Closing the skills gap


There’s a lot of talk today about the skills gap.

The skills gap is the idea that job openings and unemployment can co-exist.

This is an easy problem to spot. I work with people every day who have hundreds of active job searches going, and yet the U.S. unemployment rate (as of this post) is hovering around 4.9% (and globally, went as high as 25.5% in late 2015).

It’s a major problem. We have the people, but we don’t have the skills. Why?

There is compelling evidence that the skills gap is usually due to a mismatch in worker supply and employer demand. In other words, workers don’t have the skills employers are looking for.  Most existing efforts to bridge that gap start by asking companies “what are the skills you need?” and then creating programs to teach those skills. 

By the way, this is (and has been) a great place to start when the answers to this question are known. We’re seeing several institutions, independent programs, and non-profits (herehere, and here) starting to address the problem, and many are seeing promising results.

But, more often than not, organizations who know exactly what skills they need are the exception and not the rule. More often than not, companies will put their hands up in the air and tell you: “I don’t know what skills my people need. Help me.”

This is a better answer because it’s closer to our true starting point.

We’re in an era where technology is progressing exponentially. Financial returns are becoming harder and harder to generate. The jobs of tomorrow will not be the jobs of today, and the skills we need tomorrow will not be the skills we need today. The world is less predictable. The skills we will need are even less so.

That begs a huge question:

What are the skills organizations should be looking for, should be training for, and why?

The short answer is this: Over the next several decades, the organizations and individuals who thrive will collectively have the skills and systems that produce the complex behavior of adaptability. The faster our world moves, and the more volatile our environment, the more adaptive each individual—and each organization—must be.

Let's build a world of adaptive citizens, together.

Mary Winn Miller