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The Global Skills Gap: Bridging the Great Divide

Power of Ideas
The Global Skills Gap: Bridging the Great Divide

Global organizations in every sector are struggling to find talent with the most in-demand skills. The issue is pervasive and current: One McKinsey report said 87 percent of companies worldwide “have a skills gap, or expect to within a few years.” When supply lags this far behind demand, it is imperative that we identify more efficient solutions to satisfy the growing demand.

We need to rethink our approach toward upskilling, reskilling, and driving human capital to achieve this goal, especially if organizations want to attract the most talented workers. Opportunity abounds within this gap, and leaders have the tools at their disposal to enable skill development in the workforce.

Here is how organizations can take advantage of these opportunities.

If we can close the skills gap, organizations will grow efficiently, and talent will have access to more opportunities than ever before.

Balance, Prioritize, and Integrate So-Called Soft and Hard Skills

Leaders must emphasize soft skills at all levels of the organization as distributed teams become more prevalent.

A University of Michigan study found that employees who received soft skills training are significantly more productive, and investing in soft skills training produced a more than 250 percent return on investment. In order to capture these benefits in the evolving work environment, leaders must focus equally on the development of soft skills alongside hard skills that serve their core operations.

With online courses growing in popularity, the significance of this pressing need extends to higher education. At WorldQuant University, an accredited not-for-profit university advancing global education with entirely free and online offerings, our curriculum is designed to simultaneously foster international collaboration and the development of students’ hard skills in financial engineering and data science. This focus is complemented by our goal of developing the soft skills they will need to successfully navigate a distributed workforce.

WorldQuant University added a workshop on presentation skills to our Master of Science in Financial Engineering curriculum to provide students with the opportunity to develop critical communication skills focusing on understanding their audience and on succinctly and effectively presenting research and analysis. By requiring students to complete this workshop, we highlight the importance of ongoing, targeted investment in soft and hard skills.

Build Cultures That Empower Distributed Teams to Flourish

In a distributed work environment, leadership must focus on strengthening the social networks that people build at work through strategic approaches to structuring teams. Whether it is internal competitions or other programs to bring globally distributed teams together, facilitating these connections and fostering an environment for meaningful relationships across teams can ultimately reduce interpersonal barriers.

In addition, distributed work is a top-to-bottom concept. For organizations to unite their workforces through a shared culture, they must ensure predictable, consistent access to leadership. Ultimately, an established leadership engagement strategy that connects executives to the broader workforce will foster unity.

Finally, organizations should support and align incentives tailored for peer-to-peer learning and collaboration. This might be achieved through incentivizing and recognizing great mentors or rewarding cross-functional teams that benefit the organization. These forms of teamwork can help deliver more collaborative outcomes.

Leverage New Technology to Support Training

Narrowing the skills gap is a virtuous cycle. We can encourage upskilling by leveraging the same tools we train people to use.

Advancements in technology-based communications, a growing knowledge of how best to use them, and evaluating new areas like the metaverse can make it easier for people to connect and access quality training from anywhere in the world. Predictive, people-focused analytical tools can help us understand where individuals might fall behind and what technical skills the market will demand. Real-time collaboration helps people learn from each other.

These are just a few examples of how technology can enhance skills training, which in turn will prepare more people to develop next generation technology.

A Portfolio Approach

Organizations that modernize their thinking about the skills landscape will have an undeniable advantage in the future. Pairing the adoption of new technology with leadership that creates an environment for new skills to flourish will accelerate the path for talent to meet businesses’ growing demand for high-value skills.

This immediate opportunity is too big to ignore. If we can close the skills gap, organizations will grow efficiently, and talent will have access to more opportunities than ever before.