Hiring for the future: how companies can get ahead of the skills challenge

Future skill sets

65% of children starting elementary school today will ultimately end up working in jobs that don’t yet exist . That’s a mind-blowing statistic.

We are today, according to the World Economic Forum, on the brink of the Fourth Industrial Revolution. Developments in artificial intelligence and machine learning, robotics, nanotechnology, 3D printing and genetics, and biotechnology are transforming the way we live and work. Some jobs will vanish, others will grow, and jobs that don’t even exist today will become commonplace.

Yet our education system has its roots in the industrial revolution and prepares young people for a world that no longer exists.

The skills challenge

To thrive in the 21st century, students need more than traditional academic learning. They must be adept at soft skills such as collaboration, communication and problem solving – developed through social and emotional learning – coupled with more traditional cognitive skills.

In 2020, the top three job skills are projected to be complex problem solving, critical thinking, and creativity, but schools today are still focusing on reading, writing and arithmetic.

Furthermore, with the avalanche of new products, new technologies and new ways of working, people are going to have to become more creative in order to adapt. But according to Sir Ken Robinson, a leading expert on education, our schools are educating children out of creativity.

So how do we identify candidates with the right combination of cognitive and soft skills or “essential human skills” that make them valuable employees?

The short term skills solution

In the short-term, it is near impossible to assess whether candidates in a job interview hold the right soft skills. They may say they are good communicators or natural problem solvers but that doesn’t mean that they are.

Some HR teams are finding new and creative ways in order to assess these skills.   For example:

  • Playing games as part of the interview process that can reveal a candidate’s potential behaviors, values, and qualities.
  • Relying on recommendations and informal reference checks as a character assessment.
  • Reviewing candidate’s social media pages to explore passions and interests – 73% of recruiters use social media including LinkedIn, Twitter and Facebook to find candidates.
  • Accepting video resumes enabling recruiters to read the body language of potential candidates which is far more telling than words on a page.

Its also important to understand recruits’ motivations; companies can gauge a lot from understanding not just what potential employees think, but what they feel. Ultimately, if recruits share similar values with your company, then they’re more likely to also have the soft skills you prioritize and are looking for also.

Longterm skills solutions

In the long-term, HR teams can equip candidates with the right skills in a range of ways.

  • Identifying existing skills gap in their organization and investing in training and development. Successful People Companies tap into their own workforce’s potential before looking to recruit externally.
  • Partnering with learning institutions, such as universities, community colleges and chambers of commerce, to encourage more education and training for the skills needed in tomorrow’s marketplace.
  • Offering internship and apprenticeship programs to develop a pipeline of future workers. Global engineering and technology giant, Siemens is already offering apprenticeships to ensure that workers are trained for the jobs of today and tomorrow.
  • Participating in public-private sector workforce development initiatives.

A lot of this comes back to great workplace experiences: establishing a single source of truth, and using analytics to identify trends and gaps in skills; understanding employee motivations, and looking at how development and upskilling can drive engagement; and creating experiences that focus on the ways in which an employee interacts with your company over the duration of their relationship. Being one step ahead of their development – for example, offering training to upskill them in certain areas before they ask – can make all the difference.

In 2017 it is essential that we are arming tomorrow’s employees with the right skill set to work in an automated, fast moving, information age. Despite the widening skills gap, there is positive action that HR teams can take to educate and train their employees of the future. And to grow their business and attract the best talent, hey need to do this now – before its too late.

Find out more about staying ahead of the skills shortage, and the key to solving engagement. Read our whitepaper on workforce experience management.

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