Beyond being a key human resource competency, workforce planning—aligning strategies for building workforce capabilities to meet desired business outcomes—is a key element of an overall talent management strategy. However, across the United States and globally, employers are struggling to find enough qualified workers to fill their available job openings. The mismatch between the skills employers are looking for and the skills candidates possess—the “skills gap”—costs the entire economy dearly.
Certain positions are more difficult to fill than others, and it is not just those on the high-skilled end of the spectrum. Employers have also identified middle-skilled jobs, those that require education and training beyond high school, but less than a four-year degree, to be difficult to fill as well. At the same time, there are pools of workers who might serve as a source of skilled employees, including military veterans and individuals with disabilities. The problem affects a broad swath of employers. According to a 2014 Society for Human Resource Management survey of human resource professionals, 50 percent of organizations reported difficulty recruiting for full-time regular positions over the past year. One-half of those organizations cited lack of work experience, lack of the right technical skills or competition from other employers as a primary reason for difficulty in hiring qualified candidates.
Meanwhile, the U.S. economy is becoming increasingly dependent on people who work outside traditional employment models. The “gig” economy has always existed to some extent, but it bloomed in the wake of the Great Recession of 2008. Gig workers are mostly independent contractors and freelancers, but they can also include agency temps, on-call workers, contract company workers, self-employed workers and traditional part-time workers. Analysis by the American Action Forum based on government statistics concludes that in 2014, there were between 20.5 and 29.7 million people in the alternative work arrangements that make up the gig economy. This translates to between 14 and 20.3 percent of all employed people in the United States, and those numbers are only growing.
A recent report by Deloitte summed up the changing world of work: “The evolving workforce is a mixture of employees, contractors and freelancers, and—increasingly—people with no formal ties to your enterprise at all.” Many start-up businesses have successfully adopted the worker arrangements of the gig economy, fueling their growth. Uber and Lyft are the most well-known examples of entrepreneurial efforts meeting ready-made gig workers. More entrepreneurs across the economy are now scouring for new opportunities to take this model to other sectors, especially in services.
The implications for human resource executives of these two trends—the persistent skills gap and the rise of the gig economy—are expected to intensify over the next 10 to 15 years as a collection of related challenges emerge. These challenges include:
- A U.S. baby boom generation that continues to retire
- A more connected, 24/7 and interdependent global economy
- The need for greater technical skills from workers to meet the demands of jobs produced by the modern economy
- A general trend among those 35 and under of being open to working as independent consultants/contractors and on a project-by-project basis, rather than a traditional employment relationship
The following specific issues are of particular concern to human resource executives and the organizations they serve:
- Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act
- Demand-Driven Partnerships
- Social Security and Other Entitlements
- Untapped Workers
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