Thursday, November 21, 2013

Could the “Skills Gap” be YOUR Competitive Edge?

by Karin Lindner

The job skills gap has been an ongoing subject of controversy. The problem is that while unemployment is high, many jobs remain unfilled because workers don't have the skills to fill them. I am convinced that if we keep blaming things on external circumstances, we limit ourselves from creating the change we want and need.

The conversations around the skills gap are astounding to me. Very rarely do I see anybody putting a positive spin on this much-publicized challenge.

Most companies clearly know what they don’t want, don’t have and don’t like, and this is also where their main focus and attention goes.   What would you think if I told you that this is an excellent opportunity to stay ahead of your competition?

Some companies have already started to refuse to accept the status quo. The companies that really get it have stopped blaming, moaning and whining. They leave their competitors in the dust and are doing something about it. Imagine that.

So what’s the difference between you and them? You are only one decision away from taking the bull by the horns.

Just recently I heard conversations again about importing skills from overseas to address a “more immediate solution”. Bravo, and with this choice we may as well travel back in time to the 1950’s and 60’s. We have done this before but it hasn’t solved the problem in the long run. Importing talent and skill is obviously an easy way out that doesn’t require any creative and innovative thought.

Can we really afford to ignore our high unemployment rate?
Would “importing talent and skill” help the population in North America to increase their standard of living?
Does this encourage our organizations to take a bigger step towards social responsibility?
How can we just standby and do nothing while a global message is being conveyed that North America doesn’t have enough talent, skill and creativity within the country?

I grew up in Austria but I have always looked at Canada and America as the land of endless possibilities. There was something magical about it. People were able to make things happen as long as they put their hearts and minds to it. Have we really lost the magic?

Just recently a business owner said to me, “I am not in the business of training people. I am in the business of making money.”

In his own way he is right. That’s his reality. This is his lens through which he views the world. It is unfortunate but he cannot “see” that there is a tremendous need for companies to provide on-the job training and education if they want to stay relevant. How else can we stay current in a constantly changing world?

There is no shortage of data suggesting that although many companies continue to complain about the so-called skills gap, few are taking steps to fix it. The CareerBuilder survey of 1,648 U.S. hiring managers and human resources professionals, released on November 14th, found that nearly 80 percent of managers are at least somewhat concerned about the skills gap, but only about 40 percent are doing anything to alleviate it.

According to a recent Adecco telephone survey of 500 top executives, ninety-two percent said there's a job skills gap. And of that overwhelming majority, nearly half believed the gap was in "soft skills"—communication, critical thinking, creativity and collaboration.

Some companies may be hurting because they can't find the right technical help, but I am certain that a lot more will suffer if they can't find people with basic communication skills.

Can it be that our organizations don’t spend enough on productivity and infrastructure? I feel that they want to replace the lack of skill and education with process improvements.

In Germany, companies incur the costs of their apprentices before they reap the benefits. Companies in North America are well advised to invest in their current and future employees. Many times I have noticed that employers don’t want to pay appropriate wages to recruit people with needed skills. If this is the case, we shouldn’t define it as skills gap. This is a mindset gap.

A business must know what it stands for and so must the employees who work there.

I have decided to start offering a “Sexy Webinar Series” – and one of them will be on the Skills Gap. Every day we each have countless opportunities all dictated by the choices we make. Many times the smallest shift in thinking or doing can create the biggest opportunity. Take advantage of this tremendous possibility.

These days it is essential to:

  • Challenge your beliefs about what you can and can’t do
  • Shift your focus and energy from complaining to taking action
  • Spot and attract talent and skill - no matter what
  • Get into the head of our Millennials
Of course it is up to you to decide what’s possible.

Some will hear, but not listen.
Some will listen, but not understand.
And some will understand, but not act.
….but the ones who hear, listen and act will go places.

Think about that.

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