Looking within: How adjacent skills could be the answer to your talent challenges

| 7 November 2022

Between the Great Resignation, quiet quitting, and a desire for soft living post-Covid it’s not been easy for HR and talent teams. The skills gap is widening. And businesses are searching for new solutions to their talent predicament. Companies are now ditching the desire to match employees to exact job competencies. The importance of adjacent skills has never been more, well…important.

To answer the inevitable question of “okay that’s great, but what can I do to fill my talent gap?”, here are a few top tips that can get you some fresh ideas for your business. This is a quick cheat sheet into the benefits of adjacent skills and how you can bring them into your business.

First up, what are adjacent skills?

In short, its upskilling an employee or talent with existing skills. Gone are the days of having people fit into strict job descriptions. Did you know that research from Gartner has shown that a company in need of a natural-language processing expert can look to employees with machine learning or Python? With the world of work finding its feet after a pandemic and now having to deal with a possible recession, the talent market will become stretched.

You want to be ahead of the curve, especially with the oncoming automation (we’ve all seen I, Robot). A LinkedIn report stated, “The most competitive businesses will be those that choose to reskill and upskill current employees”.

How it benefits your business

  • Adjacent skills keep your team confident
    There’s a strong underlying benefit to tapping into skills adjacency and that’s boosting your team’s confidence. Research figures show that 40% of employees aren’t confident that their abilities will be relevant in the future. Finding out how your current crop of employees can be upskilled and fitted into new roles will not only be great for attracting new talent but can be crucial in retaining your best minds.
  • Diverse way of thinking
    This one does what it says on the tin. Having a member of your team whose experience is a bit more eclectic or different can bring about positive change as well as a fresh pair of eyes to a department that may be getting stagnant. One advertising behavioural agency we spoke to said they routinely hire from outside adland. Their reasoning? To understand the culture you need people who live it and breathe it. Not someone who read it in a book at a finishing school.
  • Tap into undeveloped talent
    This is a bit like football scouting. Teams have sophisticated networks of scouts all over the world – making it even more competitive to land the next Messi or Mbappe. Teams are looking at rough diamonds that can catapult them to glory. It’s the same approach with talent recruitment. If recruitment/HR teams can find people who have relevant skills but are willing to use them in a different way and want to upskill then you could have a superstar talent on your team who could bring about significant change.


How you can go about it

  • Be mindful of your job descriptions
    The language you use in your job descriptions can make or break the people you attract. If you’re looking to attract people with adjacent skills use your job description page to list the goals you want the person to achieve in the role rather than focusing solely on what qualifications and experience they should have.
  • Internal solutions
    Sometimes going for an internal solution can save time and money. Upskilling an employee who already knows the culture and framework of the business. A good way to find out what skills employees have is to encourage them to be open to sharing their interests, competencies and goals. Use 1-2-1s to not only discuss short-term needs but find out what their targets may be longer term in their career. Understanding the person can go a long way in transferring their skills to a new role.


It goes without saying that there are instances where using adjacent skills to hire simply wouldn’t fit i.e within more detailed technical roles. Tapping into people’s adjacent skills when hiring can be the ace in the pack for your business. Inflation, the great resignation, quiet quitting and now a looming recession are all not going away any time soon (sadly). Looking at talent from a different angle can help you fill the skills gap and who knows, hire someone who could be a game changer.

Want to learn more? Get in touch to speak to one of our consultants.

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