Breaking Down the Skills Gap

Business person stretched between two cliff edges to illustrate the Skills Gap

Breaking Down the Skills Gap

If your organization is planning to grow your team this year, you’re not alone. A recent Employer Report by Indeed revealed that 61% of employers expect to hire more people in 2018 than they did in 2017. You may be expanding your staff due to business growth, a need for additional proficiencies, or turnover. In the course of your hiring process, you are likely to encounter what industry professionals refer to as the skills gap. In this article, we will identify what the term really means, how it will pertain to your organization, and what you can do to minimalize its effect on your organization.

What is it?
A recent article by The American Staffing Association (ASA) revealed that 50% of adults in the U.S. don’t know what the term “Skills Gap” means. Loosely defined, it refers to the difference between the skills that are needed by organizations and those skills that jobseekers in the current market possess. This is exacerbating the already difficult burden that employers have in the existing job market of finding top talent to promote business growth, and meet production and service demands. Even with a historically low unemployment rate, there are still over more than 6 million open jobs in the United States. It is true that the skills gap issue has a greater effect on some industries more than others. However, a survey by the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) revealed that the most common skills that job applicants are lacking are relevant across all industries. Those skill sets noted were critical thinking/problem-solving (53 percent), professionalism/work ethic (46 percent), written communications (41 percent) and leadership (38 percent). This provides some good evidence that it is more than just an industry buzz term. It is a real issue facing employers as well as those seeking employment.

Why does it affect you?
The reality of the skills gap issue is that there are many local companies that will be unable to operate, let alone grow or expand due to an inability to fill positions. Employers are already finding themselves in positions where they need to halt growth or turn down business while searching for potential hires that have the minimum essential skills. There are several reasons for this. Candidates and existing employees often can’t keep up with the ever-changing skills required by advancing technology. A Bureau of Labor Statistics study revealed that more than 50% of today’s jobs require some degree of technology skills, and that figure will most likely increase to 77% by 2020. In a Fortune article, the White House predicted that 51% of all Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) jobs would be in computer science-related fields. Yet there is still not enough emphasis being placed on these skills in most school curricula. A recent Gallup poll revealed that only about 40% of K-12 schools offered computer science classes. In addition to the need to begin technology-driven training sooner, there is also a need to provide continuing education to employees in order to keep pace with advancements in technology.

The record skills shortage is just another of the many challenges to finding talent today. The baby boomer generation is aging, creating the largest retirement wave in US history, and a need to fill positions. Unfortunately, many of the usual means of hiring don’t generate results. Posting a job online, even on the top job sites, results in very few qualified applicants. In a Wall Street Journal survey, recruiters reported that over 50% of applicants for a typical job failed to meet the basic qualifications for that job. According to LinkedIn, 70% of the global workforce is made up of passive talent who aren’t actively job searching, so posting a job on your company’s internal career page doesn’t reach the most desired applicants. Depending on your business size and model, you may be competing with large organizations that can often offer better benefits packages, higher salaries and other perks to candidates. In addition to the need to hire for skills and talent, there is also a need to hire for cultural fit so that the employee will stay with your organization. All of these factors contribute to a considerable reliance on recruiting firms to fill positions. This dependence can further increase the cost of hiring, if you don’t partner with the right staffing firm.

Who has the burden of fixing it?
It is tempting to take the stance that the skills gap issue has been created over a long period of time by weaknesses in the education system and other factors. In order to facilitate growth, keep pace with the competition and meet customer expectations, businesses should start to examine ways that they can nurture and create their own sources of talent. Many businesses are taking a “triage” approach, only looking at candidates and resumes when there is an open position, but there is a need to be more proactive. The coming years will see forward thinking businesses creatively sourcing new hires through internships, apprenticeships and work-study programs. Retention will continue to be even more crucial and employers will have to focus on engaging and developing their existing team members. Consider implementing training programs and as well as to recognize individual goals and create performance incentives in addition to concentrating on competitive pay, benefits and flexibility. Building a future pipeline of talent is more important than ever. For many small companies, putting additional programs like these into practice is not realistic when combined with the daily demands and requirements of running a business. Partnering with a reputable staffing firm is an important measure your organization can take to help alleviate some of the issues caused by the skills gap and lack of qualified candidates in the market. Choose a firm that utilizes more innovative methods of recruitment, and has a strong existing candidate base. Trustworthy firms have solid relationships with candidates and a reputation for receiving referrals. This type of partnership can make a world of difference in the amount of time, effort and money that your organization expends to bridge the skills gap and hire the best match for your company and culture.

Bradley Staffing Group is a full-service staffing firm based in Wayne, PA. We are committed to matching A-level talent with best-in-class businesses. Our knowledgeable and well-trained staff brings a combined 70+ years of staffing experience to our clients and candidates alike.

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