Record staff shortages: is retraining the answer?

There's a joke like this: “The CFO tells the director: what will we do if we invest in employee training and they leave?” and the director replies: “what will we do if we don't invest and they stay?” Often there is a lot of truth in anecdotes, and this one, in particular, sheds a light on the current issues.

Retraining is the solution?

Akvilė Kazlienė, director of the international recruitment group of companies CVO Recruitment I Simplika, says that retraining and its importance grew during the last five years.

For example, in 2019, the annual Davos conference of world political and business leaders addressed the gaps of skills that needed to be filled and the growing gap between what the various businesses need and what the labour market has to offer. Discussions about staff shortages and the importance of retraining intensified even more after the second quarantine when organizations returned to normal work patterns and several businesses faced rapid growth.

"I have never faced such a large shortage of employees during my 15 years of work experience - the Employment Service announces a record number of vacancies (~ 60,600 in August this year), and the unemployment rate in Lithuania is lower than the EU average (8%) - 7,5% throughout the first fourth of this year. Not to mention wages, prices of services and products are rising," - says Akvile.

According to her, everything seems to be great, but only a few organizations can rejoice that they do not lack people. Does the question often arise as to whether there are no suitable employees or no employees at all?

"I have always believed and still do now that there are plenty of specialists, but the biggest task is to find compromises between what the employer can offer and what expectations are set for new employees," - says A. Kazlienė.

The director of CVO Recruitment I Simplika shares that it is often heard from recruitment managers that there is a great shortage of employees, suitable candidates are impossible to find and as a result they hire anyone. However, when proposing suitable candidates, employers start choosing and looking for the same best, but often the conditions offered to the candidate are too poor. In this way, the situation becomes trapped in a loop and this is a turning point in which retraining is one of the most potential solutions. However, not everything is so simple, because so far there is no clear responsibility as to who should be responsible for the retraining of employees - the employer, the employee himself, or maybe the state?

According to the manager, in recent years, the greatest pressure and expectations for retraining have been placed on employees, encouraging them to learn independently. However, many of them do not know much where to start, and after all, they need to learn what will be needed in the next five years rather than at this minute.

Some businesses, especially IT organizations, set up various academies and train professionals for themselves: “And this is to be welcomed, as, unfortunately, there is no national retraining strategy - only isolated, not substantive issues are raised, such as the current vocation of the teaching profession and how to attract and train these professionals in the face of severe teacher shortages.”

The ability to be retrained will be available to 1 in 5 employees

The McKinsey Global Institute predicts that the post-pandemic economy will affect the service sector and traditional professions. As a result of changes in the labour market caused by the health crisis, as many as 1 in 16 people of working age may need to retrain in developed economies.

“In response to these predictions, I think they are optimal, and the ability to retrain or do that at least partly will be available to 1 in 5 employees. Frankly, I think constantly learning new skills is a must for everyone. We operate in a rapidly changing and uncertain environment, where new technologies appear every day, and those already invented are greatly improving,” she said.

For example, Gartner predicts that by 2025 there will be about 2 million new positions created related to artificial intelligence.

“This means that 60-85% of new job positions do not yet exist today, therefore, to come to terms with dynamic change and tame the future we have to be in constant learning. Only when we have developed the mind to adapt to changes, whatever they may be, will it not be so difficult,” the interviewee concludes.

According to A. Kazliene, all works that can be easily replaced by machines will be replaced. This can take up from simple unskilled workers in manufacturing, whose functions can be easily taken over by automated solutions, to managers, the number of whom is already declining in organizations. Artificial intelligence is used for writing articles, initial customer service, and data entry and processing. B2B sales are also made using artificial intelligence when, upon receipt of a letter, it seems like it was written to you by a real person.

To understand the importance of your position in an organization, you need to analyze what functions of your tasks a machine can perform, and which ones can be only completed by you, as they need the help of critical thinking, creativity, flexibility, emotional intelligence and your individuality.

"After analyzing the position of your job and the list of professions to be extinct, there is no need to make hasty decisions. For example, it is expected that one of the positions that will disappear is accounting, but currently, at least in the Lithuanian labour market, it remains one of the most in-demand,” says the expert.

According to her, sometime in the future, this position may indeed disappear, but until this point is reached, it will transform significantly. The accountant will not only have to correctly enter and process the data into the system to meet the accounting requirements but will also be able to analyze the data obtained, draw conclusions and make recommendations. Good communication skills in an intercultural environment will also be required for the functions to be performed properly. Therefore, according to the interlocutor, one should not prepare for a complete change of profession, but adaptation or retraining in part by acquiring the missing knowledge and skills.

"When we change our profession fundamentally, we must first and foremost answer for ourselves what kind of work we want and can do. That is, where my heart is and what combination of abilities I have would enable me to do one or another job of my choice. Another important thing is to find out which professions will be needed in the future and which have the potential to disappear. The ideal option is if what I want to work and what will be needed in the future will coincide,” concludes A. Kazliene.

Without investment in training, there will be no workers

According to A. Kazliene, the retraining process can take from 3 to 12 months. In some cases, depending on the profession sought, and longer. For example, retraining takes longer to acquire the profession of teacher, doctor or engineer.

“One of the biggest challenges I notice is that people who have acquired a new profession stop developing after a while. When changing careers, we need to realize that learning will take longer than going through the initial retraining phase. Continuous learning is required from us by the constant change of business and customer needs and evolving technologies, ” she says.

In her understanding, when a profession is changed, a person does not have to pay for everything, and growth in a new profession takes place slowly, liberating and motivating to focus on the activity itself rather than the result. It also protects against burnout since the pressure of being the best in the current business environment is very high.


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