The concern around the availability of key skills is front-and-centre as one of the greatest threats to organisational growth. The 2019 CEO survey from PWC revealed that 71% of CEO’s feel that a lack of key skills is a threat to their growth and 62% say their people costs are rising more than expected because of this skills deficit.
The impacts can be felt across many broad functions, including reduced quality standards and customer experience, the inability to pursue market opportunities, the failure to innovate effectively and growth targets being missed.
So, what can progressive organisations do to overcome these threats and use them for competitive advantage? A strategic approach to the skills shortage, building skills in new ways, and creating staying-power among your employees is the answer.
Strategy – not just a HR initiative
The skills gap is predicted to get wider with plans for automation and artificial intelligence increasing in Australia over the next three years. As a result, the organisations who are placing a priority on the skills gap as a strategic goal are more likely to succeed.
Any good strategy starts with an understanding of the current situation concerning the goals, yet workforce data is some of the most elusive. Despite the myriad of tools and copious amounts of workforce data available, many business leaders feel their employees lack the analytical skills required to make meaning from the data – only 34% of business leaders are using data analytics to predict and monitor skills gaps in the workforce.
Interestingly in PwC's 'Preparing for Tomorrow's Workforce' the top 3 'at risk' capabilities were; using analytics in decision making, predicting and monitoring skills gaps and eliminating potential biases in candidate selection, assignment and appraisal. All three relate to workforce analytics and their ability to improve the working environment.
Developing strategies to build analytical capability to provide meaningful workforce insights is a first step in being clear on the current skills, future skills needed and an identification of the gaps that need addressing which can create competitive advantage.
Skills - building capability in new ways
New ways of working are creating greater flexibility but can reduce opportunities for collaboration, interaction and relationship building - three key areas known to help improve employee engagement, reduce stress and build knowledge transfer.
Considering how organisations connect employees in the future will be critical; including collaborative technologies, meeting places, and enterprise social networks to support employee retention and create opportunities to learn from one another organically.
Once the opportunities for knowledge transfer are part of the organisational culture, then it is a matter of bringing a range of diverse skills into the team. Short term talent is one way to get new perspectives and create opportunities for peer-based learning. It is anticipated that by 2020, 40% of the workforce will be temporary, contract and freelance staff. Often these staff have honed a particular skill, have broad experience across their workplace, are fresh from their flexibility and value the "client" type relationship with their employer, so stay on top of their game and are eager to please.
Capability can also be strengthened by building horizontal career pathways which have the added benefits of providing long term career opportunities that support staff retention and make a greater connection within the business. For these types of moves to create real benefit, it is believed the idea must be culturally endorsed in terms of allowing for speed to competency, maintenance of remuneration and flexibility around budget lines for headcount.
While this type of informal training is invaluable, formal training still has its place. The emergence of micro-credentials, where an employee can learn in short bursts for specific skills, has solved some of the challenges with training needs outpacing the classroom. This training features short time frames which suit employers and employees throughout their different life stages. Especially where it is difficult to step out of the workforce for months at a time to learn new skills. Encouraging this type of training is invaluable for the workforce but also shows support for the portfolio careers of your employees.
However, along with formal skills, those employees who have the agility and adaptability to cope with changing environments are those who will shine. Organisations will need to communicate that change is inevitable and then provide their workers with the diverse experiences that broaden their skill sets to make them more resilient. The companies most likely to succeed tomorrow are those that deliver lifelong learning for their workers.
Staying-power – creating a workplace of choice
Having the strategy and the skills is a great start, but those two qualities will make your organisation a hunting ground for competitors, making building employee engagement and retention an ongoing priority.
Many organisations have made strong inroads in the employee engagement space in the last few years to improve productivity and retain employees. Organisational flexibility, recognition and rewards programs along with well being initiatives are on the rise.
Organisational purpose and business agility will be two of the most significant contributors to the retention of staff in the future given the rise of millennials in the workforce who want to work for progressive companies that are aligned with their values.
Many businesses are embracing the challenge of a more fluid workforce where the future will look significantly different due to unprecedented shifts in technology, workforce demographics, globalisation, regulation, and changing customer behaviour.
However, they face barriers to building the required workforce because of limited insights into current capability and future requirements. Those who can glean these insights and use them to gain strategic focus -and ultimately develop the skills and staying power within their organisation are those most likely to gain competitive advantage.
If you’re serious about developing strategies, new skills and staying power in your employees, contact a recruitment agency like Trojan Recruitment Group and get advice from the experts in labour hire, permanent recruitment and contract staff.