Struggling With Skill Shortages: How Will Tomorrow’s Companies Cope?

Editor’s Note: Dr. John Sullivan has been a strategist in HR and talent management for over 30 years. His specialty is HR strategy and designing world class HR systems and tools for Fortune 200 firms. He’s never been shy about telling it like it is.

That’s why TLNT asked him to share his thinking in a video series titled “$#*!@ Dr. John Sullivan Says!” Look for these videos weekly here at TLNT.

If you look at the economy closely says Dr. John Sullivan, you’ll notice that there are not just a lot of unemployed people out there these days, but there are also a lot of vacant jobs — jobs that companies just aren’t filling … what is the cause of this shortage?”

The problem keeping skills up-to-date

It’s a complex question and hard to answer, but he says that there is one way to guarantee that your organization will always have enough employees in every category, “and that’s a great employer brand.” Google and Apple, he points out, are two companies that have no shortage of great candidates for any job openings,and that’s because they both have great employment brands that make millions of people want to work for them.

But, he adds, too many workers don’t keep up their skills. “Some of the discrepancy between (job) openings and skills is that … you need to be constantly be retraining people.” Organizations need to be working harder, he says, to retrain and update workers themselves.

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He also says that it is important to try to hire people who are “continuous learners”  who are highly attuned to the need for ongoing development and look to find ways to update their own skills and keep them current.

Contingent workers — people who have special skills who will only be employed for a specific job or project for a limited period of time — is also a way to get around the skills shortage, Dr. John says. “The new world of HR will bring in contingent workers that have special skills but for short periods of time — just as long as you need them.”

But he says we need to remember this: “The new world of HR will be rapid learning, will be continuous skills updates, it will be releasing people (who just can’t be retrained for the rapidly evolving tasks at hand)…The world of keeping workers forever … is probably going away. You’re going to see more churn, more bringing in ideas (and) bringing in skills for a short term.”

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.


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