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Why closing skills gaps should be a priority for your company

March 23, 2021 at 10:12 AM

Young female barista in a mask.

As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to progress, so have new workplace challenges: employees are working with complex technology, expectations for employees are changing, and education institutions are competing to stay on the leading edge. In light of these new adjustments, recent graduates can find themselves underprepared for entry-level work, and employees can find themselves struggling to keep up in fast-paced environments. Consequently, more organizations are reporting widening skills gaps among their employees. In our recent skills gaps survey, 70% of respondents revealed that up to 500 jobs went unfilled at their company in the last year, and 50% of respondents blamed unfilled positions on a lack of qualified candidates.1 By focusing on closing these skills gaps, your company can continue to thrive even during uncertain times.

Educated Employees

To keep up with rapidly changing work environments, your employees need larger skill sets than ever before. In addition to role-specific functions, in-demand skills from employers include leadership, strategic thinking, analytical skills, project management, computer skills, and the ability to adapt to change quickly.1 Your company can help improve these qualities in its employees through upskilling and reskilling. 

Upskilling teaches your employees how to adapt to changing circumstances. For example, many employees who work from home need to know how to log into their workplace VPN, maintain a secure Internet connection, and navigate new digital programs like Microsoft Teams and Zoom. Without proper training in these skills, their performance may lag and ultimately interrupt more extensive processes for the company as a whole.

Reskilling refers to learning that allows an employee to advance in their career or seek work in a different field, and it’s become more common since the COVID-19 pandemic has forced large-scale layoffs and shut-downs. Many job-seekers are eager to reskill through workplace programming, certifications, or higher education (often with tuition assistance programs). Educated employees are likely to move into leadership roles in your company or bring their skills to another department in need of their expertise.

Increased Talent Acquisition

People want to work for an organization that’s committed to their long-term success. When provided with training and development opportunities, employees said they were happier in their roles and had a brighter outlook on their future within the company.2 Potential applicants like to know if they have growth potential with your company, so be sure to mention education benefits on job ads and your company’s website. Once employees begin to see the benefits of their development, your company’s brand could get more recognition in its target demographic, thus attracting fresh talent with a thirst for innovation. 

For companies having difficulty recruiting qualified applicants, a shift in perspective is often necessary. Hiring decisions can no longer be made with an in-person work environment in mind. Instead, recruiters need to source candidates with strong cognitive ability, organizational skills, conscientiousness, and resilience,3 which are signs that an individual can flourish in a fast-paced environment. When your company makes hiring decisions, think about which skills can be taught on the job, and try not to focus on them as much. Instead, look for qualities that might lead to success in the open position, such as leadership or critical thinking, and then determine an individual’s willingness to learn through an interview.

Enhanced Financial Outcomes

One common fear among employers is that their upskilled/reskilled employees will leave for a better position, but using upskilling and reskilling increases employee productivity and reinforces their commitment to the job. In a 2020 study of the relationship between upskilling, performance, and retention, 84 percent of CEOs saw an increase in goal attainment, and 69 percent of CEOs saw employee retention rise, all of which boost the bottom line.3 Your company can enhance retention by choosing educational programming that directly benefits your workforce, which often means having one-on-one conversations about what skills they would find most valuable.

Another concern for employers is budgeting when it comes to addressing their company’s skills gaps. Choosing to pursue upskilling or reskilling programs comes at the cost of $500 per employee for 40–50 percent of companies.1 Spending $500 or more per employee compared to the cost of one talented worker leaving an organization: as much as $25,000.2 Ultimately, your company’s investment in closing skills gaps is a long-term investment because employees who feel supported in their growth are more likely to stay.

Learn more about keeping your business competitive by downloading Closing the Skills Gap, a research report from Wiley Education Services and Future Workplace. This report identifies new talent acquisition challenges that employers face, provides examples of how employers are attempting to fill skills gaps, and explores ways for companies to partner with universities to prepare workers for changing skills needs.

Get the Report Now

Wiley Beyond partners with forward-thinking enterprises to increase talent mobility through transformative education, including access to materials created by experts. Visit our Resources page for more information.

  1. https://beyond.wiley.com/resources/skills-gap-infographic 
  2. https://beyond.wiley.com/resources/education-for-impact-infographic 
  3. https://recruitment.com/future/upskilling
Deb Volzer

Written by Deb Volzer

Dr. Debra Volzer is Sr. Director of State and Workforce Development for Wiley Education Services. Her focus is to identify, engage and secure innovative learning partners interested in closing the skills gap. Her efforts work collaboratively with Industry and Learning Partners to identify and align models and solutions that increase learner success and streamline pathways to skills attainment. In this role she works to identify and align a shared vision and promotes collaboration of next-generation education solutions. Prior to joining Wiley, Volzer worked with corporations including Pearson North America, Barnes and Noble Education and Community College Futures Assembly and held administrative and teaching positions at the Ohio Board of Regents, Ohio Learning Network, the Ohio State University, Franklin University and Ohio Dominican. Volzer holds degree from the University of Kansas, Yale University and the Ohio State University.