HR’s Role in the Skills Gap #SHRM16

Day 2 of #SHRM16 is underway, and I'm hearing a lot of good things and seeing some fun takeaways via social media for all levels of HR professionals.

Mike Rowe and Alan Mulally killed it yesterday at the opening session.  I never thought a story about poo could be so entertaining and educational (in more than one way). I love Mike Rowe's work to close the skills gap; it is absolutely intriguing to me as a recruiter. I'm never surprised at how often companies use the "skills gap" as a problem to blame the results of their subpar recruiting functions on. We throw around this term to protect our team and pretend like someone else created this problem for us, but guess who contributed to the skills gap? US! As recruiters and HR professionals, we should be helping high schools and colleges understand what our employers need, before our employers need it!

Here's the deal, it’s 2016. We have access to people like never before, and it's time to use it. If we can't find the talent we need, it’s our own fault. We must take an active role in preparing the next generation of our employers’ workforce. How do we do that? We get to know what our future needs are, and we get in the schools and start talking about it. It’s not always glamorous, but someone has to do the job. If you think people view skills relevant and required for your industry as something they don't want to do, then fix it. Don't just complain about it being a challenge! Revive it. Don't misrepresent it; share the good, bad, and the ugly and let students know what all of their options are. If high school students are only hearing from engineering companies while they are deciding on what to do after high school, then you're going to have a lot of students go off to get an engineering degree.  And then, we will eventually have way more engineers than we can hire and not enough candidates for a variety of other positions.

So where I hail from, a lot of people become teachers, nurses, or take up a career at the steel mill in town. I wondered why a majority of people chose 1 of those 3 options more than anything else; but looking back, those are the professions we were exposed to the most through career days.  And, that's what the majority of our parents did. The exposure to the professions had a direct impact on the path we chose. It wasn't necessarily the glamorous exposure of the professions that intrigued us either; it was the correlation to impacting something bigger that drew us in. No one wakes up and says I want to teach teenagers today. They usually have a revelation that they want to impact the lives of teenagers or instill an excitement about a particular subject in them. Without identifying the motivation behind the work, they are just teaching teenagers.

As Mike shared his story of his experience in the sewer with a full time sewer professional, I kept thinking, "How would I sell this job to a candidate?" Boy, have I got a job for you? You work underground and get a close up view of the inner workings of our wonderful city. You'll have companions that won't talk your ear off to keep you company through your shift and probably focused through your tasks. As most jobs do, this one comes with its own set of hazards, but nothing a rubber suit can't protect you from. The residents of our city will undoubtedly appreciate your work and even view you as a hero because they understand the necessity of your work to keep s*#! flowing.

No. That's not what I would do at all, but that's what some of us are doing, which is causing us more problems beyond the skills gap. We are trying to sell made up glamour instead of acknowledging the realities of the positions we are trying to fill and hoping the right candidate will pick us. This approach is contributing to the skills gap. And we aren't even acknowledging it because we are just trying to make our field/company sound like a fun place to work that will pamper you; so, we are pretending like we are doing the right thing. Now we have people who have chosen a field based on the half-truth we sold them in a specific field; and now they are in a career they are unhappy with because another field they weren't exposed to was probably a better fit for them. Instead, we should uncover the skills gap, shine a light on the cause of it, and get out there and educate people before they choose their professions.

 

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For more information and to attend SHRM 2016 Annual Conference & Exposition, visit www.annual.shrm.org.

 

 

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