Posts

The Future of Work: AI Transforms Career Progression

What is the shelf life of your professional skills? According to research, not very long. In fact, one in three skills from an average 2017 job posting in IT, finance, or sales is obsolete due to continued digital innovation. If that stat doesn’t shock you, it should. The skills we have today are expiring fast, with some experts estimating their life expectancy at just two to three years.

While we can’t place blame solely on the global COVID-19 pandemic, it and other world events have accelerated us toward an environment of unrelenting business transformation and permanently pixelated work arrangements. Employers must now prioritize a more inclusive, purpose-driven culture through broader strategic skilling investments to retain and attract top talent.

Leveraging AI for skill proximity

As our skills become increasingly outdated, new skills will replace them. So, how can employees expect to excel in their careers when today’s business landscape is continuously evolving? It boils down to one word: visibility. A barrier many employees face in the workplace is a lack of visibility into career advancement opportunities. Employees are also largely unaware of the resources and connections available to help them achieve their career goals. This obstacle stems, in part, from a prolonged debate regarding who within a business owns career development. Difficulties aligning the needs and wants of the employee with those of the organization has also contributed to the issue.

Through skills proximity, employers can provide greater visibility. Companies should prioritize an employee’s distance between skills and identify how skills correlate to expedite development. If businesses can find a balance between where employees want to take their careers and where they might be able to take their careers within the organization, they can recognize and foster the skills needed to help them grow.

AI technology has a role to play here. For employees to proactively pursue a growth plan that accelerates career mobility, we need to leverage AI to make skills data and qualification information readily available. Resurfacing relevant learning content and development opportunities is also paramount to an employee’s future success. Done right, it can deliver a broad range of business benefits too. Improved organizational agility and workforce productivity, as well as increased transparency and DE&I, are all advantages attributed to AI.

In addition to AI technology, learning and development content is another tool necessary to ignite career development at work. However, human resources and talent leaders first need to identify a way to connect learning and development to performance results–and annual performance reviews aren’t going to cut it.

Employees and businesses each play a role

There is no one size fits all approach to employee engagement. For employers to maximize the success of their training programs, they must first personalize the content available to each employee. Lessons should be adapted according to an employee’s needs, learning style, and preferred delivery method, in turn allowing the employee to more easily navigate their own development and gauge how their skill-maturity aligns with their overall career goals.

Businesses also need to reconsider how they measure learning and development. Self-directed learning pathways require an element of unstructured exploration required for career growth. Currently, however, course completion and time in course are the metrics being utilized. While important, we need to pivot and explore other factors, including course engagement and the focus of content employees primarily seek out.

Ultimately, employee learning is the foundation of high performance and a key motivator for those wanting to stay at their current company. According to LinkedIn’s 2021 Workplace Learning report, managers are 3.3x more likely to still be with their company in two years if offered the room to learn and grow. Proof that when you invest in people, they will invest in you.

Employee experience is critical for overall company success

The bottom line is the best way to help employees achieve their full potential is to provide career growth opportunities. An AI-driven platform can provide employees with a unified view of skills. It can provide a measurement of the proximity of different skills. Also, it can provide continuous monitoring of the new skills required for continued career progression. Organizations that utilize comprehensive skills data will have a better understanding of their talent’s existing skillsets. Additionally, they’ll understand what will be required of them in the future to adapt.

Between artificial intelligence and the careful deployment of skills-oriented content, anyone with the intrinsic motivation to grow can benefit.

Photo by Viesinsh

Conquer the Skills Gap: How to Quickly Upgrade Your Reskilling Strategy

The pandemic has only accelerated our ever-growing skills gap. However, there’s a silver lining to the chaos we’ve experienced this year. People have proved to be remarkably resilient. People are still the best resources to take on the disruption and close the skills gap. This is especially true when you consider the volatility of the external talent pool.

Yes, technology is outpacing human skills. Simultaneously, educational systems struggle to keep up with the urgency of new skills needed. Higher education is both too slow and too costly for reskilling to be effective in the near term. That said, if history has taught us anything, it’s that technology adoption may cause short-term labor displacement – but in the long run.

To effectively reskill in this rapidly changing environment, organizations must harness their greatest resource for skills potential by looking internally. The challenge then becomes how companies approach a reskilling strategy. We often see a top-down process, where leaders throw content or training at employees and expect them to get to work. This approach to talent development has never been effective. Even worse, it will undoubtedly fail when applied to the unique circumstances employees face today.

Instead, talent leaders need to design a holistic people development strategy. One that utilizes integrated technology to find the delicate balance between fulfilling the needs of their employees personally while giving them the tools to be successful at an organizational level. Only then will employees truly be enabled to reskill effectively and execute the business strategy.

Anticipate Skills Needs

In a recent study, McKinsey states that 87% of companies say they are experiencing a skills gap – or will in the next few years. Of those respondents, only a few have an understanding of how to prepare for the skills they’ll need most in the future.

As we can tell from this data point, companies are well aware of the looming skills gap issue. But they are lost at sea when it comes to understanding what to do about it. From that same study, 3 in 10 respondents say at least one-quarter of their organization’s roles are at risk of disruption in the next five years by these trends.

If you don’t know how to meet the skills needed, your first reaction will be to look outside the organization. But that’s a concern when you consider the cost of hiring. According to a  SHRM article, research suggests that a new hire can cost as much as 50% to 60% of an employee’s annual salary, with total costs associated with turnover ranging from 90% to 200% of annual salary. Further, finding new talent that fits into your culture is a feat in itself. Efficiency is what matters most now. So what companies need to do is rally around upskilling their current employees.

Leaders must tap into their own network to understand industry trends. They must decipher the needs required now (or those that will be soon) to develop their staff. To gain insight into the skills employees currently have and the skills required to do their job, start with a skills gap analysis. From there, providing performance management technology and tools that integrate to support holistic employee development is key.

Integrate Effectively

Companies are working hard to accommodate dispersed employees by keeping them connected and collaborating. Rather than adding an assortment of tools that don’t talk to each other, organizations must create a comprehensive strategy that includes mentoring, engagement, learning, and performance.

