Skill Gaps: Are We Creating Our Own Problem?

Randy Emelo
Written by
Randy Emelo

Close Skill Gaps with Mentoring

A November 2013 CareerBuilder survey found that nearly eight in 10 managers are at least somewhat concerned about the skills gap that exists in their company, but only about four in 10 organizations are doing anything about it.

I agree that the skills gap is a very real and serious problem, but if companies are not willing to do anything to address the issue, then they need to stop complaining about it.  In fact, I think companies that are not willing to address the skills gap issue are just perpetuating the problem and prolonging this less than desirable and detrimental scenario.

Find a SolutionIn her article “What Companies Are, and Aren’t, Doing to Find Qualified Workers,” reporter Allison Linn of CNBC wrote: “Experts say the weak job market has left many companies feeling like they can still demand a candidate who has a perfect record, plenty of relevant experience — and is willing to take a temporary job for relatively low pay.”  This attitude part of the problem.  Companies cannot abuse the workforce with low pay, temporary work status, few benefits and unmanageable workloads and then complain when no one wants to work for them.  Of course they aren’t going to find qualified workers when they aren’t willing to treat people humanely.

Now, if companies are really serious about trying to solve the skills gap, they can do more than just shell out big bucks to entice talent through the doors.  Companies should also look at leveraging the talent they still have on staff and tapping into the passions and interests of their workers in order to plug the skills gap.  You may have an employee in customer service who has an interest and a knack for marketing.  Or you could have a person in your finance division who would like to learn more about IT.  Until you allow people to explore opportunities related to their passions and interests, you will likely just have worker bees who do their job but not much more.

Diversity and inclusionWe need to excite people, engage them, and give them the chance to do more with their talents.  Modern mentoring and social learning can help you tap into the hidden talent within your workforce, and allow them the freedom to explore their passions and interests while connecting with coworkers and learning on the job.  Your company may feel a skills gap in a certain area, but chances are you have the talent on staff who can fix the problem.  You just have to be willing to look for them, give them ways to learn, and be willing to help them expand their skill sets.

In an article I wrote called “Mentoring Goes Global” (Diversity Executive, March 2011), Michelle Hoskins, Senior Vice President and Head of Talent Management for Northern Trust said, “We pride ourselves on being a relationship-driven organization.  It wasn’t until we started using open mentoring (now River) and opening [the program] up globally that we’ve gotten to know talent that we wouldn’t have tapped into previously.”

They are not alone.  Many companies have found that the talent they need was already in their employ—they just didn’t know it.  But by using a modern mentoring approach to social learning, they have found a way to leverage their in-house talent.  You can do so, as well.  Here are four steps you can take to help people explore their passions and interests with modern mentoring and social learning to help close the skills gap.

1. Ignore titles.

Don’t get bogged down by seeing someone as just their title.  Their talents and interests could fall outside of their title description, and if you are brave enough to let them explore areas outside of the confines of their title description, I wager you will be pleasantly surprised by the results that occur.

2. Forget hierarchy.

Don’t put a barrier between people, especially when employees are looking to connect with one another to learn.  People at all levels of the company should be given the opportunity to connect, share, explore and learn.

3. Provide support.

Show people that your company wants them to branch out AND succeed.  Give them tangible support for exploring their passions and interests by giving them ways to connect with colleagues for modern mentoring and social learning, such as with a social learning software platform.

4. Get out of the way.

Don’t stand in the middle!  Let people direct their own learning and exploration.  Be there to encourage and support them, but let them decide where their interests and passions take them.

It’s time we start seeing our talent as our most valuable business asset and invest in them as we would any other initiative with the promise to propel our organizations competitively into the future. Instead of perpetuating the skill gap problem through inaction, use tools like social learning and modern mentoring to invest in and leverage current talent to fill knowledge gaps that exist in your organization.

Related Resources

My Mentoring Mantra

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