Finding the right skills in your digital workforce

With economic growth continuing around the world, employers are hiring—or at least they are trying. A report by The Execu|Search Group revealed that 69% of employers plan to hire new staff in 2018, up from 56% in 2017. However, they are having increased challenges in recruiting to overcome ‘skills shortages in an ultra-competitive job market’ and in ‘keeping up with evolving industry trends’ in the digital world. In the digital economy, businesses need new skills to compete and innovate. In a tight labor market, employers face difficulties addressing the gap between the current skills within the organization and the new skills that are needed. Research by CareerBuilder found that skills gaps exist across all industries and occupational categories, with 45% of businesses suffering in productivity and 26% losing revenue due to the skills gap. 

A tightening labor market exacerbates the skills gap

 The U.S. began 2018 with an unemployment rate of 4.1% nationally—a 17 year low. In the U.K., the unemployment rate in December 2017 stood at 4.4%, up slightly from 4.3% over the preceding five months. For the U.K., these have been the lowest unemployment rates since the 1970’s. Extremely low unemployment rates mean that most people who want a job already have one, making it harder to find employees with all of the skills your organization needs. Nearly 60% of U.S. employers have experienced job opening that remained unfilled for more than 12 weeks, according to CareerBuilder. A survey of U.K. employers found that four-fifths of companies believe skills gaps would be their biggest challenge to growth in 2018

Four ways organizations can overcome the skills gap

 Expanded recruiting is not the only answer in addressing the skills gap. Here are several ideas that can be implemented independently or in combination to help employers overcome the skills gap in their digital workforce: 

1. Offer learning sabbaticals

Companies can give employees time away from job duties to learn new skills and train for new positions. Learning sabbaticals range in length from weeks to months. Some companies offer full pay and benefits during the sabbatical while others offer reduced salary or unpaid sabbaticals. 

2. Develop an apprenticeship program.

In Switzerland, nearly 70% of workers begin their career in an apprenticeship, and the U.S. government has proposed expanding the Apprenticeship USA program. Businesses can develop a strong apprenticeship program (often in conjunction with local schools) to bring in young workers and develop them into exactly the kind of talent needed. Manufacturing is one industry where apprenticeships make a lot of sense. 

3. Fill in the gaps with independent contractors

This can be an expedient solution to use in combination with training—hire a contractor to fill the need temporarily while you upskill an existing employee to address the gap permanently. According to Randstad Sourceright, 25% of employers plan to use contractors to address the skills gap. 

4. Increase the use of automation and robotics

In some industries, automation and robotics can decrease the need to find so many skilled workers. For example, in the U.S., there is currently a shortage of commercial truck drivers. Driverless trucks are under development to help address this skills gap. Organizations can also explore alternative methods to transport materials, such as trains, ships, and barges. According to Randstad Sourceright, 11% of employers plan to invest more in automation and robotics in 2018. In the digital workforce, technical skills requirements will change constantly. It won’t always be possible to hire new employees to fill a skills need. Instead, find productive, creative employees with excellent soft skills and commit to overcoming your skills gap through a combination of the strategies discussed above. Asure Software’s Talent Management solutions can help employers compete for top talent to address skills gaps within their organizations.

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