Mentoring

Most companies have created or adopted some kind of mentorship program to improve job satisfaction, provide personal and professional development, and retain their top employees. However, most of these mentorship programs have become stale and bureaucratic. As many organizations have learned, these programs aren’t a one-size-fits-all solution. Access to coaching and mentorship should be a continuous process and suited to an employee’s personal needs.

Engagement

The pandemic shook up our work-life balance, and the flexible work environment took its toll on engagement. Finding a tool that provides constant communication to employees and leadership is critical — especially for those working remotely. Continuous engagement shouldn’t mean micromanaging, however. Instead, support the employee’s personal needs and provide them with a positive work experience.

Learning

After leaders have identified all essential skills, leaders can provide the resources and content that cater to individual needs. An integrated Learning Module System (LMS) can equip employees with a database of information that promotes a culture of knowledge and learning.

Performance

In a survey, Forrester reports 74% of firms say they want to be “data-driven,” but only 29% are successful at connecting analytics to action. For an organization and its leaders to see the big picture, performance management technology must have detailed analytics. After all, reskilling efforts wouldn’t be relevant if you couldn’t track back to the original development strategy. Only then can you ensure each individual has made progress.

Technology shouldn’t be a hindrance to employees wanting to upskill. By consolidating tools, you’re saving time from going back and forth between systems, simplifying the work for managers, and allowing quicker decision-making.

Assess and Invest in Your People

Not everyone is facing the same challenges right now, but managers are responsible for providing the tools and resources for each employee that enable them to be efficient and productive. Moreover, LinkedIn’s 2019 Workplace Learning Report shows that 94% of employees say that they would stay at a company longer if it simply invested in helping them learn.

Closing the skills gap is an unmistakable need right now. Clearing the obstacles for employees to fill those gaps is an action that leaders must take. Finding the right fit with an integrated performance management solution can enable employees to reskill effectively and efficiently.

Photo: Anders Jildén

#WorkTrends: Assessing Digital Skills for Hiring Now

Remote work has gone from a luxury to a form of everyday survival, with technical, practical and cultural challenges. It has also shifted the hiring process further into the digital sphere — whether we like it or not. Sean O’Brien, Senior VP of Education at SAS, joined host Meghan M. Biro for this #WorkTrends podcast episode to discuss key strategies for hiring in today’s environment. That means not only knowing the competencies your organization needs, but also having the digital capabilities needed to hire now.

Whether you’re hiring people on-site or remotely, there’s one rule, Sean said, “Return to the fundamentals.” The first step is to ask the right questions: “What skills does my company need? How often? Which skills are the most important?”

And then, a clear way to assess potential applicants is not just on skills, but on potential to learn these skills. This means interviews in remote hiring scenarios need to focus more on demonstrating those necessary skills, Sean noted. For example, hands-on assessments, portfolios at-the-ready, and potential on-the-spot problem-solving can all be done over video. Meghan added that it’s important not to forget about establishing good eye contact, pointing out the need to present ourselves in the best light, whether in-person or in video meetings.

Sean also recommended that hiring managers rewrite job descriptions. Many are written poorly or in a generic way — without reflecting the company’s needs, and lacking language that acts as a filter to guide the right people to apply.

Meghan said this means that organizations must understand the skills they need. And given the turbulence and change going on now, that also means it may be necessary to hire an expert who can help. Sean agreed, “Depth of knowledge is necessary to be successful.”

Another smart strategy is to develop the talent already in your organization, by teaching your existing workforce the new digital skills they need to keep evolving and growing professionally.

Listen to the full conversation and see our questions for the related live #WorkTrends Twitter Chat. And don’t forget to subscribe to this podcast on iTunes, so you don’t miss an episode!

Twitter Chat Questions

Q1: Why do some organizations struggle with hiring for the right skills? #WorkTrends
Q2: What strategies can help accurately assess a potential hire’s skills? #WorkTrends
Q3: What can leaders do to bring the right skills into the organization? #WorkTrends

Find Sean O’Brien on Linkedin and Twitter

This post is sponsored by SAS.

Is There Really a Skills Gap?

A prosperous future for the world’s economy rests on the foundations we lay through our education and skills system, so it comes as sorry news to hear complaints we’re facing a skills shortage, or ‘skills gap’. That’s the message coming from employers the world over: workers, or the education system, or both, simply aren’t up to scratch.

In the UK, the ‘skills gap’ is much publicized: The long-awaited Sainsbury Report on Technical Education was published in April 2016, shortly followed by the CBI skills survey, The Right Combination. Reports such as these imply that the skills problems businesses face—skills gaps, shortages and mismatches—are owed squarely to supply side factors. There are also problems with basic skills, with the survey showing almost a third of businesses had concerns about the literacy and numeracy levels of their new recruits.

But if we’re going to tackle the skills gap, we’re going to need to know where to start. Let’s start in the UK, where the ‘skills gap’ resurfaced at the top of employers’ and governments’ concerns following the decision to leave the EU.

Where is the skills gap?

It’s not uncommon these days for the media to complain of a ‘skills gap’, but like all buzzwords, it comes with some ambiguity. Stormline conducted a study to investigate the realities and the myths held by the UK public with regards to the skills gap, but found that a third of participants couldn’t correctly identify a single occupation the government listed as in-demand. A fifth responded thinking the country needed more police, lawyers and government officials, despite none of these featuring among the most in-demand professions.

In reality, the most in-demand occupations are in engineering, medicine, visual effects, and other professions that require science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM) skills. Despite this necessity, only 1 in 5 participants thought science skills were in demand.

The Association of Colleges recruit for lecturers and support staff in FE colleges up and down the UK. They write that ensuring the supply of high quality STEM professionals to teach and support future STEM talent is paramount if we are to collectively solve the skills challenge in the UK’s high tech industries. With the STEM sector expected to need an additional 160,000 engineers, scientists and technicians every year by 2020, it’s an area of critical need.

