Weekly Wrap: Why Don’t We Do More to Train, Engage Our Workforce?

Editor’s Note: This is the final Weekly Wrap of 2012. We’ll return in January with more HR news and trends.

If you’re reading this, it means that the Mayan apocalypse has flamed out and the world did not end on schedule

Yes, we’re all still here. That’s good news, unless you were hoping you wouldn’t have to finish your Christmas shopping, or that you might avoid the joy of another dysfunctional family holiday get-together.

I was amused by all the hype over the Mayan prediction because it seemed to spawn so much silliness and media overkill — everything from parties in Colorado and Michigan closing down schools early, to the best movies and books to digest before the world ends, to how some New Yorker’s were looking for what the New York Post called one last “steamy climax” before the end came.

But now that we have all the Mayan end-of-the-world nonsense out of the way, we can focus on something a lot more tangible — like why U.S. employers aren’t doing much to train and engage their workforces.

3 concerns about the workplace skills gap

Cornerstone OnDemand, a California-based technology firm that describes itself as “a leading global provider of comprehensive learning and talent management solutions,” has recently published a new survey (their 2013 U.S. Employee Report) that shows, as they put it, “the dramatic skills gap within the American workforce.”

Three huge workplace concerns seem to jump out of the survey:

  • There is an increasing absence of ongoing workforce training and development. In the past six months, only about a third (32 percent) of employed American adults has received training and development to better perform their job.
  • Goals and expectations between managers and employees are not aligned properly. Only one in four respondents (25 percent) has established career goals with their manager/employer.
  • There is a lack of individual recognition and performance feedback. Two-thirds (66 percent) said they haven’t received useful feedback from their manager/employer.

“The worldwide skills shortage is quickly becoming a crisis across companies of all sizes and industries,” said Jason Corsello, vice president of corporate strategy and marketing for Cornerstone OnDemand, in a news release about the survey. “Unfortunately there is no silver bullet to address the global skills shortage, but companies can take action to build programs today and invest more in ongoing training and continuous feedback for their employees.”

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4 possible opportunities for employers

The survey also lists four possible opportunities for employers to evolve their people management and development strategies in 2013, and help them narrow the skills gap, increase engagement and retain talented employees. They are:

  • Reskilling high-potential employees and filling critical roles. To address skill gaps and fill critical roles, organizations should look to their own workforce for high-potential employees vs. relying on external candidates. Reskilling employees with targeted training helps to bolster talent pools and prepare for future business needs.
  • Coaching-style performance management. Rather than waiting for formal reviews, managers need to foster a more continuous, meaningful dialogue with direct reports and create opportunities for real-time performance coaching and one-on-one feedback. Employee goals should be more in sync with business objectives, as well as their own career aspirations. And training and development becomes a more essential part of the mix in order to make performance and career discussions more actionable.
  • Crowdsourcing performance feedback and recognition. Social feeds and badges can help managers extend the feedback loop to other parties, such as peers or project teams. Sharing of feedback and recognition becomes more immediate, real-time and relevant. Not only can this give managers better insight into how employees are truly performing, it also allows employees to curate positive feedback and kudos in a central location that they can reference for more formal discussions.
  • Just-in-time training and development. Whether it is through social networks, mobile devices or in the cloud, today’s technologies can make it easier and more convenient for employees to access the just-in-time information and training they need to do their jobs to the best of their abilities anytime, anywhere. When blended with traditional development opportunities, these new ways of learning can help to create efficiencies and lower the cost of training initiatives.

This 2013 U.S. Employee Report highlights an important fact: American companies have completely fallen down and ignored the need to train and develop their workforce. The notion that every employee must come to a job with the exact set of skills they need to perform and be successful is ludicrous, and the short-sighted cutbacks on training and development during the Great Recession and not-so-great recovery are finally coming home to roost.

Rather than focus on something silly like the possible Mayan apocalypse, we would all do well to direct our attention to the things our organizations REALLY need to succeed in the New Year — like training and workforce development. It’s an area that far too many organizations have ignored for far too long.

The training and development opportunities highlighted in the Cornerstone OnDemand survey are a good start, but smart businesses will see them for what they are — simply a good start. We’ve ignored spending on training for too long, and these ideas, although good, are just a place to begin, because we have a lot of catching up to do after years of short-sighted budget cutting.

Workers comp for getting injured during sex

Of course, there’s a lot more than a survey about America’s workplace skills shortage in the news this week. Here are some HR and workplace-related items you may have missed. This is TLNT’s weekly round-up of news, trends, and insights from the world of talent management. I do it so you don’t have to.

  • A hiring boom in 2013? US News and World Report is brashly predicting a hiring boom next year, although they seem to be one of the few with a crystal ball showing that. “Hiring is expected to pick up in the New Year, according to career counselors, but uncertainty surrounding the strength of the economy will likely prevent the hiring season from being as robust as in years past. “Historically, the first quarter of any fiscal year is always the best time to expect hires because of the normal cycle of business,” says Robert Meier, president of Job Market Experts, a Florida-based firm that helps match job seekers with openings. “Companies are kind of lying low, but now is the time when they do the talent evaluation. If you can get into the evaluation cycle, you have a good chance of getting hired.”
  • They’re more pessimistic about the economy in Charlotte. They have a slightly different view of how 2013 will go down in North Carolina. According to the Charlotte Observer, “Top Charlotte business executives described an overwhelmingly dismal vision for the nation’s economy next year, telling the crowd at the Charlotte Chamber’s annual economic forum to expect more anemic growth and gridlock in the federal government. While the economy continues to show signs of recovery, politics is dampening business, they said – from the so-called “fiscal cliff” of tax increases and spending cuts set to go into effect next year to the lack of movement on debt and entitlement spending.”
  • Coolest workspaces of the year. Lifehacker.com recently featured the most popular workspaces of the year, but you should take a look and decide for yourself because a lot of them don’t look all that great to me.
  • Maybe the world’s wildest worker’s comp claim. Think you deal with tough HR issues? Well, perhaps this is one of those “only in Australia stories,” but an Australian business woman has made a successful workers comp claim after getting injured having sex during a business trip. According to this Associated Press story in the Detroit Free-Press, “An Australian court has ruled that a woman who was injured while having sex in her hotel room during a business trip is eligible for workers’ compensation, The Australian reports. The unidentified woman, who was in her late 30s, claimed facial and psychological injuries after a glass light fitting fell from the wall above the bed in her hotel room while she was having sex with a male friend. The fixture hit her in the face, injuring her nose and mouth, the Associated Press reported. The woman, who was on a business trip to Nowra, 100 miles south of her hometown of Sydney, later suffered depression and was unable to continue working for the government.”

John Hollon is Editor-at-Large at ERE Media and was the founding Editor of TLNT.com. 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 workforce.com, 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 johnhollon@ere.net, connect with him on LinkedIn, or follow him on Twitter @johnhollon.


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