It is well documented that the skills gap is widening across many industry sectors in the UK; demand for skilled workforce increasingly outstrips the number of correctly skilled workers available. A study published by the Open University states that the UK skills shortage cost organisations across the country £6.3 billion in 2018, based upon increased costs for recruitment, increased salaries for skilled workers and the costs of additional training. Although this study takes a national view of the issue, the repercussions are felt directly by individual employers when it comes time to recruit or upskill to meet customer demands.
But what can individual businesses do to minimise the impact of the skills shortage on themselves? After all, the development of national skills is influenced directly by government policy, and individual businesses will struggle to include themselves in those conversations. How can a business set themselves up to attract the right people for the roles they desperately need to fill?
Define the skills gap
Clearly understanding the skills shortage you have will allow you to identify the best way to fill it. This can often be difficult to quantify. Your skills base needs to meet existing customer requirements and be aligned to your strategic objectives; are these clearly defined and understood throughout the business? You may have skills that are required by industry regulators, licenses that are needed to keep your business on the move, (driving or fork lift truck licenses, for example), or skills that are needed for additional activities such as first aid or health & safety. All these add up to paint a picture of where you are, versus where you need to be.
Know your current position
This is arguably the most important step, but is the most regularly overlooked. Often organisations will recruit to fill a perceived skills gap, without first fully understanding the skills that already exist within their workforce. How competent are your existing employees to complete the job they have? What latent skills do they possess that you could put to good use? Having a good understanding of this, as well as your organisation structure and role profiles, will provide you with the foundation upon which you can decide to upskill existing employees or recruit new ones.
Focus on the future, as well as the present
This is about being proactive rather than reactive. What changes will affect your industry in the future? What will your clients be asking for in 12-18 months? What new technology might you be bringing into the business that will mean a change for your workforce? All these will have an impact on the skills your organisation requires and should become a focus for the longer-term development of your workforce, as well as a foundation for your recruitment strategy. If your entire focus is on developing individuals for the here and now to meet existing customer demands, then your organisation will find it difficult to adapt to their future skills requirements. Knowing where changes will be made in your business and industry will allow you to strategise both your recruitment and your workforce development.
Make your organisation a desirable place to work
Studies have shown that individuals are starting to place a higher emphasis on their working experiences as a reason to change roles. The Deloitte Global millennial Survey states that 28% of the 13,000 surveyed plan to leave their current role due to lack of learning and development opportunities, with 35% due to lack of opportunities to advance. Positioning your organisation as one that focusses on developing their employees and that supports their career development will stand you in good stead to attract the talent you require.
Although the lack of skills is a national issue, there are practical steps that you can take to ensure you lessen the impact on your business. If done right, these activities will not only support your short-term needs, but help you build a culture that develops and attracts the best talent available.