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Talent shortage strategies: How to bridge the skills gap

Nov 18, 2019

Wendy Kennah
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Wendy Kennah
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It doesn’t matter how talented your workers are or what tech training they’ve taken - because obsolescence is overtaking the workforce. 

As the skills gap steadily widens, 2030 is on track to see the global talent shortage reaching up to 85.2 million people, costing employers to lose trillions of dollars in lost economic opportunities. 

Tech is evolving so rapidly that it’s no longer strategically viable for employers to only hire for the skills they need right now, forcing organizations to get strategic in how, where and when they engage skilled workers.  

If you’re among the 45 per cent of employers who admit to not being able to find the skills you need, you may want to consider joining the ranks of talent leaders who are applying a mix of these workforce strategies to talent acquisition: 

Provide additional training and development to existing employees 
Re-skilling 
Your talent pool may already be on staff: Re-skilling is the process of existing workers learning new skills so they can do a new job. Top performing organizations are bridging skills gaps by building talent pools with workers who can learn new skills that might not even exist - yet.


Globally, it’s estimated that automation will displace 75 million jobs by 2022, and while some jobs will also become less relevant, others are going to suddenly become essential. However, re-skilling isn’t about saving jobs, it’s about developing people. 


This means organizations need to consider what training and incentives they can provide to proven, existing workers to prepare them for roles created by emerging tech. 

For example, cryptocurrency’s popularity is dwindling; blockchain, however, is a similar and in-demand technology. Talent familiar with the former could be re-skilled in the latter. Research from McKinsey found 82 per cent of executives at large organizations believe re-training and reskilling must be at least half of the answer to addressing their skills gap, with 27 per cent calling it a top five priority.  

Re-skilling might not be appropriate for your entire employment-base, as the new roles may not be of interest to your existing employees. However, employers that have engaged employees who are loyal to the organization and demonstrate the ability to learn new skills, have already removed one of the biggest hurdles of hiring employees: Cultural Fit. 

Employees who work for you today and are an asset to the organization in their existing role are easier to provide greater value vs. hiring external resources that may or may not be a fit for the company.  There is a cost to re-skilling but there is also a cost to hiring, and that cost can double or triple if you make the wrong hiring decision.
 
Upskilling 
Workers who are challenged to develop and grow are often the happiest at an organization: Upskilling provides learning and training programs that will give workers the tools to build upon existing skills to keep up with the advances in their current job function.  

For example, if a software development company invests in developing their products in a cutting-edge programming language, all affected developers will need to start learning the new language on top of the ones already required.


Providing workers with opportunities for further training or the chance to take on new responsibilities is a valuable retention strategy that talent professionals are investing in. Globally, 54 per cent of organizations are allocating dollars to providing additional training and development for workers.


Organizations are fighting for talent, and providing the opportunity to learn new technologies in an existing role is a great way to keep your employees engaged and not looking over the fence at that next opportunity.  Keeping your technology resources up to date is not only a benefit to the organization from a retention standpoint. Retaining staff means there is no loss of knowledge when an employee exits the organization.  Keeping your technology resources that understand your stack, your environment and know your applications enables your organizations to be more agile and responsive to the market vs. constantly trying to fill their recruitment pipeline with new candidates that take time to get up to speed. 

Adjust experience or education requirements 
It’s estimated that almost 120 million workers world-wide will need to be retrained due to AI and automation within the next three years, yet the most important skills employers are looking for have nothing to do with technology.  

Top performing organizations are engaging talent with “adjacent skills.” These are the soft skills that demonstrate the ability to work with related technologies, eventually lending their skills to an organization’s future needs. 

In fact, employers have identified these three traits being in most demand: 

1) Willingness to be flexible, agile and adaptable to change. 
2) Time management skills and ability to prioritize. 
3) Ability to work effectively in team environments.


The need for these skills has risen in importance from a previous ranking in 2016, ranking technical STEM skills and computer and software/application as most important. 


Prepare for the challenges that come with new wave workers
It’s also important to note the shift in workforce demographics as the younger generation worker enters the workforce, coming with a whole new slew of engagement expectations. New research from LinkedIn Learning finds 76 per cent of Gen Zs (who are expected to make up 36 per cent of the global workforce by 2020) believe the skills necessary in today’s workforce are already different than ones required of previous generations, and they’re aware their jobs may not exist within the same form 20 years from now.


As such, 84 per cent of Gen Z workers look for an employer to help them develop job-specific skills.


Although the technical skills are still important with the growing culture of a remote workforce, the focus on soft skills is important to having a dispersed workforce.  The traditional 9-5 in office work model may no longer be the norm, and being flexible and able to adapt is going to be key to the next generation of workers.  

Personal accountability and motivation when the walls of the office disappear will be a real challenge to keep these workers engaged in the culture and focused on the deliverables without the current structure.  This will also challenge this generation of managers on how to ensure they are able to retain these new workers by changing how they manage.  

Become a master marketer 
To engage skilled talent in a tight labor market, organizations must understand that candidates are consumers too, and they have the upper hand in choosing how and where they work. This means employers must work harder to engage candidates with a strong employer brand that demonstrates an attractive culture, clear purpose and solid employee proposition.  

Explore alternative work models 
As new roles continue to emerge as fast as others become obsolete, 30 per cent of global organizations are investing in the contingent workforce as the demand for skills ebb and flow. 

Engaging Independent Contractors, gig workers, freelancers, consultants and other non-traditional workers gives employers access to highly trained talent with niche skills who can complete work on a project-by-project basis. Hiring a contingent worker can help with both Upskilling or re-skilling your workforce as you are bringing in external expertise onto your team, and this can be one part of your training.  These independent workers are joining an existing team, and they can mentor existing employees and reinforce any external training. 

Staffing agencies do have a role to play—both in meeting clients’ changing skills requirements and educating their candidates in the types of skills they should be investing in now to progress their careers in the future. Furthermore, a staffing agency must commit their resources to researching, vetting and implementing technologies and processes that create value to their clients, candidates, talent and partners.

Is your current hiring program levering the power of directly sourced resources to connect with pre-qualified candidates? Learn more about how a Direct Sourcing Program can help your organization stay competitive with our Free Guide: What is Direct Sourcing? 
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