The digital industry is also among those facing the biggest skills shortage. It’s one field where the jobs market has shifted along with rapid advances in technology, which brings with it brand new skill sets and careers: UX (user experience) designers, social media analysts and online community managers – roles that barely existed 10 years ago. Digital skills sometimes come in the shape of periphery tactics, such as website monitoring, CRM management and search knowledge. The British Chamber of Commerce’s 2014 workforce survey found that when hiring, two-thirds of businesses believe this tech knowledge is key, and demand continues to grow.

We need to learn what Brexit means for the skills gap

According to the latest figures, there are 2.1 million European Union immigrants working in the UK. EU migrants provide the British economy with vital skills across such industries as construction, engineering and IT, as well as making a big contribution to the healthcare sector—11 percent of all NHS staff are not British. The games industry is one particular area where trade bodies are concerned over the effect of the UK leaving the EU.

If Britain’s withdrawal from the EU results in a reduction in the number of skilled workers from abroad, it’s likely to force the Government and businesses to invest more in training and development. It’s good news, then, that a new Skills for London taskforce, emerged in Brexit’s wake.

A report from the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) calls for a policy focus aimed at re-engaging young unemployed people with education and the labour market, including through ‘second-chance’ training schemes. It also suggests employers can help by building on the quantity and quality of apprenticeships and improving the school-to-work transition.

And more general careers advice was also seen as important in a separate survey by the Baker Dearing Educational Trust, which found that young people entering the job market benefited from direct contact with employers, work experience placements and talks from professionals when it came to finding suitable pathways into industry. It’s vital employers show an awareness of common worries and anxieties that young people have in the crucial transition-into-work period, and offer workplace support by fostering confidence and a sense of self-worth.

However, don’t be too quick to decry a skills gap

A report published in OCUFA’s Journal of Academic Matters considers the skills gap is largely a myth. In one report on ‘The persistent myth of the “skills gap”’ in Canada, the author writes: “The skills gap takes the onus off employers to pay decent wages and train workers, blaming labour market failings on workers instead.”

Elsewhere, there are reports that the skills gap is less about skills shortages, rather, it’s about skills mismatch. A Survey of Adult Skills in 24 OECD countries also confirms that more of the adult workforce is over-skilled than under-skilled. Another comprehensive review of studies from the United States published in 2014 showed that many workers are in fact overqualified for their jobs. So what is going wrong?

Well, there’s a chance candidates are being overlooked. As noted in Alphr, junior applicants are far more likely to get hired if they have a degree in a specific field. “From what we’ve seen, and what the data shows us, having formal education is important to a lot of employers. It’s just a way for them to filter and differentiate.” Why? A report from Hired entitled ‘Mind the Gap’ showed that in many companies, the HR staff responsible for hiring talent aren’t trained in the technical skills for which they are recruiting. A formal degree qualification, therefore, acts as an easy signal.

SAP is a technology solutions provider, and both the company and the industry are one of the world’s largest employers. According to specialists recruiting for positions in SAP industries, finding success in job applications is down to effective communication. As Daniel Patel, SAP Delivery Director for Eursap reveals in a blog on writing an SAP CV: “If I am searching for an SAP SuccessFactors Learning Management System specialist for example, I would normally check the document for some specific keywords using the Ctrl-F search function. I would check for ‘SuccessFactors’ and ‘Learning Management System’ and see how many times each of these was mentioned.”

Keywords relating to specific industries, in this case SAP, are vital in order to lead a recruiter by the nose. Prospective employees must enable employers to determine the relevant skills they possess more easily.

It might not be about skills after all

Despite the increase in technical and skilled professions, employers have been shown to be more likely to rate “attitude to work” as more important than qualifications.

Rod Bristow, president of Pearson UK, told CBI: “Employers don’t just value what people know; they value what they can do. By far the most important ‘skills factor’ centers on attitudes.” In fact, the most important factor for employers when recruiting school and college leavers is their attitude to work (89 percent) followed by their aptitude for work (66 percent). These rank well ahead of formal qualifications, which recorded just 23 percent. Commitment to the industry, whether formally trained or not, might just be one solution to tackle the skills gap.

Photo Credit: simon.mccabe.5 Flickr via Compfight cc

This Workplace Merry-Go-Round Never Slows

“Midway hawkers calling
‘Try your luck with me’
Merry-go-round wheezing
The same old melody…”

—Neil Peart (Lakeside Park)

We became carnies for a day – midway hawkers calling out from our very own front yard. The main reason was to make some quick cash since my sister and I had already blown through our weekly allowance. It was summertime, decades ago, when I was 12 and she was 10.

School was out so we had to promote our little Saturday carnival via the neighborhood kids and the viral word of mouth. At 10 the morning of, after our mom had left to run errands, we taped the big poster to the garage door that read:

Carnival Today – 10:30-12:30. All games 25 cents. Everybody Wins!

We hung colorful balloons from the mailbox and set up chairs, TV trays and a folding table in the front yard. We used an old cigar box for our cash register. We then pulled out beaten up boxes we had dragged out from the garage full of old games and toys and set them up on the table as prizes. A few of the toys were in good shape, but most had broken or missing parts, especially the games.

My sister was the mastermind of the operation. She created a series of actual carnival games from everyday items around the house, some of which included a ring toss with our mom’s wooden and metal bracelets and Pepsi bottles; a lawn dart toss with real metal darts; and a baseball throw using my old little league baseballs and some of our expendable stuffed animals to knock down. To keep the littler kids occupied during carnival, we turned on our Slip-N-Slide at the other end of the front yard.

At first I felt a little guilty that we gave away our old toys and games to the kids as prizes. That lasted until noon after we had raked in the dough, about $10 in total. We couldn’t have been happier with our entrepreneurial endeavor and were already planning how we’d spend the loot at the mall that afternoon.

Never mind the part about some of the parents coming to our house that night asking for refunds and returning our broken toys and games. That’s not the point.

No, the point is that my sister’s been hawking herself and her skills her entire life. I’ve been a exuberant hawker myself; adapt or perish, as I found out quite readily during the past five years alone. Most of us have learned to do the same.

