Survey: Employees Lack Critical Competencies

The pipeline of up-and-coming business leaders is running dry.

By Jen Schramm Apr 1, 2016
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Call it a crisis of leadership. Many business unit executives say that job candidates lack key competencies in critical areas, with leadership and navigation considered the most important missing competency, according to new survey results from the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM). At the same time, leaders are increasingly recognizing the importance of hiring workers who can master key competencies—such as communication and business acumen—in order to ensure success. This is especially true in customer service, research and development, IT, and purchasing and procurement, where such skills are used most often. The good news? HR can help people develop and grow within the organization.

“As the use of competencies becomes established practice across industries, organizations and job families, HR professionals are being called upon to work even more closely with business unit leaders to define what it takes to be successful in different types of roles,” according to Joe Jones, Ph.D., director of HR competencies at SHRM. “In addition, HR is being asked to identify and implement the most effective and efficient ways to fill competency gaps.”

The survey defined competencies as “individual characteristics, including knowledge, skills, abilities, self-image, traits, mindsets, feelings, and ways of thinking, which, when used with the appropriate roles, achieve a desired result.”

Ninety-three percent of the executives surveyed believe that competencies are important for the overall success of their business units. Leadership and navigation stood out as the one they considered most critical for success. But nearly 4 in 10 executives say that candidates lack this competency.

Executives reported that candidates also lacked other competencies, including communication and critical evaluation. However, the respondents did not consider these skills as important to current or future success as leadership and navigation. Nearly 60 percent said leadership was crucial now, and more than half believed it would be essential in the next 10 years. By contrast, 41 percent reported that communication skills were essential now, and 24 percent said the same about critical evaluation.

For several years, business leaders have voiced concerns about leadership shortages in their organizations. Just last year, SHRM research indicated that both HR professionals and non-HR C-suite executives believed that developing new leaders would be the top human capital challenge over the coming decade.

In addressing the shortcomings of the talent in today’s labor market, HR, too, must hone its competencies to attract and retain the best and brightest. After all, a competent workforce starts with competent HR.

Jen Schramm is manager of the Workforce Trends program at SHRM.


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