Rarely a week goes by without a headline or story about a particular skills shortage, last week in the UK it was the film industry but you can add to that IT skills, freight drivers and even lawyers – heaven forbid. And whilst, like most of our news stories these days, there is an element of hyperbole and “story making”, there is also a common link. That is organisations’ collective inability to properly invest in future skills.
With the exception of an extreme event – pandemic, ash cloud, insurrection to name but a few – businesses would be deemed to be negligent if they failed to build resilience into their supply chain and as a result were unable to deliver their core product or service. Supermarket supply chains were such a big story exactly because we are so used to turning up in our local shop and finding everything that we have on our shopping list. The planning and thought that goes into the supply chain far outweighs anything that organisations commit to the workforce planning. And yet “people are [their] greatest asset”.
The abundance of routes into qualification now have never been better or of a higher standard. Add to that that organisations in the UK are already paying into the apprenticeship levy, it begs the question what stands in the way of better, more thoughtful planning and resilience in the workforce planning? When HR teams (in particular) talk about wanting to be more strategic and having more influence at the “top table”, then you have to ask why they aren’t championing this more successfully? How many really understand the broader skills horizon versus just hoping that their latest recruitment campaign or family friendly policy will solve their current issues?
Our job should not only be to meet the current needs, but to anticipate and protect the supply for the future. That means we need to understand not only future needs, but likely supply, the demographic and geographical challenges of our markets and look to build the interventions now that may not serve us, but will be gratefully received by those that follow. That’s the proper work, the strategic work that we want to do and yet, when there is the opportunity, too often fail to take up. But what if we did?