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Skills Gap Is Real, Says Accenture Research
Tuesday, November 19, 2013
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Executives are aware that they need to invest more in their people’s ongoing training so that workforces will have the skills their companies will need in the coming years, reports the Accenture 2013 Skills and Employment Trends Survey: Perspectives on Training. For the research, Accenture surveyed 400 executives at large U.S. companies to assess their hiring, staffing and training strategies.

The research finds that skills gaps are becoming more prevalent across most industries, and “meeting the skills gap challenge will depend on strong commitment and action across the full spectrum of talent management and HR, from new approaches to learning and training, to better recruiting and hiring techniques, to better performance management.”

Key findings

  • Nearly half of those surveyed (46 percent) confirm that a skills gap persists for their business.
  • Few organizations will be looking to cut the size of their workforce anytime soon; two-thirds (62 percent) expect their full-time employee headcount to remain the same, and nearly one-third (31 percent) expect it to grow.
  • Skills in greatest demand are in IT (44 percent) and engineering (36 percent), with R&D (29 percent) and sales (29 percent) close behind.
  • Many companies are also looking for leadership, communications, people management, and project management capabilities.

Consequences of skills gaps

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The executives surveyed see a clear link between skills shortages and a variety of negative business results. For example, 69 percent believe that a lack of critical skills will result in increased operating costs. Two-thirds anticipate a loss of business to competitors, and 64 percent expect an impact both on revenues and on reaching revenue growth objectives.

But the Number 1 impact on the company? Employee performance and productivity. Accenture found that 87 percent of those surveyed believe that a skills gap increases stress on existing employees, who need to cope with new challenges while lacking the appropriate toolset of skills.

A commitment to learning

One of the most hopeful signs in the Accenture skills survey is that executives are committed to training as a means of strengthening workforce capabilities. More than a third of respondents whose companies are facing a skills shortage affirmed that they had not invested enough in training. Many expect investments in training to either increase (51 percent) or at least remain steady (43 percent).

How can organizations get the most out of those investments? Here are two recommendations:

  1. Find the right blend between classroom-, digital- and experience-based training. Survey revealed that learning most often occurs through on-the-job experience (74 percent) and that shadowing and observing others is also important (58 percent). A number of executives Accenture spoke with indicated that they use an apprenticeship model to help newer employees learn from more experienced ones.
  2. Use innovative new learning channels and techniques. More organizations are beginning to include new technologies as part of the training experience. Seventy (70) percent of executives reported that they are currently leveraging innovative learning developments, with 42 percent using mobile delivery for training, 35 percent using social media and 13 percent using gamification, or game-based learning. 
About the Author

Ryann K. Ellis is an editor for the Association of Talent Development (ATD). She has been covering workplace learning and performance for ATD (formerly the American Society for Training & Development) since 1995. She currently manages ATD's Community of Practice blogs, as well as ATD's government-focused magazine, The Public Manager. Contact her at rellis@td.org. 

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