Are Experienced Employees Falling Behind?

Contrary to the recent focus on the lack of workforce readiness among first-time employees, human resources (HR) professionals report that most workplace skills are of greater importance today for experienced workers than for new entrants to the workforce. However, no more than half of their organizations' employees have participated in skills training – perhaps because they don't think it meets their needs.


In “Critical Skills Needs and Resources for the Changing Workforce,” a poll released by the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) in conjunction with WSJ.com/Careers, HR professionals say 20 out of 23 critical workplace skills now are more important for experienced employees than for new workers. Findings were announced in New Orleans at the 60th Annual Conference of SHRM, the world's largest human resources organization.

Workplace skills that HR professionals rated as more important on average for experienced employees than new workers include:

  • Critical thinking/problem solving
  • Leadership
  • Professionalism/work ethic
  • Teamwork/collaboration
  • Adaptability/flexibility percent

On a related issue, the survey revealed a disconnect between what employers offer and what employees feel are the most effective professional development methods. Most commonly offered by employers are instructor-led workshops (83 percent), on-the-job training (82 percent) and continuing education courses (80 percent). But employees said the most effective formats were on-the-job training (69 percent) and coaching or mentoring (52 percent). University or college courses (43 percent) trailed the top three.

“Employers need to communicate with their employees to determine the most effective skills training for them,” said Susan R. Meisinger, SPHR, president and CEO of SHRM. “We need both sides to agree on the best way to remedy the current lack of competencies in the workforce, and to prepare the workplace for the upcoming labor shortage.”

Other notable study findings include:

  • A school's reputation affects HR professionals' perception of employee skill levels. Almost two-thirds (62 percent) report that employees from the most well-regarded colleges or universities have higher skill levels than employees from other institutions.
  • Only 31 percent of employees reported an increased preference for online tutorials and guided programs. In contrast, one-half of HR professionals report an increased use of online tutorials for skills training.
  • Domestic employers were more likely to provide skills training to their employees (44 percent) than organizations with international locations (34 percent).

A complete copy of the survey is available at http://www.shrm.org/surveys.

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