Closing the skill gap: IBM report tells you how

Globally many firms are facing the skill challenge. IBM Institute of Business Value comes up with some recommendations to tackle this.


Skill gap! This is a well-known problem and a common one that is frequently discussed by HR leaders. Many researches and studies have stated that one of the critical problems that HR is facing today is, finding the right kind of talent.

It is difficult to find the right set of skills in an individual, that can make him fit for a job. In fact, another cause for worry is how HR will prepare the current workforce for the skills of the future. As technology is rapidly changing the dynamics of doing business, people need to reskill themselves so that they can adapt to the new working environment.

IBM Institute for Business Value has come up with some strategies and recommendations that organisations can follow to close the skill gap.

Researchers gave a list of strategies and tactics to some of the executives to find out how many of them are trying to fight the skill gap problem, and what kind of strategies they are using to do so.

The tactics and strategies on the list were as follows:

• Acquire talent from outside the organisation

• Move talent across business units and divisions

• Reskill employees based on business priorities

• Leverage visa programmes to source international talent

• Leverage apprenticeship/internship programmes to train talent

• Leverage new and emerging educational programmes/platforms to enhance employee skills

• Apply analytics to analyse and predict skill supply and demand

• Implement skill recognition initiatives to recognise and track skills progression

• Leverage talent through ecosystem partners

The study found that 50 per cent of the respondents were not using any strategy or tactic to fight the skill gap problem in their organisation.

On the brighter side, 83 per cent of the respondents were planning to meet the skill challenge head on, and act upon it. Still, the question remains what combination of traditional and emerging tactics will help organisations to tackle the skill challenge? Where should organisations invest their time and money?

Based on their research, IBM came up with three important recommendations and strategies that organisations can use to meet the skill gap challenges.

It was revealed that organisations do not have to focus only on hiring and traditional upskilling methods. They need to explore and find new ways to tackle the skill gap issue.

Here are three recommendations for closing the skill gap:

Make it personal: While buying a new product or looking for a nice restaurant, customers want instant and personalised search results. Similarly, employees expect a personalised experience in their working life too. One size does not fit all. Employees want career, skills and learning developments tailored to their experiences, goals and interests. Skill development and learning experiences that are tailored to the market, employee needs and interests, help the organisation retain the best talent.

Organisations need to personalise things at scale, not merely in terms of segmentation of employees according to their roles, departments and businesses, but also to know the current skill sets of each and every employee. It is important to understand where the corporation and the employee needs to progress. Taking the help of new technologies, such as AI can help achieve this.

Turn up the transparency: There is no point working in the dark. We need to keep the skills at the centre of our skill strategy. This does not mean just understanding the number of people working in a unit. AI, machine learning and market-based data have shifted the conversation to actionable insights, making them available to the people.

When people come to know what kind of skills are in demand and required for the success of the organisation, they can self-direct their career paths in the right direction. This helps create a workforce for the future.

In 2015, when AT&T came to know that their 250,000 employees lacked the skill to stay competitive in the industry, they launched a mass retraining drive. The company held a dialogue with the employees about the relevance of skill development and provided programmes to gain new skills.

Companies, such as EY and IBM are using analytics and AI to understand the skills of their current workforce and the kind of skills they need to retain.

Look within and outside: With tough times lying ahead, none of the organisations have the solution to each and every problem. You need to welcome an open technology architecture. Culture shifts are required to welcome third- party partners and manage specific internal functions. Preparation for integration of data across the enterprise is a must.

Inside the organisation, build agile teams with heterogeneous skillsets to enable experiential, peer-to-peer innovation and create a culture where learning becomes viral. Create opportunities for job sharing and internal mobility that focus on skills development.

Externally, organisations need to work closely with partners to build strategies around skill development and closing the skill gap. Many companies are leveraging curated content from their partners to reskill their employees.

With the changing times, many of the current skills are becoming obsolete. Organisations need to continuously analyse future needs and build unique skill sets in their talent pipeline.


  1. I think organisations just have short term goals on this. There is no substantial corporate-academia partnership that can change the course of the industry. Frankly no one wants to invest time and energy on developing talent. After all it’s an age of ready to use and for talent also companies seek ready to use talent.

    • I agree with you Vikrant. I believe rather than large corporates, it’s the smaller companies or start-ups that develop talent. You are correct, the corporate India wants ready to use talent…

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