Lower unemployment is a basic economic goal for any nation, but it also has an unexpected downside that can make an economy a victim of its own success. That is, the better it does, the fewer people there are to fill necessary jobs to maintain productivity. This skills gap is something the US is currently facing, with the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) reporting that at the end of 2018, there were only 6.3 million people available to fill 7 million open positions.
Of course, it’s not just as simple as people slotting into available jobs. An unemployed physician can’t just walk into a legal secretary’s position or a pilot become lead on a product design team. The skills gap is thus actually worse than not having enough people – it’s that the skills necessary to perform the roles on offer aren’t there. The same report highlighted how three-quarters of the recruitment professionals having difficulties finding people for roles believe that applicants lack what’s necessary, with the requisite soft skills, technical skills and experience among the biggest issues.
How Businesses are Addressing the Skills Gap
Lacking the right people to fill gaps on their teams or being forced to bring in people who don’t meet their exact requirements, businesses are having to look at several workarounds to solve the skills shortage.
Employee Training and Development
With narrowing options for getting specialist skills and increased hiring and wage costs, a clear solution for companies is to focus on internal employee training and development. Upskilling one’s own employees can be a great solution, as they are already steeped in the company culture and firms are more aware of how they fit into teams. Many organizations are achieving this by incentivizing learning programs for staff and creating well-defined career pathways within the company that show employees what the future can hold by moving forward together.
Collaboration with Educational Institutions
Another solution for companies that aren’t finding the skills they need is to address what skills people are being taught in the first place. Keeping a close connection with educational institutions not only helps to identify the best candidates before they reach the job market but can also help all parties to find what skills will be most advantageous for students to learn. For some organizations, this is possible on a local level, but for others, industry-wide engagement with education is an effective path.
Increasing Pay, Benefits and Retention Efforts
A common approach to making sure a firm doesn’t end up with too many positions to fill is to ensure that key employees don’t leave. Compensation is the primary bargaining chip that firms use. However, in highly competitive industries and with the skills shortages making it an employees’ job market, organizations need to get creative in terms of employee retention.
Other forms of incentives can include investing in workspace comfort and design or adopting organization-wide policies that have positive impacts on the world outside the office.
Improving Technological Capabilities
While it has been feared that the rise of AI and automation may cause job losses in many sectors, in the current employment environment, it seems like they might be a necessity to ensure that firms don’t miss out on productivity and opportunities. While algorithms have taken over a lot of decision-making and business intelligence functions, automation is improving the quality of work that employees can do by taking much of the repetitive heavy lifting off their plates. Clarizen’s project management software, for example, uses automated updates, report writing and reminders (among much more) to help managers focus on delivering greater value for their organizations.