Mark Creighton, CEO, Avado, outlines how businesses can manage the shifting skills landscape and begin to fill the gap between business needs and people capabilities
All areas of the public sector underwent significant strain in the past year, from adapting to new ways of working, to managing the halt of non-essential services, to increased pressure on front line services. It challenged the public sector to become even more agile, flexing new skills and capabilities that weren’t regarded as important before. This exposed gaps between the capabilities needed and those required by their people, creating unsustainable pressure on operations.
Curious to see how the industry faired, we researched the UK skills gap. Our report, called Beyond Skills, surveyed 500 C-suite and 500 HR leaders across five core industries including government and public sector. The finding was staggering: the skills gap has widened so deeply it is now a ‘capability chasm’. As a result, organisations across the nation are struggling to meet the demands of our recovering economy.
At Avado, we define a capability as a deep-rooted knowledge or an ability to do something that is not isolated and flows between different skills. For individuals, this could include business acumen, collaboration and problem-solving. When these capabilities are lacking, or do not match up to the capabilities a business requires, there is friction. To this very point, 71% of businesses that saw growth in 2020 had increased their training budget. In contrast, 61% of businesses that did not increase investment in training or did not have a functional training plan in place reported a decline in growth. This made clear that ultimately, investment in people supports a business in sustaining growth during turbulent times.
In government and public sector specifically, our research showed that most organisations increased training budgets, perhaps due to the urgent need for a wide set of capabilities. The sector was continuously in demand to respond and adapt to the public’s needs, and investment in learning enabled organisations to react more efficiently than other sectors surveyed.
Many organisations focused on survival during the pandemic, which meant cutting learning and development budgets altogether. But this simply wasn’t an option for public sector organisations who had to deliver above and beyond the services they offer. The continued investment in training pays dividends to many schemes that were rolled out throughout the pandemic such as HMRC’s furlough scheme or the continued rollout of the vaccination programme. The effectiveness of these nationwide programmes would not have been as significant if the people implementing them did not have the tools – skills and capabilities – needed to adapt and respond efficiently to change.
Even with the continued investment in learning, 69% of those surveyed believe there is still work to be done to alleviate the skills gap in the sector. In fact, 74% of respondents said they wished more money had been invested in development. Another 72% wished more time was allotted to help close the imbalance between the capabilities their business needs and the capabilities their people possess. Respondents also worried about the lack of capabilities on productivity. There is a clear hunger, and not to mention need, for long-term training strategies to enable people in the public sector to prosper.
Leaders must not lose sight of the benefits of a long-term development strategy. Skills and capabilities will continuously evolve, and training is the only sure-fire way to keep pace with change and
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