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Mind the (global) skills gap

More organisations are planning a hiring spree over the next 12 months as their growth prospects improve, but nearly two-thirds (63%) are concerned that they won’t be able to find the people with skills they require to fill these positions.

A global survey of over 1,300 CEOs in 68 countries discloses that after a number of years of headcount cuts, half of organisations surveyed are looking to hire again. Organisations in the Middle East (71%), the South East Asian Nations (54%) and China (53%) plan to make the most net hires over the next 12 months, while business services (51%), insurance (49%) and technology (46%) are the sectors looking to make the most net hires.

The right skills for the right job

Despite the positive outlook for jobs, the research shows that business leaders are more concerned than ever about being able to find the right people to fill these roles. 63% of CEOs (an increase of 5% from 2013) say the availability of key skills is the biggest threat to their organisation’s growth. CEOs in Africa (96%), the South East nations (90%) and South Africa (87%) are most concerned about the lack of skills. Technology and engineering firms are grappling the most with the shortage of skilled employees.

The gap between the skills of the current workforce and the skills businesses need to achieve their growth plans is widening. Despite rising business confidence equating to more jobs, organisations are struggling to find the right people to fill these positions.

Half of CEOs plan to hire more people in the next 12 months, meaning competition for talent will be intense at the same time as the battleground has been redrawn. Business leaders are looking for people with a far wider range of skills than ever before. Gone are the days of life-time careers. Chameleon-like employees who apply their skills whenever and wherever they’re needed are now in high demand.

Developing employees on the job

Businesses need to get out of the mindset that new skills equal new people. The most successful organisations will combine recruitment with developing their own people to be more adaptable to its changing plans.

The growing skills gap and rising cost of labour in emerging markets is forcing organisations to look to new markets for talent. Many multinationals have already raided the pipeline of graduates and skilled young workers emerging from China and India, and there are signs that employees in these regions are beginning to favour domestic employers over their western rivals. Organisations are now widening their reach for new talent into Indonesia, Vietnam and the Philippines.

Government and regulation

The research also shows that business leaders are looking to government to do more to help plug the skills gap. Two in five CEOs say creating a skilled workforce should be one of government’s top three priorities and over half (52%) believe that regulation is hampering their ability to attract the best people. Only one in five feels that their government has been effective in improving workforce skills in their region.

In contrast, an overwhelming majority of business leaders (93%) say they need to change their strategy for attracting and retaining talent, but three in five haven’t taken any steps to do this yet.

CEOs are laying much of the blame for the skills shortage at the feet of government and legislators, but they should accept that they need to rethink the way they think about, look for and value their employees. CEOs should be taking advantage of the developments in HR data analytics to predict the skills they will need and plan for changes in demand and supply.

Gerald Seegers

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