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Upskilling to Overcome Skill Gaps and Labor Shortages

In today’s competitive job market, filling open positions is a daunting task for many organizations. Jobs remain vacant for longer than desired with few qualified candidates applying, if any.

And it doesn’t look like the situation is going to improve any time soon. As jobs continue to change due to technological innovations and the war for talent ramps up because of low unemployment, it might actually get worse before it gets better.

Between the increasing skills gap and an ongoing labor shortage, what’s a business to do?

Consider upskilling

In the most basic terms, upskilling entails teaching an employee additional competencies outside of his or her current job duties. In practice, it’s used to address the rapidly transforming nature of our daily work.

Automation, artificial intelligence and machine learning advancements are the big drivers of this changing landscape. But to take advantage of technology’s inherent opportunities, the workforce must have the skills required to work with the emerging systems. And the clock is ticking to learn those skills because the McKinsey Global Institute predicts about 14% of the workforce will have to change careers by 2030 due to automation and AI.

There are many ways to prepare for the transition. Examples include teaching employees how to code or maintain a computer if parts of their role could be subject to automation, and providing intentional management training to those who show potential.

Additionally, many cities and towns offer tuition-free, community leadership programs that can teach employees important skills. Encouraging participation and writing recommendation letters are small actions that can lead to a wealth of knowledge coming to your organization at little to no cost to the bottom line.

Remember, upskilling doesn’t just have to take place inside your business. The options are limited only by management’s vision.

Closing the skills gap

The current skills gap is the reverse of the nation’s industrial revolution when the call for mass, unskilled labor enticed droves of people to leave the farm for the factory. In today’s digital revolution, highly skilled positions are the ones in high demand. And with 54% of all employees expected to need upskilling and reskilling by 2022, according to the World Economic Forum, the impending skills shortage can stagnate business growth and cause companies to lose their competitive edge.

To stay ahead of the curve, businesses can bring in experts or conduct instructor-led training (ILT) courses. Digital learning platforms can also be used to enhance or supplement classroom-style training, quickly upskilling groups of people across divisions and departments.

As advancements in technology continue, the workforce also needs continuous learning opportunities. Creating a culture of learning where acquiring new skills is the norm will help organizations stay on top of the latest trends and emerging technology by growing their experts from within.

Overcoming the labor shortage

The ongoing labor shortage can also make the case for implementing an upskilling initiative. With the unemployment rate hovering around 3.5%, a 50-year low, the war for talent has never been more competitive.

Finding qualified applicants is difficult enough, but enticing them to choose your company over another can be even harder. While some businesses are offering higher compensation and bigger benefits packages, other organizations are throwing upskilling and other employee learning initiatives into the mix – drawing people in through the promise of continued professional development.

Other ways to overcome the labor shortage include teaching new skills to current employees, which circumvents the problem entirely. Instead of looking for qualified applicants in a shrinking pool, organizations develop their workforce in-house. Upskilling also helps companies from losing talent in the first place, as 93% of workers say they would stay with a company longer if it invested in their careers, according to a LinkedIn report.

To overcome both the skills gap and the tight labor market at the same time, start upskilling your workforce: teaching employees new knowledge to keep your organization on the path to success. Because often, the best talent in the market is already on your payroll.