Navigating the Ongoing Skills Shortages |

We had a chat with Daire Lynam, Managing Director of Thomas International Ireland, about the challenges he’s found due to the ongoing skills shortage. Daire tells us what strategies could benefit HR leaders, how to overcome the skills shortage and how teams can thrive by looking at skills differently.

How would you describe the current state of skills shortages across industries, and what are the key factors contributing to this phenomenon?

While the shortage of hard skills in industries like healthcare, construction and finance is consistently reported, the equally important shortage of soft skills is often overlooked and underrepresented.

While technical skills have always been in demand, the shortage of soft skills, such as communication, teamwork, problem solving, critical thinking, and adaptability, has become more pronounced in recent years. This shortage has been further amplified by the shift to remote work brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Companies often prioritize technical qualifications and experience when hiring, but they may overlook the importance of soft skills. However, it's essential to recognise that employees with strong soft skills contribute significantly to a positive work culture and overall success.

In some cases, employees may leave their jobs not because of a lack of technical skills but due to behavioural issues or a misalignment with the company's culture. This highlights the importance of valuing and fostering soft skills within organisations. Addressing the shortage of soft skills involves a shift in mindset and a commitment to providing opportunities for employees to develop and utilise these crucial abilities.

Which soft skills will be vital for success in the future of work?

I've always valued traditional soft skills like effective communication, teamwork, and critical thinking, which remain fundamental. However, the rapid evolution of our work environment, reminiscent of historical revolutions, demands a heightened focus on adaptability and resilience. These skills are becoming increasingly crucial to navigate the fast-paced changes we're experiencing. Alongside these, creativity is essential, as it enables us to innovate and adapt.  

While foundational skills like leadership remain important, the ability to quickly adjust and remain resilient is becoming more pivotal in today's dynamic world.

What can HR professionals and recruiters do differently in their talent acquisition and retention strategies to navigate the challenges posed by skills shortages effectively?

For HR professionals and recruiters, adapting to the challenge of skills shortages requires a broadened perspective. While hard skills are important, they can be challenging to scale quickly. Therefore, it's essential to consider transferable skills when evaluating candidates. These transferable skills, such as work ethic, quick learning ability, teamwork, and leadership, can often be more critical in the short term. By focusing on candidates with these soft skills, organisations can expedite their integration into the workforce.

Additionally, HR professionals should rethink their job listings, emphasising behavioural skills like communication, leadership, and adaptability. This approach widens the candidate pool and encourages individuals to apply based on their soft skills, ultimately leading to a more diverse and adaptable workforce.  

On the retention side, understanding employee priorities, beyond salary, is essential. Offering continuous development opportunities and upskilling options, even outside of their technical field, can be a powerful retention strategy. Additionally, leveraging assessments, team interactions, and workplace analytics to monitor and improve employee engagement can prevent attrition before it becomes a problem. These proactive measures allow organisations to address retention issues in a timely manner, rather than waiting for exit interviews or annual reviews.

In a competitive job market with critical skills shortages, how can technology and data analytics assist HR professionals in attracting and retaining top talent?

With the abundance of real-time data available today, HR professionals have a wide range of tools and strategies at their disposal. It's akin to playing both offense and defence in a sports context.

Defensively, organisations can use data to enhance retention and engagement. Real-time feedback mechanisms like pulse surveys allow HR to monitor and improve team dynamics, communication, and managerial effectiveness. Staying connected with employees, especially in remote work settings, becomes vital. People science can help understand individual communication styles and motivators, facilitating smoother interactions within dispersed teams.

On the offensive front, employer branding plays a pivotal role. Companies can leverage data and insights to tell compelling stories about employee development journeys and growth opportunities. Younger generations, in particular, are interested in how organisations contribute to their career development and personal growth. By highlighting these aspects, companies can position themselves as preferred places to work.

In this rapidly evolving landscape, HR professionals have a plethora of tools and approaches to enhance talent acquisition and retention, all of which contribute to a more agile and competitive organisation.

What advice would you give to HR and recruitment professionals on navigating and mitigating the long-term impact of skills shortages?

When it comes to navigating and mitigating the long-term impact of skills shortages, HR and recruitment professionals should adopt a more mindful approach, leveraging data and analytics strategically. In today's competitive job market, it's essential to recognise that employees hold the upper hand, making it imperative for companies to step up their game.

First and foremost, salary matters, but it's just one piece of the puzzle. Beyond monetary compensation, employees seek value, respect, and growth opportunities. To retain staff effectively, organisations must look beyond traditional benefits and delve into the realm of company culture. Creating an environment where employees feel valued, respected, and encouraged to learn and grow is paramount.

Encouraging continuous development in a safe and comfortable environment fosters employee satisfaction and aids in achieving desired results. Moreover, it positively influences employer branding and retention rates. Ultimately, HR and recruitment professionals must be mindful of these factors to thrive in a competitive landscape and mitigate the long-term impact of skills shortages effectively.