Why the answer to the skills crisis could be solved from within

27 October 2022 Consultancy.com.au 3 min. read
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Faced with an ongoing shortage of skilled staff, an increasing number of organisations are turning to a new source of talent – their existing workforce, writes Christian Lucarelli, Vice President Sales for Asia Pacific at Nintex.

Rather than trying to recruit and retain staff from the open market, many organisations are opting to transfer staff between departments and provide opportunities for them to train and take on different roles.

It’s an approach that makes a lot of business sense. Plenty of organisations are already full of people who are a great cultural fit and who have ambition and a drive to succeed. Many also hunger to learn new skills or to be exposed to new and different experiences.

Christian Lucarelli, Vice President Sales for Asia Pacific, Nintex

However, in the majority of cases, people tend to remain in the area for which they were initially recruited. The skills that they possess are rarely made available to other departments and opportunities to reskill tend to be few and far between.

This is a situation that needs to change. Existing staff should be given an opportunity to become much more nomadic and seek out areas where they could add value to the organisation in new and interesting ways.

Rethinking promotions
The idea of looking internally for talent is being supported by changes in the way many individuals view their careers. Many have ambitions of taking on new challenges and responsibilities.

Rather than viewing promotions as a way of climbing the next rung on the corporate ladder, they instead see them as opportunities to shift into new areas and roles.

With this shift in mind, senior managers should take a holistic view to staffing and support employees with personal growth opportunities. Taking this approach will make it much more likely that they will stay for the longer.

It also should be recognised that internal transfers don’t have to be permanent. Organisations can allow people to ‘try before they buy’ by shifting teams or departments for pre-defined periods before reverting to their original positions.

Within some organisations, staff with transferrable skills are being placed in a so-called ‘centre of excellence’. From there, they can be seconded to various areas within the organisation as the need arises. The organisation benefits as key roles are filled while the staff benefit from variety and new experiences.

Identifying transferrable skills
Before staff can be successfully moved within an organisation to help overcome shortages and gaps, it’s worth examining the types of skills are the most transferable. In many cases, it will be soft skills that can be put to use in a diverse range of areas.

Examples of this came to light during the Covid-19 lockdowns that affected a wide range of industries. In areas such as airlines and hospitality, many staff found they could use their skills in customer service in other areas as they waited for their organisations to resume operations.

After receiving product training, people with these skills could readily move into customer service roles within technology companies. They could quickly establish valuable customer relationships and help to grow business operations.

Communication skills are also very transferrable. They can be used to translate technical concepts into layman’s terms and make them more understandable for prospective customers. Staff who can understand particular customer requirements and then explain how products and services can meet those requirements will always be in demand.

By thinking outside the box when it comes to their staff, organisations can go a long way to reducing the challenges faced as a result of ongoing skills shortages. The result will be a more efficient organisation and more engaged employees.