As we move deeper into the 21st century, a concerning new phenomenon has emerged for employers and jobseekers alike: a growing chasm between what companies are looking for and the skills employees possess.
This ‘skills gap’ is a global crisis and now exists across almost all sectors, causing issues with recruitment and employment universally. But why is this, and - more importantly - what can be done about it?
Why are talent gaps forming?
It used to be enough for people hoping to enter the job market to pick a specialism and become an expert at it. However, today’s employees need to be a master of all trades, with a basic awareness of things like coding and data analytics as well as their more niche skill set.
This is leading to major problems, with a 2021 study from Manpower Group finding seven in ten employers are having difficulties hiring skilled workers in areas like IT, manufacturing and marketing.
McKinsey recently reported 43% of firms now have skills gaps and 87% expect to have them within three to five years, while Korn Ferry suggests more than 85 million jobs could go unfulfilled worldwide by 2030 because there aren’t enough skilled people to take them.
Why? Because technology and particularly the digital tools we use on a daily basis are evolving too quickly for education systems to keep pace, while new careers are springing up without precedent for teaching.
Furthermore, automation is accelerating to the extent that some jobs are at risk of becoming obsolete. If this issue isn’t addressed by firms head-on, the skills gap will only become wider.
So, what are these flexible strategies and how can skills be boosted by employers to help workplaces become more future-proof? Fortunately, they may not be as complicated as you might think.
4 techniques to bridge the skills gap
1. Identify the problem
There’s no chance of addressing an issue if you don’t really know what it is, so the first essential step is conducting a skills gap analysis to work out where your company’s individual cracks exist.
Take each job role and make a list of its necessary skills, then identify what expertise the relevant employee requires to do the job well now and in future. Don’t forget to consider the relational and communicative aspect (or so-called soft skills) either.
Talking to as many people as possible company-wide at this stage will help with spotting the essential skills that could go unnoticed yet are vital in daily operations.
2. Make a plan
Next, it’s time to think about how exactly your particular missing skills can be brought into your organization or imparted to existing employees. This will likely require a combination of new hiring and training, with the latter frequently referred to as ‘upskilling’.
Upskilling is now a major part of career progression, with the World Economic Forum estimating more than a billion people will need to be upskilled by 2030 to help them acquire the tools they need to succeed.
You’ll have to think about your budget and how that could translate to, for example, rolling out new online training courses, bringing instructors in to help, recruiting freelancers, borrowing individuals from other departments and outsourcing jobs during busy periods.
HR should also be trained to test new applicants for the skills you’re looking for so everyone coming in is a part of the solution, not adding to the problem.
3. Broadcast the plan and roll out a pilot
Sharing the plan is the next stage, as this will help to convey why you’re doing it and reassure existing employees that their jobs aren’t at risk. Staff members should understand that the talent gap isn’t their fault but a universal issue that needs to be addressed in a constructive way.
You can then demonstrate this in a pilot scheme using tools like online courses and reward systems to show value and evaluate the efficacy of your overall plan.
4. Keep striving for success
As with any change in business, it’s not enough to roll a plan out and hope for the best. Instead, outcomes need to be regularly assessed and amended to face new challenges that spring up unexpectedly.
Keep using feedback to check in on the results of your skills gap plan, and strive for future success using your one, two and five-year business goals to draw up fresh blueprints.
The global skills gap does sound daunting, but viewing it as an opportunity to bring in positive changes to increase talent could be the ideal way to address it.
By being proactive and strategic - and seeing this as an ongoing challenge rather than something that can be solved with a silver bullet - businesses can rise to it and build the bridges they need to cross the talent chasm.