by L. Thompson | Jan. 25, 2023 | 3 Min Read

Skill Agility®: The X Factor in the Future of Work - Part One


In January 2020, just months before the onset of the global pandemic, the World Economic Forum (WEF) was already proclaiming a reskilling emergency. Based on the pace of emerging technologies, WEF estimated more than 1 billion people would need to be reskilled by 2030[i]. Another group estimated that up to 85 percent of the jobs that today’s college students will hold by 2030 haven't even been invented yet[ii].

The demand for new skills was higher than ever before, and as COVID-19 irrevocably changed how people work, the need accelerated. LinkedIn reported that its members’ skills for the same occupation changed by 25% from 2015 to 2021, and that by 2025, those skills would likely change by 40%[iii].

L&D professionals and business leaders alike can no longer ignore statistics as daunting as these. Though no one can predict exactly what skills will be needed, one thing is clear: success, for individuals, teams, and organizations in the new world of work requires Skill Agility®.

What is Skill Agility®?

Simply put, Skill Agility® is the ability to develop skills at the pace of change.

According to psychologist K. Anders Ericsson, there is a “scientific approach to developing expertise” and “the evidence show[s] that experts are always made, not born.” Skill Agility® can be cultivated and improved because it is itself a skill—a learned power to do something well. In this case, to observe, learn, and adapt.

Researchers at the Center for Creative Leadership (CCL) investigated what it means to be an agile learner and leader in the workplace. CCL’s findings revealed that agile learners:

  • Innovate and question the status quo
  • Adapt and perform on the fly
  • Reflect on experiences and welcome feedback
  • Seek out risks
  • Avoid defensiveness and keep an open mind

The research shows that to navigate increasingly complex business problems successfully, individuals must adopt mindsets and practices that empower them “to continually develop, grow, and utilize new strategies.” New skills are required at every level and the market is forcing organizations to evolve. An individual’s current skillset is not as valuable as their ability to learn new knowledge, skills, and behaviors to navigate what is coming. In other words, if you fail to develop Skill Agility®, it’s not a question of whether you will be ill equipped to perform your job in the future, it’s a question of when.

Moving Toward Skill-Based Organizations

Though critical, Skill Agility® at the individual level is not enough to help businesses thrive. They must prepare more holistically. In a groundbreaking 2022 report, Deloitte describes the rise of the skills-based organization: a new operating model for work and the workforce. Skills-based organizations deemphasize traditional job titles and responsibilities and emphasize skills, thus gaining the flexibility to develop and deploy unique skillsets (outside of job descriptions) to solve business problems. Data shows that organizations who execute skills-based job architecture, learning and development, and hiring are 63% more likely to achieve results than those who don’t.

Skills-based organizations are also:

  • 98% more likely to retain high performers
  • 79% more likely to have a positive workforce experience
  • 49% more likely to improve processes to maximize efficiency

Despite these results, fewer than one in five organizations are “adopting skills-based approaches…across the organization, in a clear and repeatable way.” Not only that, but the bar is low. Though employees consider opportunities to learn and grow the number one driver of a great work culture, only half feel encouraged by their manager to learn new skills on the job.

Cultivating Skill Agility®

It's time to overcome this deficit. Skill Agility® can and must be built at multiple levels inside the workplace, but organizational Skill Agility® is not easy to execute. It requires the right mindset, structure, and technology.

To create the right mindset , leaders must value and reward learning, and teams must be both intrinsically and extrinsically motivated to learn and grow. To create a repeatable structure, organizations must enable access to information and expertise across lines of business and coaches must provide ongoing feedback loops to help employees improve.

All of this must be enabled by smart technology and continually refined by data. (More on that to come.)

Skill Agility Flow.png

Sound impossible? There are several key actions your organization can take to begin the journey toward Skill Agility®.

Key Actions

Key Actions Skill Agility.png

If it were easy to execute, many more organizations would be on this path already. Stick around for this series as we go deeper into how to grow and measure Skill Agility®.

[1] Zahidi, Saadia. “We Need a Global Reskilling Revolution – Here's Why.” World Economic Forum, 22 Jan. 2020,

[2] Mekouar, Dora. “Most of 2030's Jobs Haven't Been Invented Yet.” VOA, Voice of America (VOA News), 13 Feb. 2019,

[3] “LinkedIn’s 2020 Workplace Learning Report.” LinkedIn, LinkedIn Learning, 2022,

[4] Edward T Cokely, K. Anders Ericsson, and Michael J. Prietula, “The making of an expert,” Harvard Business Review, July–August 2007,

[5] Adam Mitchinson, Adam, and Robert Morris. “Learning About Learning Agility .” Center for Creative Leadership , CCL Research and Innovation Lab, 2014,

[6] Cantrell, Sue, et al. “The Skills-Based Organization: A New Operating Model for Work and the Workforce.” Deloitte Insights, Deloitte, 29 Nov. 2022,

[7] Cantrell, Sue, et al. “The Skills-Based Organization: A New Operating Model for Work and the Workforce.” Deloitte Insights, Deloitte, 29 Nov. 2022,

[8] Zahidi, Saadia. “We Need a Global Reskilling Revolution – Here's Why.” World Economic Forum, 22 Jan. 2020,

[9] Roslansky, Ryan. “Here's Why the World of Work Urgently Needs to Put Skills First.” World Economic Forum, 29 Mar. 2022,

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