ARE EMPLOYERS WHINING OR DO WE REALLY HAVE A SKILLS GAP? By Serrainne Nyamori.

Employers want certain skills. Employees don’t have them. Why?

A few weeks ago, a distraught client called and urgently requested for a meeting. During our 3 hour talk, he intimated to me that his organization is facing a skills shortage and that this acute lack of talent is threatening growth and competitiveness of his organization in his industry. From our conversation, it was rather clear that there is a significant gap between his organization’s skill needs and the current capabilities of its workforce.

Skills gap

An organization faces a skills gap when its employees do not have the right skills to deliver results and drive the organizations goals and strategies. This is a risky place to be as the organization can no longer grow and/or remain competitive in its industry.

What are some of the biggest gaps?

  • Basic skills

There is a shared frustration from Human Resources Managers and Recruiters that a significant portion of employees lack these ‘basic but not so basic skills’. These include research and information gathering, writing, decision-making, planning and prioritizing, problem solving, critical thinking, team work, etc.

  • Technical skills

These are skills that reflect specific practical knowledge and are required to accomplish a specific task. Employers often screen candidates based on their technical skills, so as a job seeker or employee, you may want to make sure you present these skills properly. These include driving, data analysis, specialised ICT skills, email, project management, training, needs analysis, database management etc

  • Professional skills

These are mostly industry specific skills. To be successful, all working individuals and professionals needs significant competency in their chosen area of practice. These include IT proficiency, content writing and editing, recruitment, carer coaching, nursing and midwifery etc

  • Management and leadership

A lot has been debated on whether one needs to be a better manager or a better leader. Fact is, a successful job seeker, employee or business owner needs to be both a strong manager and leader to get their teams to follow them as they work towards their shared vision. Some of the key skills needed to achieve this include organising teams, delivering on the organization’s mission, strategic leadership, strategic planning, staff productivity, employee inspiration and motivation, Foster commitment etc

  • Emotional intelligence

This is the capacity of an individual to recognise their own and other people’s emotions and to use that information to guide their thinking and behaviour/actions. Employers value Emotional Intelligence (EI) over Intelligence Quotient (IQ) because people with high EI tend to be empathetic towards their colleagues, lead by example, are generally calm under pressure, have the ability to resolve conflict effectively and they are more likely to put more consideration in business decisions. Here’s even more exciting news, one study found that companies with high EI managers registered a 34% higher profit growth!

  • Language & Communication Skills

I shudder at how our present generation writes and speaks. Just the other day, I was communicating via text message and eventually a phone conversation to a sales agent from a new provider who was meant to coordinate internet connection to my house. With missing letters, reversed syllables and poor grammar, I eventually called the head office to lodge a complaint about his language and communication skills. Well, these critical skills include the ability to master the use appropriate body language, delivering a well written speech, clear verbal communication, personal presentation and appearance, effective listening etc

What then is causing these gaps?

  • Educational attainment is lagging the need for skills.

At the very core, the skills gap is an education issue. There is a wanting mismatch between our current education curriculum and the skills demand in the labour market. There is equally a strong shared belief that education from first grade through College/University and career training is outdated and needs to be revised.

  • The nature of jobs are changing

The workplace has gone digital transforming how we collaborate and produce results. The impact of emerging technology is quickly outpacing our present expertise. Millennial’s and generation Z’s are also less likely to stay with one employer for their entire career making employers compete for talent to meet their skills demand.

  • Businesses are not employing strategies to leverage staff performance

The key investment that any business has is not necessarily its technology but its people! In today’s world, businesses that fail to consistently review their learning and development practices often struggle with growth and productivity. Therefore, the key to achieving high impact staff performance is to include performance improvement strategies like mobile learning solutions and social learning activities into the learning / training process. This is commonly referred as High Impact Learning.

What are some of the signs that your organization may be facing a skills gap?

– There is a mismatch between the skills the organization needs (current and future) and the capabilities of the workforce. e.g an organisation needs more IT savvy staff while the current ones have little or no training in new and emerging technologies

– A high staff turnover

– The organization did not invest in learning and development /capacity building for the it employees and is struggling to catch up on their performance.

– The increasing number of highly skilled, specialized jobs needed to take the organization forward

– A high percentage of baby boomers in the workforce that are or will soon be heading for retirement

How do we attempt to solve the skills gap crisis in our organizations?

  1. Understand the organization’s key strategies and performance metrics. Be sure you know the answers to these questions, and can articulate the connection between key business metrics and learning.
  2. Identify core business functions and organizational strategies that depend on skilled talent for their execution.
  3. Assess the skills gap. Understand the demographics of your workforce. Are many employees nearing retirement? Are you at risk of losing key skills if employees leave?
  4. Identify targets for closing the gap between current skill sets and those needed to support the future goals of the organization
  5. Create an organization wide learning plan to address skills gaps by measuring employees’ progress on the learning plans against individual and organizational goals and communicate the impact. This can be achieved by deploying learning resources through an internal learning management system.