For as long as we’re trying to earn a buck and turn it into two, we have to shape and hawk our wares. On a merry-go-round wheezing the same old melody. That’s the perpetual carnie candidate experience – from individual contributor to captain of industry.

“Try your luck with me!”

Where lady luck is nothing but a game of chance weighted in your favor with sought-after skills and circumstance. And a better marketplace as well. Hey, hiring plans across the board are favorable:

  • According to the recent Vistage CEO confidence index survey, 62 percent of respondents plan to expand their workforce in the year ahead, up from 56 percent in the fourth quarter of 2013 and the highest since the first quarter of 2006.
  • CareerBuilder’s annual job survey found that 36 percent of employers expect to add permanent, full-time staff this year. That’s a 50 percent increase over what employers said at the beginning of 2014.
  • Released in early December, Manpower’s Employment Outlook Survey of 18,000+ employers found a seasonally adjusted 19 percent of them plan to add staff in the first quarter alone.

Lady luck indeed. Every startup founder to CEO to CHRO to board member knows (or better know) the right people can mean the difference between boom or bust (including themselves), which is why organizations are moving away from how they source and categorize their people and toward a unified workforce that’s managed for results regardless of employment status. We’re talking full-time folks and freelancers.

According to Staffing Industry Analysts (SIA), temporary workers currently make up 15 percent of the workforce and are predicted to climb to 20 percent by 2016. In fact, contingent workers can make up more than 50% of the workforce, especially at tech companies, where contractors or freelancers are hired for their expertise. It’s called the “blended workforce,” although more accurately should be called the “fluid workforce” since 40% of contingent workers convert eventually to permanent roles.

Plus, a recent study by the Freelancers Union suggests that one in three members of the American workforce do some freelance work, which does include a higher proportion of younger people. The on-demand economy is crazy hot!

But even with all this exciting and disruptive workplace economic change not seen since the early part of the 20th century, the new how and why of work, the “sourcing the right” skills race continues to heighten dramatically. In fact, according to a soon-to-be-released PeopleFluent talent strategy survey, over 50% of respondent companies said recruiting hard-to-find skills in both leaders and employees is one of main issues keeping them up at night.

That mantra continues with the same Vistage CEO confidence index survey referenced above revealing that the high demand for skilled labor, specifically finding, hiring and training staff, was mentioned about three times as frequently as financial issues or economic uncertainty.

“Try your luck with me – if you can find me!”

The 2014 Candidate Experience Awards report will be released soon (also known as the CandEs), and part of the latest data from nearly 150 companies and 95,000 candidates includes the fact that 30 percent of candidates actively researched and applied for jobs for more than 16 weeks before landing one (or giving up).

Plus, the vast majority of these candidates, the ones that either weren’t selected or simply gave up trying, were never asked for further feedback on the recruiting process, whether they were notified by the company the process was ending or they withdrew on their own. This continues to be a big missed opportunity to better understand what may have been “missed” on both sides during any part of the recruiting process, including the “why” of skills disparity and what both sides should do about it.

The complexity of this situation is compounded by the fact that more and more of the work that “knowledge professionals” deliver will be automated by magic algorithms and software, and skill flexibility and fluidity will be the new currency – constantly being assessed by magic algorithms and software.

“Try your luck with me – please?!?”

So let me wrap it all up now with this idea, one shared with us in full by Brian Carter and Garrison Wynn on the TalentCulture #TChat Show, co-authors of The Cowbell Principle. Yes, a metaphor based on the SNL skit of the cowbell namesake. For individuals, a cowbell is a talent or gift. For businesses, it’s a durable competitive advantage.

The key to happiness and success is knowing who you are and how to succeed with hawking your best stuff. Your cowbell gives your value to people and they (hopefully) love you (and invest in you) for it. But do make sure you target those “investors” that align with your best stuff.

Today more companies are asking candidates to show more of their skills and talents up front in the form of virtual job tryouts, and 25 percent of candidates who responded to the CandEs solved a puzzle, problem or case situation relevant for the job they applied to.

We’re all in this never-ending game of workplace chance and we’ve got to practice, practice, practice our ring tossing to get a ringer. It’s not impossible to win once in a while either – if we continuously develop the skills that are deemed relevant, in demand and economically valuable, and learn how to continuously hawk the hell out of them to maximize our unique differentiating strengths.

Because this workplace merry-go-round ain’t ever slowing down for us carnies.

“Try your luck with us – a winner every time!”

About the Author: Kevin W. Grossman co-founded and co-hosts the highly popular weekly TalentCulture #TChat Show with Meghan M. Biro. He’s also currently the Product Marketing Director for Total Talent Acquisition products at PeopleFluent.

photo credit: mbtrama via photopin cc

5 Skills Gaps Employers Need To Address

It’s no surprise that one of the biggest challenges hiring managers face is finding well-rounded candidates with strong skill sets.

Over recent years, multiple studies have addressed the growing skills gap and how to fix it. However, this has caused many employers and job seekers to think that the “skills gap” is a single catch-all for any employee or job seeker who lacks a needed skill.

What’s important to understand, though, is every field faces its own unique skills gap.

Instead of looking at the skills gap as a single, large issue, let’s break it down into five prominent skills gaps employers need to address:

1. Digital media skills

Research shows that 77 percent of companies believe their lack of digital skills is the reason their business hasn’t been able to adapt to new digital trends. When more than 90 percent of companies don’t have skills in social media, mobile media, and internal social networks, it can be difficult to keep your business moving forward.

Employers can address this skills gap by investing time and money into the development of digital skills. Employers can offer training programs for employees in order to teach them about the company’s digital strategy and give them the tools they need to be successful in the digital world.

2. Soft skills

Although hard skills are important for employees to have, soft skills are more likely to help employees increase their performance in the workplace.

Despite the importance of soft skills, 44 percent of senior executives believe this is a weakness for employees. Many employees lack strong skills in communication, creativity, critical thinking, and collaboration.

To address this skills gap, employers should provide continuous learning opportunities for their employees. Workshops, seminars, and team-building activities can boost the aforementioned soft skills.

3. Marketing skills

The marketing field is constantly evolving, and marketing professionals need to keep up with the latest trends and strategies.

