That Old Broken Record Sound

Sometimes I feel like a broken record. Remember those? That random scratch in the surface playing the same snippet over and over again. Maybe the modern version is “I feel like a GIF.” My one message repeated over and over again is that the Body Gap is overtaking the Skills Gap, impacting all of our lives. It’s frustrating because it doesn’t feel like the message is getting through.

It was one of those weeks where I felt like I was swimming upstream. There were multiple conversations about the terrific activities taking place around the Skills Gap. (We continue to lead the country in our collaboration and engagement.) I spoke with the CEO of a start-up with great new text-based recruiting tools. Larry Fast wrote a great article for IndustryWeek outlining a comprehensive approach to the Skills Gap. Still – for all the activity – Skills Gap solutions will never solve the Body Gap issues facing us.

In Wisconsin, we’re doing a terrific job addressing the Skills Gap. We have great collaboration between multiple organizations involving industry, education, government, and other interested groups. These collaborations create many different approaches and almost all of them work. We’ve discovered new ways to engage students to take action toward a productive future in STEM careers and almost all of these show progress too! Our actions are maximizing our potential, thanks to many different people and organizations.

It’s just not enough…

The old paradigms that spurred growth and enabled widespread success lie shattered around us. The workforce has always grown. Now, it’s projected to remain flat until at least 2040. A strong back and a good alarm clock no longer guarantee a family-supporting career. Jobs requiring a high school diploma or less are now in fields that do not pay sustaining wages. Industries must now compete for a limited number of workers. Demand for workers overlaps sectors and is squeezing supply even tighter. High-demand skills are morphing at accelerating rates, necessitating constant learning and periodic retooling. It’s a new world, demanding new responses.

The minimum response must be to fully engage our employees. Each organization must have a clear narrative about why someone should work for them. This includes a clear vision of the future and a culture that expects its members to accomplish meaningful things – both inside and outside of the company’s walls. It becomes a place where continuous support and learning enable people to improve themselves and the organization in the face of accelerating change.  Done right, engagement will improve performance, stabilize the workforce, and create an employer-of-choice brand. It’s a good first step.

Most companies will need to go even farther. Their success will depend on their ability to transform themselves. They will need that employer-of-choice culture and fully engaged employees…and so much more! These companies will also constantly explore new technology, clearly understanding which of these technologies can make the biggest impact under what conditions. When those conditions appear, they will implement the technology aggressively and effectively through small, exploratory investments. These investments and experiments find new ways to combine their people and technology in new ways to create true advantage. Leaders in this arena will transform their markets, leapfrogging their competition.

Even the best workforce practices are not enough as the Skills Gap morphs to a Body Gap. Many experts sound the siren song that better recruitment and image will carry the day for our companies. That will leave us far short of what we need to thrive. All of us can start by fully engaging our workforce with meaningful challenges and lifelong learning. The best organizations will go farther and embrace transformation, making the new rules for competing in a changing marketplace.

It’s an exciting time! Are you ready to blaze new trails?

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