Today’s labor market is anything but static. The demand for certain skills is changing continuously in response to rapidly evolving technical innovations. What’s more, personnel across all sectors are expected to keep pace with these changes. And it would appear that demand for staff with technical and IT skills is still growing as relentlessly as ever.
By 2020, firing and hiring will truly be a short‑term solution that will cease to work in the longer term. Fortunately, alternative strategies are available to help you succeed, for example, implementing well-structured and targeted training programs.
This article discusses what you can do to keep your staff ahead of the curve in a dynamic and rapidly changing business world.
The skills gap
A skills gap is a mismatch between the skills and/or competences required to perform a certain task and those actually present within your organization. Or a mismatch between a job’s specified requirements and candidates’ qualifications.
Skills gaps explain why companies often have great difficulties finding the right people to fill their openings, even with large numbers of job seekers on the labor market. A skills gap can also be defined as a shift in demand. Disruptive technologies, changing markets, new regulations, demographic shifts, and an increasingly articulate general public/consumer are reshaping the landscape and, with it, placing new demands on employees.
All these factors are contributing to the shifts redefining markets everywhere. The main danger of a growing skills gap is a shortage of talent – a problem that has a huge impact at all levels, from individuals to economies.
Tip: This article discusses some of the dangers associated with a growing skills gap.
Facts & figures
A study conducted by IBM revealed the true extent of skills gaps. Of the organizations participating in the study, 45% experienced difficulties finding staff with the skills required to perform the jobs available. Among larger companies, this figure was as high as 67%. The main causes were either a shortage of job applicants as a whole or a lack of candidates with sufficient experience.
The report also revealed that ‘shelf lives’ of skills had also been decreasing significantly in recent years. Not so long ago, it took ten to fifteen years for a skill to reach half its former value and before a refresher course was needed. Nowadays, this is five years or less.
But what are actually the most relevant skills in today’s dynamic digital society?
Subject matter expertise remains essential to performing tasks properly and, in certain sectors, there’s still a huge shortage of specific expertise. Another contributing factor to the skills gap is an ever‑widening range of skills and knowledge as a whole. In the industrial, agricultural, health care, ICT, and automotive sectors, employees need to know and keep abreast of more and more issues. As often as not, these include skills and knowledge that played little if any role during their formal training or education.
Besides subject matter expertise, various other skills also appear frequently in job descriptions. We listed some of the most common skills or traits requested or required by forward‑thinking, modern companies.
- Digitally minded. Nowadays, computers and mobile devices are indispensable for virtually every profession. Most people associate their use with office jobs, but even in retail, hospitality, security, health care, and education, their use is already widespread.
- Being customer focused is more important than ever before. It’s vital that staff are able to remain friendly and customer‑oriented, especially when dealing with demanding consumers, critical parents, and a highly articulate general public at large.
- Problem‑solving. Characteristics that demonstrate an individual is ‘problem‑solving’ include being able to identify bottlenecks, pinpoint exact causes of errors, and subsequently rectify these problems. These skills are indispensable for monitoring, managing, and optimizing an organization’s processes. An ability to solve problems also requires a degree of creativity. Finding the solution to a problem often forces us to think outside of the box.
- Versatile. Boundaries between countries, disciplines, jobs, and sectors seem to be blurring, which means that modern‑day professionals have to look beyond the confines of their own profession.
- Interdisciplinary collaboration is becoming increasingly important.
- The ability to adapt to ever‑changing circumstances, situations, and methods is perhaps one of the most relevant skills in modern‑day society. Moving with the times, keeping abreast of current knowledge, and life‑long learning are key to gaining a competitive edge.
- Data analytics also plays a critical role in managing and developing organizational processes and marketing strategies in this age of big data, algorithms, and AI.
Time for a training program?
One of the best ways to bridge the skills gap is to implement a training program. Throughout history, skilled, knowledgeable individuals have always been the catalyst for progress, professionalization, innovation, and economic growth.
A few of the main reasons to implement a training program …
Making employees redundant is generally a costly affair – primarily in terms of the severance pay staff receive. This can add up to quite a tidy sum for the over fifties, with decades of work experience behind them, because they generally fair far worse in the job market.
There are also far wider implications than mere financial costs. Firing experienced staff members means losing highly valuable operational expertise that new staff then have to acquire afresh. This incurs high training costs and/or reduced productivity as new hires find their way within the organization and in a new job.
2. Recruitment & selection
Labor markets in many countries are extremely tight, especially in the IT sector. Demand for ICT professionals, such as developers, testers, DevOps, and cloud engineers continues to outstrip supply.