Marketing professionals need to understand various content marketing skills including analytics, SEO, marketing automation, and e-commerce. Employers can provide training in these areas, which will help them develop stronger marketing professionals and tighten the skills gap.

4. Skilled trades and retiring Baby Boomers

In 2012, more than half of skilled-trade workers were 45 years of age or older. According to Adecco, one-third of senior executives believe the manufacturing industry will be most affected by the skills gap.

To address this change in the workforce, employers must actively recruit younger employees and provide training. This will help employers maintain a streamline of skilled talent, even after Baby Boomers retire.

5. STEM skills

STEM careers are expected to grow 17 percent by 2018. Unfortunately, employers believe 12 percent of workers lack software skills and 22 percent lack technical skills.

One way employers can improve this skills gap is to provide on-the-job training and certification for different softwares and technologies. This will allow employees to continuously learn new technologies and keep up with the latest trends in their industry.

The skills gap is a growing issue for employers and it can only be resolved if employers take action. By taking note of these skills gaps, employers will improve their training programs and develop more skilled employees.

What do you believe are some prominent skills gaps employers must address?

Josh Tolan is the CEO of Spark Hire, a video interview solution used by more than 2,000 companies across the globe. Learn more about using video interviewing to jump the skills gap and connect with Spark Hire on Facebook and Twitter.

photo credit: only alice via photopin cc

4 Ways Other Countries Are Closing The Skills Gap

Although unemployment in the U.S. has been steadily decreasing, taking a closer look at the numbers uncovers a scary gap: of the 9.5 million unemployed, there are still 4.6 million jobs open.

This is largely driven by a growing skills gap we are facing in trade professions. According to a study by CareerBuilder, 54 percent of employers are sitting with open positions that they can’t find qualified candidates for.

This challenge isn’t just plaguing the U.S., though. According to a study by McKinsey, one-third of employers across Europe have said that lack of skills is causing major business problems.

As a result, countries around the world are taking a close look at how they can close this gap. Here are some of the things they are doing:

Apprenticeship Programs

An article in The New York Times cites that 868,700 people in Britain completed apprenticeships last year, which was up 77 percent from three years ago. About half of the programs were designed for 16 to 18-year-olds.

The challenge in finding individuals to take part in these programs was a result of the negative reputation that apprenticeships have. During the peak of apprenticeship in the mid-19th century, programs expanded from artisan trade to industries like engineering and manufacturing. However, the introduction of accessible full-time education began to paint the picture of apprentices as people who didn’t have the intelligence or resources to go to a real university.

Germany, however, still places a lot of emphasis on apprenticeship programs. The country requires every trade worker to undergo a three-year apprenticeship. According to an article in NPR, they work for three or four days a week at a company and then go to school for the other one or two days. The Chamber of Commerce awards the certificates and set standards for what is taught in these vocational schools.

With the government involved, companies are guaranteed a fully skilled and qualified trade worker. This in turn increases the validity and value of these workers.

Equal Importance: College Education and Skilled Workers

Today’s society — in the U.S. and abroad — views a full-time college education as a much more acceptable and even required step to take before entering the workforce. This has greatly hurt the skilled trades area, which is generally not part of a four-year college degree.

However, with very successful entrepreneurs like Mark Zuckerberg making bold statements that college isn’t necessary to be successful, young students are starting to change their mindset on the importance of a college degree. This is great news for the skilled trade professions.

Germany has done a great job assimilating trade skills within their culture and placing validity on this type of education with strong apprenticeship programs. Additionally, companies in countries like Vietnam are training individuals who feel these trade skills will provide a good future.

Similar to the importance that has been put on STEM degrees in the U.S., companies need to play a role in bringing more validity and importance to skilled trades. Talk to students about the need for individuals with these skills and the type of career path they could have with it. For students, not having to leave college tens of thousands of dollars in debt can sound very appealing if they know they can still have a good future ahead of them.

Open Discussions to Close the Gap

According to the McKinsey report, employers, education providers and young people do not understand each other and operate in “parallel universes.”

To put things into perspective, in Europe, 74 percent of education providers were confident that their graduates were prepared for work, but only 38 percent of youth and 35 percent of employers agreed. Germany and the United Kingdom reported that most employers communicated with education providers at least several times a year, but only employers in Spain reported their interaction with education providers were effective.

Within the U.S., employers must start having much more open dialogue with those responsible for educating youth and the youth themselves. Everyone should understand the needs of today’s workforce so society can work toward the same goals. Getting students involved in programs in high school or college to get them excited about certain areas of work is a great way to do this and to help them understand what skills are truly needed in the professional world.

Company-Run Universities

Company universities not only allow companies to align their employees with their strategic vision and initiatives, but they can also ensure all employees have all the appropriate training needed. Putting more emphasis on this type of education that more closely involves the business sector can help to shorten the skills gap and train young professionals on these trade skills.

According to an article in the Wall Street Journal, Vietnam-based IT company FPT introduced the FPT University, which has expanded its facilities to become the country’s biggest IT university. The university has been steadily growing as more students come in with a career aspiration to be an IT technician because it is seen as a stable career path. The country’s IT infrastructure continues to grow, and U.S. tech companies like IBM and Apple have started to partner with companies like FPT to recruit their skilled workers.

The skills gap is not only affecting our country, but the entire world. With our ability to connect to anyone anywhere, we need to begin learning from each other’s successes and failures and finding a solution to this problem. If we don’t, we could face a very unstable and uncertain future.

Apply Now

(About the Author: Josh Tolan is the CEO of Spark Hire, a video interview solution used by more than 2,000 companies across the globe. Learn more about using video interviewing to jump the skills gap and connect with Spark Hire on Facebook and Twitter.)

photo credit: Βethan via photopin cc

Generation X at Bat #TChat Recap

Do you ever wish you could instantly capture expert advice or opinions from across the World of Work?

Here’s an easy solution: Just ask a quick question on Twitter about generational differences in today’s workplace. Even better, ask that question during a #TChat event. I guarantee that, within moments, you’ll be drinking from a fire hose of thoughtful, passionate, articulate responses!

