learning and development

A Detailed Guide to Skills-Based Training

Skills-based training makes your employees more productive and efficient in achieving business goals. Read this guide to understand the importance of skills-based training and how to adopt this strategy.

Matthew Reeves

CEO of Together

Published on 

April 15, 2024

Updated on 

Time to Read

mins read time

There’s a growing for speed and precision in training employees in new skills. With new tools and trends, business needs are rapidly changing. Employees need to learn the skills to keep up with the changes so that the organization can retain a competitive edge. 

A skills-based training strategy is directly relevant to employees' roles and responsibilities. A forward-thinking skills-based training strategy also incorporates the skills an employee will need in the future to stay ahead of the game. 

By honing in on these targeted areas, organizations empower their workforce to perform more effectively, adapt to evolving challenges, and drive innovation, ultimately driving the organization  towards success.

What is skills-based training?

Skills-based training, or competency-based training, is a strategic approach to employee development that focuses on enhancing specific skills and competencies directly relevant to employees' roles and responsibilities. Unlike generic training programs that cover broad topics or soft skills, skills-based training hones in on the precise abilities needed to excel in a particular job function or industry.

As industries evolve and job roles become more specialized, there's often a mismatch between the skills employees possess and those required to perform effectively. By identifying these gaps and providing targeted skills-based training and talent development initiatives, organizations can equip employees with the skills they need to succeed. 

According to McKinsey, there is a growing trend of hiring for skills (rather than qualifications) as a solution to talent acquisition and retention challenges, with evidence suggesting it leads to a more diverse and committed workforce. Companies like Boeing, Walmart, and IBM are adopting skills-based hiring practices, and recently, the state of Maryland removed degree requirements for almost half of its positions. Such organizations recognize the benefits of skills-based training, including:

  • Improved productivity: Skilled, competent employees are better equipped to perform their roles efficiently, increasing productivity and quality across the organization. Additionally, employees who feel confident in their talent development are more likely to perform at a high level and contribute positively to the organization's success.
  • Increased employee engagement: When provided with competency-based training opportunities, employees trust their organization as invested in helping them grow and respecting their time by ensuring training is relevant. As a result, they are more likely to be actively engaged in their work.
  • Higher retention rates: When employees feel supported in their talent development and see opportunities for advancement within the organization, they are more likely to stay with their current employer. Training also rewards employees for staying because they are more likely to be promoted to take on new challenges. 
  • Reduced need for supervision: Skills-based training enables employees to work independently, reducing management overhead.
  • Enlarged pool of potential talent: When organizations are confident of their skills training, it’s easier to employ a candidate who may be missing some skills but is otherwise a good fit. It also makes them more attractive as potential employers. 

Challenges in implementing skills-based training

Implementing skills-based training programs can present a multifaceted challenge for organizations, with several common hurdles to overcome:

  • Identifying skill gaps: Pinpointing the specific skill gaps or learning needs within the workforce requires a comprehensive assessment. Sources such as employee performance evaluations, feedback mechanisms, and industry benchmarks can aid this process.
  • Designing relevant training content: Crafting talent development materials that effectively address skill gaps but also keep employees engaged is essential. Collaborate with subject matter experts to create content that resonates with employees. Utilize learning management systems (LMS) and other technology platforms to streamline the delivery of competency-based training content in multiple formats to appeal to different student needs. Offer employees personalized learning paths tailored to their individual skill levels and career aspirations
  • Measuring effectiveness: Determining the success of training initiatives necessitates clear metrics and evaluation methods. Tools like pre-and post-training assessments, performance metrics, and feedback surveys can provide valuable insights into the impact of training on employee performance. Use LMS and other technology platforms to track employee progress and measure the effectiveness of training initiatives. These tools can provide valuable data insights and facilitate continuous improvement efforts.
  • Scaling skills-based practices: Adapting skills-based practices to suit the needs of a growing or evolving organization presents its own challenges. Strategies such as modular training programs, scalable technology solutions, and decentralized training delivery methods can aid in scaling initiatives effectively.
  • Resistance to change: The skills-based approach to training and recruitment is a significant shift from traditional practices. Anticipate resistance from leadership through strategic planning that aligns training initiatives with organizational goals and priorities to ensure they address the most critical needs. Counter employee resistance by clearly communicating the purpose and benefits of skills-based training. Provide continuous feedback and evaluation to keep them engaged.

