How HR Can Overcome the Skills Gap

The talent shortage has reached a 12-year high, according to research by Manpower Group, affecting every industry on a global scale and creating a hiring environment that demands talent. Unfortunately, it seems that applicants can’t keep up and organizations are falling very short—45% of employers can’t find the skills they need in applicants.

What is HR’s role in all of this? They can work with candidates and existing employees to bridge the gap—but not without actively working with other professionals in their organization to involve them in these necessary efforts.

As baby boomers retire, and young graduates and laid-off mid-career professionals seek new opportunities, organizations must work with human resources to encourage job and industry growth that supports the organization and its employees.

Learning and Development Programs

The most effective method of closing the talent gap is training recruits and existing employees to keep up with growing demands in the digital age, help them make better career choices and create stability for both the employees and the organization. Another benefit: a company culture that encourages skill development can be more effective and more engaging for employees. McKinsey touts five essentials to effective training:

  • Training that engages participants in learning and using new skills
  • Training that is specialized and decreases on-the-job failure
  • Simulation exercises and practical tasks that test an employee’s grasp of the skills
  • Regular assessments
  • Varied instruction methods, like in-person, classroom, online and video learning

Don’t forget—’s survey findings indicated that 42% of HR professionals agree that training existing employees is effective too to help them grow with future demand.

Work with Public Workforce System

Even if HR wants to commit to training, they often face another struggle: budgeting. 31% of HR professionals surveyed said that they lacked necessary funds, while about one-third worked without a budget.

In that case, HR can turn to public workforce systems, an underutilized government network of offices that work to develop talent to support the economy. Organizations can partner or collaborate with local educational institutions to ensure future candidates are receiving the right training and can hire directly from the pool. This mostly untapped area of employment is ideal for smaller businesses that are even less likely to be able to train their employees.

SHRM’s report identifies a particular instance in Greenville, South Carolina that introduced a High School Equivalency Apprenticeship Program to help dropouts recover and seek employment to great expectations for the 147,000 without diplomas in the area.

Competitive Compensation

For organizations seeking the best candidates, the best option could be increasing wages to encourage talented and high-earning applicants. If candidates are considered consumers too, then compensation is a way of driving up the bargain for appeal. Conducting a job analysis and/or a compensation assessment can help HR managers determine if their compensation is up to par.

Reconsider Job Requirements

Perhaps one of the easiest ways to get applicants is to review the requirements for hire. Requirements that are too high or specific drive away candidates from applying. Instead, HR should consider hiring those with equatable skills or experience and look for applicants that have the drive and aptitude, not necessarily the exact know-how.

Training Mag offers SCC Soft Computer as an example: it hires employees that have domain experience and trains them from the ground up; therefore, they get employees that are specifically trained for their organization. A better understanding of a candidate’s underlying skillsets and their potential application—even if they aren’t an exact match—could result in better hires.

Consider Contractors

Instead of spending the time and money hiring and training, use it wisely on someone that complements the existing workforce with the skills to get the project up to speed. Contractors, temp workers, part-time workers and freelancers can all help This type of work is becoming more popular—and more valid.

Alternative Sources

Seek under-explored talent pools to increase the likelihood of reaching applicants with necessary skillsets. Pools like the retired and veterans are frequently underrepresented and can bring several applicable skills to the organization. More and more organizations are also finding applicants through candidate referrals and social media. Finally, outsourcing the work to another country can be faster and more efficient if necessary.

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