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Sharon McDougall


How Are Employers Tackling the Global Skills Shortage?

Employers should take a multi-pronged approach

Published: Thursday, May 18, 2023 - 12:03

Although the coronavirus pandemic changed the working lives of employees around the world, closing workplaces and transforming dining tables into professional workstations, it also gave employees a chance to time out and recharge from the hustle and bustle associated with office working.

The pandemic provided an opportune moment for those looking to start their own business, pursue a hobby on a professional level, or try their hand at something new, which came to be known as the Great Resignation. But while the pandemic acted as a catalyst of change for millions of workers, it also fed directly into the global skills shortage.

How are employers filling the skills gap?

Employers are taking a varied approach to filling the skills gap, which entails maximizing the skill set of existing staff, improving job desirability, and widening talent acquisition strategies.

Reskilling: This means upgrading the skill set of existing employees. As technology advances, new efficiencies are integrated into the business, and systems are refined over time, employees may need to refresh skills to ensure that they have the technical knowledge required to manage new systems and administer new services. By reskilling existing staff, employers can continue to deliver additional services without hiring new staff.

Raising wages: As a result of the skills scarcity, employers are raising wages to overcome demand; otherwise, they risk being unable to fill roles. Raises help induce healthy competition across the market during a period of high competition. It also shows workers that they are valued, steering them away from accepting counteroffers.

Upgrading job packages: To tackle the skills shortage and attract the right talent, employers must increase the appeal of the roles that they wish to fill, such as offering flexible working, an employee incentive program, employee well-being support, and training opportunities. This shows that staff are valued, which can help nurture long and healthy relationships. In addition to offering a competitive wage, a well-rounded job package can help attract and retain skilled workers.

Revising talent acquisition strategies: Broaden the search for talent by expanding physical boundaries. If the talent acquisition strategy is limited to a small area, consider widening this to target candidates in neighboring areas.

Remote working: Following on from the last point, if the business has the capabilities to offer remote working, consider opening job opportunities to candidates across the country, or even on a global level.

Upskilling: Investing in existing talent by providing opportunities through which staff can learn new skills and knowledge can help them climb the career ladder and better serve clients. By providing staff with the opportunity to increase their skill set, they are more likely to secure promotions, along with subsequent pay increases.

According to PWC’s “Global Workplace Hopes and Fears Survey 2023,” only 40 percent of employees said their company is upskilling, a practice that’s likely to become widespread in an attempt to fill the skills gap.

The percentages of other internal and external measures that employers are taking to address skills and labor shortages include:
• Increasing pay—33%
• Supporting workers with physical and mental well-being—29%
• Automating or enhancing work using technology—26%
• Widening recruitment to include more diverse workers—25%
• Recruiting workers with lower qualifications or less experience—24%
• Outsourcing work to third parties—20%
• Hiring qualified overseas workers—20%

Employers are implementing a combination of these factors to encourage the interest of existing and new employees, and to help close the skills gap.

Why remote working is a magnet for skilled workers

Since the shift in working practices during the pandemic, remote working has become commonplace in workplaces around the globe. The coronavirus pandemic showed both employers and employees how remote working could help a business function seamlessly, regardless of the location of its workforce.

Lifting the restriction of a physical location can unlock access to global talent pools and, therefore, match employers with workers that have the desired skill set, which may be hard to source locally.

A U.K. parliamentary research briefing, “The impact of remote and hybrid working on workers and organizations,” concluded that introducing remote working helps reduce the level of skill mismatch in the economy, because workers are better able to match their skills to new openings in the labor market—which is key to filling the skills gap.

Searching for untapped talent pools

A key strategy is recruiting workers with lower qualifications or less experience because they may be more receptive to accepting a job role that requires on-the-job training to acquire a niche set of skills. This marks the difference between hiring skilled and seasoned candidates who are ready to hit the ground running and investing in candidates with the potential to eventually fit into a role following sufficient training.

A report conducted by BDO, “Recruiting to fill the skills gap,” points to “employer-university collaboration (EUC)” as a route through which businesses can establish talent pipelines and fill empty roles. “EUC allows companies to nurture and invest in the talent of the future, and these joint ventures help establish... education and training for existing and potential employees.”

By providing a direct gateway to the workplace for individuals at the earliest stages of their careers, such as school leavers, graduates, and apprentices, employers can nurture a new generation of workers and preserve skills and knowledge otherwise lost to workers that tapped out during the Great Resignation.

What’s the long-term picture?

By investing in employee training and upskilling staff, workplaces can build workforces that are fit for the future, and future-proof their business from skills shortages. It also plays a key part in job retention as staff with an appetite for advancement are less likely to leave a workplace that offers clear pathways for progression.

LinkedIn’s 2023 “Workforce Learning Report” found that 93 percent of organizations are concerned about employee retention. People who aren’t learning will leave; according to the report, three of the top five factors that drive people to pursue new jobs reflect their desire to stretch, grow, and develop new skills. These include:
1. Doing challenging and effective work
2. Opportunities for career growth within the company
3. Opportunities to learn and develop new skills

Investing in employee growth and skills development increases employability and adds commercial value to a business, in addition to scoring higher employee-satisfaction rates that can help build a positive work environment. This in turn makes it easier to retain staff, which also means less money spent on recruitment campaigns and more effort directed to closing the skills gap.


About The Author

Sharon McDougall’s picture

Sharon McDougall

Sharon McDougall is a a DAS-approved money adviser and a trusted provider of Scottish debt advice at Scotland Debt Solutions.