How to design effective skills-based training programs

Designing and delivering effective skills-based training programs requires a strategic approach that addresses employees' specific needs and preferences. Consider these practical strategies to achieve this:

  • Personalized guidance: Mentors offer individualized guidance to mentees, helping employees identify their strengths and areas for improvement, develop personalized learning plans, and navigate challenges they encounter during skills-based training.
  • Feedback and support: Mentors provide constructive feedback and support to employees throughout the learning process. They offer insights into performance, advice on overcoming obstacles, and encouragement to help employees stay motivated and focused on their development goals.
  • Varied delivery methods: Offer a variety of delivery methods, including blended learning approaches, to accommodate diverse learning preferences and schedules. These include in-person workshops, online courses, virtual simulations, and on-the-job training experiences. Provide opportunities for self-paced learning and independent study and incorporate interactive elements into training sessions to ensure engagement, collaboration, and knowledge sharing.
eBook Develop your high-potential employees with mentors

The importance of mentorship in skills-based training

Mentoring has emerged as an increasingly popular and effective addition to training and development initiatives globally, particularly within the framework of skills-based training. By providing personalized guidance and support, mentoring enhances the efficacy of skill development programs, empowering mentees to excel in their roles and navigate the complexities of today's dynamic business environment.

What role does mentorship play in skills-based training?

Mentorship programs play a crucial role in skills-based training by providing: 

  • Personalized guidance: Mentors offer individualized guidance to mentees, helping employees identify their strengths and areas for improvement, develop personalized learning plans, and navigate challenges they encounter during skills-based training.
  • Feedback and support: Mentors provide constructive feedback and support to employees throughout the learning process. They offer insights into performance, advice on overcoming obstacles, and encouragement to help employees stay motivated and focused on their development goals.
  • Skill acquisition: Mentorship accelerates skill acquisition by providing hands-on learning experiences and opportunities for practical application. Mentors share their knowledge, expertise, and best practices, helping mentees develop new skills more effectively and efficiently than they might through self-directed learning alone.
  • Confidence building: Mentors are crucial in building mentees' confidence and self-efficacy. By offering encouragement, affirmation, and constructive feedback, mentors help mentees overcome self-doubt and develop the confidence to take on new challenges and succeed in their roles.
  • Career development: Mentorship contributes to long-term career development by helping employees identify and pursue opportunities for advancement and advocating on their behalf. Mentors serve as trusted advisors, providing insights into career paths, networking opportunities, and strategies to help mentees achieve professional goals.
Joan Skelton, Global Director, Diversity & Inclusion at Avison Young, shares how the mentoring program at her company was a resounding success with employees.

Common challenges of mentoring within skills-based training programs

Managing mentoring relationships within skills-based training programs presents several common challenges for organizations, including:

  • Mentor-mentee matching: Matching mentors and mentees with complementary skills, experiences, and personalities is essential but challenging.
  • Program scalability: As organizations grow or expand their training programs, maintaining the quality and consistency of mentoring relationships can be a significant challenge.
  • Accountability: Without clear expectations and accountability measures in place, mentoring relationships may falter.
  • Tracking progress: Without clear metrics and evaluation criteria, it can be difficult to assess the impact of mentoring on skill development and overall program success.

However, organizations can overcome these challenges through strategic planning and sound program design. Ensure the following: 

  • Effective program design: Design mentoring programs with clear objectives, guidelines, and expectations for mentors and mentees. Develop structured mentorship plans that outline goals, meeting schedules, and progress-tracking mechanisms to keep participants on track.
  • Leadership support: Gain support from organizational leadership to prioritize and champion mentoring initiatives. Leadership buy-in can help secure resources, allocate funding, and establish a culture that values mentoring as a critical component of skills-based training programs.
  • Mentoring software: Leverage mentoring platforms like Together to streamline mentor-mentee matching, facilitate communication and collaboration, and effectively track progress. 
  • Training and development: Provide ongoing training and support for both mentors and mentees to ensure they have the skills, knowledge, and resources needed to participate effectively in mentoring relationships. 

