There’s a big skills gap at work right now. These are the top 10 skills employers are looking for

January 24, 2023, 4:42 PM UTC
Many HR professionals say their companies are struggling to recruit and retain employees with the right skill set.
Stevanovicigor/Getty Images

Although the peak of the Great Resignation may be over, many companies are still struggling with the fallout. 

Nearly seven in 10 human resource professionals believe their organization has a skills gap, according to Wiley’s Closing the Skills Gap report published Tuesday. And those concerns are growing. In 2021, for example, only about 55% of HR and recruiting employees surveyed reported this issue. Among C-suite executives, 68% admit their organizations have a skills gap, up from 60% in 2021. Unsurprisingly, about 69% of managers—typically those on the frontlines of the recruiting and retention challenges—say they’re regularly dealing with a workforce that doesn’t have the skills they need. 

More organizations are struggling with this problem due, in large part, to the ongoing churn seen throughout the labor force. Even though the rate of workers quitting peaked in the U.S. in December 2021, there were still 4.2 million workers quitting as of November. The high rate of turnover means that companies are having an increasingly difficult time filling key positions. Wiley’s survey found 40% report struggling to retain workers, while 26% can’t hire enough qualified employees—and an additional 32% report they struggle to do either.  

Unfortunately, Wiley’s findings show that most organizations are not equipped to handle this pervasive skills gap. Indeed, 40% of companies report they don’t have the resources to reskill or train their employees. Moreover, about a third believe their company’s compensation packages aren’t competitive enough in the current recruiting environment. 

While organizations are struggling, it does create opportunities for workers. Most hiring managers are looking for a combination of both hard and soft skills, something that’s shifted more since the pandemic. ​​In fact, about 50% of HR professionals surveyed believe jobs require more soft skills now.

When asked what the most in-demand hard and technical skills were, HR professionals cited strategic thinking and analytics, digital communication, and project management. 

As for soft skills, managers said they were looking for candidates who showcased problem-solving and time management skills, as well as the ability to adapt to change and leadership abilities. 

But it’s worth noting that there is a big challenge for workers who are looking to gain and highlight these skills—they have a shelf life, which means that Americans may need to take advantage of continuing education opportunities to keep skills up-to-date. It’s not a one-and-done situation. 

Nearly half of those surveyed by Wiley (47%) reported that hard and technical skills only last about two years. Less than one in five (18%) believed they were useful for five or more years. The value of soft skills starts to deteriorate within two years, according to 43% of survey respondents. That said, a wider cohort, 27% consider soft skills slightly more stable, predicting that they will last up to five years.

The lesson here? Workers should take advantage of upskilling and training opportunities if and when they're provided by a current employer, but they may also need to look at outside resources to keep their skill set sharp.

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