The Inevitable Shift From Jobs to Skills

by Sharlyn Lauby on January 26, 2012

Years ago, I was working on a consulting assignment involving a company’s customer service challenges.  The company decided the answer was to throw bodies at the situation. The assumption? More people = Better service.  At some point, I was talking with the senior vice president of operations about the decision.  And I asked, “Will there come a time when the company examines the additional staffing numbers versus the scheduling system?”  He looked at me a bit puzzled.

I completely understood why the company decided to hire more people.  They needed to do something immediatelyHR, Human Resources, staffing, skills, skills gap, training, educationBut you guys know hiring more people doesn’t automatically mean better service.  It means more people on the payroll.  The real answer is having enough people at the right times.  That’s a scheduling issue, not a staffing issue.

I was reminded of this story after reading an interview with Seth Godin titled, “If You’re an Average Worker, You’re Going Straight to the Bottom”.  It’s a quick, interesting article you might want to check out.

The conversation today is about having enough jobs and reducing the unemployment rate.  At some point, the discussion will shift to having enough qualified people for open positions.  That’s a skills issue.

The skills gap conversation has been going on for years.  People, companies and government agencies have been predicting doom and gloom for at least a decade.  The Great Recession suspended the discussion.  But it’s coming back as evidenced by the recent article Role Reversal: Employers Say They Can’t Find Workers.

For companies, this is an excellent time to resurrect the skills conversation.  Are your current employees ready for the future growth of your organization?  What skills do they need to acquire to help your business remain competitive?  Is there a plan in place to provide employees with the skills they need in the future?

For employees, it’s time to do some homework.  Do you have a clear understanding what your profession will look like 5 years from now?  How do your skills stack up?  Are there things you can do to prepare yourself for future opportunities?

And let me toss one more partner into this conversation – education.  The business and education communities will need to work together to make sure the skills needed for a person to enter the workforce are being taught in school.

None of us can afford to sit on the sidelines. Bridging the skills gap will take a collaborative effort. We need to plan for it today.

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