With an increasingly complex business environment, businesses need to know how to resolve skill gaps in their workplace

The skills gap is a rapidly growing issue for manufacturers and distributors. Almost every day that I go into a client, go to a trade association meeting or talk with colleagues, I hear of someone who has retired, decided to change careers, jumped ship for a better opportunity or I hear of a company with too few high-skilled resources for what’s required to succeed. Worse yet, according to the survey my firm conducted in conjunction with APICS Inland Empire, 77% are struggling to fill these positions.

The business environment has increased in complexity. Just think of a few of the recent complexities: 1) global 2) extended supply chains 3) increased regulations, requirements & risks 4) the Amazon effect of the 24/7 customer expecting same-day delivery as commonplace 5) increased focus on sustainability. Top talent is required to successfully simplify and navigate these waters.

What can executives do to proactively approach this skills gap dilemma? Three of the top strategies include: 1) Retain your talent. 2) Develop your talent. 3) Attract top talent.

    1. Retain your talent: Although this might seem obvious, it is the most often overlooked strategy for success. As employees are gaining comfort with the recovery, they are pursuing opportunities that offer greater responsibility, opportunities for career progression, flexibility (including remote work and/or are closer to their home), and money – just to name a few. Are you thinking about how to retain your top talent?Of course there are a few reasons which are tough to avoid such as retirement and a dramatic reduction in the commute; however, in my experience, the vast majority of reasons can be avoided. It boils down to leadership. Do your leaders appreciate their employee’s value? Do they hold folks accountable? Interestingly enough, top talent will stay when they see that non-performers are being addressed. Yes, you must make the tough decisions! Do your leaders make time to talk with employees about goals? Offer support? Who do they prioritize? The lack of time is not a resource; it’s a priority.Don’t even think about training and development programs or recruiting if you don’t have solid retention programs in place. You’ll be even busier and yet still fail. Instead, you must start with this fundamental!
    2. Develop your talent: In my experience, there are two key ways to develop your people: 1) Training and development programs. 2) Mentor programs. Exceptional leaders do not consider this an either-or situation but instead require both.Training and development programs achieve the following goals: 1) Show the employees that you value them. 2) Provide training on specific skills. 3) Provide development opportunities required for career progression such as an international assignment or a cross-functional role.These types of programs can be an essential element of a significant culture change such as the journey of lean, SIOP (sales, inventory & operations planning), an ERP upgrade and a merger and acquisition. What better way to bring employees up-to-speed on new concepts? In addition, these programs can be invaluable in training for new job skills. As the business environment becomes more complex and employers are reluctant to hire up to pre-recession levels, a broader range of skills is no longer a nice-to-have. It has become a “must”!Mentor programs can be invaluable. In order to develop new behaviors required for a job, there is no alternative. Mentoring gives the employee a way to observe someone who has “been there and done that”. Then, the employee can trial or test out new behaviors, and the mentor will provide feedback and guide them to success.
    3. Attract top talent: This is third by design as it is often more successful to retain and develop than it is to hire new talent. With that said, you must always be on the lookout for top talent – and ensuring your organization will attract top talent. Would potential employees want to work for your company? Your leaders? What do they hear in the press? What will their friends and colleagues tell them? In today’s world, the best employees come via referral.Hiring is a much tougher task than it seems. I venture to guess that almost every hiring manager has “stunk” at the hiring process at one point in his/her career. I certainly did! How do you know the seemingly perfect candidate will deliver? You must do the hard work to decide what you expect of the potential hire. Don’t worry so much about the typical job description information – a compilation of tasks. Instead, what results are you expecting? How can you be assured your candidate will be the right one?My colleague and friend Janet Boydell has an effective process that she calls the Fast Forward Resume which has proven highly effective. It is well worth reading up on and pursuing – IF you want to hire the right person. She has two books on the topic – A Hire Connection and You’re Not the Person I Hired: A CEO’s Survival Guide to Hiring Top Talent.

    My passion for my original brand Profit through People is not by accident. I’ve always believed in pragmatic and tangible results. These cannot be achieved without top talent. Thus, you must circle back to the fundamentals. Even in today’s complex world, these successful strategies of retaining, developing and hiring top talent are quite simple. Simple but not easy to implement…….will you be one of the few to pursue?