Mind the gap

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The problem 

“UK productivity is still behind most other G7 countries, therefore developing a more proficient workforce is a high priority for the UK Government.

This has become more pressing in the wake of COVID-19, where it’s more important now, more than ever, for organisations to maximise productivity to aid the economic recovery from the shock of the last year.

It will be critical for organisations to ensure they have the availability of skills to meet this challenge.” 

Employer Skills Survey 2019

I read with great interest the recently published Employer Skills Survey and UK Space Sector Skills Survey. Whilst it made for concerning reading, it reinforced what I have seen in my experience within the technology, innovation and space sector. Below I will share with you some of the key findings from the surveys and how DBKT can support businesses with addressing this challenge.

Skills Shortage

Employers are experiencing a shortage in skills, not only in recruiting the skills they need, but also within their current workforce. Within the Space sector, the industry has grown faster than the number of people with the required skills.

86% of space industry businesses report having a skills gap

Space Skills Survey (2019)

76% are unable to recruit staff with the necessary skills

Space Skills Survey (2019)

It will come as no surprise that both reports (Space Skills Survey and Employers Skills Survey) found a shortage in technical skills. However, they also found a shortage in people skills.  Interestingly, the UK Space Sector Skills Survey highlighted that organisations expect people to have a breadth and blend of both technical and people skills. From my experience, many technical people are not invested in from a people skills perspective and are often placed into leadership roles without this development and support.

What is meant by people skills?  

The reports break people skills down into the following areas:

  • Self-Management skills – time management and prioritisation (72%) 
  • Leadership skills (57%)  
  • Collaborative & Team working skills (48%)
  • Ability to deal with people issues (38%) 

Lack of time, funds and resources are cited as stopping businesses from investing in the learning and development of their people in these areas.

Whilst this may make sense in the short-term, there are long-term implications of not investing in the development of your people, which could prove to be more costly in the long run. The reports show an indication of these longer term challenges, as it was found a quarter of space-based businesses have retention problems and difficulty attracting people.

The challenge around skills is also likely to be further exacerbated with the fast paced development of new technology, equipment, products and services. In addition, new working practices and the changing world of work, will also require new skills.

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Overcoming the skills gap

So, what are businesses doing to over the skills gap? The report findings suggest that businesses are tackling this problem through improving recruitment methods, implementing mentoring and increasing training – all things I completely agree with and are a great first step in the way forward.  

Recruitment – you need to be thinking about the candidate experience. You need to move away from a transactional recruitment process and improve the experience to be person-centred and a two-way dialogue. You need to provide an exceptional level of service for the candidate throughout the process. This means being responsive and personable in your communication. In addition, you must provide good quality feedback after the interview for each candidate. Generic feedback such as ‘not a good fit’ isn’t great, especially when someone has invested time to meet with you. You need to remember, they may not be right for the job today, but they could be exactly what you need in the future! It’s about building a relationship. At Satellite Applications Catapult I revamped the whole recruitment process which had a great impact not only on the experience for candidates but the level of talent appointed.  

Mentoring – mentors can provide an invaluable support to increase the learning and development of individuals. However, mentoring can take a ‘tell’ based approach, which is great when there is a knowledge gap. Keep in mind, one person’s journey to ‘success’ may be very different to your own. Therefore, coaching can be an alternative approach that provides a more empowering and transformative experience, as it operates from the individual’s life, experience, values and challenges. 

For me, a slightly concerning finding in the reports was that businesses are also addressing the skills gap through increased supervision of staff and conducting more appraisals. This sits a little uncomfortably with me and I would urge caution in this approach. Increased supervision and appraisals could be perceived by colleagues as micro-management and infantilisation of the workforce. Instead, I would recommend taking a coaching approach in your interactions with colleagues and have regular two-way developmental feedback and reflective conversations (i.e. what worked? what could be even better?), as this approach greatly increases learning and is a more empowering, adult approach (which suits how adults learn).

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We can work with you to help!

We can work with you to embed sustainable development and learning in all of the people skill areas of Self-management, Leadership, Dealing with people issues, Collaboration and Teamwork. 

We will work with you to co-create a solution that will address your specific challenges, that will work best for your time, funding and resource constraints – whilst ensuring maximum impact and learning transfer. 

Leadership – Our approach to leadership development focusses on real challenges, within the context your leaders operate within. We also seek to include wider stakeholders such as customers and suppliers in this work. In addition, we can provide practical tools and resources to develop your leaders capacity to deal with people issues.

Teams – Many businesses address skills gaps by focussing on developing individuals only and under-invest in their teams. What makes us different, is that we take a teams approach. 82% of organisations rely on teams (Gordon), but only 20% of teams achieve their potential (Chamine).  Through team coaching, action learning and knowledge input we can create solutions with you, that improves the collaboration of your team, reducing conflict and mis-communication – it will also develop the leadership skills of your people too! 

HR – We bring to the table our extensive and progressive HR expertise. We can support and partner your leaders in dealing with people issues, in a way that will up-skill and provide the tools for them to deal with issues themselves next time. 

Future proof – We take a forward-thinking approach to development, so your investment in the learning of your people will develop the skills and behaviours people, teams and organisations will need for the changing world of work. 

Get in touch!

Let’s have a chat about the challenges you are facing and how DBKT might be able to work with you in co-creating an impactful and sustainable solution – give me a call on 07443 438 204

You can also email me at kathryn@dbktcoaching.com

References

https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/space-sector-skills-survey-2020-research-report

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