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Are workers keeping up with the changing skill needs of today's workplace and employers' expectations?

Are workers keeping up with the changing skill needs of today's workplace and employers' expectations?

Yosie Saint-Cyr LLB., Managing Editor, HRinfodesk, published by First Reference, September 2015

According to the July 2015 HRinfodesk poll results, out of 132 respondents, 67 percent of employers did not think that workers are keeping up with the changing skill set needs of today's workplace and employers' expectations.

What does that mean?

Many individuals in the HR profession believe that we are going through times of skilled talent shortages. In fact, according to a recent Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) poll, 58 percent of HR professionals reported that some workers lack competencies needed to perform their jobs, up from 54% in 2005. Further, more than one-half of HR professionals (55 percent) who responded to the poll agreed that workers entering the job market in the next 10 years will lack the competencies that will make them successful in the workplace.

So it seems that current employees and employees entering the job market are lacking in skills, abilities, proficiencies and know-how. These lacks stem from a poor educational system's preparation, and the changing workplace due to new technologies, globalization and new processes, among others.

However, workplace skills were more frequently reported as much more important today for experienced workers than for new entrants to the workforce.

Managers/supervisors determined the skills gap by observations and feedback through performance evaluations. Performance management is the most prevalent means for measuring employee skills and/or professional development deficiencies by most organizations.

Overall, employers placed the greatest weight on employee adaptability and critical thinking skills. HR professionals and employees both reported that adaptability/flexibility and critical thinking/problem-solving skills were of greatest importance now compared with two years ago.

Other top-rated skills for experienced workers were leadership, professionalism/work ethic and teamwork/collaboration.

For new entrants to the workforce, other top-rated skills were professionalism/work ethic, information technology application, teamwork/collaboration and diversity.

Written communications (conveying written messages clearly and effectively) applied to both groups as one of the most sought-after skill.


According to a study by the Society for Human Resource Management and WSJ.com/ Careers, Critical Skills Needs and Resources for the Changing Workforce,

"A solution with an immediate benefit to today's workplace and the economy is a focus on building capabilities and the development of skills and competencies within the current workforce.”

In addition, worker skill sets must keep pace with employers' expectations. The education system needs to understand those needs in order to produce graduates that are well equipped for the workplace.

"A comprehensive understanding of skills needs and the resources that are available to workers to develop competencies can help guide HR professionals in implementing skills training and professional development programs that provide a short-term solution to ensure an adequately skilled workforce today as well as a long-term vision to address anticipated skills needs.”

Training and development is a method organizations should be using to fill the skills gap. Continuous learning and skills training are crucial to sustaining workforce readiness among employees of all experience levels. However, not many organizations are doing it. It may be an issue of cost or corporate culture.

On-the-job training, coaching or mentoring and university or college courses as very effective skills training formats. However, e-learning is a platform that is less expensive than the usual skills training through instructor-led workshops and continuing education courses. More organizations are relying on e-learning to train their workforce.

"One-half of HR professionals reported that their organizations offered skills training through online tutorials and guided programs more frequently now than two years ago, yet only one-third of employees reported an increased preference for this skills training format now compared with two years ago."

Employees reported a variety of resources for keeping their skills sharp, most frequently citing career advice sections of news/lifestyle websites and industry-specific resources.

Therefore, training is the way to develop skills, fill the skills gap and enhance productivity for employees of all experience levels. It can only make your business more successful. Moreover, some governments are supporting the link between workforce readiness and business success by earmarking funds for employer grants to develop job training programs.