How To Fill The Skills Gap In Your Organization

By JDXpert - April 03, 2016

We’ve all heard of that old adage, "there’s plenty of fish in the sea", but what if none of those fish have what you need? Have you ever found yourself with a job opening, hundreds of resumes at your fingertips, but not one candidate with the skills required for the position? Many companies struggle with that same issue and it’s not just those in need of STEM (science, technology, education, and math) skilled people either. Companies are seeing a dramatic deficiency in candidates equipped with basic skills such as written and verbal communication and advanced leadership.  According to Ed Gordon, author of “Winning the Global Talent Showdown” and the upcoming “Future Jobs: Solving the Employment and Skills Crisis,” if we do not address the skills gap, our country has the potential to see 14 million to 25 million vacant jobs by 2020 that we won’t be able to fill. 

So what skills are U.S. workers lacking? In late 2012, SHRM surveyed more than 3,400 HR professionals randomly chosen from the Society’s membership, and asked them to name the most common skills gaps they encounter when recruiting for a position. The respondents noted that critical thinking/problem-solving (53 percent), professionalism/work ethic (46 percent), written communications (41 percent) and leadership (38 percent) were the most common applied skills job applicants lacked. They also stated that writing in English (55 percent), math (38 percent), reading comprehension (31 percent), and speaking in English (29 percent) were the most common gaps in basic skills.  And the high-skilled positions they found most difficult to fill were Scientists (88 percent), Engineers (86 percent), Technicians and programmers (85 percent), High-skilled medical (for example, nurses, doctors, specialists) (83 percent), and Managers and executives (77 percent). 

What can you do to help find that qualified individual? 

  1. Align your HR and workforce strategies to your business strategy.
  2. Understand what skills will be necessary both short-term and long-term to meet your goals.
  3. Assess your current workforce- include current skills, the age of the current workforce to predict retirements (loss of skills and when), etc.
  4. Conduct a gap analysis to find the answers to these questions:
    -   How many skilled workers will we need?
    -   What skills?
    -   Where will we get them?
    -   Do they currently exist?
    -   Will we have to "make" them through our training investment?
  5. Re-evaluate your employee training. Make sure you are offering both new and current employees the training they need to keep their skills relevant.
  6. Consider a competency-based job description and recruitment ad (see Skills or Competencies…What’s the Difference), focusing more on a candidate’s attitudes and aptitude for the position rather than your ability to check off all skills. If the candidate exhibits potential, you can always mold their skills to meet the requirements of the position.
  7. Once you’ve obtained a skilled workforce, by all means, do what you can to keep them. Set up a culture in which people want to stay.

No matter the number of fish in the sea, if you don’t first identify what you need, your chances of reeling in the right one is slim to none. Know what skills you need, the skills your current employees possess and lack, what skills you may lose due to retirement or resignation, and design a plan that will not only address the skills gap today, but one that will also keep that gap from widening once again. 




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