Human Capital Management

A Skilled Workforce

Addressing the Skills Shortage
from the Inside Out

Ronnie Toerien, HCM Strategy Leader, Oracle Africa @RonnieToerien


If you want to build a skilled workforce, give all employees access to relevant learning and training

The past ten years have seen a seismic shift in the workplace. Widespread automation and an increasing reliance on data have touched virtually every industry and changed job descriptions across the board.

Some have speculated this will result in many jobs being lost. For instance, 47% of workers in the financial services sector fear technology is putting their job at risk.

 Talented staff can leave an employer that doesn’t fulfil their expectations knowing they’ll quickly be picked up by a competitor.   

In reality, the situation is much more nuanced. Some jobs will indeed be taken over by automation technologies, but we will also see new roles created in an automated world. With some of the more mundane and admin-heavy tasks off their plate, workers can focus on more innovative value-driving activity.

There are jobs out there – EY’s US operation has said it plans to hire an astonishing 15,200 new employees in 2017. The bigger struggle organizations face is to find and nurture the talent they need. According to ManpowerGroup’s Talent Shortage Survey, 40% of employers admit to having talent shortages.

I’ve seen this for myself in South Africa, which is transitioning from a mineral resources based economy powered by low-skill workers to a service-based one that must be built on a broader base of skills. At present there are too few “high-value” employees to meet demand. This limits South Africa’s pace of innovation and has bred a hard fought talent war. Talented staff can leave an employer that doesn’t fulfil their expectations knowing they’ll quickly be picked up by a competitor.

 Organizations hire their young digitally-savvy talent in the hopes they will develop and become the managers of tomorrow, but Oracle research reveals they are coming up short.   

So how can companies square this circle of having posts to fill but not enough skilled people to fill them? In the words of Virgin CEO Richard Branson: “Train people well enough so they can leave, treat them well enough so they don’t want to.”

For me this boils down to one thing: ensuring employees feel supported when it comes to their career development.

Staff will rarely leave their job if they feel valued. Pay plays a part, as do non-salaried perks like gym memberships and flexible working, but companies need to show a deeper commitment to their people. A focus on training and learning is equally important, and this goes for employees at all levels.

 HR leaders are feeling the pressure as they work to keep high-value employees on board in the face of a worsening skills shortage.   

Organizations hire their young digitally-savvy talent in the hopes they will develop and become the managers of tomorrow, but Oracle research reveals they are coming up short. Just 21% of non-managers feel they can advance their career with their current employer, and just 39% see a long term future with their company. 

This is largely due to a perceived lack of learning opportunities. Educational programs, courses and training must be personalized and relevant, but just one quarter of non-managers feel their learning and training are linked to their development plan, compared with 60% of senior managers and directors.

Employees also want online and collaborative tools such as webinars, whiteboarding and enterprise social networking. However, Oracle also found that just 22% of non-managers have access to these resources, compared with nearly three quarters of their more senior colleagues.

HR leaders are feeling the pressure as they work to keep high-value employees on board in the face of a worsening skills shortage. Competitive salaries and attractive growth opportunities are two major parts of the equation, certainly when it comes to attracting new recruits, but a focus on modern and relevant training is crucial to addressing the skills shortage from the inside out.

Skills will become increasingly scarce and employees increasingly fickle as automation technologies continue to reshape the job market. Traditional HR approaches are being turned on their head under these conditions, and HR teams must take the lead in finding ways to strengthen their workforce and secure the company’s future success.


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