Need to Improve Your Job Skills? If So, You’re Probably on Your Own

Need more proof that Corporate America isn’t investing much in training workers these days?

According to a new study just released by global consulting and outsourcing company Accenture, although more than half (55 percent) of workers say they are under pressure to develop additional skills “in order to be successful in their current and future jobs,” only 21 percent “say they have acquired new skills through company-provided formal training during the past five years.”

Yes, you read that right; only one in five employees say they have developed their skills through formal workplace training since 2006. Gives you a little different perspective on the current high unemployment levels, doesn’t it?

“An escalating talent crisis”

The Accenture Skills Gap Study, surveyed 1,088 employed and unemployed U.S. workers, and found that “while more than half (52 percent) have added technology skills in the past five years, few have updated other in-demand skills such as problem solving (31 percent), analytical skills (26 percent) and managerial skills (21 percent).”

“There is an escalating talent crisis and employers should not assume that workers have the resources or knowledge to acquire all the skills they will need,” said David Smith, managing director, Accenture Talent & Organization, in a press release about this survey..

He added: “Our study shows that workers are prepared to improve and expand their skills, but they’re not receiving sufficient support to develop those skills. In addition to investing in training, employers will have to become more transparent about their talent requirements and more creative about leveraging the skills they already have within their organizations.”

Investing in the workforce through training seems liker a no-brainer, but the lack of spending on employee training mirrors the other cutbacks organizations made throughout the Great Recession and beyond. The Accenture study underlines the findings by Bersin & Associates that TLNT contributor and compensation expert Ann Bares pointed out earlier this week when she wrote about the very meager uptick in overall spending by American business on training and learning programs.

Additional survey findings

There’s more to the Accenture Skills Gap Survey, of course, and here are some of the additional findings:

  • Just over half (53 percent) of respondents said their employers document their skills, suggesting that employers may be hindered by not be having a complete picture of all of the skills they have within their organization to handle specific jobs.
  • More than a third (38 percent) said their employers look only at specific job experience and education to match employees to jobs rather than looking at all of their talents and capabilities.
  • Only one-third (34 percent) of respondents say it is easy to move to another job within their company where their skills would best be utilized, and slightly less than half of respondents (49 percent) report that their employer does a good job of providing a clear understanding of the skills needed for different roles and career paths.
  • Nearly two-thirds (62 percent) of all workers say they’ve had to change careers at least once in order to meet the challenges of the job market. However, only 28 percent report that they had an understanding of the skills required in their new career before making a change.

“Hidden talents” that haven’t been tapped

“Many employers have hidden talent in their organizations that they haven’t effectively tapped,” said Accenture’s Smith. “New analytical tools can help managers develop a better, more detailed view of the skills in their organizations, and by creating more flexible career paths and HR processes they can more easily deploy employees to different roles where their skills are more relevant. The goal is to create a thriving and flexible market for talent.”

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Yes, training does make workers more flexible and valuable to the organization, but it also makes them better able to pick up and take those skills to some other organization should the spirit move them to do so. Is that part of the reason for the lack of investment by businesses in improving the skills of their employees?

It’s hard to say if that is what has been going on, and skeptics will challenge the notion that this cutback in spending on organizational training and development is economy-driven because it pre-dates the beginning of the Great Recession in late 2008.

Regardless of the reason for the cutback, the fact that American companies continue to skimp on training as they have been for the past five years is a troubling trend that the Accenture study simply underlines. And, that trend is part of the reason for the ongoing drumbeat that says that many of those currently unemployed simply don’t have the right skills to jump into many of the jobs employers are trying to fill today.

So how do we get out of this “escalating talent crisis” that we’re currently in? It will take an investment in training, of course, and unfortunately, that doesn’t seem to be something that Corporate America has too much interest in these days.

Like the huge lack of engagement that we see in America’s workforce, a lack of investment in training is just another factor that will burden businesses everywhere — if it hasn’t already.

John Hollon is Editor-at-Large at ERE Media and was the founding Editor of A longtime newspaper, magazine, and business journal editor, John has deep roots in the talent management space. He's the former Editor of Workforce Management magazine and, served as Editor of RecruitingDaily, and was Vice President for Content at HR technology firm Checkster. An award-winning journalist, John has written extensively about HR, talent management, leadership, and smart business practices, including for the popular Fistful of Talent blog. Contact him at, connect with him on LinkedIn, or follow him on Twitter @johnhollon.


4 Comments on “Need to Improve Your Job Skills? If So, You’re Probably on Your Own

  1. With the number of layoffs that have occurred over the past four years, it’s frightening that almost half surveyed reported employers don’t track skills. How many people lost jobs when they actually *had* the skills the company needed, but HR just didn’t know it?

    Also, if so many companies really aren’t supporting training, it’s no wonder that some are behind on their skills. If you have to take classes after work or on weekends, instead of taking an intensive for a couple of days during regular working hours that your company pays for, it’s just harder to do.

    I’m taking three classes now, and it doesn’t leave a lot of time for a life outside of work, class and study.

  2. This seems to be more indication that in the “New Economy” you are responsible for your own development. I’m certainly not saying it’s a great thing, but I’ve talked with several people recently who were told they needed to improve a certain specific skill, usually technical, and the ball was left in their court to do so. “There’s no budget for that” appears to be the recurring mantra from their employers (across a spectrum of fields.)

    I’m grateful for the formal training opportunities I had early in my career, and it’s something I definitely miss.

  3. I feel very lucky to work for an organization that is constantly offering new training opportunities and developing internal programs as well. Reed Exhibitions- Ron Mathews

  4. “while more than half (52 percent) have added technology skills in the past five years, few have updated other in-demand skills such as problem solving (31 percent), analytical skills (26 percent) and managerial skills (21 percent).”

    Technology skills are probably the easiest to update and managerial skills are the toughest. Why? Access to experiences/opportunities. Throw in the fact that technology and globalization of available skilled labor are replacing more and more entry level positions in the U.S., this shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone here.

    The responsiblity is in fact falling on the employee to remain relevant, whether you believe that’s right or wrong. And time is a major factor. How is an individual supposed to work their normal 60 hour work week, have a healthy family, maintain proper physical health, stay up on industry trends and be sure their skills are current and ready for the next demands? Something has to give… Career warrier or Family man, pick your path.

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