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You're not the only one bemoaning the lack of qualified job candidates. It's happening in every industry and keeps getting worse. But what would you give for one great idea that could shape the future for the better?
HR talent management professionals have an opportunity to drive the kind of change necessary for a better workforce tomorrow. If the whole industry takes part, everyone will benefit now. Even better, the longer these strategies are used the better they'll work and the healthier the talent pool will be in the future.
If you're looking for a better way, here are three places to start.
#1: Become a Workforce Readiness Advocate
Workforce readiness is apparently not happening as a given anymore. Your industry and everyone else's needs advocates for a better-prepared workforce and research into what the skills gap costs.
Holding a degree doesn't give one the ability to communicate effectively. Neither does it guarantee basic math, writing, or reading comprehension skills. But a degree is still one of the most valued line items on a resume. According to a recent report by the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM), these are areas that need improvement as soon as possible:
- Written communication
- Oral communication
- Reading comprehension
- Basic computer skills
- Basic mathematics
If nothing changes with workforce readiness, the skills gap could get worse. Employers across numerous industries, such as IT, manufacturing, and even health care, report that entry-level new hires don't have the same skills as their predecessors. It's a situation that's starting to pinch.
#2: Communicate Industry Needs to High Schools and Colleges
So much focus is given to learning the hard skills necessary to perform a job. But so little is given to the foundational skills that enable a new graduate to use what they've learned effectively.
A newly graduated registered nurse knows how to perform certain tasks. They can administer medications and perform tests. But can they communicate well with other medical professionals and with their patients? If not, how does poor written and oral communication affect other nurses, doctors, and patients?
The best place to effect change is before a problem begins. SHRM says employers need to get involved now with these and other strategies for training a better workforce:
- Encourage high schools, colleges, and universities to redouble efforts on skills training, especially for high-demand jobs
- Give your input on educational programs
- Educate the educators about what skills employers consider most for advancement
- Offer internships to help students learn and also give perspective on why soft skills matter
- Develop training in-house for employees who need it
Getting Smart says HR is the ideal point of contact for schools. You may be asked to help develop teams that work with educators to overhaul outdated and ineffective programs to align more with what's needed today.
#3: Advocate for Skills Training Within Your Company
You can continue searching for better candidates and racking up higher and higher sourcing and hiring costs to find higher quality candidates. Or you can hire people with the right qualifications and offer soft skills training once they're on board. That's not a hard sell with HR, but it might be with company executives. SHRM says the latter is the only reasonable choice.
Company executives might change their mind about trying something new if they see the true costs, such as cost-per-hire, of doing nothing. HR spends more for sourcing and hiring with fewer unicorn candidates in the talent pool. The company suffers in productivity and customer service when employees lack basic skills.
As an advocate for skills training inside the company, you can help solve those immediate problems. You'll broaden your talent pool and help develop employees with leadership potential. Your best talent pool will be at your fingertips when a higher level position comes available. Development is also one of the better employee engagement ideas. The more growth opportunity they feel the less likely they'll fall prey to a recruiter with a shiny offer, leaving you with an empty position to fill. Those issues and more should be translated into costs for executive decision makers.
If you didn't know that advocacy was in your job description before, you'll probably feel it everywhere soon. As they say, something's gotta give.
Perfect candidates already have a job, so they're hard and costly to source. New graduates don't have many of the basic skills that they need, so they're not considered prime candidates. Sourcing takes longer now, cost-per-hire goes up, and every day, hiring becomes an increasingly difficult job.
With a directional shift, you can begin changing all of that. Start at the bottom and become a workforce readiness advocate. Help educators understand what their students really need for success and what's lacking now. Pull the true costs of the current hiring pain points into dollars and cents for company executives. Training and employee development doesn't just broaden your talent pool now, it enables hiring from within later.
It's within the power of HR to create the change that they need. The shape of the future workforce and the health of every business depends on someone taking action. It might as well be you.