Where does development fit in your rewards strategy?

Study finds divergent views on how best to tackle skill gaps

By Claudine Kapel

Although many organizations report they’re having a tough time finding skilled workers, there’s no consensus on what should be done to solve the problem.

Some organizations aren’t even convinced they have a role to play in addressing skill gaps.

This raises some interesting questions about where training and development fits in an organization’s total rewards strategy.

Consider the results of a new study by the Canadian Education and Research Institute for Counselling (CERIC) that surveyed 500 Canadian senior executives.

Some 70 per cent of respondents report difficulties in finding skilled workers and agree there is a skills gap in Canada. But these same respondents are split on what a solution might look like.

Some 43 per cent of those facing a skills gap said employers need to provide more training. Meanwhile, 43 per cent felt prospective employees need to better prepare themselves for the labour market. Only 13 per cent felt both types of actions are required.

When it comes to providing training, 82 per cent of respondents said they are willing to provide technical training for new employees. Further, 82 per cent indicate they provide training for long-standing employees, be it technical training alone (40 per cent) or both soft skills and technical training (39 per cent).

With respect to career planning, the majority of respondents (71 per cent) agree organizations have a responsibility to provide career management programs for their employees. But only three in 10 said their organization provides such programs.

A lack of time was identified as the greatest challenge to offering career management programs (45 per cent), followed by cost (33 per cent) and a lack of expertise (13 per cent).

The survey findings highlight the common tug and pull that goes on in organizations when it comes to employee development and career planning. Intellectually, business leaders understand these things are important. They’re top of mind with many employees and they’re also integral for both employee and organizational performance – both near term and longer term.

At the same time, there’s reluctance to spend the time and money needed to facilitate employee development. Some 64 per cent of the respondents to the CERIC survey said they were concerned about losing employees after making training investments.

The reality, however, is that ongoing access to the right talent is not a given for any organization. Granted, skill shortages won’t be solved with corporate training and development efforts alone. The solutions will need to be much more multi-faceted, requiring the involvement of government, educational institutions, employers and workers. But organizations that aren’t proactive in addressing their talent needs may open the door to future business risks.

Part of the challenge is that skill gaps come in many forms, and often have industry and regional nuances. For some organizations and sectors, concerns about skill shortages are easy to define. But for others, the challenges may be harder to articulate or quantify.

In fact, one major barrier to effective development strategies may be that organizations aren’t clear about the kinds of skills they need, and which might be in short supply. Organizations need to drill down into their own unique needs and circumstances if they’re to create meaningful employee development strategies that deliver value.

And that means answering some tough questions. What skill gaps are you facing today, if any? Do they relate to technical skills, soft skills, or both? How might this change over time, given your organization’s evolving business strategy, the demographics of your work force, and your ability to attract and retain talent?

These are challenging questions to address, but they need to be considered. Because a common theme in most research around skill shortages is that no one expects finding skilled talent will get any easier in the years ahead.

Claudine Kapel

Claudine Kapel is principal of Kapel and Associates Inc., a human resources consulting firm specializing in compensation design, performance management, and employee communications. Claudine is also the co-author of The HR Manager’s Guide to Total Rewards and Straight Talk on Managing Human Resources.
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