Two thirds of employers will face skills shortages this year according to a recent study by online jobs board Totaljobs, and while the war for new and emerging talent has long been on the agenda for HR, what measures are really being implemented to tackle this shortage today? The Office for National Statistics (ONS) recently revealed that unemployment and productivity levels currently stand 20% less than predicted a decade ago and the impact on the UK’s economic growth means the country could be left trailing behind due to a lack of skilled talent.

While the reasons behind these shortages are complex, there are two prominent forces at play: record high employment levels and growing demand for specialist and technical skills due to rapid innovation. In a candidate driven market, the most skilled, experienced and highly commoditised individuals have a variety of options when it comes to deciding their next job. In response to this, HR teams are now facing challenges to compete and offer attractive packages to gain the right skills and advertise in a way which resonates with their target candidates. Another factor is the trend of more graduates remaining in higher education rather than jumping straight from university into the working world or choosing careers in high-tech digital companies, leaving other sectors short of key skills. As grads can bring new expertise and fresh thinking to a business, HR should look towards building allegiances with universities and connecting with students to address skills demands to boost the flow of graduate recruitment which is key to a thriving economy.

While pipelining emerging talent is vital to tackling skills shortages, so too is retention. With the CIPD reporting that one in five employees leave their role after their probation period, it’s crucial to screen candidates correctly, manage expectations and establish a good relationship from the start to ensure employees stay happy and motivated. Demonstrating the opportunity and progression a company has to offer will only incentivise staff further, increase morale and help foster a positive work environment.

Another element for HR is embracing the digital revolution and AI. We’ve heard it time and time again, but if utilised correctly, technology can really help to re-train and give employees more autonomy and time to adopt new skills with AI focusing on the less important tasks. This means organisations don’t necessarily need to maintain a constant flow of new talent if AI capabilities which benefit employees can be developed internally and planned activities such as on the job training and AI learning programs are incorporated. Upskilling existing talent through tech can engage employees who are on the lookout for windows to learn and, in turn, this can benefit the organisation by not only increasing productivity and boosting retention but also allowing a business to tap into new expertise.

Overall, it’s clear to fix the current skills shortage problem, a multidisciplinary strategy is needed. A plan to enhance the way employees carry out work and enjoy learning is what will help grow internal talent and also encourage the attraction of new skills. With a chronic talent shortage in the UK estimated to cost us £90bn a year we must work together to avoid a fated conundrum. Now more than ever HR can step in and solve these challenges by championing a system for businesses to engage, retain and upskill talent to cement a bright and prosperous future workforce.