Employee Skill Gap – Debugging the Facets Behind This Crippling Yet Ever-Elusive Reality

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Written By RobertMaxfield

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Be it any business year, one thing that refuses to change with time is the disparity between what employers want in their prospective employees and what is available in the market as talent.

Widening skill gap and diminishing sense of job security are two aspects that plague any industry across the globe with economic forces and academic inputs notwithstanding.

Companies want “job ready” experienced candidates instead of “wasting” time.”

The pressing questions repeat every time someone does skill gap analysis.

· Who is responsible for the development of skills? Is the onus on employers, employees, academic institutions or government?

· What is the best way to tackle this demon? Where can it start?

· Can the employers and employees keep up with the speed of change? What is desirable today fades out as redundant tomorrow!

While the questions are not going away anywhere for a while, let’s pause and examine the causes behind this “mighty” problem:

· Investments for employee development see a cut during wilting economy

· Sharlyn Lauby (Founder of blog HRbartender, Author/Speaker & President @ITM group) makes a practically profound statement when she says, “Companies have to start thinking not only of hiring talent but developing talent”. Many senior leadership teams fail to recognize the impact of skill development, further leading to skill shortages

· Employees fail to match up the company speed and ambitions with respect to changes in strategy, goals, markets and business models

· Graduates having higher qualifications and degrees, but fewer “workplace skills” where the know more but can do less

· Companies pressed for time. They want “job ready” experienced candidates instead of “wasting” time on training potential performers. Also, the shift in job philosophy from ‘job for life’ to ‘temporary stints’, companies are not keen to develop talent for competitors

· Lack of inclusive macro-economic policies at state and central level that address the long-term vision to curb employee skill gap with consistent, multi-level measures

· Employees falling in either of these categories a) Doesn’t know there is a skill gap they need to address b) They are not motivated enough to develop the skill c) They don’t know ways or don’t get support to develop the requisite skill d) They fail to showcase/apply the developed skill

Taking cue from current trends, McKinsey projects that by 2020, global economy could face potential surplus of 90 to 95 million low skill workers and a shortage of about 38 to 40 million high skilled workers.

These statistics again harp on the need to identify the cause and workout a strategy to achieve the job skills balance.

Employee Skill Gap – Finding Answers to the Riddle

If the solution for the problem of skill shortage were that simple and unidirectional, it would have taken care of all the negative outcomes.

However, the business concerns with respect to availability of skills persist, implying there is more to the story.

It has many characters with lots of twists and turns. Only if there is a cohesive strategy unifying various touch points of society, can the issue of skill gap be really solved.

Here are some points for consideration.

1) College to Company Partnership Programs

A previous survey by McKinsey analyzing education to employment trends had interesting insight.

Education providers believed that their graduates are prepared for work but less than 50% of youth and employers agreed to the statement.

The sooner the bubble pops the better it is. If the employers extend association with college authorities/youth organizations in developing relevant course curriculum, mentoring/coaching platform and opportunities for practical on the job learning, the grooming of fresh talent will have a realistic touch.

2) Shaking off Stereotypes

High-end colleges demanding exorbitant fees but doing little for student employability have become order of the day.

The answer to skill gap is not always great qualifications and degrees. It’s more about what value you bring to the table.

Citing the future scenario for “middle-class” Americans, Nicholas Wyman (Expert Contributor on Job skills and author of award winning “JobUBook”) discards the popular belief by giving the following insight “What the country desperately needs is “middle skilled” workers; people with skills developed not in the ivory tower but through vocational education and training and through real-world, hands-on work”

3) Owning up the Development

This is applicable to both the employers and employees.

Employers need to understand that constant hiring for skills is more expensive affair than developing internal talent through structured training, mobility programs and promotions.

This may mean higher salaries and additional perks. But the returns will be worth the effort. People are looking for holistic careers. Give them.

People are looking for holistic careers. Give them!

Employees have a daunting task to make themselves attractive to the employer by acquiring the much talked about missing skills, willingness to learn, demonstration of talent and being abreast with latest trends and technology.

You may be master of your trade today, tomorrow outdated. Own up your development and the entitlement philosophy can be thrown out of the window.

4) Investing in a good Talent Development Expert

Company’s top management can’t do it all. They might have the direction and acumen but hardly any time to fine-tune the skill threads within organization.

This calls for an expert professional who can weave magic with his/her knowledge about the skill development domain and applicability within the organizational context.

They can do all the hard work in terms of identifying the core competencies; employee skill gaps and knowing what skills are required by the company to succeed now and in future.

Also, they can solve the strategy puzzle in relation to what skills can be addressed through in-house training and which ones need to be outsourced as external training and certifications.

Writing precise job descriptions, actively searching talent in non-related sectors or different geographies and hiring through multiple channels for broad range of skills can also be few of the critical steps in bridging the skill gap and averting situations like losing out on top candidates; keeping important jobs open for extended period or settling for less than perfect candidates.

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