Prior to the pandemic, unemployment rates were at historic lows, and as we settle into a recovery we are seeing rates come down again from the highs set during the spring of 2020. It may come as a surprise to CEOs that there are specific critical roles that have been open long before the pandemic, and with all of the changes in how we work over the past year, are proving more difficult than ever to fill. While technology has eliminated some lower level jobs, it has created new higher level jobs that require new skills. Unfortunately, technology is moving faster than training capabilities, leaving Human Resources (HR) leaders looking for help addressing the skills gap.
In addition to implementing training programs, Gartner recently published research that identifies a different approach to the problem, looking for skills that are adjacent to the skill-set you are hiring for. For HR teams to be able to successfully apply an adjacent skills approach, Gartner provides the following three imperatives:
- Approach skills identification by looking at skills throughout the organization, not necessarily by individual functions.
- Fill critical skills gaps by leveraging skills adjacencies to guide the upskilling and recruiting of current and potential talent.
- Enable cross-functional talent mobility by identifying “stepping-stone” skills to bridge skills gaps across the organization.
Part of the challenge in filling these roles is the standardization of the skills required. Technology advancements are homogenizing digital skill sets regardless of industry. For example, every industry is moving all or part of their IT infrastructure to the public cloud. Amazon Web Services (AWS) is the market leader. Thus, it doesn’t matter what industry you operate in, if you want an AWS engineer, you’re not just competing with other companies in your space, you’re competing with every company that is moving their IT infrastructure to AWS.
Technology is creating another challenge with today’s workforce, the types of roles being created lean more towards STEM fields of study. For example, as more data is collected and analyzed, the need for statistics and analytics expertise is higher than it has ever been. Until more students pursue STEM classes and join the workforce, it will be difficult to address the skills gap in these areas.
Per the report, “As of October 2019, the U.S. unemployment rate was 3.6%. This is compared to 6.1% in July 2014, just five years ago…. Due to historically low unemployment and the demands of the digital business, organizations face intense competition for just a handful of critical roles. In 2018, 90% or more of S&P organizations recruited for the same 39 roles, which made up almost half (49%) of all job postings. The remaining 51% were for 872 other roles. The 39 critical roles include software developers, data scientists, marketing managers and computer system engineers/architects.”
The past year has had little impact on these critical roles. In today’s labor market, HR should break down roles by the skills required to do the job well. After all, a role is a collection of skills, and today more than ever, understanding the skills that relate to the position is a way to find hidden talent that others will miss.
As the last year has shown us, we’ll never be able to future-proof organization roles. As we’re seeing, new positions will continue to be created without much warning, and our ability to fill them will always be reactive. Focusing on the underlying skills can reduce the amount of time it takes to upskill or hire for future skills gaps.
If you or your HR team are struggling with with skills gap, send us a note. Our executive recruiters will help guide you through the process of building out your team.