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Half of HRDs see retraining as solution to the skills gap

In the face of a shrinking talent pool and an ageing workforce, many employers are looking towards upskilling as a solution.

Research by talent development and HR consultancy firm LHH has shown four in 10 (39%) of learning and development (L&D) leaders think there’s too much focus on hiring new talent, as opposed to retraining current employees. 

Nearly half (48%) of HR directors agree.

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The investment needed to train employees has in the past prevented companies from upskilling, said Steve Herbert, head of benefits strategy at wellbeing and benefits company Howden.

He told HR magazine: “In recent years, many employers have opted for the perceived quick fix of recruitment rather than training, particularly when there are potentially large numbers of qualified workers available from the EU.

“The Brexit process, however, closely followed by the pandemic, has significantly changed the recruitment market.”

He added: “With a far smaller pool of potential talent available, some employers are having to revisit the idea of investment in upskilling, as is evidenced by the almost half (48%) of HRDs that are now focused on retraining current employees.”

Another pressure on the UK workforce is the fact that it is rapidly ageing. 

More than half (60%) of L&D leads, according to LHH data, are actively training younger workers within their organisations to ensure no knowledge is lost as older workers exit the economy.

Herbert said: “The British workforce has been ageing rapidly, and in the course of the last decade the number of workers aged 50 and above increased from around one in four of the working population, to around a third of all workers just prior to the pandemic.

“This too is during a time when the number of younger workers was actually decreasing a little.  

“So with a limited candidate supply it becomes increasingly important that these older workers are retained where possible, and that may again mean employers upskilling.”

As well as training the younger generation many HRDs are trying to limit the flow of older employees leaving organisations.

Over half (57%) of HRDs said they are looking into retraining or redeployment as an alternative to redundancy, wherever they are able.

A further 15% said they wanted to use those methods to avoid making redundancies, but lacked the resources.

Herbert added that the most pressing problem for employers was matching the talents of the available candidates to the roles that require them.

He said: “The reality is that those who lost their jobs in sectors such as travel, hospitality, and retail during the pandemic might not have the right skills, experience and qualifications to be a natural fit in sectors desperate for new recruits, such as agriculture and logistics. 

“Upskilling and training may even be needed for new recruits too at present.”