NEW YORK; Oct. 29, 2013 – U.S. executives at large companies confirm that a skills gap persists for their businesses, with nearly half (46 percent) concerned that they won’t have the skills they need in the next one to two years, according to new research released today by Accenture (NYSE: ACN). In a positive sign, 51 percent of companies expect to increase investments in training over the next two years, and 35 percent of executives whose companies are facing a skills shortage admitted that they have not invested enough in training in the past.
The Accenture 2013 Skills and Employment Trends Survey: Perspectives on Training surveyed 400 executives at large U.S. companies to assess hiring, staffing and training strategies. While nearly three-quarters (72 percent) of executives identified training as one of the top ways for employees to develop new skills, only 52 percent of workers employed by the companies surveyed currently receive company-provided, formal training. By comparison, a previous Accenture survey found that only 21 percent of U.S. workers said they received company-provided formal training between 2006 and 2011.
The survey also found that businesses are facing big consequences as a result of not fixing their skills gap. Among companies currently facing or anticipating a skills shortage, 66 percent anticipate a loss of business to competitors, 64 percent face a loss of revenue, 59 percent face eroding customer satisfaction and 53 percent say they will face a delay in developing new products or services. The inability to train employees with needed new skills, or to hire enough workers with relevant skills, is also causing additional pressure and stress for the majority (87 percent) of companies’ existing employees.
“It’s clear that U.S. businesses are looking to take a more active role in solving the skills challenge, and that failing to do so can result in significant business consequences,” said David Smith, senior managing director of Accenture Talent & Organization. “Developing more effective and targeted training programs is a critical element in improving the skills of the workforce.”
For those executives who have or are anticipating a skills shortage, the biggest demand is for IT skills (44 percent) and engineering (36 percent) with R&D (29 percent) and sales (29 percent) close behind; these skills are particularly in demand among manufacturers. When looking at hiring overall, the retail, transportation, telecommunications and utilities industries are most in need of leadership, communications, people management and project management skills.
Overall, nearly one-third (31 percent) of executives surveyed anticipate increasing their workforce over the next one to two years, while 62 percent expect their hiring to remain the same. Among those who have or anticipate a skills shortage, 41 percent said it is because they can’t attract candidates with the skills they need to their industry, 38 percent would hire more people if they were getting qualified candidates, 26 percent can’t pay what candidates want and 19 percent didn’t anticipate the skills they would need.
“The mismatch of skills needed and skills available is forcing organizations to rethink everything from how they define jobs to how they mine their organizations for hidden talent to how they recruit and evaluate candidates,” says Katherine Lavelle, managing director of Accenture Talent & Organization, North America. “Companies are increasingly looking outside their industries for potential candidates, and they are evaluating broader generalist skill sets and competencies so that they can quickly build on these to develop more specific skills for a job.”
As executives explore and discuss the current skills gap and future skills needs, they are continuing to use new methods of delivering training to employees. The survey found that 42 percent use mobile delivery for training, 35 percent use social media, 27 percent use massive open online courses (MOOCs) and 13 percent use gamification.
Accenture has identified some key strategies for companies tackling the skills gap:
- Find a balance between formal and informal learning. As digital technology blurs the boundaries between formal and informal learning, companies should consider ways to strike a balance between the two and help ensure that they work in tandem. For instance, embedding learning in everyday work – shadowing others, mentorships, or learning from peers through online forums – can help formal online or classroom training become more relevant and more effective.
- Embrace new ways to develop skills. Other recent scalable developments are helping training become more relevant, such as social media tools that facilitate collaboration and knowledge sharing, gamification that immerses employees in virtual scenarios, and mobile training delivery that allows learning to take place wherever and whenever an employee happens to be.
- Expand your candidate pool. Given the reported difficulty of finding qualified candidates, companies should consider dropping the notion of finding the “perfect” candidate based on a list of specific skills, education or experience. Instead, they could look for candidates with more generalist skills – even those outside their industry, in other geographies, or with adjacent or overlapping skill sets – that can easily be developed to perform the job.
- Screen talent based on newly emerging data sources. Instead of screening potential candidates based on key words in a resume, exploit new data sources as part of the effort to get fuller and more predictive insights into future performance. For example, emerging websites offer samples of a candidate’s work, assessments that gauge a person’s cultural fit and motivations, or social media contributions that can reveal their interests.
- Invest earlier in the talent supply chain. Leading companies are partnering with colleges and universities to review and revise curricula so relevant skills are acquired as part of their programs. Some companies are even setting up open access training programs to ensure that more people have the skills they need in specific regions. Once trained, the first right of employment is with the company that trained them.
About the Survey
The Accenture 2013 Skills and Employment Trends Survey was based on telephone interviews of 400 executives with hiring and training responsibilities at large U.S. businesses across a broad range of industries. Departments represented include marketing, human resources, sales, accounting, finance, transportation, legal, R&D, IT, customer service, distribution and manufacturing. The survey was fielded on behalf of Accenture by ICR. Learn more at www.accenture.com/SkillsGap.
Accenture is a global management consulting, technology services and outsourcing company, with approximately 275,000 people serving clients in more than 120 countries. Combining unparalleled experience, comprehensive capabilities across all industries and business functions, and extensive research on the world’s most successful companies, Accenture collaborates with clients to help them become high-performance businesses and governments. The company generated net revenues of US$28.6 billion for the fiscal year ended Aug. 31, 2013. Its home page is www.accenture.com.
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