May 2021
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TD Magazine

Skill Adjacent

Friday, April 30, 2021

Are you looking for a purple unicorn? They are "candidate profiles with a combination of skills and experiences so rare as to be practically mythical," defines Jackie Wiles in her Gartner article "Trouble Finding Critical Skills? Widen Your View." If you are, stop, Wiles advises.

Instead, she suggests adopting a different strategy to fill roles and close skills gaps: Widen the talent pool to include candidates with skills adjacent to those required for the role. She notes that "the real potential of the adjacencies approach lies in identifying and leveraging stepping-stone skills—those that bridge the gap between domains."


Taking that approach not only enables you to pull from less-competitive talent pools, but also it can increase opportunities for internal mobility. "By understanding this connection, HR leaders can look to one part of the organization to fill open positions in another, seemingly unrelated part of the organization," Wiles writes.

The idea is simple: After a company hires workers, it can efficiently upskill skill-adjacent candidates to meet the needs of the roles it needs to fill.

About the Author

The Association for Talent Development (ATD) is a professional membership organization supporting those who develop the knowledge and skills of employees in organizations around the world. The ATD Staff, along with a worldwide network of volunteers work to empower professionals to develop talent in the workplace.

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