Protect your future: How to combat widening skill gaps

David Leithead 27.09.2018

HR teams are integral to ensuring their companies don’t suffer at the hands of a widening skills gap. What can be done to make sure a workforce is prepared and protected against this?

Lack of skills threatening growth

In the UK, a lot of areas already display a significant mismatch between skills available and what is required to help organisations grow. This is anticipated to be heightened by Brexit, as there will be reduced access to overseas professionals and the pool of skilled professionals in the UK is already limited. In particular, IT and technology companies are expected to suffer.

Addressing the skills shortage, at this time more than ever, should be a top business priority. If businesses don’t adapt, they will suffer. One way the issues can be faced is by utilising the existing workforce - investing in development and training programmes for employees. This shouldn’t be a one off event spurned by Brexit, continual support of employee development, frontlined by HR and L&D teams, is crucial - there are many long term benefits including increased loyalty from employees, improved rates of retention and boosted productivity in the office.

Empower your employees to be future leaders

There is a crisis at managerial and team leader level, research has shown that professionals lacking leadership skills are an issue, so it is important to invest in future leaders. Professionals today move around much more frequently than they have in previous decades - in order to get commitment from your employees, the business must commit to their future. If you offer lower level employees a variety of work and the opportunity to lead, you can build leadership in them from an early stage. Being exposed to new tasks and having heightened responsibilities will install a newfound confidence into lots of individuals.

Lloyds Banking Group has implemented a 30-day development challenge to try and establish a desire for leadership across certain members of their workforce. As a result, staff motivation and productivity improved and 7,000 potential leaders were trained.

Search for HR jobs

Promote individual upskilling

The opportunity for personal development is frequently cropping up as popular benefit that professionals look for in a potential employer. This is an effective method of talent retention and should be considered by all organisations. If you offer several days per year when your employees can undertake training courses to upskill in areas relevant to their role, they will look favourably on the company for supporting their professional development and the company will in turn see the benefits of having increased skill sets across the organisation.

Apprenticeships can go further than you may think

Whilst apprenticeships aren’t available to every organisation, if you have the capacity to take on an apprentice, it is an excellent way of moulding the next generation of leaders. Apprenticeships create a certain driven type of employee and it is frequently the case that they are incredibly determined to succeed and take on greater responsibilities - traits that are integral to leaders. Apprenticeships prompt the individual to learn more than just how to do a job. They have to be versatile and explore different ways of working. Some hugely influential people started out as apprentices - don’t underestimate a driven young professional!

There are numerous schemes available and you may be eligible to receive government funding, find out more about employing an apprentice.

The future is internal

Due to the difficulties frequently encountered when attempting to source and onboard suitable manager level professionals, the best step you can take is to consider the resources you already have - your existing employees. Whilst this does mean that you need to be planning well in advance, if you install the right practices and retain these individuals, your organisation will be generating a long line of leaders who could all slot into a senior level role when a position needs to be filled. If they have been with your organisation for a long time, they will know all processes and fellow staff members which is much better than an external hire.

David Leithead's picture
Chief Operations Officer UK


People Services Project Manager
Talent Fulfilment Specialist - Leading professional service firm
City of London26.03.2020
HR Manager - Fluent Mandarin & English