As the economy improves and most companies are focused on hiring the talent they need for the short-term, we encourage you to think about your long-term workforce requirements and develop a strategic plan to help ensure you have the talent you need. In Wisconsin, the state Department of Workforce Development has estimated that there will be more than 1 million job openings through 2020, which include replacing about 680,000 retiring baby boomers. These retirements are in the headlights for most companies, and the outgoing workforce will take a huge amount of job, company and industry knowledge with them.
Adding to this challenge, Georgetown University estimates that Wisconsin will create 317,000 new jobs by 2020, but will produce only 15,000 new workers. So, how is your company going to fill all of its open positions over the next six years? We recommend developing a strategic plan as soon as possible that includes:
- assessing the likely retirements, when they will occur and what roles and skills they represent;
- adding the likely employee turnover that typically happens each year;
- identifying internal candidates who might be groomed to replace the talent that is leaving;
- developing training and knowledge sharing plans to ensure an effective transition; and,
- determining which roles are going to be the most difficult to fill and defining a strategy to replace them.
Overcoming the current and future gaps between skills that are available in the workforce and those that are needed by the company will be the greatest challenge. Forward thinking companies are already working on ways to bridge those gaps, and the answers fall in two distinct areas:
- Increased use of automation to replace some groups of employees
- Enhanced training programs to build the skills of not-quite-ready employees in order to upskill them to the desired level of competence
New training programs are being developed to upskill everyone from high school and college graduates to current employees and the long-term unemployed who are in need of a career transition. We are seeing a dramatic increase in partnerships between business and technical colleges to meet the growing need for specific training, and we expect this to continue for the next decade.
On the automation side, we are seeing increased use of technology to reduce the need for humans to do repetitive and low skill work, which is not only replacing factory assembly workers and grocery cashiers, but is also removing tasks from many white-collar jobs to enable a reduced workforce to focus on higher-skill duties.
If your company has not yet started building your future talent pipeline, we suggest that now is the time to get started.