Filling the Gap – 3 Strategic Moves to Make Now

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Expert Perspective by Grahall’s OmniMedia Editorial Board

In her May 12, 2010 article titled The Workforce Paradox: We’re Short on Talent, Not Just Jobs for Bloomberg’s Business Exchange, Tammy Erickson writes:  “There are significant, growing shortages of skills in critical job categories. The recession may have obscured this trend for a couple years, but it marches steadily onward. Even at the height of the recession in 2009, U.S. companies were struggling to fill certain kinds of positions… [and] many of the jobs now being created require skills that the workforce doesn’t possess in sufficient quantity.”

There is vast evidence to support this from authoritative studies, anecdotal information and empirical evidence.  We all agree that there is a shortage of labor with the necessary skills.  

And we can all agree that this is NOT a new problem; in fact, this trend has been observed for nearly 40 years.  As Erickson says: [Since the 1970’s]…the supply of highly educated Americans slowed significantly, while the demand continued to increase.” 

So the next step for companies is to determine realistic solutions to this obvious problem.

Erickson continues: “As this year’s Economic Report of the President on Strengthening the Workforce concluded, the best way to prepare our workforce for the challenges and opportunities that lie ahead is by strengthening our education system — creating a seamless, efficient path for every American, from childhood, to acquire the skills need to fill the gaps.”
 
Well, sure, that would be the ideal solution in the long term, but the issue is pressing. Companies can’t wait another 10 or 20 years for a skilled labor to become available.  It’s not just an inefficient educational system that has created the shortage of skilled labor, so improving our educational system can only go so far in helping to bridge this gap.  Companies themselves can and should take needed steps to help develop and retain skilled labor.

1) IDENTIFY: Go back to your business strategy and identify the key positions in your company.  These will be the positions that drive the company’s success.  As we said in our blog Consider all the Contingencies When Looking for the Perfect Match: “Certain jobs are mission critical to the success of your organization and your people strategy should reflect and protect these positions.”   For departments and positions that are not core to the business strategy, outsourcing, off-shoring and the use of contingent workers should be investigated.    

2) DEVELOP: Ensure that the employees filling key positions have the necessary skills. If there is a skills shortage, get your people trained.  Too often learning and development programs are the first to be jettisoned as part of cost reduction programs, but this is truly short sighted.  Accurate ROI calculations for development programs need to include the opportunity cost of unfilled and “under filled” positions, not just the hard dollars spent on these programs. 

3) RETAIN: Make sure that your compensation and benefits are designed around the needs of your best employees, not “average” employees or the “averages” of the industry. (Read more in Grahall’s blog  Employment Tectonics: The Coming Quake.) Never has there been a better time to differentiate rewards packages to reward key skilled personnel in meaningful ways while managing risk.  (Read more in Grahall’s blog Sameness is the Mother of Disgust and Loss of Talent.) Effective retention programs protect the investment you have made in your best people.  Create career paths, mentoring programs and succession plans for key talent and , in particular, make sure your key individuals know that you believe they are critical to your company’s long-term success. (Read more in Grahall’s blog  Good, Better Best.)

The best approach to address the shortage of skilled workers is to identify develop, and retain not just the best people but the people best suited to drive a company’s future success.

Contact Grahall’s OmniMedia Editorial Board at edie.kingston@grahall.com

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