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Tackling skill shortages


We may look back on 2014 and reflect it was the moment the long threatened skills shortage started to really bite.

The latest industry to raise the alarm is banking and financial services. According to the Confederation of British Industry and PricewaterhouseCoopers 100th survey of the sector, business volumes are growing at the fastest pace in almost 17 years, and there are looming skills shortages in some key areas. Kevin Burrowes, UK financial services leader at PwC, believes there are ‘hints of a new war for talent’ among financial services firms.

Organisations will be using many different initiatives and tactics to try to overcome the skills shortage and get the right staff in place as quickly as possible. Elearning can make an important contribution in a number of ways.

Skilling up

Addressing a skills shortage by training existing staff is an obvious solution but some organisations are put off by the time factor, especially if they have an immediate need. The team members with potential to fill the skills gap could be spread across many different locations (even countries) making it impractical or expensive to run a face-to-face training programmes. Elearning can support rapid ‘on the job’ skill development allowing employees to fit manageable ‘chunks’ of training around their existing commitments.

The best elearning utilises a range of interactive techniques to support skill improvement including videos, games and workplace scenarios. These can prove particularly effective in developing certain competencies such as soft skills where it is important to allow learners to make decisions and explore consequences within a ‘safe’ environment. Within custom-made elearning the scenarios can be tailored so they are directly relevant to the learner’s job.

Elearning can be deployed quickly to any location allowing maximum flexibility. Making it available on a variety of devices is important so existing staff can learn at a time and location that suits them best. An authoring tool such as Adapt enables an elearning module to automatically adjust to fit any size screen whether it is a PC, tablet or smartphone, without the need to build extra versions for each device.

Supporting Trainees

Investment in new talent is another strategy some businesses will be using to address their skills shortages. Obviously, trainees or apprentices need ongoing training as they learn how to do the job. Elearning is a particularly useful learning tool in this instance as it allows trainees to learn at their own pace. There is a lot to take in if you are new to an industry and the flexibility of elearning has advantages. It can allow trainees to revisit modules if they need to reinforce or top up their knowledge. Through the organisation’s Learning Management System (LMS), the trainee’s elearning can be effectively tracked and monitored so it is easier to keep a handle on how well they are progressing.

Accelerated Induction

When new staff are recruited to fill an urgent skills shortage, it is important to get them up and running as soon as possible. Induction elearning can help to accelerate the time it takes for new starters to get ‘up to speed’, and offers an easy to digest introduction to the values and culture of the organisation. The learning is flexible so it can fit around the other demands on a new employee’s time. Elearning induction can even be sent to a new recruit ahead of their start date so they arrive having completed aspects of their initial training. The advantages in terms of time could be significant for organisations with the most severe skills shortages.