Ask PMI Anything: What Can I Do to Close My Organization’s Skills Gap?29 Sep 2022
In today’s competitive war for talent, executives have no choice but to fight on two fronts.
On the one front, they’re battling to identify and recruit top talent in an uncommonly tight labor market. At the end of July, for example, there were two unfilled job openings for every unemployed person in the United States.
On the other front, they’re engaged in a less conspicuous but equally serious battle to reskill or upskill existing employees. This often-stealth battle is being fought internally as executives work to muster the necessary resources to address emerging skillset needs.
Global Organization Skill Gap Analysis
The dimensions of this second front in the war for talent are daunting. The World Economic Forum (WEF) recently reported that more than 1 billion people around the world will need to be reskilled by 2030, while Gartner estimates that nearly 60 percent of today’s workforce need new skills to do their jobs right. According to WEF, 85 percent of individuals entering early education today will be filling jobs that don’t even exist today!
Global executives seem to be aware of the gathering storm. McKinsey reports that 87 percent of companies say they have skill gaps now or expect to have them within a few years. But fewer than 50 percent say they know how to address the issue.
Upskilling and reskilling are now critical issues within the project management community, where 25 million new project professionals will be needed by 2030. The top five skill and capability requirements, as identified in PMI’s Narrowing the Talent Gap study, are relationship building, collaborative leadership, strategic thinking, creative problem-solving, and commercial awareness.
What is the Skills Gap?
These “power skills” are an increasingly important adjunct to technical skills in today’s competitive business world. Indeed, the reskilling programs noted in the McKinsey study focus on building employees’ skills not only in advanced data analytics but in critical thinking and decision-making, leadership, and managing others. More than two-thirds of respondents say their organizations have either launched a reskilling program/pilot or plan to do so in the future.
They have good reason. A recent LinkedIn article cites numerous benefits to reskilling and upskilling. These include creating more confident teams, boosting productivity, making change easier to handle, driving increased customer satisfaction and creating a culture of continuous learning.
What’s more, employees understand the value of reskilling and upskilling. Ninety-four percent of employees surveyed in LinkedIn’s 2018 Workplace Learning Report said they are more likely to stay with a company that invests in their career. And employees who think their organizations provide opportunities for learning and growth are 2.9 times more likely to be engaged than workers without such opportunities.
The good news is that employees are increasingly ready and willing to capitalize on reskilling and upskilling opportunities. Fully 97 percent in a recent Glint survey said they want to maintain or expand the time spent on learning. And 64 percent of service industry workers in a recent PMI survey said they had invested in personal skill development before starting their job search.
What can you do to break through the skills gap?
What can you do to break through the skills gap? Here are some suggestions:
Be strategic and future-focused. Systematically assess your organization’s capabilities to identify the skills your organization needs to achieve its future strategic goals. Then map those skill sets onto your employee population to identify critical gaps that need to be filled through reskilling and upskilling or through additional hiring. Your skill assessment should encompass both technical skills and social/emotional power skills.
Adopt diverse learning approaches. In an on-demand digital era, people increasingly value choice. Professional development is no different, so give your team options for reskilling and upskilling. And take advantage of on-demand microlearning tools that offer more flexible and continuous learning opportunities. You may consider how to leverage innovative new digital technologies, including virtual reality, that are highly effective in teaching difficult-to-learn skills and that create a powerful learning experience.
Consider team-based, collaborative training. While individualized learning is always important, collaborative learning can help build skills across an entire team. In addition, team-based training is often more realistic than individualized training because it more closely mirrors how skills are used in the real world.
Stay agile. The best-performing enterprises in PMI’s Pulse of the Profession® research have high levels of organizational agility. That’s critical in any reskilling or upskilling effort. Indeed, McKinsey reports that smaller organizations (fewer than 1,000 employees) are often more successful in their reskilling/upskilling efforts because they are more agile and adaptable and have fewer bureaucratic layers to negotiate.
Create a quantifiable business case for investment. Launching a strategic upskilling program requires consistent funding and meaningful executive support. Many experts say the most significant challenge to reskilling and upskilling is balancing the program’s needs with those of current business operations. A strong business case for reskilling and upskilling employees can therefore be a valuable tool in keeping corporate cost-cutters at bay.
Fortunately, more and more organizations have come to recognize the value of reskilling and upskilling. According to McKinsey, nearly seven in ten executives engaged in reskilling say their program’s impact is greater than or equal to the investment. And 48 percent say reskilling enhances bottom line growth and improves employee satisfaction and the customer experience. That’s a strong vote of confidence in the power of reskilling and upskilling and more than enough reason to consider opening this second front in your war for talent.