Recruiting new staff in such a tight market is extremely challenging and costs time, money, and resources. Recruiters have to actively headhunt or recruit directly from universities, while sifting through resumes with a fine‑tooth comb to find that one person with just the right skill set.
What’s more, prospective new hires can place higher demands on future employers. It is, after all, a job seeker’s market. In the IT sector, ‘pampering’ has even become the order of the day. Salaries and hourly rates are higher than ever before and IT staff are looking primarily for fun, exciting work.
In short, it currently costs a fortune to hire new staff. Which is why you’re better off investing in the talented individuals already working within in your organization.
Existing staff members already know the ins and outs of your organization. It takes time to get to know your new hires and even more time for them to learn the ropes, for example, your company culture and operational processes.
Not surprisingly, new hires are not fully productive for the first few months. They need help or advice while performing certain tasks. Hence, training new hires results in reduced productivity, not to mention the costs of external coaches or training institutes.
Replacing staff on a regular basis means you have to continually reinvest without ever getting a long‑term or permanent return on your investments.
Internal training often has a positive effect on company culture, because staff follow training courses in familiar surroundings, surrounded by the co‑workers with whom they work on a day‑to‑day basis.
What’s more, on‑the‑job training also ensures that newly acquired insights, knowledge, and skills can be put into practice right away. And learning by doing – in a familiar work setting – ultimately has a positive effect on company culture, productivity, employee satisfaction, and absenteeism.
5. Trust & motivation
Investing in internal staff training programs also makes a highly positive statement – it’s a sign of trust. It says, “We believe you play an important role in our organization’s future.” In short, continuity, satisfaction, motivation.
6. Staff turnover
High staff turnover undermines an organization’s stability. Firstly, it costs a lot of money in terms of severance, recruitment & selection, and retraining.
But equally, it’s detrimental to staff morale, as it chips away at any sense of job security. Not surprising, if you feel you could be next in line for the chop.
7. Tight‑knit teams
Well‑trained and coordinated teams generate better results. On‑the‑job training is a great way to streamline operations and get staff members working well with one another.
Doing so is especially effective for teams with mixed skill sets, as team members with a wide range of skills can learn from one another.
Staff turnover, however modest, is unavoidable, and you’ll always have to hire new staff. After all, employees retire or seek new challenges elsewhere.
Training / professional development programs are, therefore, highly appealing for job seekers in today’s job market. Offering new hires internal training programs is just one way to attract talented individuals.
Retrain or rehire?
Senior and middle management are becoming increasingly aware that their companies need to innovate to remain relevant and competitive. This not only means investing in new technology, but also in the associated knowledge. After all, using new technology is a skill that needs to be acquired and mastered.
The IT sector is a prime example of an industry in which changes follow one another in rapid succession. Systems, software, platforms … they’re all constantly being updated and optimized – not to mention the advent of AI, IoT, and robotics forging a path towards smart automated workplaces. Providing staff access to life‑long learning makes it easier to capitalize on these changes in this dynamic IT landscape.
The medical profession is another example of an area where on‑the‑job training is one of the most efficient ways to safeguard continuity. Modern hospitals are becoming increasingly ‘smart’ – health care centers where modern technology is used to the benefit of staff and patients alike.
E‑health also offers patients more options to determine or manage their own health care for themselves (self‑management). Constant retraining is needed in order to learn how to use the latest e‑health tools and to ensure that health care professionals’ knowledge levels remain current and up to date.
Hiring and firing is, therefore, highly counterproductive, as you’re continually going back to where you started.
Where to start
You’ll probably find it quite daunting working out where to start if you don’t already have a training program in place within your organization.
First, map out the skills and knowledge you already have in your company. Next, define skill sets and link these to any relevant qualifications or certification. Lastly, determine who has which skills, qualifications, or certification.
AG5 has developed an automated system to help you with this last step – quickly and easily. Using AG5’s skills management software, simply replace all your spreadsheets with a centralized, cloud‑based system. And then, authorize individual staff members, teams, or departments to determine who can access what.
“It used to be really difficult working out which of our fifty or so sales staff had which qualification or certification. Since we’ve been using AG5, we can determine this quickly and easily,” explains Andreas Luckfiel (Business Manager, Buyitdirect).
If you’ve discovered a skills gap within your organization, then it’s vital you bridge this gap with well-structured and targeted training programs. Read more about implementing training programs.
Need a helping hand?
If you need help setting up skills matrices, or you’re unsure about the skills, competences, and knowledge present in your organization and could use a helping hand, please get in touch with us or schedule a personalized live demo.