Education and Skills

Conquer the skills gap – and win the future – by rethinking talent

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Companies can overcome the skills gap by casting a wider net for talent. Image: Headway/Unsplash

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This article is part of: World Economic Forum Annual Meeting
  • The skills gap is one of the biggest risks for organizations today.
  • World Economic Forum Strategic Partner Infosys provides advice on how to address the challenge.
  • Cast a wide net to find new sources of talent.

It’s been said the future belongs to those who see possibilities before others do.

And there’s no better way to stake a claim in the future than by harnessing the greatest of all possibilities: people.

The urgency of reskilling – and the volume of reskilling required – are staggering. Earlier this year, Gartner named talent shortage one of the top three risks for organizations. The World Economic Forum predicts the rapid evolution of machines and algorithms in the workplace will create 133 million new roles in place of 75 million that will be displaced between 2018 and 2022. The Infosys Knowledge Institute developed a Talent Readiness Index to indicate how ready an organization is to meet its talent needs – and 70% of the enterprises surveyed are not prepared. Clearly, we have a lot to do when it comes to talent.

Have you read?
  • Want a sustainable business? Hire in talent

Here are some of the most compelling approaches, based on our experience and studies, to addressing the skill gap.

Do more with your talent.

Nearly every company tries to develop the talent it already has. Long-proven approaches, such as instructor-led classroom training, onboarding programs and coaching, are widely used. However, while traditional methods for developing talent have not entirely fallen by the wayside, learning is becoming more experiential. Self-guided online education is becoming as widespread as in-class courses, and leading organizations are adding digital campuses, boot camps and hack-a-thons to their skills development offerings. Companies are also changing the speed with which they deliver learning initiatives by developing knowledge-sharing platforms, self-guided online learning modules to ensure an employee can learn anytime, anywhere and from any device.

Top Five Risks by Overall Risk Score: 1Q18, 2Q18, 3Q18, 4Q18
The talent shortage is one of the biggest risks for organizations today. Image: Gartner

Use data to cast your net not just widely, but also accurately.

As the battle for new hires continues, organizations have to go beyond traditional means of recruiting. From digitizing recruitment processes to using machine-learning algorithms to select potential employees, the data generated on employability, employees and recruitment methods are proving the gaps in skills are likely to be filled by hiring from unlikely sources. Can students of liberal arts, community colleges and trade schools be trained in the relevant expertise? Will those returning to the workforce after military service or parenting breaks have skills required in the digital age? The answer is an emphatic yes!

As customer clusters become varied, we need multiple points of view, different skills, and diverse perspectives. We need imagination, empathy and creativity to complement our technical expertise. Our new pool of talent is not STEM or liberal arts, but a dynamic composite. Unfortunately, it’s a composite our education systems are not geared to meet. Enterprises must collaborate with academia in strategic, innovative ways, at grassroots levels, to develop new talent, together.

Ignore the gig economy at your own risk.

According to HBR, approximately 150 million workers in North America and Western Europe have left the relatively stable confines of organizational life ­– sometimes by choice, sometimes not – to work as independent contractors. This is not always easy, and the strategic approach requires robust internal processes to contract, integrate, manage and release workers as projects spin up and then wind down. Successful companies have better means to engage temporary workers strategically and better manage them, increasing the value the gig economy can provide to enterprises.

Get ready for “holacracy.”

If you’re not ready, creating an agile structure is essential. Digital initiatives require organizational structures that support collaboration and enable employees at all levels to make decisions. Companies must move away from hierarchical organizational structures to team-based, self-managing ones for agile project needs. Creating customer experiences and achieving new business-related goals can be successful when there is a team-based model, where multiple groups work toward a common objective.

Tap into talent beyond your immediate jurisdiction.

As the world becomes less fragmented, enterprises are increasingly finding themselves at the center of collaborative ecosystems. This can be a massive advantage. By tapping intelligently into its extensive networks of expertise and partnerships, you can make the most of a new breed of partners and startups as well as digital natives. A carefully curated mix of talent and academic institutions, enterprise partnerships, on-demand design and innovation hubs, along with startups, will give you instant access to new technologies to differentiate your business and create collaborative solutions.

Embrace duality.

People are works in progress. The more enterprises that embrace this idea, the more likely they are to commit to nurturing the talent they need to compete in the digital era.

The most crucial characteristic of developing talent in this era is the need to embrace seemingly contradictory approaches to build and manage talent. Think of these methods less as contradictions and more as a duality – two non-similar perspectives existing in harmony to achieve a common purpose. For example, enterprises must hire and develop talent, utilize permanent and temporary workers, recruit bachelor’s and associate degree holders, from both STEM and liberal arts backgrounds, look for hard and soft skills, provide classroom and virtual training.

At a time when talent is scarce and getting scarcer, being able to do multiple things simultaneously, many times over, might be the critical differentiator for companies to meet their talent demands. And it might be our last chance to win the future.

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