Using technology to enhance and scale mentoring programs and maximize skill development

Together’s mentoring platform is designed to streamline knowledge sharing and skill development within organizations. Its holistic approach emphasizes individual skills and competencies, allowing organizations to tap into the diversity of their workforce to adapt agilely to changing market demands. This affirming approach enhances job satisfaction while fostering a culture of continuous learning and improvement.

Together offers several features and functionalities that support skills-based training initiatives:

  • Mentor matching: Together's algorithm pairs mentors and mentees based on shared goals, interests, and expertise. This personalized approach ensures effective knowledge transfer and skill development.
  • Easy scheduling: The platform integrates mentoring with organizational workflows by providing built-in communication tools, a calendar, and an HRIS system. This simplifies scheduling and coordination for both mentors and mentees.
  • Tracking and reporting: Organizations can use data-driven insights to monitor the progress and impact of their mentorship programs. Tracking metrics such as engagement levels, skill development, and program effectiveness helps optimize training efforts.
  • Structured communication channels: The platform provides a dedicated messaging system for mentors and mentees to communicate directly. This ensures clear and focused conversations about skill development, challenges, and progress. It also allows participants to engage in group discussions, fostering a sense of community. These discussions can cover specific topics, share best practices, and address common questions.
  • Resource sharing: Mentors can upload relevant resources such as training materials, case studies, and guides to Together’s document repository, where mentees can benefit from easy access to curated content. Together also maintains a repository of frequently asked questions (FAQs) and answers. This knowledge base aids both mentors and mentees in finding quick solutions.
  • Goal setting and progress tracking: Together caters for individualized learning plans allowing mentees to set personalized learning goals. Mentors guide them toward achieving these objectives through regular check-ins to help track progress. The platform also offers skill assessment tools to evaluate mentees' proficiency levels. This data informs targeted training efforts.
  • Peer learning opportunities: Together allows participants to learn from each other through peer mentoring sessions which allow them to share insights, experiences, and tips. It also supports virtual “communities of practice” where mentors and mentees with similar interests or roles can collaborate and exchange knowledge.
  • Feedback and reflection: Mentees can maintain journals to document their progress, challenges, and lessons learned. Mentors can review these entries and provide guidance, constructive criticism, and positive reinforcement in feedback loops that enhance the learning experience.
  • Event management: Together allows clients to host webinars, workshops, and virtual events. These sessions allow mentors to share expertise and mentees to learn from industry leaders. Participants can view and register for upcoming events in the Event Calendar.
  • Recognition and appreciation: Mentees earn badges or certificates upon completing milestones or demonstrating specific skills. Together celebrates mentees' achievements publicly, providing additional motivation to reinforce their commitment to learning.

In summary, Together's features create an ecosystem where mentors and mentees collaborate, learn, and grow together. The platform empowers individuals to enhance their skills and contribute to organizational success by fostering effective communication and knowledge exchange.

Tips for integrating mentorship into skills-based training programs

Integrating mentorship into skills-based training programs requires a strategic approach that emphasizes alignment between mentors and mentees, structured mentoring sessions, and ongoing feedback loops. Consider the following actionable strategies to achieve this:

  • Align mentors with mentees based on skills development needs and goals. Consider compatibility factors such as personality traits, communication styles, and career aspirations.
  • Design mentorship programs with structured mentoring sessions. Define the frequency and duration of mentoring sessions, providing structured skills-focused agendas. 
  • Set clear goals and expectations that align with mentees' skill development needs and career objectives while factoring in the organization's strategic objectives. Review these regularly.
  • Foster open communication channels between mentors and mentees to facilitate regular feedback exchange. Encourage mentees to seek feedback from mentors and provide training and support for mentors to deliver constructive feedback effectively and sensitively.


In today's rapidly evolving business landscape, it’s essential for organizations to prioritize skills-based training as a strategic imperative for building a skilled and agile workforce. By providing personalized guidance and support to employees, learning outcomes can be enhanced and truly drive professional growth. 

Leveraging tools like Together can optimize skill development efforts, fostering a culture of continuous learning and development that empowers employees to excel in their roles and contribute to the organization's success. Investing in skills-based training and mentorship not only equips employees with the necessary skills and competencies to navigate change but also fosters a culture of innovation, resilience, and excellence that positions organizations for long-term success.

To take your organization forward with a skills-based training program, book a 15-minute demo to see how Together can help.

About the Author

scrollbar code:
close button

Hear how they started with Together