Diversity & Inclusion: The Key to Closing the Skills Gap


HR Insights for ProfessionalsThe latest thought leadership for HR pros

Wednesday, March 17, 2021

A focus on diversity and inclusion in the workforce can help you address critical skills gaps, which could prove vital to productivity and long-term business success.

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Diversity & Inclusion: The Key to Closing the Skills Gap
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Bridging skills gaps is one of the most common and difficult challenges HR managers face in the modern world of work.

Research has shown that talent shortages exist all over the world and in various industries. In the UK, for example, it has been reported that four out of five manufacturers are facing a critical undersupply of skilled staff.

The European Commission has estimated there could be up to 756,000 unfilled jobs in the European ICT sector. A long-term outlook from Korn Ferry suggests there will be global labor shortages of 85.2 million skilled workers by 2030, which could lead to lost revenue opportunities of more than $8.4 trillion.

If bridging skills gaps is a goal for you at the moment, emphasizing diversity and inclusion in the workforce is one strategy that could help you achieve it.

A deeper talent pool

If finding people with the right skills is becoming a constant struggle, it's worth asking whether you need to broaden your horizons and develop a deeper pool of talent to draw from. Always looking in the same place means you're likely to get the same results every time.

Prioritizing workforce diversity and positioning your organization as one that provides equal opportunities for all will help you access a wider array of talent, qualifications and experience.

As well as giving you a better chance of acquiring the hard skills you need, hiring from a more eclectic pool can bring new attitudes, outlooks and problem-solving techniques into the workplace.

There are many ways to approach the task of becoming more diverse and inclusive. In traditionally male-dominated industries like IT, engineering and construction, most employers will have opportunities to expand their skills base and bring fresh perspectives into the workforce by focusing on gender equality.

Conducting a workforce diversity audit could help you identify specific opportunities for improvement within your organization.

One company that has taken a targeted approach to building a more varied, multifaceted workforce is computing giant Dell. The firm designed a hiring program specifically for people with autism, which dropped traditional interviews -  something autistic candidates can find difficult - in favor of a two-week assessment followed by a 12-week internship.

Dell's efforts to tap into new talent pools have also focused on groups including veterans and people re-entering the workforce after raising children.

Tackling bias

Eliminating bias from recruitment - and indeed all of your HR team's activities - is an important step on the journey towards an inclusive workforce, and also a positive outcome for the business as a whole.

Biases - both conscious and unconscious - can inhibit your efforts not only to recruit a diverse selection of workers, but to make them feel welcome and comfortable enough to reach their full potential.

There are some innovative efforts underway to tackle this problem. One option available to modern businesses is using artificial intelligence to screen resumes based on relevant criteria like the person's skills and experience. This removes the risk of human biases linked to details like the individual's name, gender or age unfairly influencing applications.

Research has shown that 67% of business leaders expect new technologies to help them offer equal opportunities by taking human bias out of recruitment decisions.

Taking proactive measures to combat bias and other potential barriers to diversity will help to ensure that every member of your workforce feels supported by the business and proud to work for you. This will help you address skills shortages in the long term, as people who feel happy and engaged in their jobs will want to stay with you and keep learning, developing and acquiring new competencies.

The business benefits of diversity

Placing a strong emphasis on diversity and inclusion can help you become a more successful business, which will increase your appeal to talented candidates and help you build a productive workforce.

Key findings of McKinsey's Delivering through Diversity report showed:

  • There’s a clear and consistent correlation between diversity and business performance
  • Companies with the most gender-diverse executive teams were 21% more likely to outperform on profitability and 27% more likely to achieve stronger value creation
  • Businesses in the top quartile for ethnic and cultural diversity on executive teams were 33% more likely to have industry-leading profitability
"More diverse companies are better able to attract top talent; to improve their customer orientation, employee satisfaction and decision making; and to secure their license to operate." - McKinsey, Delivering through Diversity


Furthermore, there’s a clear connection between levels of inclusion and representation in your workforce and your employer brand. Embracing diversity is crucial if you want to build a modern, socially responsible brand that will appeal to the widest possible range of professionals and job candidates.

With a strong diversity record and a powerful brand on your side, you can feel optimistic about acquiring the skills you need - either through recruitment or internal development - to achieve long-term success.

Further Reading

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