How HR leaders can close the skills mismatch

As we move beyond the pandemic and deal with the aftermath, a key business concern is how workers across a range of industries and pay scales will learn new skills. An inability to provide this at scale is perhaps the main reason that over half of HR executives say that their department will become irrelevant if it doesn’t modernise its approach.

Our recent Resource Solutions Skills Survey found that only 6% of professionals feel that their current employer sees upskilling of employees as essential. Against this, some four out of five employees see themselves fully capable of upskilling or reskilling, revealing a sizeable disconnect between employee wishes and what the organization provides.

Identify key skills for the future

Given this and the broader skills gap, the need for new approaches for reskilling and upskilling a diverse range of employees is critical. Key questions to ask include:

  • How do we solve the skills gap at scale?
  • How do we make sure that our employees gain the skills we really need?
  • How does this extend into leadership itself?

Only 40% of leaders agree that their companies are building robust leadership pipelines to tackle the demands of the digital economy, let alone the imminent intelligent one.

Develop an agile approach to new skills

To tackle the skills crisis and its impacts on talent access, compliance and diversity, many organizations are shifting their internal focus. Companies are already using flexible talent pools where people are matched to work based on suitability (skills) and preferred working patterns. AT&T, for example, is investing over $200 million annually to develop tailored training programs that have yielded more than 4,200 career pivots and filled around 70% of open roles internally. Our client, JPMorgan’s $350 million, five-year plan for addressing the future of work features several strands, with one of the most interesting being an employee-centered 'skills passport.’ This enables tech-based employees to assess their skills and provides personalized learning suggestions based on their jobs. The tool also allows employees to explore skills recommended for other roles and compare them with their current skills.

Partner for skills exchanges

Due to the pandemic 45% of professionals responding to our Annual Skills Survey believe that the skills needed to perform their job have changed. In 2020, around 44% of organizations took steps that made it easier to share talent internally, and 26% plan to continue the practice. Some are purely internal plays; witness Dubai-based Majid Al Futtaim reskilling one thousand employees in two days, as it pivoted from its pandemic hit cinema business to its grocery business. For smaller bodies, alternative plays involve third parties, such as the Food Industry Association creating a talent exchange to assist laid-off workers from one member company find work among the one million job openings listed from other member companies. Both approaches save time and improve access to talent and can be key to solving talent shortages. Solutions will often also involve work redesign, changed organisational structures, updated workflow, and new technologies and systems.

Determine your success metrics

Gaps remain in many organizations’ approaches. Just 23% of companies that have even started a systematic skill transformation can point to any sort of tracking system to assess the impact on the workforce and work outcomes. If such metrics were developed, they could help create a redefined employee experience, since 49% of employees report a lack of confidence in their company’s ability to monitor and manage wellbeing or morale.

Assess the impact of automation

55% of professionals who responded to our Annual Skills survey are concerned that automation will replace all or part of their jobs so employers need to assess the likely impact of automation on individuals and point to potential remedial skills learning. Artificial Intelligence (AI) could even be seen as a net benefit, in tandem with scenario planning, it could plausibly go beyond traditional measures of employee performance or skills. This may be through the quantification of soft, or professional skills or by mapping out the business needs of the future under various scenarios and assigning multiple skills a score against them. This sort of broad view of skills and talent could in turn improve organizations’ decision-making when it comes to how we access the needs of tomorrow – and whether to build, buy or rent such skills.

Embed your skills offering into your EVP

Although building, buying and renting required skills all have their place in the talent needs of the organisation, one benefit from strengthening internal talent upskilling lies in the associated benefits. These include enhancing the employee value proposition and gaining more engaged and loyal workers, diversity and enabling the digital (and intelligent) organization. These have very real dividends. McKinsey saw that ‘...companies that are in the top quartile for ethnic diversity on executive teams were 36% more likely to have above-average profitability than companies in the fourth quartile. A similar trend can be seen for gender diversity, with companies in the top quartile 25% more likely to have above-average profitability than those in the fourth quartile.’ Despite the clear benefits of diversity, only 26% of organizations in 2020 had a strategy to attract diverse talent and ensure inclusiveness.

Employ upskilling platforms

Attracting any talent at all may become increasingly difficult without a structured, scalable, and personalized skills offering. 97% of HR leaders agree that employee expectations regarding this and the wider work experience are changing. One constant aspect of HR management and leadership lies in bringing workers along on the company’s strategic vision, yet 61% of workers globally believe that their current positions will be significantly affected by technological change or globalisation. The absence of an agile and appropriate upskilling platform for the digital age remains a critical missing piece from many organizations’ plans. If HR cannot articulate what the organization's plans for the future mean for workers, present and future, there is little hope in achieving a more future-proof organization.

Close the upskilling mismatch

It is increasingly clear that many organizations will need to refresh the skills they deploy across their organization, and decisions will need to be made how to meet this need. Addressing the current mismatch between professional’s desire to upskill and retrain and leaderships provision of opportunities will be critical to creating the workforce for the future.

Find out more about the desire for upskilling and the perceived mismatch in organisations today in our Skills Survey report.