Long term strategies to fix skill shortages in the workplace
CFO asks: "What happens if I train my people and they leave?"
CEO answers: "What happens if you don't train them and they stay?"
Every corporation is divided between the need of skilled employees and the fear of training workers that can possibly leave and take their skills -- and investment -- to another company. So what do we do? Do we train our employees or just hope to hire the skills we need from somewhere else, at somebody else's "expenses"?
Every once in a while, a report or study emerges that helps validate why workforce development matters; according to a recent research conducted by Accenture, U.S. executives at large companies believe that a skills gap persists for their businesses, with nearly half (46 percent) concerned that they won't have the skills they need in the next one to two years. The problem is larger that we may think; a research from the Manpower Group, shows that companies struggle not only in finding high skilled employees (today there are 3 open jobs for every available nurse or software engineer) but also skilled trades (the welders, electricians, machinists, etc. that are so prevalent in manufacturing and construction). Skills shortages are now everybody's business.
Many companies do believe that general-skill training is at risk. For certain industries, this is not only a potential risk, but a concrete one: an article posted last month on Inc. pointed out that 56 percent of security professionals and business execs said there wasn't enough talent to handle their companies' security needs. And 52 percent said this shortage "contributed to the incidence of breaches in their organizations". The problem is already here, as it is affecting the way businesses operate today.
There is another issue that seems to concern companies even more though: Why give new workers a skill that they can take to a competitor? A company might be unable to retain workers for a significant period of time after training, and will therefore not see a net positive ROI. That being said, clear strategies for development, strategic career path designing and retention must be aligned with training efforts to ensure that skilled people have incentives to stay.
Data proves actually that training is a great way to retain talent (according to a 2012 Career Builder Survey). Overall, reducing the cost of and increasing access to college education and other post secondary training programs, is a strategic solution for skill shortages. But when it comes to employers, they cannot be exempt from playing a key role in integrating public policies and be protagonists in the training process. From a survey conducted by Career Builder in 2013, HR professionals where asked to identify their top staffing challenges.
- Retention: 44 percent
- Compensation: 37 percent
- Skill shortage: 33 percent
- Morale: 31 percent
- Mobility: 31 perecent
- Training: 17 percent
We clearly see how retention and skill shortage are their top concerns, but still fewer believe that a lack of training opportunities poses a threat. A possible explanation for this could be that employers do not have training programs and thus they do not see this as a challenge. Training programs for most employers are in fact either non-existent or focused on training workers for basic procedures or safety guidelines. There is very little attention on new skills and technology. According to the survey, 47 percent of U.S. nongovernmental employers either have no training budgets or have training budgets under $25,000. Numbers show that companies are not investing enough resources in training, expecting to hire candidates that already possess all the skills needed to succeed in a fast moving and competitive marketplace; on the other side companies require niche skill sets that can hardly be taught outside the company and be relegated to college education.
Good news, not all businesses are the same and certain companies decided to adopt long term strategies to stay competitive investing in human capital. Some companies are in fact leading the way, showing how skills shortages can be addressed by the company with investments that will certainly not pay off right away, and yes, will involve the risk of losing expensively-trained employees; on the bright side, these pioneers are facing higher retention rates and competitiveness in the long term as a result of ease of access to skilled workforce. Their investments often involve founding or partnering with third party entities that will educate workers and fill the future skill gap in that specific industry. Some examples are the Academy for Software Engineering in New York, created by NY Venture Capitalists, as well as the Learning Institute for Growth of High Technology, created by Penn United Technologies to support its clients in need of skilled manufacturers and its own internal trainees (source, The Talent Equation).
As companies fear the effects of skill shortages, they should look at the success stories of those innovators who are investing today in entities and organizations that foster and promote training for the current and future needs of the job market.