Reskilling and Upskilling Our Workforce Are Essential as Talent Gaps Expand

More than a third of the world’s employers are struggling to find the right talent.

ManpowerGroup’s 2013 Talent Shortage Survey canvassed more than 38,000 employers worldwide, and 35% of them reported “difficulty filling jobs due to lack of available talent.” What’s more, their struggle has been worsening; the 2013 findings were the highest proportion of employers expressing concern about talent shortages since 2007.

Surprisingly, this news comes at a time when talent pools are virtually brimming with people, and when a recent Harris Interactive study shows that 74% of workers would consider taking a new job immediately. With all of this talent available, what’s causing our shortages? The debate around this question has been lively. An aging workforce, unexpected and rapid growth in specific sectors, the sudden need for entirely new types of jobs (in the technology and data niches, for example), poor training and knowledge sharing practices, and even inadequate compensation have all been blamed.

Whatever the cause, we all know the results of unfilled talent gaps: reduced productivity and innovation, greater burdens on the workers we have, lower satisfaction and engagement levels, increased turnover … the list goes on.

The obvious question is … how are employers responding to these talent shortages?

“Nearly eight out of 10 employers surveyed tell us they are taking steps to grow the talent pool and ensure access to the right skills that will help drive business results,” the ManpowerGroup report states. “Yet more than one out of five employers report that they are currently doing nothing to remedy the skills gaps indicating that they may not understand how the talent shortage is putting their business at risk or they simply don’t know how to effectively solve the issue.”

Doing nothing clearly isn’t a viable long-term strategy for most employers but growing talent pools certainly makes sense. However, it’s not the only option we have. We can also reskill and upskill the workers we currently have. But to do so, our vision of these individuals must be crystal clear. We need to know precisely the talents and skills they possess and those they lack—especially those we need to grow and remain competitive. Once we have this clear vision, we must put it to use and implement training and development programs that fill our gaps, disseminating the right knowledge in the right ways. For today’s workforces, this means more mobile and social learning, more interactive and independent learning technologies, more mentoring and peer-to-peer learning, and the like.

We also have to take steps to better understand the specific work our people are most interested in doing, where their natural capabilities and skills lie, and the types of projects they want to work on in the future. Frequent and effective performance reviews are an ideal tool for gathering all of this critical information.

If we want to fill our talent gaps and build workforces capable of successfully carrying us into the future, expanding our talent pools is a terrific idea. But it can’t be our only one.