When assessing today's widending skills gap, it all comes down to basic supply and demand. For many American employers, supply has a long way to go to catch up to demand.
More specifically, skills high in demand — technology, project management and interpersonal skills, among others — also happen to be in low supply for U.S. employers, according to Kelly Bozarth, CEO of [email protected], part of Strayer University.
According to a recent national Harris Poll survey of more than 2,300 employers, commissioned by CareerBuilder, 49% of employers have experienced a negative impact on their business due to extended job vacancies, with 25% reporting a loss in revenue and 43% pointing to lower productivity. Nearly 63% of employers reported that they are concerned about the growing skills gap in the U.S.
"Many companies are struggling to find the qualified workers they need to fill their open positions," Bozarth says.
While the skills gap is widely documented, there has not been a reliable way to get a real-time look at talent shortages within the top industries — financial services, food and beverage, healthcare, information technology, manufacturing, retail, and travel and tourism.
To tackle that data shortage, [email protected], which collaborates with companies to identify and close skills gaps — the demand — in the workforce by providing innovative learning solutions, believes it now offers a viable solution. It's called the Quarterly Skills Index, and it utilizes skills data from the public profiles of U.S.-based LinkedIn members, then uses that data to measure and report on supply and demand of select skills.
The supply side of the formula measures how prevalent select skills are within the profiles of members in a particular industry, relative to the overall population of LinkedIn members in the U.S. The demand side of the formula shows how desired select skills are within a particular industry, relative to its overall demand, as measured by U.S. members who received an InMail message from a recruiter within the past year.
Bozarth explains that the immediacy of the information shared by the [email protected] Skills Index helps employers to better understand the talent shortages they are facing and identify tangible solutions — rooted in career pathing, new training models, and other strategies — to close critical gaps, while also attracting and retaining top talent.
She cites the nursing industry as a prime example of where the skills gap is very wide. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates the job and wage growth for nursing professionals will reach 20% by the year 2022. The biggest driver of this growth will come from highly trained and specialized Clinical Nurse Leaders (CNLs), who play a key role in implementing new strategies, coordinating care and leading change.
Although CNLs are well prepared for managing patient care, the Skills Index found a demand for stronger people management skills and comfort with new technologies, such as electronic medical records, that have only been authorized since 2009.
Another surprising example came from the manufacturing industry. A 20-year trend of offshoring manufacturing jobs is reversing as U.S. companies realize there are cost, quality, environmental and reputational benefits to be gained by producing goods closer to home. These jobs are coming back on shore, but companies are having a difficult time finding qualified workers.
"We were surprised to see that some of the most needed skills in the manufacturing industry are creativity, analytical and critical thinking," Bozarth says.
[email protected]'s goal with its Skills Index is to give HR leaders, recruiters, employers, current employees and job seekers a more accurate understanding of the talent surpluses and shortages in their industries today. Previous studies have tended to provide a moment-in-time snapshot, rather than a near-real-time view of what skills gaps companies are facing.
The other important benefit of the [email protected] Skills Index, Bozarth explains, is that it looks at skill surpluses and shortages at the industry level. The skills that are in demand in financial services are quite different from the skills needed in the food and beverage industry.
Bozarth says it's a shock that that according to McKinsey, U.S. companies spend $170 billion a year on training and development, but 92% of CEOs feel they don't get a return on that investment. Apart from equipping HR leaders and employers with better information and, the hope is, better results, in recruiting and talent development, the Skills Index also looks to shed light on new learning opportunities, such as apprenticeships, custom degree programs and others they may not have previously considered to help their employees develop needed skills.
Bozarth says [email protected] offers clients a three-step process to begin closing the skills gaps:
- Accurately diagnose the skills that are needed, by whom and for what reasons. It's important to consider the technical skills in a job, as well as the softer skills employees need to effectively move the organization.
- Design interventions that are tailored to your particular company and skills gaps. Interventions can take many forms, including on-the-job learning opportunities, online or in-person training sessions, apprenticeships and customized degree programs. In addition to training the skills, it is equally if not more important to help employees acquire the mindsets they need to change behaviors so newly acquired skills becomes habits.
- Measure results and continually adjust along the way.
"Along with the thousands of hours we have spent working with Fortune 500 companies, we learned from the Index that skills gaps need to be addressed at the industry, company, division and team levels," she says. "There isn't a one-size-fits-all solution to this problem; it's very specific."