14/09/2011 - 10:21

Flexible strategies to bridge the skills gap

14/09/2011 - 10:21


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Flexible strategies to bridge the skills gap

THOSE employers to have ruled out the possibility of recruiting candidates who require training will need to adjust their thinking as the skills shortage hits home. 

That’s one finding from the recently released Hays white paper, ‘Bridging the skills gap’, which identifies six strategies to help organisations overcome skills shortages. 

Coming in at number one is flexibility.

A critical success factor in this changing market is the capacity and willingness to be flexible.

This applies not only to how you recruit, train, develop or retain people, but also how you adapt to the changing market. This will separate those employers who succeed from those who aren’t even aware of what’s working and what’s not.

Employers should consider three flexible strategies as part of their plan to bridge the skills gap.

Transferable skills

Existing employees have already demonstrated their commitment and ‘fit’ with the organisation. Ironically many of the businesses suffering from the worst skills shortages focus on recruiting candidates with specific technical skills or industry experience, rather than transferable skills. 

When considering what skills are transferable, employers should look at what is really essential and what is desirable in a potential candidate. 

Consider candidates with the right cultural fit, who have the desired behaviours and transferable skills, not just the specific background initially required. 

In this way, you’ll open a vacancy to a larger pool of candidates who have solid experience, suit the company, and can become a highly valued asset with a little technical training.

Recruiting based on potential

This flexible strategy is particularly valid for entry-level roles. When using this strategy, an employer recruits and then trains graduates or less-experienced staff, rather than waiting for a candidate with specific and exact experience to become available. 

Again, when recruiting in this way it is necessary to determine what is essential rather than desirable and look for a candidate ready to rise to the challenge of the learning curve presented to them. Consider their long-term potential and what they could offer in the coming three to five years with training, rather than just the next two years.

Critical to this method of recruiting is identifying candidates with the appropriate cultural fit; in other words, their potential fit with the existing team and their affinity with the company’s values and the way it does business. 

Communication, initiative and level of ambition along with other soft skills applicable to the role – such as integrity, ability to participate as part of a team, customer service skills or ability to take project responsibility – are all good indicators of how a candidate is likely to succeed in a role and fit in with the business culture.

Flexible working options

This was the main strategy used to help businesses move forward in the last skills shortage, and so today most organisations have solid practices in place and have used flexible employment options at some point in time. 

This may have been by allowing a permanent employee to become part time or allowing an employee to leave an hour early one day a week to attend a course or watch a child’s sporting event.

By embracing flexibility in such ways, an organisation can not only retain critical skills but can widen the pool of potential talent to include candidates who need such flexibility to remain in the workforce. 

Telecommuting, flexible working hours, part-time employment, job sharing and compressed working weeks are all proven flexible workforce strategies.


Jane McNeill is the director of Hays in WA. For more details on this strategy, or to get a copy of Hays’ ‘Bridging the Skills Gap’ white paper contact Jane on 9322 5383.



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