That’s exactly what we experienced on the #TChat stream last night with special guest, Mark Babbitt. As founder + CEO of YouTern, an organization that helps young professionals grow through high-impact information, mentorships and internships, Mark has developed strong opinions about the silent strength that Generation X brings to the workforce.

Do You Mind If I Talk About Your Age?

We were curious if the TalentCulture community agrees with Mark’s perspective. And we wondered how important generational similarities and differences are in shaping tomorrow’s organizations.

The conversation exposed what at first blush, might seem like opposing viewpoints. For example, on one hand, many participants emphasized the benefits of celebrating diversity:

“It’s not one-size-fits-all.” …and… “Let’s value the differences.” …and as Tom Bolt suggested…

Meanwhile, other participants emphasized the importance of focusing on similarities:

“Empower people; stop focusing on generations.” …and… “There are inspired, innovative, connected people in every generation.” …and as Kelly Blokdijk noted…

Of course, upon reflection, these perspectives are really two sides of the same coin. Both hold truths that can propel organizations forward.

But key questions remain — HOW BEST can we bring together both ends of this spectrum to create more effective organizational cultures? And how prepared is our next wave of leaders to accomplish that mission? Whenever human behavior is involved, there are many roads to the same destination. Some paths have many more detours and roadblocks. Organizations need smart navigators. Meanwhile, the business world continues to grow more complex and challenging. That’s why we’ll need extraordinary leaders in the future — regardless of their generation.

What’s Age Got To Do With It?

In the meantime, we look to one another for guidance. It’s actually phenomenal how much information has been created and shared about generations in the workplace. And yet organizations still struggle with how to “make it work.”

Just for fun, consider this quick, unscientific peek at the magnitude of commentary available online:

GOOGLE SEARCH RESULTS:
“Millennials” work = 39,000,000
“Boomers” work = 37,000,000
“Generation X” work = 3,260,000

You’d think there are enough nuggets of wisdom in there to help us understand and resolve these issues. But ideas, alone, aren’t the answer. Action is also required.

I wonder what “old-school” sage, the late Peter Drucker, would have said about this, if he had joined #TChat Twitter last night? Perhaps only this:

“If you want something new, you have to stop doing something old.”

After all, no matter how old or young we are, that’s really the only path to progress.

So let’s keep the ideas flowing. Let’s keep the lines of communication open. Let’s share what works, and toss out what doesn’t. But most of all, let’s encourage one another to be bold and try “something new.” Let’s keep trying, and learning, and growing, and evolving. Let’s look forward to creating that “new” future together!

#TChat Week-In-Review: Gen X — Leading From The Middle

MarkB

Watch the Hangout now

SAT 10/12:

#TChat Preview:
TalentCulture Community Manager Tim McDonald framed this week’s topic in a post that featured a brief G+ Hangout video with guest Mark Babbitt. Read the Preview: “Gen X: Leading From The Middle.”

SUN 10/13:

Forbes.com Post: TalentCulture CEO, Meghan M. Biro suggested how leaders can overcome generational differences. Read: “5 Ways Leaders Bridge the Generational Divide.”

TUE 10/15:

Related Post: Dan Newman, author of “The Millennial CEO,” examined the source of effective leadership. Read: “Anatomy of a Leader: Not Just Skin Deep.”

WED 10/16:

TChatRadio_logo_020813

Listen to the radio show now

#TChat Radio: Our hosts, Meghan M. Biro and Kevin W. Grossman spoke with special guest, Mark Babbitt, about the unique challenges and opportunities that Generation X faces in today’s world of work. Listen to the radio recording now!

#TChat Twitter: Immediately following the radio show, Mark, Meghan and Kevin joined the entire community on the #TChat Twitter stream for an open conversation about 5 related questions. For highlights, check the Storify slideshow below:

#TChat Highlights: Gen X: Leading From The Middle

[javascript src=”//storify.com/TalentCulture/tchat-insights-gen-x-leading-from-the-middle.js?template=slideshow”]

Closing Notes & What’s Ahead

GRATITUDE: Thanks again to Mark Babbitt for adding your voice to this week’s discussion. Your insights about Gen X have helped challenge our assumptions and expand our understanding.

NOTE TO BLOGGERS: Did this week’s events prompt you to write about the multi-generational workforce? We’d love to share your thoughts. Post a link on Twitter (include #TChat or @TalentCulture), or insert a comment below, and we’ll pass it along.

WHAT’S AHEAD: Next week, we tackle another important “world of work” topic. So save the date (October 23) for another rockin #TChat double header. And keep an eye out for details in the next few days.

Meanwhile, the World of Work conversation continues! So join us on the #TChat Twitter stream, on our LinkedIn discussion group. or elsewhere on social media. The lights are always on here at TalentCulture, and your thoughts are always welcome.

See you on the stream!

Image Credit: Stock.xchng

Gen X: Leading From The Middle #TChat Preview

(Editor’s Note: Are you looking for a complete overview of the week’s #TChat highlights and resource links? Read the #TChat Recap: “Generation X At Bat.”)

I just discovered that I’m exceptional! Or to be more accurate, I’m unconventional.

I’m a member of Gen X — and according to those who analyze age-related attributes, I should feel disadvantaged and overlooked in the workplace. Fortunately, I’ve had an interesting and rewarding career path, so perhaps I just got lucky. Or perhaps the assumptions aren’t as universal as we think.

But that raises some related questions — Just how “real” is the generational divide at work? And what do those differences mean, as Baby Boomers begin to retire, and a new wave of leaders steps up to drive the world of work?

Last week at #TChat Twitter, our community collectively agreed that the office is no place for age discrimination. However, for better or worse, each generation brings a unique set of shared experiences to the workplace. Are Baby Boomers and Millennials stealing attention from those of us who are “in the middle”? If so, what kind of impact will that have on the future of work?

This week, we’re addressing those questions head-on. We want to give Gen X the attention it deserves. And we’ve invited an ideal expert to lead the discussion:

Mark Babbitt, Founder + CEO of YouTern, an organization that helps young talent develop professionally through high-impact mentors, internships and information.

