Godzilla (1954)

Reality Check: The Skills Gap is Widening—What is Your Company Doing About It?

If you are like some of your peers, you might find another mention of the looming skills gap fatiguing. It’s not as if organizations are facing a Godzilla-style knowledge worker wipeout that leaves a flaming trail of obsolete or failed businesses in its path, is it?

The Godzilla metaphor be hyperbolic, but the widening skills gap is quite real—and something business leaders should be paying more attention to. Consider these findings from recent studies:

  • According to the World Economic Forum, although two-thirds of U.S. hiring managers believe that implementing workforce development programs will help them prepare for future disruptions or innovations, many businesses have been slow to do so. They are being held back by budgetary constraints, lack of employee time to participate in training, and lack of appropriate training technology.
  • A Brookings Institution report notes that the percentage of jobs in the U.S. economy using higher-level digital skills increased from 4.8 percent in 2002 to 23 percent in 2016. The report also states that the digital content of many jobs rose by 50 percent or more during this period.
  • Automation is a key factor: Nearly 40 percent of Americans are in occupational categories that could shrink between now and 2030, according to McKinsey Global Institute’s Future of Work in America report. While not all of those jobs will be displaced—some will decline, and some will change—it’s highly likely that the people in those roles will need to learn new skills to adapt.

The only way to beat a relentless threat—whether it’s
Godzilla or the skills gap—is to stay one step ahead of it.

To quote the World Economic Forum report, “This inertia is hard to fathom.” It is, indeed—especially when you consider the hundreds of Office 365 updates and new features that are in development or will roll out this year.

For organizations, the time to act is now. To avoid being left behind, they must create a proactive strategy that provides employees with the resources they need to keep up in the digital workplace.

McKinsey highlights three main areas that will require attention, including operations and workforce transformation, which will take on “outsize importance.” Among the considerations:

  • Organizations will need to identify employees’ current skills and determine the skills they will need in the near future and longer-term.
  • Once they have identified the gaps, they will need to assess what kind of training will be needed to prepare employees for new roles.
  • Expert change management will be required to guide the company and its employees toward more agile ways of working. Building a culture of continuous learning is essential.

Now back to Godzilla: In many of the films over the years, the fire-breathing beast does die, but then keeps coming back to life. Quite a fitting metaphor for the present and future of work—the only way to beat a relentless threat (e.g., Godzilla, continuously changing technology, the skills gap) is to stay one step ahead of it.

Image: Still from Godzilla (1954).

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