How to arm your workforce with the right skills for the future

Audience at conference

Over the last 18 months, the pandemic has quickly and dramatically accelerated the need for new workforce skills due to increased digitisation and hybrid models of work. This is seeing organisations across all industries facing a large and growing skills gap as employers grapple with learning how to train their workforce into new roles and ways of working. However, this dynamic is about more than just remote work or the role of automation and AI: it’s about how leaders can reskill and upskill the workforce to deliver new business models in the post-pandemic era. 

According to a 2021 global survey by McKinsey, 58 percent of employers said that closing skills gaps has become a higher priority since the pandemic began. Furthermore, 46 percent of respondents reported an increase in redeploying talent at their organisations as a response to the pandemic, making it the second most critical activity after closing skill gaps. The survey also showed that companies are more focused on developing social, emotional and advanced cognitive skills, such as leadership, decision making, project management and critical thinking. This suggests that as well as understanding the need to be more employee-centric, organisations are still coming to grips with the new ways of working forced on them by the virus. 

To meet the challenge, companies should establish a strategy that embraces continuous learning. This will be key to remaining relevant and competitive, while also preparing the workforce for any future disruptions. Here are some principles organisations can focus on in order to build a more resilient, future-ready workforce. 


Find your starting point 

Starting the process of addressing an organisational skills gap can be daunting, particularly if your workforce numbers are in the hundreds. But understanding where your company sits in terms of skill strengths and shortfalls will be important in developing an effective strategy. 

Employers can start by taking an inventory of skills across the business and asking themself where there are shortages, where there is potential, who has the capacity to upskill and in what areas? This will help employers assess those skills they can nurture and grow, and those which they may need to recruit for to avoid a shortfall later down the track. 

It is important not to fall into the trap of using this as a cataloguing of roles, which could be redundant during a time when roles and their associated skills are in a state of flux. Instead, specific skills should be catagorised in relation to the company’s future goals and trajectory. This inventory will then form the base of an organisation-wide supply and demand model for future and current roles. 


Foster an ecosystem mindset

Embracing the concept of a strong business ecosystem could also assist organisations in preparing the workforce with the skills required in coming years. While many organisations may be used to the legacy approach of keeping everything “in house”, this mindset could see those companies falling behind. 

A business ecosystem can be defined as a purposeful business arrangement between two or more entities, such as industry bodies, government departments, customers and even competitors, to create and share in collective benefits. 

Choosing to partner with a recruitment company could be particularly beneficial for many companies moving forward, particularly those who specialise in your specific industry. With an in-depth knowledge of the industry and candidate market, recruitment consultants have unique knowledge regarding the severity of skills gaps within certain areas, and will understand the campaigns and strategies involved with sourcing these.  

Furthermore, professional recruitment consultants can focus on skills-based hiring, allowing them to identify the future potential of prospective candidates rather than solely focusing on past experience.  And when the boundaries are constantly changing as they are now, employees should be recruited for their potential rather than purely for their track record. While experience may have previously been the main factor in hiring, it is not necessarily an indication of future performance, particularly when it comes to skills such has adaptability and resilience. 


Build a learning culture 

More companies are beginning to place an emphasis on upskilling and reskilling, with 69 percent saying they engage more in these activities now than prior to the pandemic. By integrating skill building into the culture of the workplace, employers can ensure their workforce is consistently developing and strengthening the skills required for the company to meet its objectives. 

More than this however, providing such learning initiatives, as well as creating a psychologically safe work culture in which employees feel able to voice ideas, improves employee engagement and satisfaction. According to a global survey, one-third of employees feel as though their role will advance past their current skill set, and 86 percent would feel safer in their jobs if their employer offered opportunities to learn new skills. 

Employers could consider creating a skill hub consisting of foundational learning programs for everyone, as well as customised programs for reskilling people in particular roles. By appointing someone to lead this area, an organisation will be better positioned to balance the supply and demand for skills throughout the business. 


If you’re looking to partner with a recruitment company that can help prepare your workforce and identify skills for the future, contact Bayside Group today. 

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