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Is reskilling and upskilling overcoming global talent shortage?

Most global industries are facing a skills crisis, and to tackle this, organisations need to look at successes outside of their own sector and make learnings on ways they can attract and retain their own employees.

Most global industries are facing a skills crisis, with 75% of companies reporting talent shortages and difficulty hiring. While there is a myriad of different reasons for the skills shortage, depending on sector specific conditions, with such a sweeping problem, organisations need to look at successes outside of their own industry and how they can make learnings to attract and retain their own employees. Especially as despite a potential looming recession, we’re still seeing a lot of movement as workers depart roles that no longer fulfil them.

Many workers have decided to either retire or retrain post-pandemic, or are now much more open than before to moving industries into adjacent sectors or for a new challenge that uses their transferable skills. This has left companies struggling to plug the skills gap, battling a global talent shortage. A recent global study from Korn Ferry found that by 2030, there will be a global human talent shortage of more than 85 million people. Left unchecked, by 2030 the talent shortage could result in a potential economic impact of around $8.5 trillion.

Impact on global trade
The talent shortage is especially worrying for the industries that make the world go around, like shipping, with the supply chain talent shortage expected to leave 2.4 million positions unfilled between 2018 and 2028, which could result in around $2.5 trillion of unrealised revenue.

Responsible for the carriage of 90% of global trade, shipping is the life blood of the global economy. In maritime, the talent shortage issue is a combination of an ageing workforce; career changes post-pandemic; and a lack of incoming new trainees, as people don’t often consider shipping as an obvious career choice, despite the fact that it’s a $multi-trillion global industry, with a huge positive impact on UK PLC.

It can be hard to meet market demand for new members of staff given a talent shortfall, even when there is a company appetite and budget for recruitment. While sectors like maritime can look to other adjacent industries for candidates, or those with transferable skills, to plug the skills gap, employers must look at ways to attract and retain staff, meeting today’s trends to deliver on what is important to their workers.

The changing world of work
The last few years have certainly changed the world of work and what people expect from their employer. Workers want their roles to be stimulating, rewarding and to feel valued in the workplace.

The whole notion of ‘purpose’ is also high on the list of what employees want out of their jobs. People need motivating and want to know that the company they work for has a specific mission. This requires an explanation of business goals, plan, and responsibilities. In the shipping industry, for example, clear communication on what a company is doing to reduce emissions on the road to net zero is important for employees to feel like their company is having a positive impact on the planet, rather than simply greenwashing.

In tandem with this, workers want to feel they are working towards something on a personal development level. Employees are more likely to stay at a company that gives them the space, autonomy and opportunity to develop their expertise at their job and put it into practice. This is where upskilling and reskilling have a key role to play in the talent shortage, demonstrating that staff are valued and that there are opportunities for career progression and growth in their role, which is a crucial criteria now to attract new hires.

Showing value with upskilling/reskilling
The World Economic Forum estimates that by 2025, 40% of workers will require up to six months of reskilling. Another World Economic Forum report — Towards a Reskilling Revolution — highlights that fact-based education and learning is out of date.

Today, what employers are looking for in their staff, and will increasingly be looking for in the future, are softer skills, such as resilience, creativity, critical and innovative thinking, and team leadership qualities. These skills are all invaluable to cultivate a successful career for individuals, for a business to maintain a happy and healthy working environment and ultimately overcome the talent shortage.

Upskilling and reskilling help to create loyalty and talent retention, as staff see the company investing in them to boost their personal and professional development. In maritime specifically, there are opportunities to teach hard skills, such as understanding vessel routing software or being able to optimise fleet operations, but generally, the skills mix needed for the industry to develop is similar to other sectors. That means increased competition for the people with those skills, in a time when there is also a talent supply shortfall.

Developing skills in-house
It costs a lot to lose any member of staff, and often more than it would cost to retrain them. The recruitment process can be costly, alongside a loss in productivity and the time and investment needed to train new staff and get them up and running effectively.

While recruitment will continue to play a role in managing the talent shortage where possible, it is also wise for companies to encourage continuous development to existing staff by providing upskilling and reskilling opportunities. This is especially important as emerging skillsets take on increasing importance. For instance, the ability to interpret data and use it to drive actionable insights that enhance decision-making are critical in the shipping industry, especially with vessels generating such a vast amount of data. However, there are not yet enough data analysts to meet market demand.

Putting the pieces together
Overcoming the talent shortage is a global issue, as it impacts organisations across a wide range of industries. Upskilling and reskilling is just one part of the puzzle, but in a challenging market, it should be a business imperative to invest in your existing staff members. This can have a positive effect on other key elements of attracting and retaining staff, such as improving your proposition as an employer – especially important in economically challenging times when it is a jobseekers’ market.

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