Are firms missing out on opportunities as they whine about the ‘talent gap’?

Talent gap is one issue that is plaguing the industry globally. A recent RGF International Recruitment study revealed that in Singapore, the struggle to locate and attract key talent is a huge concern for employers. According to Manpower Group, about 58% of employers reported on talent shortages in 2018, while concluding that talent shortages have been pushed to the highest levels since 2006.

Similarly, in the US, more and more employers now are struggling to fill open jobs. But swerving away from this notion was Barbara Humpton (pictured left), CEO of Siemens USA, who said that talent is evenly distributed across humanity. But it is through the lens we see talent that really matters.  “People have talent and are looking for ways to use it,” she said. But what we should now be looking out for are the “opportunity gaps”. She added:

Determining the difference between talent gap and opportunity gap is accessibility, ability in landing jobs, as well as attaining the right kind of education.

During a keynote at Dreamforce 2019, Humpton along with Workday CEO Aneel Bhusri (pictured right) and Salesforce co-founder Keith Block, discussed the future of work. According to Humpton, workplace development is one area companies and even the government could work towards.

“Think of multiple pathways to get to the American dream,” she said, adding that individuals don’t necessarily have to take the traditional route of getting a ticket to multitude of career opportunities, only after completing four years in university. As such more and more leaders of  large corporations need to be working towards enabling young talents to be equipped with skills and knowledge, and land technical jobs straight out of high school.

The concept first struck Humpton when she heard of a 17-year old teenager from the Southeastern US state of Alabama, who single-handedly accessed software tools to design and build a prosthetic foot for a marine who had his leg amputated after a gunshot wound. “This could have very well needed the capabilities of a whole department of engineers [with]  a completely different access of tools and manufacturing,” Humpton said.

“This is the world we are entering […]. I think we are going to tap into all kinds of new talent that we don’t even know about,” the CEO of a 172-year old company revealed.

Echoing a similar sentiment, Bhusri said corporations need to realise there is an opportunity gap rather than talent gap in the society. He added that talent is already out there and it is now about creating opportunities for those who are talented but do not have access to amplify these skills. According to Bhusri, this has a lot to do with education, and tapping into the talents’ potential.

“I know the talent is out there, but we have to work a little harder to get to some of the talent that is not coming through the traditional channels. A lot of these digital-age folks might not enroll into college but they are going to be very productive in society,” he explained, saying that the next step is to identify ways to onboard these talent into companies.

Draw them in and let them know that these tools are available to them.

Agreeing with the ample talent in the community, Salesforce’s Block said companies merely have to break down the walls of how education is traditionally perceived.

“It is really about rethinking education and too often, we find ourselves trapped thinking in the way we thought in the past. And this is because it is a comfort zone for us, and it is the only way we know,” he added.

Similarly to Siemens’ Humpton and Workday’s Bhusri, Block too explained that there is learning platforms and enough desire among individuals, and opportunities are all it takes to to bridge this gap. “I do believe that we can do this, but it will take collective leadership. It is not on the three of us alone but rather all of us,” he said.

Read more:
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Tackling tech talent shortage in SG: ‘Peel back the veneer and ask the right questions’

Salesforce paid for the journalist’s trip to Dreamforce 2019 held in San Francisco.

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