South Africa

4 ways to address skills shortages in your business

Mike Patterson
Managing Executive:
talentCRU | DAV | Kelly
5 mins

South Africa is in a skills crisis. Some sectors, such as IT and finance, are harder hit than others, but no matter what industry you operate within or how big your workforce is, there will always be skills gaps that your teams are trying to navigate.

There are many reasons behind this current reality. Digital transformation and new ways of working mean that industries are often operating ahead of upskilling and training initiatives. Many sectors are also losing talented individuals to other opportunities, both locally and abroad. And of course the pandemic has led to a host of changes, from cost-cutting initiatives to adjusting to hybrid working models.

One of the biggest challenges we often see isn’t that these skills issues and gaps cannot be solved. It’s that businesses don’t know where they have gaps. The ability to identify what resources you have and where there are skills gaps is paramount. Once you’ve conducted a skills audit and assessed where your business stands, you can determine how you can boost internal capabilities through a range of solutions, from contingent workforce support to training, recruiting and upskilling.


Carrying out a detailed skills audit


There are three key steps to successfully conducting a skills audit:


  • Create a skills database: Start by selecting a few employees and comparing their job roles and skills to what they actually do. This will give you a good indication of how aligned current job specs and skills are to the day-to-day operations taking place in your business. Next, the managers of each department should work with your HR team to update all job specs with what is required to perform roles productively and efficiently. This is also a good time to identify where additional roles could add value to the entire process.
  • Introduce a competency framework: Once you know what roles exist in the business, it’s important to determine exactly what skills these roles require, as well as which skills your current workforce possesses. This framework becomes the standard that identifies where the business is, where the gaps lie and where it needs to be in order to perform optimally. Some gaps will be easily identified (as we mentioned earlier, most IT departments are under-staffed, for example), but some may be more difficult to pinpoint, such as a lack of problem-solving skills. HR and managers will need to capture the skills, integrated knowledge, attributes and judgement required to perform a job effectively. A great way to do this is to speak to employees themselves about what they perceive the responsibilities of their roles to be, as well as their personal strengths and weaknesses. Just remember to frame both strengths and weaknesses as areas to be leveraged or improved upon so that employees feel comfortable talking about them.
  • Carry out a skills survey: This is slightly different to the competency framework as it is not role-specific, but companywide. Create a survey that focuses on all skills and ask employees to list theirs, as well as what skills they would like to acquire. You may find some hidden skills that can be shared or leveraged in different areas, or glaring gaps that need to addressed right away. 

Solving your skills gap


Once you’ve addressed the current state of your business, you can shape the future state that you need to help your teams (and business) perform optimally.


Here are four ways to address skills shortages:

  1. Train existing employees

Creating a culture of continuous learning is an excellent way to promote skills and address the fact that skills need to keep changing and growing. For example, a few years ago, the ability to work with excel might have been paramount to a position. Now there may be an automated platform that does that work, and soft skills like creativity and innovation – in the exact same role – might be more important.

As a business, it’s important to stay on top of the short courses your teams need, whether these promote hard skills or soft skills. Regular training keeps employees engaged, lets them know you care about their careers, and, best of all, brings new, up-to-date and relevant skills into your business.

A second element to the continuous development mindset is internal skills transfer. Managers should all be mentors and there should be an expectation that teams share their knowledge –particularly across different departments and roles. When new people come on board, they can also share their experiences from different workplaces, cultures and ways of working, adding to the organisational knowledge bank.


  1. Apply workforce skills in different ways

If the pandemic taught us anything, it’s the power of being agile and adaptable. For this to be a lasting superpower, start thinking about where there may be hidden skills within your business, and how these can be deployed more effectively. Most people – particularly talented individuals – want a challenge. They enjoy using their skills and knowledge in new and different ways. You may be surprised to learn that you already have the people you need, but they are being used in ineffective ways. External partners can also be a great way to identify where these gaps lie, or how your teams can be recalibrated for more efficient ways of working. Pay particular attention to skills that could be transferable.


  1. Re-evaluate your recruiting practices

How are you recruiting new employees? Who determines when a role must be filled or is it a purely reactive exercise – when someone leaves, their job spec is pulled out, dusted off and a job advert listed looking for a similar replacement? If this is the way you are hiring, it could be contributing to skills shortages that are creeping in.

The best recruitment strategies view the business and its needs holistically and design roles based on those needs and where there are skills gaps. Additionally, finding and retaining people with transferrable skills should be at the core of a successful recruitment strategy that looks beyond the ‘now’ and to the future value that employees bring to a business – even after they leave.


  1. Use contingent workers

One of the quickest and easiest ways to fill a skills shortage is by hiring contingent workers. The key is to work with a managed service provider that understands your business and has access to the skills you need, at speed. Contingent workers are becoming an increasingly important strategic advantage for businesses that understand that contingent workers often bring expertise and a fresh eyes based on the various roles and businesses they work within and a depth and breadth of knowledge. A managed services provider brings advanced capabilities to the entire recruitment process, enabling customers to procure services, source and manage contingent workers and complex services, and onboard them in an easy, secure, and compliant way, at scale.


The talentCRU difference

talentCRU, a member of the JSE-listed Adcorp Group, helps progressive and growth-obsessed firms solve staffing problems of consequence. talentCRU particularly focusses on managed staffing services in the context of the evolving world of work and on future-proofing clients’ Talent Acquisition experiences. talentCRU’s core support includes everything from Managed Service Provider (MSP) solutions that enable our clients to procure services, source and manage contingent workers and complex services, and onboard them in an easy, secure, and compliant way through to offering  recruitment capacity support and performance enhancement support by integrating expert talent professionals directly into our clients’ internal Talent Acquisition teams under market-leading Recruitment Process Outsourcing solutions.

Find out more about TalentCRU by Adcorp today! 

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Managing Executive:
talentCRU | DAV | Kelly

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