Human Resources

You hit a glass ceiling… then some interloper gets paid more?

Okay, here are two scenarios – they are both sides of the same coin:

One, you’re an employee keen to upskill yourself, learn, and develop your career… but you have no idea what opportunities are available in your company. You will probably end up looking on LinkedIn for another job.

Two, you’re an employer seeking to plug a skills gaps in your organisation… but you have no idea what talent is available in your company. You will probably end up spending more money finding an external person instead of promoting anyone from inside.

This is galling and counterintuitive for all parties and forms just one tiny part of the extremely complex and divisive issue that is the skills shortage.

This was the subject of a Skillsoft roundtable in London last week. Kevin Young, Vice President and General Manager of Skillsoft EMEA cites its 2014 research which suggests businesses could be costing themselves a fortune and cheating staff out of career progression opportunities to boot, with this problem.

The UK-only study showed that 86% of UK business leaders categorise their organisations as being ‘skill builders’. However, only 20% stated they expect to fill open roles internally and only 46% committed to looking at potential internal candidates first. In other words, if companies need new skills they will look for people outside the organisation rather than building people from within.

“The technology does exist” to stop this happening says Liam Butler, VP Sales at SumTotal, a company that was recently bought by Skillsoft. “Recruitment needs to be part of the [internal] talent management process.”

However, he adds, this can be a complicated business because you take someone from another part of the business and you still have to replace them.

This is further confused by the fact that it is hard to stay on top of digital skills needed in the market. As Tom Millar, Group Trainer at iomart points out it is impossible to keep up with changes. And although there is general desire to stay ahead and be proactive in the digital space, in reality, it is hard not to be reactive.

Employers feel this gives employees the upper hand. As a headline in HR Magazine recently ran: “Candidates choosing employer brand over salary, finds LinkedIn”. While Alexandra Hopkins, UK Head of Learning & Development at CGI, agrees that today’s employees are “the consumer”. And having decent progression opportunities within a company is a far bigger draw than mere cash.

Tom Millar believes this means that employees should have access to learning not totally associated with the job. While Hopkins adds employers may be concerned about “freestyle learning” but her message to staff is always “use whatever is good and please record it so people know”.

Final opinion on the skills gap will obviously come down to perspective: it has always been hard to track down the right people or the right role whether you’re an employee or employer. Yet as this roundtable concludes, how those challenges are met, will ultimately rest on company culture rather than the nuts and bolts of technology.


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