Giving people the support they need to progress and succeedAs if organisations weren’t facing enough challenges, with a new Prime Minister on the cards and Brexit looming on the horizon - they're also in the midst of a skills crisis, affecting employers across the country who are struggling to fill skilled roles.
Recent data from the Office of National Statistics on employment shows that the number of job vacancies in the UK is increasing. In fact, from December 2018 to February 2019, there were an estimated 854,000 job vacancies in the UK, 39,000 more than a year earlier.
In addition, a recent survey of 87,000 UK employers has shown that the number of skills shortage-related vacancies has more than doubled since 2011 to 266,000.
This is a worrying statistic as it means that 31% of all the UK's job vacancies are going unfilled because there simply aren't enough people with the necessary skills to fill them.
The skills most lacking from today's workforce are, according to the report, "complex analytical skills… time management skills, management and leadership skills, and sales and customer handling skills".
The impact of this? Loss of business to better-equipped competitors, and increased operating costs through inefficient work. With higher demand for skilled workers, it becomes more difficult to keep people sticking around, too. Skills shortages damage businesses, and it's obviously something that needs to be addressed.
So, who's to blame?It would be very easy to point the finger at today's generation of young people – millennials – entering the more senior strata of the workforce without having picked up all the necessary skills from hard work in apprenticeships, university, or entry-level roles.
But it's not for lack of trying! Research into millennials in the workforce has regularly found that, rather than being workshy when it comes to professional development, are incredibly eager for opportunities that aren't being offered, and are instead stuck in a loop of entry level positions with little room for growth.
In its survey of millennials, Deloitte found that 71% of young people who were considering leaving a job were doing so because they were unhappy with how their leadership skills are being developed. This is part of a wider trend towards the slow decline of on-the-job training.
Many organisations are looking around wondering where the skilled workers are, rather than focusing their energy on helping their existing workers to become skilled.
Continuing professional developmentTraining, development, and ensuring the next generation of employees have the skills required is an ongoing process that requires commitment from employers and employees alike. However, for organisations that do, the benefits are obvious.
Continuing professional development (CPD) is not only essential for ensuring a business can continue to compete – it's also a key part of attracting and retaining talented employees with the potential to build the necessary skills needed to become the next generation of leaders.
Again, young people care deeply about this opportunity – research from PwC found that the option for personal learning and development was the employee benefit with the biggest draw for young workers.
Indeed, today's young people are the best-educated generation in history, and are no more shy of putting in extra work or effort to get ahead than any that's gone before – so abandon those lazy millennial stereotypes before it's too late!
Workplace mentorsWhen people enter a role, there is a general expectation that they'll be shown the ropes by those around them – usually their fellow team members or line manager – and that this informal introduction to the company is enough. But is it? Are important parts of the job getting glossed over? Are questions going unanswered?
In order to properly develop skills that fill gaps, instil an organisation's values, and prepare younger people for leadership roles, it can be useful to pair new members of staff with a more experienced mentor.
Whether this is a short-term mentorship during an induction period, or an ongoing relationship as part of continuing professional development, there are many benefits to mentoring.
The main benefit is that a new employee has a go-to person for questions and concerns.
As well as more supervisory guidance to ensure the job is done right, these questions can be about more than just the ins and outs of a job role. A mentor can help a mentee with their own career development, assisting with training, networking and leadership skills.
Allowing more senior members of staff who do not yet have any management experience to act as mentors can also help them to develop their management skills, making the relationship advantageous for both sides, while also reducing pressure on managers and HR.
Access to education through salary sacrifice
One way to address a skills gap is to encourage talented and promising young employees to pursue training and development outside of work that will help them to grow into more senior or skilled job roles.
This is, as we've discussed already, something that young employees are actively looking for. However, professional qualifications that provide access to senior and specialist positions can be expensive, making them difficult to afford on an entry-level salary.
Providing salary sacrifice programmes that allow staff to use a portion of their salary to pay for training courses can be a way to reduce this barrier, particularly if the organisation contributes to payments also, as an investment in its staff's training.
Giving the next generation a chance
Essentially, in order to fill the skills gap and ensure a continuing talented workforce, employers need to stop insisting that staff come "ready-made" with everything needed for a role, and instead accept that a level of support and training will be needed to get the best out of their employees.
One big advantage to this, of course, is that staff will be learning in the way that you want them to – specifically developing skills for the tasks in your organisation rather than adapting things learned elsewhere – and will in turn form a closer relationship with your company. This can improve loyalty, retention and engagement, and promotes a positive culture that nurtures talent.