Organizations continue to face critical skills shortages, according to new research from ATD. Currently, 82 percent of employers report a skills gap. As defined by ATD, a skills gap is a significant gap between an organization’s current capabilities and the skills it needs to achieve its goals and meet customer demand. When an organization has a large skills gap in its workforce, it risks not meeting customer expectations and demands.
These data points are from a new ATD Research report, Bridging the Skills Gap: Workforce Development in Changing Times. The report marks the seventh iteration of the skills gap report from ATD. The report was authored in collaboration with ATD’s public policy committee. ATD surveyed 316 organizations and asked them about skills gaps. ATD also conducted in-depth interviews with organizations across several industries.
What specific areas are employers seeing skills gaps in? Participants are presently experiencing several skills gaps: A majority indicated gaps in critical-thinking and problem-solving skills (65 percent), managerial and supervisory skills (55 percent), and communication and interpersonal skills (53 percent). According to the research, some causes of the skills gap are education and work-preparation systems not keeping up with organizations’ needs, the COVID-19 pandemic (which had a particularly large impact on healthcare), and record numbers of retirements, resulting in knowledge loss.
Changing technology also has an impact. For example, in manufacturing, the technical skills gap is increasing as companies use more automation and robotics. Among the jobs going unfilled are smart-factory managers and robot-teaming coordinators. Another field with a large skills gap is cybersecurity, especially as cyber threats and attacks become more sophisticated.
The good news is that organizations appear to be working proactively to address the skills gaps. A majority said that they were examining what skills the organization needed to be successful now and in the future (57 percent), while 55 percent indicated that they were assessing current gaps and creating a plan to address the most critical areas. These rates have increased. In 2018, 49 percent of organizations were examining skills needs; the same percentage was assessing current gaps and creating a plan. Most participants said their organization was providing training to close the skills gaps.
The report includes interviews with leading organizations. At Mountain America Credit Union, a nonprofit financial institution with more than 90 branches, the talent development team states: “In our current workforce, we are introducing a career development philosophy, strategy, and resources that focus on skill proficiency. We are introducing new models that broaden current thinking and industry best practices for career development, education campaigns, and building a more smooth and easy learning ecosystem.”
At Mountain America, skills development begins as soon as employees start with the organization. According to the talent development team, “To fully integrate new hires into their development as quickly as possible, we have included individual development plans in the onboarding process as well as quarterly check-ins.”
The full report can be downloaded at td.org/SkillsGap.