Skills-based development encourages an employer to invest in the skill-development of an individual in their current role and in their desired role prior to promotion.

It can take a new hire three years to perform at the same level as an internal promotion. That’s why many businesses are looking for tools to implement strategies that develop talent and reduce employee turnover. Skills-Based Development, a tactic within skills-based hiring strategy to retain and develop talent, is an approach that can work. 

What is Skills-Based Development? 

recent study by LinkedIn found that only seven percent of people will advance within their company and 93 percent will leave their organization to advance in their careers.  

Traditional employee development has been historically based on performance. Yet success in a current role does not always mean an employee will find success in a future role. Promoting based solely on an employee’s success in a current role often widens their skills gap and sets them up for failure. This phenomenon is referred to as The Peter Principle, the idea that people are promoted until they reach a level where they are failing because they are not getting the skills development needed to be successful. 

Skills-based development encourages an employer to invest in the skill-development of an individual in their current role and in their desired role prior to promotion. The practice requires employers to define competencies for all positions in advance. While it takes time and pre-planning to implement, it helps to ensure the future success of both the employee by increasing engagement and competency and the employer by increasing retention and reducing long-term costs associated with recruitment and onboarding. 

Employee development starts the first day of onboarding and is designed, supported and evaluated on an individual basis. Promotion occurs when employees are able to perform tasks for the new role, rather than the role they currently serve in.

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Employers can start the conversation by asking, how advancement currently happens at their organization?” and to learn more about how to shift to skills-based career development through the tools outlined below. 

Tools for Skills-Based Development 

Competency Mapping 

Competency mapping, aligning the competencies needed for a role with the defined responsibilities, is critical to determining the training needed for employees before they are promoted. Recognizing some competencies are transferable, competency mapping encourages an individual to reference their current skills-based job description, identify which competencies they currently have and how they align with the competencies required for their desired role.  

Then, individuals identify one shared competency they will need to improve for the desired promotion and work with a hiring manager on developing a stretch assignment. 

Stretch Assignments 

Stretch assignments, the temporary addition of new duties, create an opportunity for an individual to receive training and apply a new competency in a low risk setting. When developing a stretch assignment, hiring managers should ask themselves:  

  1. What is the responsibility of the desired position? 
  2. What competency is necessary to perform the task? 
  3. What assignment can the hiring manager design to evaluate the competency? 

Once the stretch assignment is complete, the individual’s work should be reviewed using minimum proficiency selection guidelines and competencies should be evaluated in comparison to the competencies needed for the new position. To reduce bias, ensure there is a diverse group of hiring managers reviewing the stretch assignment. 

Job Enrichment

Job enrichment, the addition of new duties, represents a change in a job description that represents the success of the stretch assignment. Over time, the job description will reflect desired advancement. When the individual performs at the minimum proficiency for all required competencies for the new position, promotion should occur. 


Onboarding occurs when the individual shows full proficiency within current job and should not be reserved for an individual’s first day with an organization. Skills-based onboarding should be a continuous process implemented after each advancement and promotion and should reflect the training needed for the new competencies of the role.  

Solving the Peter Principle 

Randstad found that a lack of career development and advancement was the No. 1 reason why people left their previous job. Replacing an employee costs business up to 21 percent of an individual’s salary. When competencies are clearly defined, hiring managers provide opportunities for skill development and transparent pathways towards promotion and employee retention.  

About UpSkill Orlando 

UpSkill Orlando is a regional, skills-based talent strategy driving a pathway to broad-based prosperity™ made possible through the generous support of JP Morgan Chase & Co. and a partnership with Skillful, an initiative of the Markle Foundation. UpSkill Orlando seeks to create upward mobility opportunities by working with local employers and educators together to create skills-based career pathways. 

The report “Re-Imagining Orlando’s Talent Supply: Skills-Based Hiring for Upward Mobility” outlines this strategy in greater detail as well as the specific benefits skills-based hiring offers to service workers such as cashiers, waitstaff, and maids displaced by COVID-19 related layoffs. Visit to download the report.  

If your company is interested in learning more about how to implement skills-based hiring or has found success with changing hiring practices to be more skills-based or removing credential requirements in job postings, please contact Vice President, Talent & Community Development for the Partnership, Danielle Permenter.