· News

Employers tackling skills shortages with recruitment rather than training

Employers' attitudes towards training in the workplace are adversely affecting the upskilling and reskilling of the workforce, according to a new report from ReWage.

It argues narrow job design is partly to blame.

In the UK, tasks for service sector jobs are narrowly drawn, work less skilful and people are given fewer responsibilities than the same roles elsewhere in the world.

As such, employers see training as an additional cost, rather than an investment in their workforce and so it gets minimised or forgotten about altogether.

This leads to employers leaning on recruitment rather than training to solve skills shortages, and any training that is provided is often basic and doesn't help with upskilling or reskilling.

The importance of workplace training:

Why micro-upskilling will help HR teams improve talent retention

Training is the answer to skills and retention fears, businesses decide

Why the time is now right for learning in the flow of work

Report author and ReWage co-chair Irena Grugulis said: "We need to have an honest appraisal of the systematic problems – there is an enduring problem of a lack of employer demand for skills and an increasing trend for employers to ‘retreat’ from training – preferring to solve skills shortages through recruitment rather than training their existing employees.

"While this may cost employers less in the short-term, limiting workers’ progression and development is alienating and will make companies that will allow employees to develop and use their skills more attractive. Looking at the bigger picture, it will also decrease the UK’s ability to adopt new work practices and technologies, hampering its ability to keep pace with international competitors."

When employees are learning at work, it found businesses are lacking formal support structures for training.

As a further example, research from City & Guilds published in November 2022 showed 99% of employees have undergone ineffective training in the last five years. 

Ian Luxford, learning specialist at The Motivation Agency, said companies need to make the most out of their frontline managers to help get the best out of employees.

He told HR magazine: "A practical way for employers to take this forward – and to increase engagement with their people – is through their frontline managers. They are in the best position to embed new skills, however those skills are learned.  

"As the report says, 'few workers in the UK learn how to develop others’ skills' – while line managers may not always be able to help someone completely reskill – supporting their team members’ development and making it sustainable should be a high priority."

Though out of their current abilities, Luxford added it is relatively easy to train managers in how to help develop others.

He said: "In-the-moment coaching and constructive conversations about individual development are disciplines that can be learned quickly and effectively. We do this all the time.

"There is also a need for making more and better use of people who are fully skilled and qualified in learning and development – this though is another part of the equation. At the core, employers have a resource in place which can make a massive difference, within the daily flow of work if the right skills are developed - frontline managers."

The report's recommendations for improving these issues included redesigning jobs to make sure employees are making the best use of their skills, with an emphasis on improving HR practices to help employers better engage workers in reskilling and upskilling.

Workplace expert Acas was named in the report as a resource which could help with that process.

Gill Dix, Acas head of workplace policy, told HR magazine: “Acas is pleased to be part of the ReWage network and we welcome their latest paper.

“Clearly defined jobs that are designed with input from workers can help to improve workplace productivity. But poorly described job roles within teams can lead to confusion and sometimes conflict. It is important to get job design right as it can be crucial in supporting everyone’s wellbeing at work.”

Other suggestions included better training for those responsible for training others, and introducing an independent body to work with the department of education to provide recommendations on policies for upskilling and reskilling workers.

The report, Upskilling and reskilling of adult workers – the problem of employer demand, can be found here