Business Advice

Fixing the skills gap: How to attract (and retain) the most talented employees for your business

- January 28, 2022 3 MIN READ

2022 looks set to be another year of uncertainty, with four in ten businesses continuing to struggle with labour and staff shortages. At the same time, research indicates that nine in ten Australian jobseekers lack the required skills and training demanded by the lion’s share of available roles, writes Annie Sheehan, Head Australia & New Zealand, Project Management Institute.

Cultural shifts in the workplace, demographic trends such as the Great Resignation, and retirement have created a much smaller talent pool.

Simultaneously, more organisations have adopted project management and agile approaches to completing their work. For example, using planning and budgeting know-how to deliver products and services with the highest customer value as quickly as possible.

Set your business up for success with the best talent

So, what can businesses do to set themselves up for success? How can they ensure they hire, invest in, and retain top talent while implementing the most appropriate working methods?

Here are three essential tips to finding – and keeping – employees who will really help your business shine.

1. Hiring the most qualified employees

While a broad range of capabilities is essential, business acumen and power skills such as relationship building, collaborative leadership, strategic thinking and creative problem solving, are critical for successful project delivery in these new ways of working.

PwC research found that although creative problem solving is one of the most valuable capabilities for a project manager, it is also the most challenging skill to recruit.

Despite approaches to project delivery and new skill sets evolving significantly in recent years, most businesses have not adapted their approach to recruitment and continue to rely on traditional and outdated practices.

The same PwC research found that just 38 per cent of organisations actively work to increase the diversity of candidates. Only 15 per cent see upskilling young people in under-represented communities as a priority, limiting themselves with their candidate choice.

Additionally, most organisations focus recruitment in the role’s location, with just four in ten recruiting in other parts of the country and one in eight offshore. This approach potentially excludes many gifted candidates. For example, not using flexible working models to leverage independent contractors, part-time employees, job-sharing, remote work, and alternative schedules could be detrimental to business success. 

engaged staff

2. Investing in talent retention

Although ways of working are continually changing, talent retention strategies have changed very little. Given the urgent need to improve core project competencies, skills-building programs require variety and innovation.

Consider prioritising investment into skills development and creating a business case that explicitly aligns capabilities to organisational strategy and competitive advantage. This business case would outline how hiring, training, performance and retention methods align with the required competencies. Without this, competency development will not be adequately invested in or prioritised.

A data-driven approach will go one step further to help measure progress and link the strategy to organisational performance.

Without developing a business case, talent retention strategies are often at risk of being undervalued. When you recognise capability-building as a central and integral element of successful business strategy execution, it supports organisations in achieving their objectives, driving successful project delivery and reducing the impact of the ongoing talent crisis.

Manager or coach teaching staff

3. Developing a culture of continuous learning

To equip employees with the necessary skills for the future of work, it is more important than ever to develop a culture of continuous learning.

Aligning training to organisational strategy requires prioritisation – embracing and investing in diverse learning preferences and opportunities. Successful approaches show leaders of all levels investing in their professional development, creating a positive culture of learning and improvement.

One successful and accessible method includes developing on-demand micro-learning tools and encouraging social and informal learning.

Leveraging technology to facilitate agile, innovative, and continuous learning is also crucial for remote workers. Digital technologies such as virtual reality are particularly suited to harder-to-teach skills, and create powerful learning experiences.

Teams are at the heart of every project. Shifting the focus on development from individuals to team-based training will help to equip them for better performance and continued success.

In summary:

  • Prioritise talent development
  • Encourage leaders to role model continuous learning practices
  • Invest in diverse learning methods to foster and develop critical capabilities
  • Use a systematic data-driven approach to assess key capabilities
  • Identify gaps and measure progress to support the evolution of talent strategies

Combining these recommendations will go a long way in helping businesses to attract and retain the best talent and achieve success in the face of ongoing challenges and uncertainties.

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