Skills Gap, Turnover Are Top Talent Concerns

By Roy Maurer July 22, 2015

Although finding qualified talent to fill skilled positions is still the biggest concern for employers surveyed (cited by 48 percent of respondents), keeping and engaging employees is a rising priority, according to new research.

Results from Spherion Staffing Services’ 2015 Emerging Workforce Study, conducted by Harris Poll among 225 human resource managers and 2,027 employed U.S. adults, showed that 33 percent of employers chose turnover/retention as the top HR concern after the skills gap over the next few years, up from 23 percent in 2014. Respondents forecast that 16 percent of their workforce would likely leave within the next year, up from an estimated 13.5 percent in 2014.

The most challenging talent planning issues cited were finding qualified science, technology, engineering and mathematics professionals (34 percent); keeping workers’ skills up-to-date (26 percent); workers’ training costs (24 percent); and recruiting and hiring Millennials (23 percent).

Workers Concerned About Skills Atrophy

Employers are not the only ones challenged by a skills gap. About one-third of American workers feel their job skills are not up-to-date and anticipate that this will hinder their career advancement and chances of promotion, according to the survey.

Findings include:

  • 36 percent of workers believe their current job skills will not help them attain a promotion.
  • 36 percent worry about falling behind in acquiring necessary new skills.
  • 33 percent believe their current job skills fall short of where they should be.

About three-fourths (76 percent) of workers place the responsibility for providing a clear career development path on their employers. The survey found 31 percent of workers don’t feel they have been trained adequately by their employer, and only 33 percent rated the training and career development opportunities in their organization as excellent or good. On the other hand, 77 percent of employers surveyed said they have put more training and development programs in place to increase retention.

“It’s obvious that there’s a disconnect between workers and employers in the workplace when it comes to the skills gap,” said Sandy Mazur, division president of franchise and license operations at Spherion. “Workers and employers must take joint responsibility for closing the skills gap. Workers should understand where businesses are headed and what skills they’ll need to help close the gap, while employers should examine their workers’ skill levels to focus on training that will be helpful and useful for them.”

Workers and employers largely agree on the top skills that will be required for employment in the next five years. Workers believe problem-solving skills (51 percent), strategic thinking skills (31 percent) and evolving technology expertise (30 percent) are essential to have. Employers also value problem-solving (47 percent) and strategic thinking (34 percent), and additionally cite team-building and the ability to understand and interpret data as important skills that are needed to do a job (both at 25 percent).

Critical Retention-Drivers

Employee retention is top of mind for U.S. companies, especially as the economy rebounds and unemployment declines. Sixty percent of employers report that they have surveyed their employees in 2015 to find out what factors would motivate them to look for a new job within the next year, a sizable increase in employer proactivity on this issue, compared to the 49 percent of companies who surveyed their workforce in 2014.

About one-fourth of employees reported that they are likely to look for a new job in the next 12 months. They cited unhappiness with current salary (23 percent), followed by looking for a better opportunity (19 percent), not feeling valued (16 percent) and unhappiness with growth opportunities (13 percent).

Notably, when asked about the top retention-drivers at their organizations, HR pointed to the management climate, the culture and the work environment. However, employees chose compensation, benefits and earnings potential as the top reasons to stay.

Most Workers Satisfied

The good news for employers is that 77 percent of employees rated their job satisfaction as excellent, very good or good. The work aspects that were found to make the most employees happy were the salary, work/life balance and feeling valued by their employer.

Companies’ attempts to improve employee engagement is another positive trend. About six in 10 companies (62 percent) regularly survey or measure the engagement level of their workforce, up from 53 percent in 2014. Not surprisingly, the percentage of employers that said that engagement is difficult to measure also increased from 50 percent in 2014 to 65 percent.

Talent Pipeline a Major Concern

As Baby Boomers continue to retire and Millennials become the majority of the workforce, employers are becoming more preoccupied with creating a pipeline of future talent, developing a succession plan and engaging younger workers. “As experienced workers exit, employers will need to deal with training younger workers while balancing a multigenerational workforce with varying retention needs and wants,” Mazur said.

About eight in 10 respondents (82 percent) believe recruiting Millennials is critical to their company’s future success; at the same time, 70 percent believe exiting Baby Boomers will leave a major skills gap within their organization and 75 percent believe younger workers lack the business and life experience required for leadership positions.

A majority of respondents (62 percent) said their companies have increased their succession planning efforts to address impending Baby Boomer retirements, and 42 percent of companies are already preparing to attract and recruit the generation after Millennials—Generation Z—in order to stay ahead of future talent needs.

Roy Maurer is an online editor/manager for SHRM.

Follow him @SHRMRoy

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