Innovative HR Solutions, LLC

Wednesday, January 29, 2020

Is America Facing a Skills Gap and How Can a Culture of Learning Address this Challenge?


Today, in the United States a skills gap is becoming more of an issue as many skilled American’s are retiring and the gap between what employers need and what their employees can actually deliver is becoming significantly wider.  Organizations with a neglected culture of learning may experience high turnover, struggle to retain customers, and may ultimately fail. Organizations with a culture of learning which addresses the skills gap typically thrive by cultivating their employees through learning opportunities and on-going professional growth.  While the skills gap will only worsen over time, there is hope for the pro-active employer that is willing to address this issue.  To meet this challenge, HR leaders can plan and anticipate gaps in employee skills by implementing a series of initiatives which will hopefully reduce this gap.

Conduct a Needs Assessment Survey

Companies today that encourage the collection of employee data and metrics will be in a better position to address the skills gap challenge.  It is often the employees that understand what they require in order to be more efficient, productive and successful on the job.  Human Resources should consider conducting a needs assessment to evaluate the skills require in order to determine what training programs should be considered and who should be made available for this additional support.  Training programs to improve employee skills can include both technical training, certifications as well as soft-skill training.  A survey to determine where the gaps in knowledge should be conducted and then discussed with the employee to develop a plan to meet the employee needs and the requirements of the job.

Create Succession Plans for Key Positions

Succession planning is a step-by-step process for identifying and developing new leaders typically at the exempt level.  Successful succession plans also increase the availability of experienced and capable employees that are prepared to assume these new roles as they become available.  The goal is to replace the departing employee as quickly and efficiently as possible with limited interruption to the business.  Succession planning requires an in-depth understanding of the skills the organization needs and the ability to identify key players who have those skills and could step into a new role and be successful.  Sensible succession plans also require that incumbent employees be suited for a series of positions of greater responsibility.  Fulfilling that objective entails matching individual talents with required tasks. A job analysis to determine any skills gap will reveal where there are deficiencies that are impacting performance.

Support a Culture of Learning

Professional development programs are designed to enhance professional acumen and/or advance an employee’s worth to the organization.  Building a learning culture will encourage creativity, innovation and if successful reduce turnover over time.  A culture of learning needs to establish clear links between learning, performance and the strategic goals of the company.  While the company supports the programs that will bridge any gaps in skills the employee needs to be held accountable for their own development plan.  The company needs to make the employee available for training, provide the financial resources and budget to support the culture of learning

Finally, the question that every company faces as it considers a learning culture is its readiness to embrace and support such a program. With the skill gap becoming a bigger issue in the future the HR professional will need to support, promote and encourage their organization to develop a learning culture. This will enable the organization not just to survive in a very competitive business environment but grow and thrive.

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