I spoke with Mark briefly in a joint G+ Hangout, where he set the stage for this week’s topic:

No matter what generation you represent, we want to hear your thoughts about how organizations can prepare tomorrow’s leaders for success. So please join us, and bring your ideas and opinions!

#TChat Events: Gen X — Leading From The Middle

TChatRadio_logo_020813

Tune-in to the #TChat Radio show

#TChat Radio — Wed, Oct 16 — 6:30pmET / 3:30pmPT

Our hosts, Meghan M. Biro and Kevin W. Grossman talk with Mark Babbitt about the unique challenges and opportunities that Generation X faces in today’s world of work. Follow the action LIVE online, and dial-in with your feedback and questions!

#TChat Twitter — Wed, Oct 16 7pmET / 4pmPT

Immediately following the radio show, we’ll move this discussion to the #TChat Twitter stream for an open chat with the entire TalentCulture community. Anyone with a Twitter account is invited to participate, as we address these questions:

Q1: Gen X is “forgotten” in today’s workforce — myth or reality?
Q2: How can Gen Xers elevate their visibility and value at work?
Q3: Why is it smart for employers to empower all generations?
Q4: How can today’s leaders develop tomorrow’s decision makers?
Q5: What could technology do to remove generational barriers?

Throughout the week, we’ll keep the discussion going on the #TChat Twitter feed and on our LinkedIn Discussion Group. So please join us share your questions, ideas and opinions.

We’ll see you on the stream!

Did You Learn Today? Pass It On

“To teach is to learn twice.”  –J. Joubert

I love my work. But there are challenges (understatement). Keeping pace with 21st-century talent and technology trends means commitment to a perpetual learning curve.

The “human side” of business is now a vast and fluid domain. It’s a melting pot, churning in overdrive, with talent-recruitment-engagement-performance-management-HR-bigdata-leadership-development-socialmedia-and-career-skills all colliding and transforming at every turn. Each day brings more than anyone can absorb. We all feel it. This sensory overload is the new norm.

Learning as a Way of Life

I can’t stop learning (and couldn’t if I wanted to). My career demands nothing less. I just got back from an exciting HR conference in Philly where I met fascinating, bright, dedicated people, and discovered jaw-dropping, radically innovative tools. In a word, I learned.

To be honest, there is nothing in the world I love more than learning — anywhere, anytime. Exchanging ideas in any social environment is an experience that makes my pulse race. And these days, I often feel like I’m experiencing a non-stop adrenaline rush!

It’s exhilarating to see smart people rewriting rules (even at this moment). And although it’s often exhausting to be at the heart of a global learning community like TalentCulture, I also feel alive and engaged every day. I hope you feel that way, too — and that’s why you participate.

Learning as Leverage for Others

Along with the adrenaline highs, sometimes on this “world of work” odyssey, I’m exposed to alarming challenges. And as my friend Angela Maiers explains, one of the most alarming issues today is the increasing shortage of skilled talent. It’s a reality that the business world can no longer afford to ignore.

Simply put — we are not preparing students sufficiently for today’s economy — let alone for the future of work.

On one hand, this leaves behind millions of potential workforce contributors who are considered unemployable by most standards. On the other hand, companies are struggling to find qualified talent for unfilled positions. Adding insult to injury, companies have slashed recruiting and development budgets to the bone in recent years, while simultaneously increasing their expectations for finding capable talent. This is not a recipe for success.

We Can Matter — As Mentors

AngelaLg

See the #TChat Preview & sneak-peek video

Something must change. I know that TalentCulture community understands this.

The good news is that each of us is equipped to lead the way — with whatever time, knowledge and skills we have available. Even more good news — there are ready-made ways to “pay-it-forward” as mentors. And one of those ways is through Angela Maiers’ bold educational initiative, Choose2Matter.

Angela isn’t waiting for government or big business or educational institutions to fix the problem. Instead, she’s using her brains, her passion and her professional network to unleash a tiny movement that can make a lasting difference in the future of every student that Choose2Matter touches.

This fearless approach to “future-proofing” our nation is why Choose2Matter’s leaders are joining us this week on #TChat Radio, and on our #TChat Twitter Chat (see the preview: “Business Case for Mentoring”). And it’s why TalentCulture is committed to support Choose2Matter, going forward.

Together we can bridge the skills gap, one student at a time. All it takes is enthusiasm, business experience, and a commitment of your time to help students work productively toward their dreams.

The goal is to encourage the genius in every child. The kids are ready. So let’s give these amazing dreamers the support they need to achieve to their fullest potential. As a talent development champion, I’m in. Why not join me?

(Editor’s Note: To learn more about Angela’s point of view, read her TalentCulture blog post, “Creating Future Leaders: A Mission That Matters. Or listen to her appearance on the #TChat Radio Show: “Choose to Bridge the Skills Gap.”)

Image Credit: Pixabay

Business Case for Mentoring: #TChat Preview

(Editor’s Note: Looking for a full recap of the week’s events and information? See “1 Million+ Ways to Bridge the Skills Gap: #TChat Recap”)

Talent-in-Training: Where’s the Beef?

The future of business and innovation depends on a generation of students who — unfortunately — are learning in an educational environment that is largely irrelevant and uninspiring.

Employers increasingly demand skills that the workforce is not prepared to deliver. There’s a massive disparity between school curricula and business expectations. And communication between educators and business organizations is broken.

How can we turn this situation around to win the hearts, minds and imaginations of tomorrow’s leaders?

According to education adviser, advocate and writer, Angela Maiers, it begins when accomplished, real-world professionals make a commitment to mentor and encourage today’s students. And, as she explained to me in the brief #TChat Sneak Peek video above, it’s never too soon to start.

#TChat Events: Bridging the Skills Gap for Tomorrow

I think Angela makes a compelling case. Do you? Can business mentors fill the gap? What role should schools play in fostering student/business connections? And how can talent-minded digital communities like ours help advance this agenda?

