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Five ways of addressing the UK skills gap

Hannah Wilson - ascento

The job market has become increasingly employee-driven, with staff leaving their current roles for better opportunities and additional benefits such as flexible working. 

Wage stagnation, cost of living, job dissatisfaction and hybrid working have been contributing factors that have led to thousands of people voluntarily leaving their jobs — dubbed ‘The Great Resignation’.

This, combined with rapidly changing technologies like artificial intelligence and automation, has led to employers struggling to hire skilled workers. Some claim that people are leaving education without the necessary skills to enter the current workforce.

In a study by McKinsey, half of the employers who expect skill gaps in the years ahead said skill building would be the most effective action for their organisations, whereas 31% cite hiring as the most effective.

So what can employers and HR professionals do to address the skills gap?

Hire through apprenticeships 

Apprenticeships have long been a consideration for many employers seeking cheaper hiring alternatives. They’re offered at several levels to educate on the skills and knowledge needed for a specific role. 

Apprenticeships are conducted with an external training provider so employees will receive bespoke support throughout, with access to a tutor’s time in one-to-one meetings and practical sessions. Apprenticeships also allow businesses to mould staff into the perfect fit for their roles.  

Ultimately, apprenticeships have proven to be a solution to filling the skills gap. Amazon has announced the creation of 1,500 apprenticeships in the UK in 2022, including in publishing, retailing and environment, social and corporate governance and many others. 

As a company, you could also work with providers to offer current employees the opportunity to undertake an apprenticeship. This would help them gain the relevant skills, so you always have talented people to hire from within the company.

Employ internally

One of the options many HR professionals are exploring to fill skills gaps is employing internally. This is one of the most immediate steps employers can make that will also help improve employee satisfaction. 

According to LinkedIn’s Global Talent Trends report, firms that offer internal mobility opportunities are 41% more likely to retain employees than those that don’t. 

Businesses will be able to reduce the costs associated with hiring a new staff member, which could be upwards of £50,000, while also retaining the talent they already have. 

Allowing employees to grow within a business is a great way to reduce the costs of hiring externally and means higher job satisfaction and, therefore, higher retention rates. 

Upskill and reskill employees

Along with employing internally, upskilling current employees is an excellent way for employers to fill any skills gaps they’ve identified within their organisation. 

Currently, non-managerial staff are least likely to be offered digital skills or reskilling, which would help them progress in their careers. Employers can benefit from a constantly improving workforce as new skills are needed by providing these opportunities. 

In the long term, upskilling and reskilling are the best ways for employers to future-proof their businesses. 

Effectively onboard new hires

Giving new employees a strong foundation is the first thing any employer or HR professional should do. 

Effective onboarding provides the new hire with all of the necessary information like employee goals and objectives, their role and responsibilities, as well as a clear career development plan with room for training and upskilling.

Turnover rates can be as high as 20% in the first 45 days of employment, so conducting an orientation process that builds strong relationships between managers and employees is essential to preventing high turnover. 

Engagement is at its highest point in an employee’s first few days, so HR professionals and managers must spend this time well for the best outcome for the employee and the business.

Develop a culture of training

Developing a culture of training within a business is essential to move the company forward. In a similar vein of upskilling and reskilling, employees must continuously learn to stay relevant in the workplace. One way companies can encourage this is by developing a culture of training. 

For this to make an impact, the vision for this training must come from the top. Leaders and HR managers who promote consistent training are more likely to reap the benefits of an improved workforce.

A learning environment will help improve employee confidence, but Bersin found that employees with a strong learning culture are 37% more productive.

Companies can also create development programmes and mentorships to allow employees to shadow and learn from those with more experience. Mentorships can run within businesses at no extra cost and benefit both the mentee and the mentor.

Businesses worldwide are employing several tactics to address the skills gap in the current UK workforce caused by the Great Resignation. From apprenticeships to upskilling existing employees, there are plenty of ways to make an impact, both long and short-term. 

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