Skills Shortage Looming Reply

Around the world, governments are predicting serious employment challenges relating to a pending shortage of key skills. The UK Commission for Education and Skills (UKCES) contributes to policy and research on employment and in its report, Working Futures 2012-2022, predicts that by 2022, two million vacancies requiring higher level skills will arise.

In another recently published report, The Employer Skills Survey, UKCES estimates that 20% of all vacancies arise when employers cannot find people with the skills and qualifications they need yet almost half of all businesses surveyed say they have employees with skills and qualifications that are not being fully used at work. Just as the business context moves on, so do the skills necessary to meet them. And where people have skills but are underutilised, they too move on.

There are predicted consequences and implications of this impending shortage including:

  • heavier workload for other staff required to cover the gap
  • increased operating costs
  • difficulties in meeting quality standards
  • greater difficulty in introducing new working practices

What can be done to address this and how does it impact on HR, L&D departments and the companies and institutions that design and deliver development programmes for them?

Perhaps predictably, over three-quarters of those employers who identified a skills gap are trying to overcome them by increasing their investment in training, greater staff supervision and development on the job and more regular and better connected appraisal activity. Yet a quarter have not yet acknowledged any danger.

What Needs to Change?
The increasing alignment in many organisations between strategic business priorities and investment in L&D will, among other things, help to avert a major skills shortage.

Increasingly L&D professionals are more closely aligned to business strategy generally and more so with HR systems and processes. This enables them to identify and make a more powerful case for investing in the skills and knowledge to sustain their organisations through turbulent times.

Many other changes are also taking place reflecting a more strategic approach to L&D:

  1. Greater emphasis is being placed on the measurement and analysis of the inputs and outcomes of development interventions.
  2. L&D departments are working more closely with line managers to upskill them in how to identify their training needs, create L&D plans and follow up programmes to embed learning.
  3. Investment in management training is supporting talent development and retention, while upskilling and encouraging more facilitative approaches amongst more experienced managers.
  4. This stronger dialogue with managers helps to align future programmes with anticipated skills gaps.
  5. More robust and objective evaluation of existing programmes is being undertaken to establish which offer value for money and added value to the business. Those that don’t may need rework; those that do may need to be carefully protected even when budgets need to be cut.
  6. Clearer longer term succession planning and better identification of those employees that could fill vacancies with some training and support. Good induction and follow-up programmes that help to ensure that new employees have training plans in place to get up and running as soon as possible and development plans for the future.
  7. Seek ways to enhance the efficiency of programmes. For example could a more blended learning approach with a significant work based element make learning more accessible and readily applicable. Linking programmes to live priorities not only provides a rich seam of data about the impact on the business but is often seen as win-win by participants and managers and a more efficient use of precious time.

This content originally featured on HR Magazine, an online HR publication for people-focused, forward-thinking, business leaders who want insight into, and examples of, business-contextualised HR to develop high-performing organisations.

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