracing skills-based hiring in the APAC Region

Unlocking agility: Embracing skills-based hiring in the APAC Region

Unraveling the shift in APAC's employment landscape and the rise of skills tech.

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Companies are recognising the value of individuals who showcase the ability to learn and adapt.
AI in recruitment is proving instrumental in leveling the playing field.
Strategic Workforce Planning, and are among the largest culprits of mass redundancies.

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The APAC region is following the global shift towards skills-based hiring, acknowledging that traditional markers of talent may not align with the demands of today’s swiftly evolving job market. Companies are recognising the value of individuals who showcase the ability to learn and adapt within their roles, leading to the integration of upskilling and reskilling into organisational culture.

In APAC’s diverse and dynamic economies, the emphasis on soft skills, including leadership, communication, and teamwork, has become paramount. Navigating cross-cultural environments and multigenerational workforces is considered invaluable, highlighting the region’s unique requirements.

AI in recruitment is proving instrumental in leveling the playing field, enabling companies to identify candidates based on skills rather than solely on educational background. This is particularly significant in APAC, where a wealth of talent may not have followed traditional educational paths but has acquired expertise through alternative routes.

Observing the shift towards skills

Considering the vast diversity in industries and job roles across the APAC region, it’s essential to explore which specific sectors are leading the way in embracing skills-based hiring. The adaptability of different industries to this trend offers valuable insights into the evolving dynamics of the regional job market.

Acknowledging the concept of STARs (Skilled Through Alternative Routes), individuals who have developed their skills through avenues such as community colleges, apprenticeships, or on-the-job training represent a substantial portion of the workforce often overlooked due to the absence of a traditional four-year degree.

The World Economic Forum’s emphasis on the rapid pace of change in core skills underscores the strategic imperative for organisations to prioritise upskilling and reskilling. This isn’t just a trend; it’s a necessity for staying relevant in an ever-evolving business landscape.

It’s essential to explore which specific sectors are leading the way in embracing skills-based hiring

Building a dynamic workforce puzzle

Hiring for skills in the APAC region is akin to constructing a dynamic puzzle where each piece can adapt to fit the emerging market landscape. It’s about fostering agility and the capability to pivot swiftly in response to changing business needs. By prioritising skills over rigid job descriptions, companies create a workforce that can cross-function, innovate, and respond to market shifts with speed and efficiency.

In APAC, where economic growth and technological advancement often outpace other regions, valuing skills enables companies to assemble teams equipped not only for today’s challenges but also for tomorrow’s uncertainties. This approach proves crucial for agile workforce planning, where the ability to identify and mobilise the right talent swiftly becomes a competitive advantage.

Mitigating talent shortages through inclusivity

Moreover, embracing a skills-first approach can help mitigate the talent shortage by tapping into a broader pool of individuals with non-traditional backgrounds but possessing the requisite skills. This inclusivity not only fosters diversity and innovation but also aligns with the agile philosophy of valuing individuals and interactions over processes and tools.

Companies in the APAC region adopting a skills-first approach are better positioned to implement agile workforce planning. The ability to quickly identify and mobilize talent aligns seamlessly with the principles of agility, especially in industries where project scopes evolve rapidly. This approach allows companies to save time and resources while contributing to employee engagement and retention.

Consider a tech company needing to pivot to a new programming language. If they’ve hired for specific skills and a learning mindset, they can upskill their workforce without the need to hire anew. This not only saves resources but also fosters a culture of continuous learning and adaptability, essential elements for thriving in the dynamic APAC business landscape.

Kris Clelland, TALiNT Partners MD APAC commented:

Skills-based hiring in the APAC region is not just a trend; it’s a strategic pivot that’s redefining the talent landscape. It’s a smart move, considering the diversity and dynamism of the APAC markets. By focusing on skills, companies are tapping into a broader talent pool, often uncovering gems that traditional hiring practices might overlook. Skills tech is on the rise, globally, and also in APAC, with more intuitive tech evolving to assist in aiding building skills-based organisations; some examples who are making headway in APAC are GoFigr, Plum, Eightfold, and Applicant Tracking Systems like SmartRecruiters, Beamery, and Avature.

There are organisations on a global scale, who have put amazing initiatives in place to drive towards skills-based hiring, however often forget about Strategic Workforce Planning, and are among the largest culprits of mass redundancies due to over-hiring with no future planning in the early stages – Google, for example, who have long been an advocate for hiring based on skills and abilities over traditional educational credentials, and who have been pioneers in recognising the value of “on-the-job learning” and alternative education paths. Similarly, IBM has placed significant emphasis on skills with its “New Collar” jobs initiative, which focuses on capabilities rather than degrees. Then there’s Amazon, who have invested heavily in upskilling programs like Amazon’s Pathways.

The organisations who I feel have done the best job, while juggling competing priorities, are organisations like AT&T and Comcast, who have been at the forefront globally, with their approach trickling into APAC. They are not just paying lip service to the idea of skills-first; they are restructuring their hiring and development processes around it. This includes de-emphasising formal education and pedigree, which opens doors for those with non-traditional backgrounds but with the right skills to excel.

In APAC, we’re seeing companies like DBS Bank in Singapore, who have been a leader in digital transformation, also lead the way in skills-based hiring. They’ve been upskilling their workforce and recruiting based on skills for years, to ensure they remain competitive in the digital economy.

These companies are not just adopting a skills-first mindset; they’reembedding it into their organisational DNA, which is critical for long-term success

More locally for me personally, in Australia and New Zealand, there are several forward-thinking companies that have recognised the value of skills-based hiring and are pioneering the approach. Telstra, for instance, is a standout in Australia for its progressive stance on digital skills and its commitment to upskilling its workforce. Similarly, ANZ Bank has been making strides in transforming its talent acquisition strategy to focus more on the skills and capabilities of candidates rather than just their credentials, or education.

Across the Tasman Sea, New Zealand’s Xero has been a vocal advocate for skills-first hiring, particularly in the tech sector, where they have been actively upskilling their employees to meet the demands of a rapidly evolving digital and AI landscape. These companies are not just adopting a skills-first mindset; they’reembedding it into their organisational DNA, which is critical for long-term success.

It’s not all sunshine and rainbows, though. Convincing leadership to buy into skills-based hiring can be an uphill battle. Some (most) Execs are still clinging to the old ways of hiring based on functional experience, credentials, and alma maters. But the evidence is mounting that a diverse workforce, which is a natural outcome of skills-based hiring, drives success and profitability.

I would love to know what specific challenges or concerns other players in the industry are having, when implementing skills-based hiring in the ANZ & APAC regions? Are there barriers, blockers, or bottlenecks that we don’t know about, as we would love to come together with our community and speak about, and tackle these together.

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