While skills gaps grow in many verticals, workers already employed in those fields are stressed about losing their jobs as more processes are automated to meet the needs left by the lack of talent.
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However, technology won't solve talent shortages on its own, and companies need to focus on upskilling and reskilling existing employees to meet changing business needs if they hope to remain fully staffed.
When workers are worried about their skills and qualifications in the face of a constantly evolving business landscape, their job performance suffers.
"Lack of confidence in one's skills can impact performance and prevent workers from reaching their full potential," says Darren Shimkus, general manager and vice president of Udemy for Business.
Moreover, anxiety can even drive job seekers to lie about their qualifications. According to the "2017 Skills Gap Report" from online learning marketplace Udemy, 26 percent of workers younger than 40 have lied on their resumes or in job interviews.
But it's not all bad: A Udemy study on workplace stress found that many workers are responding to situation proactively, with half of workers spending their own money on professional development and many citing company-provided training programs as a form of stress relief.
Reskilling to Meet Skill Shortages and Save Jobs
Businesses have the bad habit of meeting new problems with old solutions. When an employee's skill set no longer meets the needs of the company, employers tend to lay that person off. Instead, that employee could be trained to do a different job, or trained in the skills needed to maintain their current role.
"Companies need to rethink the way they approach training and bring learning and development into the modern age," Shimkus says. "That means abandoning the traditional one-way push of mandatory, pre-scheduled sessions and putting employees in the driver's seat instead. Technologies and job skills are changing so fast company leaders can't predict what each employee needs to learn at any given time. That's why employees should be able to access effective, up-to-date training resources on demand – whenever, wherever, and however they want to learn."
The Softer Side of Skills
While traditional education tends to focus on concrete skills, in-demand soft skills are more difficult to quantify, and therefore, more difficult to teach. However, that doesn't mean it can't be done.
"I think many of us believe soft skills are baked into our personalities and are impossible to change once you reach adulthood," Shimkus says. "This is definitely not the case. The brain is actually quite malleable throughout our lives."
Employers should implement programs to nurture in employees the soft skills that will help them succeed in their roles.
"As the workplace evolves, hard skills will certainly change – many will eventually become automated," Shimkus says. "On the other hand, soft skills like problem-solving, critical thinking, and relationship-building will be the bedrock that keeps teams functioning. It would behoove companies to make sure they're providing resources for developing both soft and hard skills."
Learning Beyond the Classroom
Employees that open themselves to expanding their skill sets should always be able to find a role in their company, even if their position is phased out or the skill requirements change.
"Tech workers have long been accustomed to continuous upskilling as programming languages evolve and new software versions launch, but that cycle is accelerating," Shimkus says. "Staying current in a particular language or framework isn't enough for techies, and a narrow focus won't be enough for workers in other disciplines either. Gaining competency in skills beyond your current role is great insurance for future employability, especially as more and more job functions outside engineering require a baseline of coding or data analysis skills. When employers allow people to stretch into new areas, they may even be able to close their own internal skills gaps."
The best way for workers to keep their skills sharp is to develop a positive attitude toward continuing education.
"Never stop learning," Shimkus says. "When workers adopt a growth mindset and embrace lifelong learning, assimilating new skills isn't a source of fear and stress – it's just another part of the career journey."