Closing the talent gap: driving business growth and productivity

Executive need to listen

Rob Stirling, Deputy Director of Portfolio and Controls at Justice Digital  

Katie Whitehouse, Senior People Director EMEA, ServiceNow  

Mark Cockerill, VP, Legal, Corporate, Securities, M&A, and International Development at ServiceNow

Laurant Briant, Director of NextGen Global Government Programs

Business leaders today are all up against the same people problem: the demand for specialist skills is increasing, while the number of qualified candidates stagnates. The result is an ongoing talent gap that’s making the recruitment landscape increasingly competitive. Manpower Group reports, the UK talent shortage has reached its highest point in 17 years, with four in five employers reporting difficulty finding suitable candidates this year.

It’s a complex issue without a straightforward solution. Today’s macroeconomic landscape ultimately makes it unwise to simply shift more budget to active recruitment: with the cost of onboarding a new employee reaching upwards of £80,000, it’s in business leaders’ best interests to focus first on improving the employee experience and boosting retention from the inside. For many organisations in the region today, this means providing genuinely enriching learning and development opportunities.

Understanding learning and development

Stats on the ground show just how important learning and development is to employee retention. Research by ServiceNow shows, approximately three quarters (76%) of employees are more likely to stay with a company that offers continuous learning and development opportunities. Additional research conducted in partnership with Opinium shows approximately 30% of employees in the UK consider learning and development opportunities to be the single most important aspect of a good employee experience, ranking higher than good HR support (20%), workplace perks (18%), and good technical support (14%).

The takeaway for organisations here is simple; it’s no longer enough to offer a benefits package that doesn’t include a strong learning and development offering. Only once they do will companies be able to remain competitive and mitigate the impact of the talent crisis, and fortunately, doing so doesn’t have to require a huge amount of investment.

Meeting the wants and needs of the workforce can be as simple as offering additional or external training sessions. There are also plenty of other quick wins that can be implemented across a business that add tangible value for employees — holding regular career progression reviews or setting out detailed and personalised roadmaps for employees looking to grow, for example our Senior People Director EMEA, Katie Whitehouse, explains:

“A strong strategy should be reflective of your company brand and values. And it should be present throughout the whole employee life cycle beyond recruitment. How do you develop your people? How do you help them navigate their careers?”

Embracing a growth mindset

A vital part of any successful learning and development strategy is the ability to embrace a growth mindset. It’s about getting rid of any preconceived notions about what a successful growth strategy should look like, taking the focus away from retention, and instead shifting it towards potential.

One common mistake business leaders make is thinking a successful retention strategy means keeping the same people within an organisation for years and years at a time. But success doesn’t mean retention at all costs, it means allowing people to achieve everything they’re capable of achieving regardless of whether that may carry them to another company or even a competitor. Mark Cockerill, VP, Legal, Corporate, Securities, M&A, and International Development at ServiceNow, explains:

“A business can’t have 50 people at the top. If you choose to consistently grow while retaining all of your people, you’d end up with 50 CEOs. Clearly, that doesn’t work, so instead you need to look at how you can allow your people to grow even if that means you might lose them.”

The benefits of investing in learning and development—engaged staff who feel valued within your organisation—far outweigh the risk of losing employees to another company. Embodying this growth mindset can allow an organisation—and its people— to achieve their full capacity for growth without being held back by unnecessary fears of high turnover.

The unexpected benefits of learning and development

Investing in learning and development is a win-win scenario for organisations today. On one hand, employees feel more valued, while on the other hand customers benefit from the best possible service by the most highly trained members of staff. However, the positive impact stretches beyond internal operations, all the way to recruitment and diversity initiatives.

Increasing learning opportunities and allowing newly hired candidates to build relevant skills on the go allows organisations to naturally become open to more candidates — ones who perhaps possess all the necessary soft skills to thrive in a role but haven’t had access to the opportunity to learn specific technical skills. Rob Stirling, Head of Portfolio and Controls (Deputy Director), at  Ministry of Justice, explains:

“It’s easy for organisations to overlook external hires who don’t have a specific type of technical training or previous experience in a very niche role. Hiring people with excellent soft skills—communication, teamwork, creativity, etc—and then building on those technical skills is an amazing way to make sure as many people get a chance to build their careers as possible.”

This approach can lead to a more diverse workforce, more roles filled by fresh new talent, and a culture of constant growth. These outcomes become even more tangible when partnering with the right external programmes, which is why RiseUp with ServiceNow — our mission to train 1 million people on the Now Platform by 2024 — have been built with growth, learning, and development right at the heart.

“The difference for us is it’s about redefining career paths,” says Laurant Briant, Director of NextGen Global Government Programs. “Initiatives should focus on the opportunity gap, rather than the skills gap, in order to open new pathways into the tech space. Organisations need to make the most of these opportunities that will enable them to find the right people, with the right skills to keep up with the digital transformation curve.”

Your strategy in practice

Driving a successful learning and development strategy is something all business leaders should strive towards. Taking the necessary steps to make it happen requires business leaders to gain a personalised understanding of what it is their employees want and need.

The only way to do this is to invest in the necessary infrastructure to drive a better, more streamlined employee experience. A holistic platform approach provides solid foundations that can allow organisations to get a handle on their processes and ultimately promote complete visibility.

“Getting better visibility across the board makes it easier to identify where there are currently opportunities to be seized within your workforce — where are we seeing gaps or errors? Where are employees currently struggling? How can we help?” explains Mark Cockerill.

Once an organisation has achieved this seamlessness, it becomes possible to work out how to successfully integrate specific learning and development opportunities as part of the everyday offering for employees. This, in turn, can be built on to improve other areas of the employee experience in the future, even during challenging economic times.

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