How HR Can Address the Workforce Skills Gap

As modern technology develops and new industry trends arise, many human resources teams are facing large workforce skills gaps that continue to grow. Just as fast as innovation decreases the need for certain roles — especially those that can easily be automated — it’s increasing the need for others. The workforce skills gap is being exacerbated by a lack of interest in trade schools and the increased number of retirees during the COVID-19 pandemic.

HR professionals must come up with strategies to quickly bring their employees up to speed with rising needs. Otherwise, their companies will face the struggles of a team that’s technically and strategically behind. Here’s how HR can address the workforce skills gap from within their companies.

Identify Skills Gaps Within Your Team

Addressing the skills gap within your organization requires you to understand the current situation within your company. To begin, create a list of skills that are needed for your team to run more efficiently, using the technologies your company currently uses or plans to invest in.

Once you know what skills you actually need, evaluate your employees on an individual level to see where their skill sets line up with their roles, where they have more to give, and where they’re falling behind. This proactive analysis first allows you to identify how you can restructure your team to fill in skills gaps — for instance, if a sales team member is fit to take on a higher-level strategist role that you need to fill.

Then, once you see what skills remain unmet, you can start an open dialogue with your employees about their individual training needs and focus on upskilling in those areas.

Support Employees Who Pursue Further Education

Many employees often seek opportunities for professional development on their own. For example, recent graduates may want to learn new applications for the skills they developed in college by pursuing new certifications and attending industry events. Similarly, seasoned employees may be interested in starting graduate programs to advance within your company and upgrade their outdated skills.

While some employees may go after this continued education with or without your help, it’s often up to your HR team to support their pursuit of greater knowledge and advanced skills. Between their tasks at work and their personal lives, many employees struggle to dedicate their time to improve their skill sets and stick with the status quo.

However, if you take action to support continuing education opportunities, employees won’t just be motivated to expand their skills. They’re also more likely to stay loyal to your company since you’re supporting their professional goals. Consider offering financial support for their endeavors, whether it’s in the form of a stipend or paid time off for classes and conferences.

Revise Job Descriptions Annually

Innovation is constant in our modern world. As the tools you use in the workplace change, what you need from your employees will change, too. Human resources teams can no longer wait until roles become outdated to take action. Instead, they must proactively review and revise job descriptions once per year to gradually upskill or reskill their workforce.

As you revise your job descriptions, have open conversations with your employees about your changing expectations. Allow them to discuss what support they need to transition into the new aspects of their role, and provide plenty of resources during their adjustment period.

When you’re able to adapt your company’s roles to your changing industry early on, you won’t risk losing talented members of your workforce. The current skills gap in the global workforce is large enough to make finding adequate new hires incredibly difficult and expensive, so proactive job description reviews can give you peace of mind.

Build a Mentorship Program

One of the core reasons why the rising number of retirees is a concern is the fact that they’re leaving before imparting their wisdom to younger employees. To prevent the loss of generational skills transfers, your HR team can implement an ongoing mentorship program that connects younger employees to highly experienced ones in their fields.

To incentivize employees to take part in your program, you can allow your team members to use their work time to meet with their mentors or mentees. Offering a set structure for your program — including scheduled meeting dates and goals — can also help your mentorship program produce better results that effectively help you close your company’s skills gap.

Create a Modern Workforce

Resolving the modern skills gap can be a difficult task. However, when you take action to resolve it from within your company, you can gradually close your skills gap without costly new hires or company-wide training. Start by identifying the skills gaps within your organization and reviewing job descriptions on an annual basis, then have open discussions with employees about the training and support they need to grow.

Featured image source: Unsplash

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