Serrainne Nyamori

 snyamori@sustainability-africa.com

The writer is the Founder and Lead consultant for Sustainability Africa, a Management Consulting and CSR Strategy firm based in Nairobi, Kenya. For more of our services please visit us at www.sustainability-africa.com or Email info@sustainability-africa.com

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Whats wrong with cHaNGe By Serrainne Nyamori

Change by its very nature carries assumptions, values and beliefs which eventually determine whether an individual will accept or reject the process. An individual’s culture needs to be rejuvenated and constantly revised in order to thrive in today’s difficult and increasingly competitive environment. This transformation takes time, effort and commitment.

In an interesting twist, the human brain adapts to three basic types of change. To strengthen current behaviours; to modify existing behaviour patterns; and to accommodate completely new behaviours. We will focus on accommodating completely new behaviours.

Let us assume you were offered an opportunity to urgently learn a new skill. Unless you are a modern day genius, the first thoughts on your mind would be ‘How long will it take me to gain mastery?’, ‘What if I fail?’

Automatically ,your mind launches into personal and social anxiety and the quick – fix solution to this would be to ‘flee’ from the situation by either declining the offer or finding excuses as to why you cannot do it. This however, becomes a real problem, a costly one at that.

Reasons why we resist change

There are several reasons why we would resist change. I have highlighted a few:

  • We get too comfortable with the current situation.
  • Fear of the Unknown
  • Normal routine is disrupted
  • The change wasn’t ‘MY’ idea to start with
  • Fear of failure
  • The purpose of change is unclear
  • Fear that you will lose something of value because of the change
  • The rewards of the change don’t match the effort required
  • Change requires additional commitment
  • You have set traditions and habits of the past

 

The most dangerous phrase in the language of change is ‘I’ve always done it this way’. Sadly, this seems to always be a default state for most of us especially, when faced with situations where we need to change. Well, in the same breath while we are busy struggling to maintain the status quo, let us be reminded that a comfort zone is a beautiful place but nothing ever grows there.

 

Now, we know that change really needs to happen, but we don’t know how to go about delivering it.

  • Where do you start?
  • Whom do you involve?
  • How do you see it through to the end?

With inferences from Lewin’s, Mckinsey and Kotter’s Change Models, I will attempt to break down how we (you and I) can successfully go through the process of change.

  • For change to happen, you must first create an internal sense of urgency around the need for change. This will help you spark the initial motivation to get things moving. Start by carrying out an honest discussion with yourself and examine any current or future opportunities that could be exploited. Once you have done that, indentify potential threats and develop scenarios of what could happen in the future. You can also request support from trusted friends and family who can help strengthen your resolve

 

  • Remember, managing the change process is not enough; you have to lead it, especially if there are other people involved in the transition like a spouse, children, parents, team or committee. Work to convince them that the change is necessary and look towards attaining emotional commitment from them.

 

  • To lead the change, you need a clear vision that people can grasp easily. A clear vision will help the people around you understand why you are asking them to do something. Determine what is really central to the change and review/practice your ‘vision speech’ as often as you can. Once they see for themselves what you are trying to do, then everything will begin to make sense, even to you.

 

  • What you do with your vision after you create it determines how successful your efforts will be. Communicate it frequently. Let your vision be embedded in everything that you do, apply it to all aspects of your life and walk the talk

 

  • Naturally, every vision is bound to face obstacles. These could be people around you. Learn to recognize these obstacles and take action quickly to win them over to your side or remove them from your scheme of things. You must accept the eventual possibility that not everyone will be open to your ideas and it is perfectly okay to let them go after several attempts of trying to win them over. Doing this will help the change process move forward.

 

  • Continue to justify your vision and need for change by thoroughly analysing your pros and cons. Avoid critics and negative thinkers who may hurt your progress. Celebrate any milestones achieved. Create quick wins. Nothing motivates more than success.

 

  • Real change runs deep! Many change attempts fail because victory is declared too early. Build on the change. After every win, analyse what went right and what needs improving. Re- set your goals and continue building on the momentum you have achieved. Do not tire; practice the act of continuous improvement – KAIZEN. (KAI – change, ZEN – for better)

 

  • Finally, make the change stick. Do this by making deliberate effort to show the values behind your vision in your day to day life. Talk about the progress you are making and share your success stories. Most importantly, build a culture around the change; this will help ensure that your efforts are not lost of forgotten.

 

 

 

In conclusion, focussing entirely on the change process including awareness and preparedness makes the transition easier. Dealing with change, and not avoiding it, will help you perform well in a new environment.

 

Serrainne Nyamori

 snyamori@sustainability-africa.com

 

 

The writer is the Founder and Lead consultant for Sustainability Africa, a Management Consulting and CSR Strategy firm based in Nairobi, Kenya. For more of our services please visit us at www.sustainability-africa.com or Email info@sustainability-africa.com