Technology is impacting our everyday lives in ways we could not imagine even a couple of years ago. Work has become more and more complex and hard to keep up with. There are so many moving targets, that it is hard to know which information to pay attention to. Where do we start to address the growing skills gap in our workforce? It is estimated that over 50% of job openings are left unfilled due to a shortage of workers with the right skills. Interestingly, though, there are millions of unemployed looking for work. How did this gap grow so large, and what can we do about it? While consulting for many large organizations around the world, I have noticed a trend of employers upping the bar on what a qualified candidate needs to be considered for a job. High expectations work well if you have a large pool of people to choose from. But when unemployment is low or there is a shortage of those with certain skill sets, this strategy does not work.
I suggest a reframing of the mindset around talent within organizations and new hires you want to bring in. What I am talking about is understanding the baseline that is needed for any given job and building from there. Organizations have become accustomed to asking for everything upfront- proven skills within the individual’s current role so that the transition allows for the employee to hit the ground running without a lot of investment from the company beyond onboarding training. What if instead we better understood the skillsets of our workforce or potential workforce to identify and define a specific plan of action tailored to the gaps within an employee’s knowledge base that allows that person to learn and grow on the job? Many organizations are stuck in an old paradigm of what worked in the past. Instead of focusing on talent management [which is passive and reactive], I am suggesting we focus on talent enhancement.
By viewing the needs of the organization and looking at the current skillsets of employees, the skills and knowledge needed for each role within the organization can be developed. We can create tailored programs and professional development based on the individual needs of each employee. As leaders of the organization, it is in our best interest to understand how to develop our people and to provide them with the learning opportunities needed to grow and challenge them. There are many ways to do this, but I have found a key mix of development opportunities and leveraging the current knowledge base within the organization is the best strategy for continually building new insights and skills that will help make your organization competitive and successful.
I have seen talent enhancement done well by one of my clients. It is more complex than just identifying gaps in knowledge or training employees on new skills. Think of each employee as a hub that has unique needs and experiences. By creating a network of learning, employees can thrive and build meaningful careers. Here are some key components that are needed to enhance employee development:
- Understand what knowledge, skills, and experiences each employee bring to the organization.
- Provide personalized pathways for employees to build upon this foundation of knowledge, skills, and experiences.
- Find ways to grow and expand your employees’ viewpoint.
- Pair up employees with senior leaders who can provide different perspectives and exposure to different parts of the organization.
- Understand where your employees want to take their careers.
I worked with the client to leverage new systems that are making these custom employee pathways possible. We thought through the key leadership attributes needed to be successful and then created a flexible environment where the employees could access resources for their individual needs and at their own pace. It was a mix of structure and elasticity in one place where they could go to get information. This system also would curate information and provide weekly or daily updates based on employees’ preferences and the skills that employee was trying to enhance. Employees liked the fact that the system was flexible and targeted to them. They also liked the fact that most of the content was no more than 5 minutes long and each resource included an estimated time to consume. In addition, employees had access to other leaders to help with the application of new knowledge. Having these leaders available helped drive accountability for incorporating new skills and testing them out. Most employees can utilize new knowledge and skills. The bigger question is whether there is the support and willingness to incorporate individual growth into the organization. The initiative needs to be supported at all levels; otherwise, it is a wasted endeavor.
As you can see, there are major shifts in the way we work and how organizations are structured. How we reward and recognize talent will need to change with this shift. Talent will be much more fluid within organizations, so we need to think creatively about the best ways to leverage our talent pools. Otherwise, they will leave, and find organizations that support their career growth. Be willing to take some risks, your employees are counting on it!