April 2020
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TD Magazine

Skills Spectrum Is Running Dry

Wednesday, April 1, 2020

Companies need employees at all skill levels.

Talent development professionals are likely familiar with the challenges their organizations face when it comes to hiring highly skilled workers. New research from the staffing firm TrueBlue shows that companies also are struggling to find employees for their middle- and low-skill jobs—and talent development professionals may have a key role to play in helping address those shortages.


TrueBlue's national survey of 1,500 HR, operational, and business managers found that employers are facing talent shortages across all skill levels. Thirty-two percent of managers reported difficulty finding workers to fill low-skill positions, defined as jobs that may not require a high school diploma and don't require prior experience. Forty-six percent said they struggle to find workers for middle-skill jobs, which require some experience and education but not necessarily a college degree. Finally, 35 percent reported that they couldn't find high-skilled employees, generally defined as workers with a four-year degree and specialized experience.

The survey results indicate that the shortage of workers across the skills spectrum has a negative impact on business. More than one-third of managers reported that their organization's job vacancies have resulted in lower product or service quality. One-quarter said that vacancies are leading to higher employee turnover, and 23 percent said that their companies have experienced a decline in revenue.

TrueBlue found that employers are, in turn, taking steps to improve at recruiting appropriately skilled workers. Four in 10 managers reported they plan to raise compensation for entry-level workers, and 46 percent said they plan to train and hire the long-term unemployed in the coming year.

The latter point suggests an opportunity: Instead of expecting to hire workers who have the appropriate skill level, managers can hire workers who have the right traits but need to be trained. Then they can partner with the talent development team to upskill or reskill those individuals. For talent development professionals interested in becoming more valuable business partners, filling managers' needs by upskilling employees can solve organizational challenges and deliver a clear business impact.

About the Author

Eliza Blanchard, APTD, is ATD's Learning & Development content manager. Contact her at [email protected].

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