Fortunately, this week at #TChat forums, we’ll have an opportunity to explore these and related issues with Angela and her Choose2Matter partner, Mark Moran.

Join the TalentCulture conversation this week, and let’s explore the possibilities:

TChatRadio_logo_020813

Listen to the #TChat Radio show recording

#TChat Radio: Tuesday May 7, 7:30pmET/4:30pmPT

Angela and Mark talk live with hosts, Kevin W. Grossman and Meghan M. Biro about how to address the workforce skills gap now and in the future.

#TChat Twitter: Wednesday, May 8, 7:00pmET/4:00pmPT

Follow our Twitter hashtag and be part of an open, collective conversation, as we explore these issues with Angela and Mark:

Q1:  Why do you think education is falling short in the U.S.? Or do you?

Q2:  What can companies do to improve their expectation/investment disparity?

Q3:  How can mentoring help make the unemployable employable again?

Q4:  How can business leaders help bridge the skills gap and create jobs?

Q5:  What technologies will help enable education-rich organizations?

Throughout the week, we’ll keep the discussion going on the #TChat Twitter feed and on our new LinkedIn Discussion Group. So please join us anytime, and share your questions, ideas and opinions. Just add “#TChat” to your posts, so others in the community can follow the action.

We’ll see you on the stream!

(Editor’s Note: To learn more about Angela’s point of view, read her TalentCulture blog post, “Creating Future Leaders: A Mission That Matters. Or listen to her December 2012 appearance on #TChat Radio “Back to the Future” Edition — when she discussed key trends in talent acquisition and development.)

The Business of Talent: Magic? #TChat Recap

A Really Big Show…

Sleight of hand. Misdirection. Levitation. The Grand Illusion. Sounds like a great Vegas act. But is this any way to describe “people” practices in today’s world of work?

Truthfully, we’ve all seen it and felt it. Many of us have developed mastery at it. Even when it’s unintended, a bit of smoke-and-mirrors comes in handy when working the crowd on the “talent” side of the house.

No worries. Your secret is safe here. #TChat isn’t a confessional, but those of us who’ve been responsible for aspects of talent acquisition, development or performance management have learned what works well enough to comply with business rules and get the job done. But how well is that working for the organization?

We’re Not in Kansas Anymore

It’s not that we’re not trying to be more accountable and transparent. Besides, new social tools and technologies are shining light up our sleeves, for better or worse.

However, we are naturally stalwart creatures of comfort and habit — we don’t adapt easily. Incrementally perhaps, but not easily. It’s tempting to fall back on the same old tricks of the trade, even as external catalysts are forcing us to change for the better. Progress isn’t necessarily linear movement.

For example, consider the conversation we had this week with #TChat Radio guest, Josh Bersin. Josh is the Founder and Principal of Bersin by Deloitte, leading provider of research-based membership programs in human resources (HR), talent and learning.

Among other things, Josh shed light on factors that are driving the global disparity between skills demand and supply. One point in particular — new talent selection, mobility and succession planning have long been determined primarily by gut instinct.

A Capable Workforce = Sustainable Magic

But saying that talent strategies should focus on hard skills is no longer magical enough. The softer skills — communication, empathy, team-building — are just as integral to selection and development, if not more so.

Josh looks at challenges in human capital management through this more strategic lens. It’s what he calls capabilities development, where both hard and soft skills are addressed in a holistic way. As organizations reinforce and expand these combined capabilities in real-time, and provide flexible context that responds to workforce competencies, we can expect business performance to improve.

The foundation is solid – we’re now able to glean useful talent insights from powerful tools that help us process and analyze the disparate “people” data we’ve held in cold storage for decades. And other technologies are enabling continuous learning and development, across business functions, and throughout the entire employee life cycle. High art, indeed.

Showtime!

Of course, magic shows still have their place — marketing spin helps to attract, retain and entertain. Meanwhile, we can feel confident relying more on science than art to inform our instincts as we move forward with workforce decisions. Talent-minded professionals are limited only by our willingness to adapt. We can lead by example.

#TChat Week-in-Review

If you missed any of this week’s events – or to revisit insights anytime – just follow the links below…

SUN 3/17  TalentCulture CEO, Meghan M. Biro, kicked off the week by looking at how strong leaders are strong learners in her Forbes.com post: “The New Rules of Leadership.”

TChatRadio_logo_020813

Listen to the recorded show with Josh Bersin…

MON 3/18  #TChat Weekly Preview laid out key questions for the week: “Learning, Leadership and Talent”

TUE 3/19  #TChat Radio Show: Josh Bersin discussed how market factors and technology innovation are leading organizations to dramatically shift fundamental “people” practices – including talent acquisition, development and performance management. The 30-minute show is packed with insights for HR and learning professionals, as well as business managers.

WED 3/29  #TChat Twitter: The TalentCulture community showed up in full force at our weekly Twitter forum to report from the trenches about their experiences and ideas. Check out these highlights from the conversation…

#TChat Twitter Highlights Slideshow: Learning, Leadership and Talent

[javascript src=”//storify.com/TalentCulture/tchat-insights-learning-leadership-and-talent.js?template=slideshow”]

Closing Notes & What’s Ahead

THANKS: Again, thanks to Josh Bersin for joining us this week, to help us understand how organizations can better leverage talent in today’s world of work. Your expertise and insights are invaluable to our community.

NOTE TO BLOGGERS: Did this week’s events inspire you to write about leadership, learning and talent? We’re happy to share your thoughts. Just post a link on Twitter (include #TChat or @TalentCulture), or insert a comment below, and we’ll pass it along.

WHAT’S AHEAD: Next week – fasten your seatbelts as we take the community for a spin into the brave new world of social learning, with our very own community leaders, Justin Mass (learning technology evangelist at Adobe) and Michael Clark (leadership development expert at ReCenter).

Until then, we’ll continue to tackle World of Work conversation each day. So join us on the #TChat Twitter stream, or on our new LinkedIn discussion group. And feel free to explore other areas of this redesigned blog/community website. TalentCulture is always open and the lights are always on.

We’ll see you on the stream!

Image Credit: Stock.xchng