Studies indicate companies are more optimistic about hiring this year, but a shortage of talent could make it difficult to fulfill that optimism. In 2013, 39 percent of U.S. employers had difficulty filling jobs, according to the ManpowerGroup 2013 Talent Shortage Survey. The most difficult-to-fill jobs consisted of skilled trades, engineers and sales representative positions. The biggest reasons attributed to the shortage were a lack of specific technical skills, experience and qualifications required for a particular role in addition to a lack of applicants.

The story about the talent shortage isn’t new. In fact, ManpowerGroup presented very similar survey results in 2012. So, the question becomes—what can businesses do help close the skills gap? Some suggest preparing job seekers from the very beginning, before they even graduate from college, by making job descriptions more specific. HR could include a set of skills-based courses required to qualify for a position so job seekers have a clear indication of what skills they need to master.

While this may seem like a fairly simple tactic to modify one aspect of the recruiting process in hopes of helping close the skills gap, experts argue there’s more HR could be doing.

“Companies are whining about skills shortages in some areas, [but] they’re not looking in the mirror and saying, ‘What have I done to develop people with the skill sets I need so badly?’ The answer is [often] nothing,” says Bill Kutik, technology columnist for Human Resource Executive magazine, in TechTarget.

A shift toward employee development can help businesses focus on providing on-the-job learning programs that engage workers and equip them with the knowledge and skills they need to meet HR’s demands.

Learning on the Job

According to Paul Hamerman, vice president and principal analyst at Forrester Research Inc., “Learning is becoming less formal—the idea is for employees to be able to consume learning information on the job in real-time using ubiquitous technologies like mobile devices, and not do so much classroom learning.”

Implementing enterprise mobile apps is a new way companies are offering engaging employee training content. For example, True Office is a company that develops mobile apps to gamify compliance testing. Before, training sessions on important topics like sexual harassment and compliance would typically be delivered via workbooks, training manuals or videos. With True Office, employees can complete the same training in a game-like environment—a medium that can seem less tedious than traditional mandatory training sessions.

These types of tools will help companies engage and train their employees. And as more companies recruit and hire virtual employees, training programs that can be accessed from mobile devices and cloud-based apps will become increasingly important for HR to incorporate into onboarding and throughout the employee lifecycle.

Tips to Implement an Effective Employee Development Environment

The right resources and the right investment will be critical to the success of a new training program. While your business may have to work its way up to adopting a mobile or web-based application for employee development, understanding the components of a successful employee learning experience can be helpful as you kick-start a learning initiative for your business.

HR Council recommends several considerations, based on adult learning principles, for launching an employee learning program:

  • Define clear goals of the employee training or development program
  • Include employees as you determine the knowledge, skills and abilities to be learned
  • Create activities in which the employees can participate during the learning process
  • Take a practical and problem-centered approach based on real-world examples
  • Give employees an opportunity to reinforce what they learn in practice

Employee development initiatives have the potential to help bridge the skills gap by providing engaging learning programs and tools, but the challenge of finding more qualified applicants can be remedied with a sophisticated recruiting solution. For example, our cloud-based recruiting management solution is one applicant tracking tool that helps businesses find, qualify and hire the best applicants with the skill sets you need.

To learn more about how you can use hiring and recruiting software to find and attract the most qualified applicants, download our resource guide.