Knuckling Down on Skills Mismatches image

Knuckling Down on Skills Mismatches

Staff Squared date icon3rd January 2020

Tag iconManaging staff

Have you ever found yourself on the job hunt, but anything that jumps out at you or really piques your interest isn’t the right fit because you’re either underqualified or don’t have enough experience?

I’m sure we’ve all had to get over that hurdle at one point or another in our working lives – and it’s frustrating when you consider the sheer amount of jobs that are actually out there. It’s really difficult as a job seeker when you know in your heart that you have such a keen interest in a certain industry, but no employer is willing to take a chance on you. 

Why is this Such an Issue?

The problem is that the demand for certain skills and the availability of those skills in prospective candidates often don’t correlate, meaning that recruitment becomes challenged. This is otherwise known as skills mismatch. 

Skills mismatches are a problem that a lot of companies find hard to navigate when it comes to finding the right people to fill their open positions for one of the following reasons: 

  • There are too many open vacancies that require a specific skill set, but a lack of candidates that have those skills.  
  • There’s a large number of people with certain skills, but a limited amount of jobs are available to accommodate them. 

How Extreme is the Skills Mismatch?

Interestingly, research conducted by the CIPD on 3,700 workers in the UK identified that 49% of workers feel they are under-skilled for their current jobs. A further 49% reported that they think they’re over-skilled. That leaves a staggeringly small percentage (2% to be precise) who are equally matched to the jobs they do. 

In the same research, the CIPD also found that a large portion of jobs in the UK require next to nothing in terms of skills and qualifications – which gets you wondering what happens to the thousands of graduates who earn their degrees (and more) every year. If the majority of jobs out there fall way below their ability and skill set, are they able to land themselves a job doing what they paid and studied hard for over a long period of time?  The research answers this question quite plainly. Over-qualification is highest amongst those with degree-level qualifications, with many graduates ending up in non-graduate roles. 

How has this Happened?

Now, more than ever, school leavers are encouraged to pursue some form of further education. 

Whether it be to stay on at Sixth Form to get A-Levels, move onto college for an A-Level equivalent or find an apprenticeship and learn new skills on the job, the Government has put measures in place to give young people the best chance at learning new or advancing existing skills. 

But even when these opportunities are taken advantage of, not everyone goes on to higher education. Instead, they jump straight into the working world.

Now, this shouldn’t necessarily be a bad thing. There are plenty of entry-level jobs out there that allow staff to learn and grow at work and help to mould them to the company’s requirements. This isn’t always the case, though. Unfortunately for some, once they start working, they struggle to find ways to enhance their skill set and find themselves in the same line of work, with very little in the way of progression prospects well into their adult lives. 

There are various reasons for that, some of which were identified in the CIPD’s research: 

  • Individuals need both the motivation and the opportunity to deploy their skills effectively. This isn’t always available. 
  • Lower-paid individuals, and those in lower socio-economic groups, are much less likely to have been promoted, highlighting problems with social mobility, as well as those associated with escaping low pay.
  • A lack of opportunities was the most commonly reported barrier to progression; however, the survey uncovered that well over a quarter of respondents were not seeking to progress.
  • A quarter of the workforce had undertaken no training in the last 12 months, with older employees, low-wage workers, those on part-time contracts and the self-employed particularly badly affected.
  • The key role that workplace culture supported by high-quality line management plays in enabling workers to use and develop their skills and progress at work.

What Impact do Skills Mismatches Have on Businesses?

How skills are used and developed in the workplace not only have social ramifications for individuals but have an economic impact on organisations and society. People fortunate enough to use their skills fully, experience better job satisfaction, have greater earning potential and are much more resilient to change. Businesses whose workers are well matched to their roles benefit from a more productive workforce and increased profitability. 

On the other hand, those in mismatched jobs are more likely to suffer mental health issues, report lower job satisfaction and are more likely to leave their job. They are faced with less earning potential and fewer progression opportunities. The research conducted by the CIPD found that 32% of workers don’t feel there is any trust between staff and management, These factors produce a knock-on-effect for businesses as they manifest into poor staff retention and reduced productivity. 

How can Skills Mismatches be Resolved? 

How well people’s skills are used in the workplace is shaped by the way work is organised and how jobs are designed, as well as other people management practices. Well-designed work that provides opportunities for growth, a supportive workplace culture that fosters commitment and engagement and effective reward and performance management, all contribute towards people staying motivated and using their skills more effectively. 

There are a number of things that employers can do to reduce skills mismatches and improve development opportunities within their businesses.

Conduct Skills Audits 

Knowing and understanding the skills you have within your workforce is the essential first step in addressing skills mismatches. Look at skill sets, consider demographics and identify business-critical roles – both strategic and operational. The skill sets people have may be much broader than just those that are regularly used in their current roles – there may be relevant skills that are or have been developed outside of work that can prove to be an asset to your business. A skills audit and regular development conversations can help organisations identify and make better use of their people’s skills, particularly in areas of the business where those skills are in high demand.

Review Job Design and Team Structure 

Having established an understanding of the skills available to you, review current job roles and team structures to help identify areas where the use of those skills can be optimised. Well-designed work that provides individuals with the chance to problem-solve and collaborate with others bolsters employee empowerment. It also promotes greater trust, and development of the skills that are seen as most important for work, such as communications, team working, planning and organisation, and of course problem-solving.

Look at Recruitment Practices 

Degree-level qualifications are often used as a candidate filter in the recruitment sifting process, even when those qualifications don’t have direct relevance for the role in question. Employers need to rethink the entry requirements of the job and not be caught up in what others are doing. This would help reduce qualification mismatch and, at the same time, make recruitment practices more open and inclusive, enabling employers to benefit from a more diverse talent pool. Recruiters should be prepared to take a broader view on transferable skills and seek not only candidates with like-for-like experience, but those with potential and ability to grow with the changing requirements of the company.

Invest in Training and Skills Development 

Nearly a quarter of employees (24%) had reported not receiving any form of training over the last 12 months. Providing employees with access to training, as well as opportunities to pick up experience from changes in duties or tasks, helps individuals develop and deploy their skills more effectively. Employers should explore a combination of interventions including formal training sessions and various forms of in-work learning.

For example, learning from peers through face-to-face interactions or online networks is rated by workers as the most useful way of learning. Employers should explore mentoring initiatives, incentivise knowledge-sharing, and create opportunities for employees to ‘talk shop’. Job rotations and secondments, as mentioned above, along with shadowing are other forms of development that could be offered, particularly as these are highly valued by employees for acquiring the relevant skills and experience to support both their work and careers. 

Improve Management Capability

Managers are the gatekeepers to development opportunities and progression. They are key to shaping workplace culture and fostering a proactive and supportive work environment. However, many employees are critical of their managers’ lack of time or experience in fulfilling their roles. Common criticisms are that managers are too ‘hands-off’, and fail to provide proactive support, guidance or feedback. 

Most managers say they received no training on how to manage staff properly. companies should look to extend training and development to include line management capability, especially when staff are considered for promotion into managerial roles.

Written by Clarisse Levitan

Lead Customer Care Agent - Staff Squared

Clarisse works as the Lead of our Customer Support Team to provide all of our customers with the very best care and guidance when using their HR software.

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