Cameron Judson, CEO of HR services and recruitment
firm Chandler Macleod suggested that the tough economic climate had made employees wary of presenting all of their skills for fear of being seen as over-qualified for positions.
Chandler Macleod’s own research into skills underutilisation backed up the theory, with 42% of employees surveyed saying they didn’t advertise all of their skills to their employer.
“In the context of organisational change, industry change, technological change, employees don’t feel confident that they can present to the skills they have to their employer. There’s a fear they’ll be viewed as overqualified and potentially replaced by someone at a lower cost-point,” Judson said.
A lack of knowledge about what skills employees have will lead to the organisation underutilising the abilities it already has on board.
So how can companies combat this issue?
- Use culture and employee engagement to ease fears, said Judson. “It’s about being brave enough to ask staff about their skills,” says Judson. “It can be done informally one-on-one between manager and employee, or it can be done more formally at organisational level to facilitate aggregation of data.”
- Conduct a skills audit. Because it takes time to alter skill levels, businesses must not only understand their current demand for skills, but be able to predict future demand. Conducting a skills audit can uncover the skills and talents you have access to now, as well as help forward planning to improve future productivity and utilisation.
- Implement job design. The step following a skills audit, job design leads to job enrichment, engagement and in the best case scenario, better skills utilisation. Ensure work is designed to make full use of employee’s skills and abilities, and design jobs to involve teamwork, flexible job descriptions, multi-skilling and flexible work arrangements.
- Reconsider how you define skills and qualifications. “A lot of employers spend time looking at formal vocational and tertiary qualifications but not so much on experiential, on the job development. Yet that’s often where employees learn the most.”
- Keep a record of employee training to assess which skills are available in the organisation.
If you’re among the 41% of Australian employers identified in ManpowerGroup’s global Talent Shortage Survey as struggling to find job candidates with the right skills, maybe you need to take a closer look at the skills your workforce requires and the hidden ones it may already have.