To Close the Skills Gap, Let Go of these 5 Myths
Before we can devise effective solutions to fix the skills gap, we need to dispel several myths and misunderstandings.
It’s well-documented that companies are struggling to hire enough new workers, but historically low unemployment is only part of the problem. The bigger challenge is finding people who are actually qualified for the jobs employers are trying to fill. This disconnect between the skills companies want and the skills job-seekers have is what’s known as the skills gap.
Everyone can agree there is a skills gap—81 percent of U.S. employees said so, in Udemy’s 2018 Skills Gap Report—but there’s less agreement about how we fix it. Before we can devise effective solutions, we need to dispel several myths and misunderstandings.
Myth 1: It’s a pipeline problem for schools to solve.
Of course, today’s school students will be tomorrow’s employees, and our education system must prepare them for that eventuality, even if many will be in jobs that don’t yet exist. But it’s exactly because the future of work is so unknown that we can’t rely on schools to do all the heavy lifting.
Companies must acknowledge their responsibility in helping people keep their skill sets up to date. But it’s also in their best interest. Providing abundant learning and development opportunities helps retain high-value talent, while also ensuring they will be able continue performing the work your organization needs for success.
Myth 2: It’s all about hard skills.
Teaching the entire country to code is not going to eliminate the skills deficit. Tech skills are evolving too fast and digital transformation is affecting more parts of business all the time, so it isn’t enough just to focus on specific competencies and expect workers to meet all job requirements.
In fact, while the debate rages as to whether automation/AI will “steal” human jobs, I’m thrilled to see human capabilities (aka, soft skills) getting more attention. As the World Economic Forum reported, jobs of the future will require skills robots and algorithms can’t do better than people. These include things like problem-solving, analytical thinking, emotional intelligence, and creativity.
Myth 3: No one knows what skills will be needed, so why bother.
Another skill that’s growing in currency, according to the World Economic Forum, is active learning. As the workplace continues to change, we can only succeed by being adaptable, efficient learners with a lifelong-learning mindset.
Knowing how to learn is a skill in and of itself, and we can all get better at it. Companies can help by establishing a culture where learning is encouraged and facilitated, rather than seeing the need for training as a sign the employee is weak or unqualified. And learning has to be democratized throughout the organization: employees should be empowered to learn what, when, and where they want in their moment of need.
Myth 4: Offering fancy perks will attract qualified talent.
Competition for qualified workers is so intense, companies keep trying to one-up each other with the most headline-grabbing perks. But giving people time off to train a new puppy isn’t a long-term strategy.
That’s why the “coolest” benefit is to offer every employee access to learning resources and development opportunities. In Udemy’s 2018 Skills Gap Report, more than half (51 percent) of respondents said they’d quit a job if they didn’t receive necessary training; younger workers were even more emphatic. In our 2018 Millennials At Work Report, 42 percent said learning and development (L&D) is the most important benefit they look for after salary when deciding on a job.
Myth 5: Your People team just needs to do more.
Everyone needs to take responsibility for growing their skills, and L&D teams are definitely best positioned to act as facilitators. But company leaders, starting right at the top with the CEO, have to embrace learning as a strategic asset and prioritize a learning culture, if they’re going to see the results they want.
And it’s not about doing “more.” It’s about doing L&D better. So, no more mandatory, one-size-fits-all training sessions that interrupt the work day and force people to sit through boring content. Training has to be delivered in ways that make sense for busy workers who are used to consuming digital content all the time. That means self-paced, on-demand, and video-based, preferably in bite-sized chunks, so people can apply what they’ve learned to whatever they’re working on right now.
The skills gap may be real, but a lot of our assumptions about what to do about it are not. There won’t be any quick fixes or silver bullets. Only by investing in people and committing to their ongoing learning needs can companies approach the future with confidence they’ll know what to do when they get there.
This article originally appeared on BenefitsPro.