How HR can address talent shortages in 3 key steps

In an effort to address talent shortages, organisations must create a culture of career management and learning that nurtures, motivates and engages talent

HR directors and business leaders must create a culture of career management and learning to address the current talent shortages across Australia, according to ManpowerGroup.

It found that 42 per cent of employers cannot fill roles, despite the ABS unemployment rate hovering above 6 per cent.

However, the number of employers implementing workforce strategies to tackle talent shortages is down five per cent from last year.

The 2015 ManpowerGroup Talent Shortage Survey found that skilled trades are experienced the biggest talent shortage in Australia, followed by the management/executive sector, sales representatives, engineers, technicians, labourers and accounting and finance staff.

Bridget Beattie, executive vice president Asia Pacific at Right Management and career expert within ManpowerGroup said having a flexible and agile workforce will be key for organisations to compete in the constantly evolving business landscape.

“Organisations must create a culture of career management and learning that nurtures, motivates and engages talent in a way that and provides individuals with opportunities to increase their value throughout their careers,” she said.

Steps for HR leaders
Beattie said organisations must first use assessment tools to build self-awareness for individuals, both to identify where their strengths lie and what makes them ‘tick’ at work in a way that will unleash their full potential.

Second, she said that a career and learning culture can only be achieved if is role modelled from leadership level down.

“To gain the highest traction and return on investment, leaders should be trained as career coaches who take an active approach to the continued learning and development of talent within the organisation,” she said.

“Human resource and business leaders cannot afford to be on the back foot when it comes to making sure the organisation has the talent it needs tomorrow”

Finally, although many organisations are ‘flatter’ today, with a less-defined career trajectory, Beattie said organisations must ensure internal and external appointments are part of its “story repertoire”.

“When appointments are told in a way that is natural, business leaders repeatedly say this strategy is the one that resonates most strongly for the workforce, as it demonstrates ‘vibrancy’ around career development which reflects positively for individuals within the organisation,” she said.

Building a flexible and agile workforce
Central to a flexible and agile workforce is ensuring large organisations have a ‘learning culture,’ which is responsive and willing to change with the needs of the organisation and wider market, Beattie added.

“Organisations can test for individuals’ ‘learning capability’ during the recruitment process, to assess their resilience and ability to adapt to change,” she said.

“However, human resource and business leaders cannot afford to be on the back foot when it comes to making sure the organisation has the talent it needs tomorrow, it needs its current workforce to adapt and change.”

For this to happen, she said it is crucial that HR leaders work to consistently develop new soft and hard skills within the organisation, adjacent or similar to skills an individual already has, to make sure the organisation is ready for new technologies which are increasing the pace of change.

“It is much easier for individuals to learn technical skills over soft-skills, so organisations will a strong soft skillset are already on the front foot,” she said.

“It’s then about making sure their technical skills are aligned to where the market is headed.”

Avoiding the productivity pitfalls
There are also a number of pitfalls businesses face in staying ahead of the productivity and competitiveness curve.

Particularly following the global financial crisis, Beattie said it was not uncommon for organisations to get caught up plugging skills gaps for immediate need, rather than looking at developing a strategic plan around what skills it will need in the next twelve months to two years.

“Leaders will need to have qualities such as the ability to identify key industry trends and stay ahead of their competitors”

Further, although job titles may not have changed significantly over a timeframe of two or so years, she said job functions or roles may have due to the critical need for organisations to shorten time to value.

“Therefore, organisations must make sure they are identifying key talent that is resilient and flexible to change, by providing the necessary work experiences needed to test for this,” she said.

“While this is a challenge for leaders and managers of organisations, the responsibility also rests how individuals are raised and educated to ensure they are mentally flexible and are able to proactively respond to change.”

Key talent management trends
Beattie also forecast a number of key talent development and talent retention trends over the coming few years, and pointed to a continued need for organisations to develop strong leaders that can engage and inspire their workforces.

“Leaders will need to have qualities such as the ability to identify key industry trends and stay ahead of their competitors, to ensure the organisation continues to be successful: individuals want to be confident their employer is a place where they can develop their career,” she said.

More research is also highlighting the role of the individual in the development of their own career, according to Beattie.

As such, organisations will need to focus on attracting and retaining individuals that are fundamentally optimistic and willing to adapt to future need.

“Industry leading organisations of the future will be those that have most talented employees as a result of their development ability, curiosity and willingness to challenge the status quo, and their flexibility around change,” she said.

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