‘I can’t find the talent and skills I need!’

This is one of the most common comments we hear from business owners on the Scaleup North East program. In a recent survey, Manpower surveyed nearly 40,000 employers in 43 countries to learn more about the impact that talent shortages have on companies. 45% of mid-size businesses reported they could not attract the skills they need. If you add the new generation entering and progressing through the job market into this equation, there is a real need for leaders to understand what drives and motivates employees if they are to truly start to address their talent and skills shortage.

According to David Willett, Corporate Director of the Open University, the talent and skills shortage is costing UK business circa £6 billion as businesses resort to buying in skills rather than developing them.

I find that on almost every encounter with a new Scaleup North East client they will cite a lack of talent and skills shortages as a critical issue in their business. As a former employer of 5,500 myself, this has resonated with me, clearly strategy to manage talent and address skills shortages that worked in the past are no longer working. We live and work in a rapidly ever-evolving world where the work environment continues to change. There is little doubt that certain jobs will exist in the near future that we don’t even know about yet, how does one prepare for this?

Despite the skills and talent shortage, I find it mystifying to hear companies that are in profit admit that learning and development is a “nice to have”, don’t invest in upskilling and developing their people, yet cite being surprised when acquisition and retention of talent is challenging.  Totaljobs recently surveyed 2,623 employees and 68% said they had left a job due to the lack of training and development.

It has never been easier with the wide array of tools and experts available to identify and learn about people in or applying to be in your organisation. It is incumbent on employers to make every effort to understand their work force. Employees are more open to cross skilling and moving to new job families than ever before. Talent is talent – new skills can be taught.  Clearly the most obvious solution to your talent and skills challenges, is identify your talented and skilled people and develop them, upskill them and retain them – “Hire for attitude, train for skill”.  

I urge business leaders to review their learning and development budget. Hands up how many out there even have a learning and development budget that is anything more than token. If managed properly, your investment will make you money, yes, it is costing you the money you see on your overhead line in your budget but it’s the unseen return on investment. How much has it added onto your income line, customer experience scores and retention, productivity and discretionary effort outputs? How much has it saved on recruitment and assisted with long term succession planning? There is more support out there than ever – apprenticeships at all levels, skills training and education through colleges, learning and development professionals and universities.  

At a recent Scaleup North East hosted event attended by leading North East universities and colleges and organisations such as the Scaleup Institute, the discussion focussed around talent, skills and leadership. It was agreed that higher education partners can create programs, designed to meet the needs of scale ups and start-ups through creating bespoke programs, developing a suite of online tools and potentially expanding the offering through having external people delivering the programs such as Scaleup North East and Entrepreneur’s Forum that meet the requirements of start-ups, scale ups and SME’s that would drive take up and interest.

Don’t overlook the value of developing your employees, it will not only benefit the company but will position you as an employer who invests in your staff.