Build a Bridge to Close the Gap

It’s almost 2017, and the skills gap is still here—and it’s wider than ever before. Hopefully, you worked diligently throughout 2016 and already have a plan in place to close that gap so you can focus on staffing your open positions. But if you haven’t figured out yet how to deal with the skills gap (or maybe haven’t even started thinking about it), don’t panic! It’s never too late to work on this problem, and here are some great places to start.

Embrace the gig economy

Consider breaking one full-time position (or work product) down into several tasks or shifts and staffing each piece with a different worker. This option could work well when a company has trouble finding someone that can work at certain times, such as the 3 p.m. to 11 p.m. weekday shift in a manufacturing plant, for example. Breaking that eight-hour shift into chunks (say, 3 p.m. to 11 p.m. on Thursdays and Fridays; 3 p.m. to 7 p.m. on Mondays, Tuesdays, and Wednesdays; and 7 p.m. to 11 p.m. on Mondays, Tuesdays, and Wednesdays) and letting different people work each slot could greatly increase the company’s ability to staff those times. Granted this might take a bit of work educating your clients and fine tuning a program but rest assured that more and more companies are embracing this workplace “Uberization,” in which employees (gig workers) grab the shifts or tasks that they want to work or do and decline the rest. The trend toward this sort of gig economy is growing so much that international payroll company ADP is even developing a mobile app to help this workforce manage their pay and taxes.

Go Mobile—Literally!

Creative staffing involves finding new ways to connect with candidates. Mobile recruiting apps, for example, make it easier for job hunters to browse and apply for open positions. But virtual connections have their limitations, so take inspiration from mobile blood banks and bookmobiles and go where the people are. Instead of an RV full of medical equipment and books, bring an RV full of mini-cubicles and computers to sporting events, large shopping centers, concerts, and other places where crowds gather. Another option is to set up stand-alone hiring kiosks in grocery stores and shopping malls. Both types of mobile recruiting station let people apply for jobs and even complete some pre-employment testing all in one convenient location.

Build the Bridge

The “skills gap” that most employers are facing today typically arises from one of two causes: either companies simply can’t find enough people to staff their unskilled positions, or they can’t find enough employees with the specific skill sets that the organization needs. If numbers alone are your problem, then casting a wider net (in part by trying one of the two strategies mentioned above) might help. But if you’re mostly faced with a lack of skilled workers, you need to tackle this challenge before your future employees enter the workforce. For example, partner with local high schools to establish programs to give students the training they’ll need to be able to fill skilled positions after graduation. Reaching out to groups that are underrepresented in your industry (for example, women make up about 47% of the labor force but only 27% of the manufacturing workforce) is another strategy that can help you find the skilled workers you need.

Companies will always need workers, and people will always need jobs. Most of the time, those two interests align for mutual benefit. When there’s a skills gap, though, both sides struggle to meet. Fortunately, companies can bridge that gap—by thinking outside the box and exploring new strategies.