Talent Management, Training & Development

How Do We Deal With The Fact That Employee Skill Sets Have a Finite Life?

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This, from Kelly Services, really hits the nail on the head:

The last two decades have radically altered the way skills are acquired and developed. Skills are no longer “front-end loaded” onto a career. Rather, they are characterized by lifelong development and renewal. Most skill sets have a finite life.”

Skills are no longer “front-end loaded” onto a career.

But who recognizes this really? Employers who lament that they can’t find the skills they need in the workforce? Students who report being less than adequately prepared to enter the economy? Unemployed workers who can’t connect to a new employer?

Most skill sets have a finite life.

Do employees really have mastery of “soft skills?”

This has never been truer than today – and the “lives” will be getting shorter and shorter.

In their recent Global Workforce Index report, Career Development and Upskilling, Kelly looks at survey data from 120,000 people (workers, presumably) in 31 countries and has some very interesting data to share.

For example, most workers believe they are proficient in critical “soft skills,” but bilingual skills, leadership/initiative and creativity/innovation were all seen as needing development. Employees believe this of their skill sets. And most business leaders would not argue with these areas of deficit.

Of note, however, is the belief on the part of employees that they have good mastery over the most critical “soft skills.” If true, perhaps learning budgets (such as they are) could be better deployed. If untrue, some challenging performance conversations need to be held!1kelly-global-workforce-index-april-2013-critical-skills

Self-driven learning is the key

Of course, in terms of the skills gap, most attention is being paid to STEM workers. Interestingly, these workers believe that their proficiencies in the most important skills sets of analytical/critical thinking, evaluation, analysis and troubleshooting, and complex problem solving are solid (no lack of self-esteem in this group).

Where they might need development are in the more complex technical side of things: systems, computer, software and mathematics, calculations, measurement and monitoring.2kelly-global-workforce-index-april-2013-critical-stem-skills

If life-long learning really is the reality, then self-driven learning will be key.

And if self-driven learning is key, then a realistic assessment of current skill levels and actual skill gaps will be critical. For everyone: employers, employees, learning providers – everyone!

Can we make progress in addressing the skills mismatch?

These observations based on their survey responses seem common sense and almost obvious. Almost.

I think most business leaders – and HR professionals in particular – would agree with Kelly that skills are no longer front-end loaded onto careers. They’d also agree that most skills have a shelf life.

But it doesn’t appear that we’re approaching the answers to the skills gap as a systemic shift in the nature of careers. We’re approaching it as a simple supply vs. demand dynamic – if we approach it at all.

Perhaps this data can shift the conversation and approach to a more useful and motivating discussion: the nature of careers has shifted and so the nature of education and employment needs to shift as well.

Then we might make actual progress in addressing the perceived mismatch between the jobs available and the skills in the existing talent pool.

This originally appeared on China Gorman’s blog at ChinaGorman.com.

For more than 25 years, China Gorman has held strategic business leadership roles in the human capital management sector. She's currently the CEO for Great Place to Work, a company dedicated to improving society by helping companies create better workplaces. Well known for her tenure as Chief Operating Officer and interim CEO of SHRM (the Society for Human Resource Management), China also held the posts of President of DBM North America, and President of Lee Hecht Harrison, the global consulting division of Adecco, which became the performance leader in its industry under her leadership. Read her blog at ChinaGorman.com, and contact her at china@chinagorman.com.