Pandemic Recovery: 3 pathways for closing the growing talent gap

As many nations continue to recover from COVID, organizations worldwide are now at an inflection point as to how they will close the growing skills gap that runs so deep that according to the World Economic Forum, 50% of all employees will need to be reskilled by 2025. How do COVID-era leaders prepare their organizations for these substantial headwinds? While there is no definitive playbook, leaders we recently discussed this topic with agree that to arrive safely on dry land, a diversified strategy is required to ensure sustainability over the long term, and each approach will be unique to the industry and geographies where the company operates. 

Read on and explore options to help narrow your organization's growing skills gap. 

1. Strike the balance between reinvention and recruitment

While our working environments may have changed because of the pandemic, the pace at which most organizations have had to scale in response is relentless. One thing is clear: the demand for new skills has surged as firms have crammed a decade's worth of transformation into just under two years. As companies demand more from their employees, a wide skill gap has emerged that must be bridged as soon as possible. In an already competitive global talent market, it's unsurprising that the battle to recruit and keep the best staff has begun. "If we created those capabilities in our organization, we probably wouldn't need an army of people," said Arturo Brake, CIO of Nissan Mexico, during our May 2021 Innovation X Roundtable: How to Transform Your Talent for the New Digital Era

Arturo is not alone in his view; the skills deficit won’t be solved by recruitment efforts alone, and organizations around the globe have rallied to establish upskilling and reskill programs to prepare their teams for the work that needs to be done. These future-fit programs are designed to cultivate the hard and soft skills that companies will now require to achieve continuous and rapid improvement at scale. And this move comes at the perfect time, as businesses grapple with the extra burden of battling the COVID recovery phenomenon known as "the great resignation." This new trend is directly linked to the pent-up career mobility deferment induced by COVID, and as the U.S. economy improves and vaccination programs make it safer for employees to return to the physical workplace, employees are now very eager to find new opportunities to learn new skills or better utilize the in-demand skills and experience they recently gained or are not practicing. In addition, employers are also redefining the employee experience, value proposition and making substantial changes to their culture to retain top talent.  

Finally, competitive compensation will always be part of a successful employee attraction and retention strategy. However, trends show that organizations will need to offer more than money for employees to stick around. This especially holds true for Millennials and Gen Z workers who are on track to become a more significant part of the workforce. With this data, organizations must work towards crafting a holistic experience across the employee lifecycle.  

2. Bridge the skills gap through digital labor

As leaders look for long-term and sustainable solutions to close the talent gap, many organizations have also allocated serious energy and resources to augment their human workforce with digital labor. At Softtek, an increasing part of our client engagements include adding and maturing digital labor capabilities to our clients’ operations. For example, a global insurance claims management service provider's manual invoicing process was once time-consuming, involved many manual steps and employees. Frequent bottlenecks during the extraction, validation, or management of appeals and exceptions for a batch of claims could halt core business functions and cause issues in the accuracy of reconciling receivables— generating downstream impact in cash flow forecasting. By introducing digital labor through business process automation, seamless and unnecessary delays are now a thing of the past and automation now provides both significant cost savings and, more importantly, has been proven to be a reliable and sustainable solution for business continuity— giving our client the ability to manage the ebbs and flows of claims management and adjust capacity as needed.  

Other Softtek clients have introduced digital labor through machine learning and artificial intelligence capabilities employing our intelligent automation platform FRIDA. FRIDA helps the enterprise streamline automation by combining RPA, AI, and human contribution to add continuous business value and efficiency to virtually any organization. At Related Companies, a prominent privately-owned real estate firm in the United States, FRIDA was used to fuel Joseph J. Rich’s vision for hyper-automation. Joe is Related’s Senior Vice President and CIO and used FRIDA to automate many manual IT processes, giving his organization efficiency and transparency like never before. Leveraging FRIDA’s various AI modules, pre-configured intelligent bots, and machine learning capabilities, Related was able to drive new business agility across its global organization. In fact, to date, FRIDA has automated 71% of Related's ITIL tasks, impacting hundreds of business processes within the enterprise and representing considerable savings in time and money. 

3. Nurture nearshore partnerships

While organizations kickoff new upskilling and reskilling initiatives and gain new efficiency through digital labor, organizations have also diversified their capabilities through digital services providers leveraging the specialized skills and Agile processes needed to drive innovation and sustainability. Many organizations have been successful in complementing their operations by engaging in outsourcing partnerships, and as stateside organizations have largely embraced a work-from-anywhere paradigm, nearshore providers from Latin America have once again increased in popularity as teams look for digital partners with time-zone and cultural proximity to complement their teams—this is now better known as a Share-the-Sun methodology.  

Joe at Related Companies has been outsourcing IT services for nearly 15 years and firmly believes that when you outsource, you can't just throw a problem over the wall; you really must own it and treat your extended team as an extension of your staff. For Joe, the fact that his nearshore teams are within Related's time zone is key: "I really believe it fosters that feeling of one team and that’s not impossible, but it's very difficult to do when compared to crazy time zones that are 10, 12, or 15 hours apart." Working with a nearshore provider is not only a great way to build digital maturity but an increasingly popular component to helping close the skills gap and tap into a diversified pool of talent. 

Summing it all up

There are several paths available to leaders to assist them in closing the skills gap. While nearshore is a good choice for scaling digital maturity and providing the capabilities needed to fast-track important digital initiatives, the strength of a diverse strategy will benefit businesses in the long run. Many digital service providers, including Softtek, also provide Agile coaching services that can jumpstart your team’s Agile practices, making it a win-win situation for businesses on their digital maturity path. Regardless of the approach you choose, 2025 is approaching fast, and having a readiness plan is critical. As we know, the best time to plant a tree was 30 years ago, but the next best moment is today.