Overcoming the Skills Gap Confronting U.S. Businesses Today

Gregg Rennie, President and Principal Consultant, The 41 North Group
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Gregg Rennie, President and Principal Consultant, The 41 North Group

Gregg Rennie, President and Principal Consultant, The 41 North Group

It is no secret that there is a shortage of workers in the U.S. with the education, training and experience necessary to perform the highly skilled jobs of today. When you consider suitability for leadership positions, the gap can be even bigger.

“The greatest benefit comes when BPM is treated as both strategic and tactical approaches to managing and improving the business by focusing on optimizing end-to-end processes”

We’ll look at some of the causes and then some ideas about what you, the CIO or other U.S. Business Leader, can do to help address the problem.

•There are about 2,000,000 Baby Boomers retiring every year! While they may not hold many of IT’s technical positions, mostly due to the relentless march of technology, they may comprise a good proportion of your leaders.

• For a number of reasons, one of which is the off-shoring of entry level positions, the number of students in STEM programs is dwindling.

• The vast number of off-shored jobs over the last couple of decades has helped offsetting the skills gap (and costs) but is now resulting in reduced numbers of experienced people to fill leadership positions.

• Getting Baby Boomers, Generation Xers and Millennials to work together can present issues and reduce team effectiveness and output. This last one is somewhat mitigated in IT because millennials are so comfortable with technology and its pace of change that is typically well suited to technical positions.

With these factors contributing to the skills gap, what is a CIO, or any U.S. Business leader to do?

Business Process Management (BPM) can be a solution to a host of problems, including staffing. While it doesn’t create more people it can have an impact in a number of ways.

• The most efficient and effective processes will generally need less staff to execute.
• A more efficient process may require lower skills to perform.
• BPM may reduce attrition. One of the reasons I often hear for people leaving is their frustration at having to perform a process they don’t think works well.

In addition to the staffing perspective, BPM can help with IT’s internal processes. Only one of those methods (or a hybrid) can be the most efficient. Since IT is generally a cost center this can go a long way to reducing spend, keeping your top and bottom line healthy, assuring successful project execution and keeping your Business partners content. As Thomas Edison said, “There’s a way to do it better – find it.”

One other area where BPM can be very valuable is in the projects you execute for your business partners. Most IT projects, other than infrastructure, are automating a business process. You can truly be a partner with your business and help them make sure their processes are most efficient before you automate them. For years IT has helped the businesses with project management, because IT is typically better equipped to provide those services and to help the Business optimize their processes before they are automated also.

The bottom line is cost savings for your department and the company. Good BPM practitioners aren’t easy to find but they can be worth their weight in gold! Individual projects often save $250K to $500K.

Getting back to the staffing gap, engaged employees can be the key to SUCCESS. They love their job, inspire others, aren't likely to leave, work harder, take less time off and have lesser health issues. According to Gallup, less than 1/3 of U.S. employees felt engaged in 2013. In fact, only 38 percent of U.S. Managers felt engaged. Programs and practices that foster employee engagement can drastically increase the percentage of engaged employees and decrease the percentage of actively disengaged employees.

The leadership pipeline is also a critical factor when considering the staffing and skills gap. Especially for IT, which have been off-shoring many entry and mid-level jobs for decades. Off-shoring and outsourcing can help reduce costs or supplement particular skills but it can result in a staff without corporate knowledge. Every leadership position should have a succession plan. Also, when an excellent worker is promoted to be a supervisor or manager their job tends to change completely and they may need additional training.

Promoting teamwork among the generations will also reduce attrition and help maximize the output. Fortune deemed Gen Y the highest maintenance but potentially highest performing generation in history. They don’t think and act like boomers but they are VERY competent and frankly they will be in the majority as boomers retire. Adapting employee practices to welcome millennials will help assure the most competent workforce ever. Boomers, Generation X and Millennials have to work together and effective leadership will help that happen.

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