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Solving the skills gap requires strategy

A skilled workforce has become one of the most discussed challenges facing the long-term success of all types of organizations, including retail, service, healthcare and manufacturing. Despite the increased attention, the only consensus among seasoned recruiters is that employers must think beyond traditional means to cultivate the talent needed to meet their long-term needs.

Conventional wisdom suggests that it’s easier to fill front line, lower-skilled positions than replace highly-skilled employees who have demonstrated value through year-to-year contributions. Unfortunately, few organizations have a comprehensive long-term talent development strategy. They often adapt a practice that requires paying a premium for recruited talent, without considering how those practices might undermine the motivation and commitment of existing workers. Over time, this practice can contribute to retention challenges as employees solidify perceptions of having been passed over and feel under-appreciated as their wages remain stagnant in order to accommodate those of new hires whose skills are perceived to be more valuable.

Ensuring you have the workforce you need for the future requires a plan and commitment to execution. Following are some considerations for achieving long-term success in the talent management game.

Start with the strategic plan

A strategic plan should not only define the organization’s value proposition and outline key objectives, but also assess and plan for the organization’s capability to achieve and sustain initiatives that drive performance. Consideration should be given to the depth and capacity of the workforce, including strategies for minimizing disruptions due to turnover while defining strategies for identifying, recruiting, and retaining high-performing employees.  An inadequate supply or significant turnover of skilled, knowledgeable workers can have an immediate impact on the organization’s ability to achieve key objectives, sustain strategic initiatives, and ultimately hamper the business’ growth and profitability.

Incorporate a succession strategy

Succession planning extends beyond the C-suite. Any member of the organization who holds key institutional knowledge or whose position is vital to the successful operation of a process, system or unique technology should be considered in the succession plan. When implementing key initiatives, leaders should consider how to increase bench strength to accommodate staff turnover, promotions or other potential losses. A comprehensive plan should include both development plans for supervisors and managers and core skills- and cross-training for frontline workers.

Provide development opportunities for your leaders

Employee engagement and performance is directly related to the management skills of the organization’s leaders. Ensure they have a solid understanding of core leadership principles and the right attitude to match your organization’s values; then invest in their continued development. Provide them a path that affords expanded experiences and responsibilities, and support them in refining decision-making skills. Optimal development occurs when leaders are provided real-life experiences and ongoing mentoring. While the right experiences can act as an accelerator, a weak foundation or premature promotion will not only undermine the leader’s confidence, it will have a detrimental effect on the organization.

Implement an employee development plan

A commitment to ongoing employee development is the differentiating variable between average organizations and great ones. Great organizations view employee development as an essential part of the strategic plan. They justify the short-term costs with long-term value realized through an engaged workforce, increased employee retention, enhanced ability to recruit new talent, improved quality output, improved process and product innovation, and increased customer satisfaction.

Establish performance standards aligned to strategic initiatives

You can’t manage what you don’t measure. Establishing performance measures focused on employee development and engagement will improve the likelihood of solving your organization’s internal skill gap. Likewise, organizations need to place talent management – including securing a talent pipeline – among its strategic goals for long-term success.

Align with a strategic partner

The Center for Business Performance Solutions (CBPS) has supported business growth in southeastern Wisconsin for more than 30 years by engaging in strategic conversations focusing on business challenges that extend well beyond the technical level. Our role as your partner is to optimize the performance of your team as an integral part of talent management.



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