The top 5 questions your company should be asking itself to address the skills gap challenge

Tom Richardson|January 14, 2020

During a recent interview, I described the skills gap challenge that many Australian companies and organisations have been facing in recent years. With that in mind, here are my recommendations for the top five questions your company should be asking itself when it comes to meeting this challenge in 2020 and beyond.

1. What are the roles of the future?

Companies such as Faethm are doing a lot of analysis to identify how roles will be affected by emerging technologies and digitisation. They also pinpoint how quickly those roles will become redundant and what new roles will emerge. It’s only very recently that we’re getting the deep data science and intelligence to give us this information.

And it’s a pretty serious data set – Faethm for example looks at the characteristics of more than 60,000 roles that it’s identified across all businesses, the skills needed to perform those roles, and which of these roles will be affected. From there they project out what roles will need to be filled by 2030, and this data really drives organisations’ whole workforce planning model. Companies can then weigh up: “If we’ve got 1,000 people in roles that are going to become redundant, and then 1,000 new roles that are going to start up, how do we retrain those people for those roles rather than let them go?”

The work of data sources such as Faethm, the O*Net Database and Burning Glass is going to become much more prominent over the coming 12 months. Using analytics to predict what roles will become redundant and what skills will be needed in the workplace will be a fundamental part of advanced workforce planning.

2. What role is right for our employees?

Working out who should move to what roles isn’t just a company decision, it increasingly has to be about the individual employee, and ensuring that they’re moving to something that they want to do and feel they’re going to be successful at.

There’s an interim step here known as the Hedgehog Concept, which covers three aspects. First, it asks what aligns with the person’s passion. Secondly, it asks what are they likely to succeed at, and what do they have an existing competitive advantage at. And thirdly, it looks at what’s going to meet their personal objectives – including their lifestyle and financial needs. Essentially it means that any role shift needs to line up to the individual’s personal aspirations, career plan and natural talents.

At an organisational level, companies can apply this concept by assessing those three dimensions, thereby filtering out what roles of the future are best suited to that individual. So, it’s not about doing blind-matching – there’s real insight with which you’re matching people to their personal profiles.

Applying this type of holistic view of individuals’ place in an organisation is critical. If you stick people into roles that they don’t fit into, or aren’t aligned to what they want to do, they won’t be successful. It can also become the source of a lot of workplace stress; a lot of dissatisfaction in the workplace can be traced back to people being in roles that they find really hard, are not a natural fit, or that don’t align to their personal values. As workplace health becomes a bigger issue, achieving this kind of alignment is becoming even more important.

3. What skills gaps do we have?

A lot of the big trends for learning for 2020 and beyond will take a more scientific approach and assess skills gaps at the front end. In other words, rather than just provide people with catalogues of learning or group learning interventions, companies will instead be much more focused about what’s right for an individual and be more likely to use some kind of diagnostic to determine this.

This skills gap assessment will tell you for each individual what are the gaps that you have to be able to fill for future roles. This is then personalised into a time-bound learning plan, where you provide the learning your people need to be successful in that role. The science around this is getting smarter, and it actually looks at how people perform in the workplace and pinpoints what are going to be the most likely gaps that individual needs to work on.

4. How do we get employees role-ready?

The best way to develop role-based skills is to focus on the role. Even today many companies are still using competency frameworks as they try to build generic competencies. There’s a shift towards becoming a lot more hard-edged about what the role requires for success, and looking out to an employee’s Year 1, Year 2, Year 3 in that role. That means being specific about the way a person will progress through a role and then designing and building learning content that’s really aligned to their work. Giving a person a 12-month learning plan with measurable benefits for their role also makes it more likely that they will stick to it.

This is quite a shift because it means that learning becomes less generic and much more organisation-specific. A role in one company can actually be quite different from the same role in another depending on the strategy of the business and what it’s trying to do. It’s a trend that definitely indicates that more learning will be customised and focused.

And, while controversial, this shift suggests that a lot of generic qualifications such as MBAs and university degrees will eventually have less relevance. They of course still have the credibility but even this is starting to become less important amid the rise of micro-credentialing. Soon, being successful in a role will become the ultimate credential you need.

5. How can we ensure success with effective onboarding?

Setting new hires up for success is important and the induction process can often be below par at a lot of organisations. It’s about considering what happens pre, during and post onboarding. Unfortunately, often there’s a situation where people land themselves into a role and they’ve got to figure it out for themselves, and feel pretty unsupported.

It’s a whole different story though, if team members get inducted and trained effectively, get introduced into the workplace community, get mentorship and social connections, and clearly understand what success looks like for their role. Day 1 to 30 is about getting introduced to all the various aspects of the role and how they can succeed, and have proper mechanisms for getting the feedback.

What this essentially means is carrying out proper induction work through the first 90 days, where the new team member has access to a variety of ways to escalate any issues or stumbling blocks, and giving all kinds of feedback to their manager about their experience.

While all this sounds very hands-on, the upskilling that’s required for effective onboarding can also be automated now, with an intricately tailored program for each employee. This is a really powerful tool that rounds out the induction process.

The potential consequence of not onboarding effectively, however, is that new hires won’t succeed. It means that even if you’ve taken all the other steps and invested money to carry out skills assessment, and your future workforce planning, this all potentially amounts to nothing if the person doesn’t succeed in their role.

The challenges of a fast-shifting workforce have real implications for how companies approach hiring, reskilling and retraining. But by being aware of the trends, and taking advantage of thoughtful analysis and timely technology, companies can start 2020 with a motivated and well-rounded workforce.

Meet the skills gaps of the future with flexible learning that’s tailored to your organisation’s unique challenges. Contact us today to discover how Janison Academy could help you deliver transformative solutions in 2020 and beyond.

About the author

Tom Richardson

Former Chief Executive Officer, Janison

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