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Published on Jun 19
The social, economic, and technological changes of the last quarter century have had amazing benefits for American businesses – but the skills gap that they’ve created are proving to be one of the biggest problems for those same companies. With more companies reporting that it’s harder to fill even entry-level positions with qualified applicants, businesses need to redirect their energies from the search for ready-made candidates to focus on the training and development programs that will help new employees get the skills they need to bridge the gap. Here are a few of the efforts that cutting-edge companies are employing to help workers gain the experience, training, and expertise needed to succeed in the modern workplace.
Understanding the issue
Even outside the high-tech industries, employers are increasingly reporting a shortage of applicants with science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) skills. Add to that a lack of soft skills, like communication and leadership, that have traditionally been harbingers of success in business and the future of the American workforce may begin to seem bleak.
Piling on to the lack of skills is the lack of workers overall. In July of 2018, there were 100,000 more openings for skilled workers than there were qualified unemployed applicants. All of these factors make the job of HR managers and teams even harder. Please read Closing the Skills Gap to learn more about the other factors that have contributed to the skills gap.
Retain the talent you have
Long gone are the days of an employee staying with one employer for decades or even their entire career – especially if their employer doesn’t offer the kinds of traditional and non-traditional benefits that are most important to job seekers today. Companies spend thousands of dollars on recruiting, onboarding, and training new talent, so retaining the talent already in your company is the fastest way for companies to bridge the skills gap.
The types of benefits that employees are looking for can vary by age, industry, or location. For younger workers, one of the most highly sought-after benefits is a better work-life balance than previous generations had. From less restrictive paid-time-off policies to remote working options, integrating benefits that offer employees more time to engage with family and friends into your traditional benefits package may a great starting point for retaining talent in your company.
Another key to employee retention is to facilitate and encourage an open dialogue between employees and managers. In addition to providing insight and ideas to supervisors, make sure that employees know that they can bring their concerns and displeasures with aspects of their jobs to their managers. You can even take this a step further by allowing employees to explore other positions within the company that they might be interested in. Get even more employee retention tips by reading Employee Retention in the Age of Job Hopping.
Thoughtfully designed on-site training
The average employee will come to you with a specific skill set – and that is only built upon with experience, training, and development. On-site training offers employers an ideal way to help employees learn new skills without wasting time on travel or spending high dollars on conference attendance.
Clearly, the location is the single largest advantage of on-site training. Employees are able to save valuable company time by not commuting to a training facility or conference, and companies are able to control the size and timing of the training.
Companies can tailor on-site training opportunities to fit their specific needs, goals, and policies. With sessions that meet the development goals of a specific group of employees and the ability to craft a style of training that suits the culture of your company, on-site training empowers employers and employees to take learning and development into their own hands.
Put mentoring to work for you
Companies across the nation are faced with the same problem – the upcoming mass retirement of the Baby Boomer workforce could leave many companies with gaping holes in institutional and business knowledge. Stemming the flow of the brain drain will be critical if companies want to limit how much the skills gap impacts their ability to do business.
Providing incentives for employees who are the verge of retirement to participate in thoughtfully crafted mentoring programs is one of the best ways for companies to ensure that the knowledge and skills of their existing workforce doesn’t disappear when they retire. Phased retirement programs and bonuses or pay increases for soon-to-retire employees who take on a mentor are both effective ways to encourage seasoned workers to transfer their skills and knowledge to younger employees. Check out Smoothing the Retirement Transition for more tips on helping new workers learn from their retiring co-workers.
Invest in the future
Summer internship programs, whether paid or unpaid, provide significant benefits for employers. Some companies have specific projects that interns work out throughout the summer, while others rotate between departments to learn different tasks within the company. With the costs of hiring and onboarding increasing, more companies than ever are looking to their internship programs to pull double duty – both filling current needs and acting as a pipeline for future employees.
The skills, experience, and insider knowledge gained during an internship can be a valuable asset for companies that elect to hire an intern as a regular employee. Companies should strive to make the most of the time that interns have with their company. While interns may only be with a company for a short time, they should go through many of the same onboarding procedures as traditional staff. Whatever tasks they’re assigned, companies should be sure that interns feel like their work is providing a meaningful contribution to the company and assign a designated member of management to check in at least weekly with your interns. Get more tips for working with interns by reading Summer Intern Recruiting Strategies.
Mind the gap
There’s no one-size-fits-all solution to enable companies to successfully bridge the skills gap. However, investing in training and development opportunities, encouraging in-house training through mentoring and internships, and retaining existing talent allows companies to create a workplace culture that can overcome many of the obstacles posed by the skills gap.
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