Homer, vice president, Association for Talent Development (ATD) Employers
nationally can't find enough skilled talent A
Civic CaucusFocus on Human CapitalInterview August
Present Tom Abeles (phone),John
Adams, Steve Anderson, David Broden (vice chair), Paul Gilje
(executive director), Randy Johnson, Dan Loritz (chair), and
Summary Today's interview with
Jennifer Homer, vice president, Association for Talent Development (ATD),
highlights a major concern of employers nationally, finding skilled
talent. More than four out of five employers struggle with finding
the qualified employees they need, according to ATD data.
Minnesota finds itself competing with all states to retain and
attract the workforce needed to grow its economy.
While the state has
many advantages, including low unemployment, many companies with
headquarters here and highly respected colleges and universities,
the job isn't easy, what with many young Minnesotans attracted
Employer and employee groups, education institutions and government
entities must collaborate fully with one another to assure they are
pulling in the same direction, according to Homer.
Significant assets for Minnesota, Homer said, are its workforce
centers located statewide and efforts of the Governor's Workforce
Development Council to further strengthen those centers.
Homer, vice president of communications and career development, for
the Association for Talent Development (ATD), joined ATD in 1999 to
lead the public relations function. Homer continues to lead
communication efforts to members and customers, the media, and
public policy makers. She also leads ATD's awards programs and
career development offerings.
Homer served a
two-year term on the executive board of directors for the
International Association of Business Communicators (IABC) and was
president of the IABC Washington, D.C. chapter. She holds IABC's
accredited business communicator credential.
She was an adjunct professor at Towson University in Baltimore, MD
where she taught public relations writing in 2009.
She has a B.A. in communications from James Madison University,
issues a report on the status of gaps between skills of job
applicants and skills needed by employers. Its most recent
report is from 2012. In today's interview Jennifer Homer, ATD
vice president, provides preliminary data on the 2015 report, to be
The Civic Caucus has
released two recent statements on human capital:
one in September 2014 laying out the human-capital challenges
facing the state today and in coming years and
a follow-up paper in January 2015 offering recommendations for
maintaining a high-quality workforce in Minnesota. The Civic Caucus
interviewed Jennifer Homer to learn about problems employers are
encountering nationally in finding need talent.
Employers not finding the skills they need--From
its 2015 survey of some 436 talent development professionals, the ATD
has found that the vast majority, 84 percent, have skills gaps in
their organizations now, Homer said, the same percentage as in its
The reason, 57 percent of the 2015 respondents said, is the skills of
the current workforce don't match changes in company strategy, goals,
markets, or business models.
said the top gap is communication/interpersonal skills, followed by
managerial/supervisory skills and critical thinking and problem
solving. To address the gaps, 64 percent of respondents said they are
providing more internal training.
According to its 2012 survey, ATD defines a skills gap as the "point
at which an organization can no longer grow or remain competitive
because it cannot fill critical jobs with employees who have the right
knowledge, skills, and abilities."
substantiated by other reports--The
Accenture 2013 Skills and Employment Trends Survey found that
nearly one half of large companies wouldn't have the skills needed in
the next one to two years, Homer said. The Accenture survey found big
consequences if the skills gap is not closed: 66 percent anticipate a
loss of business to competitors; 64 percent, loss of revenue; 59
percent, eroding customer satisfaction, and 53 percent, a delay in
developing new products or services. In its 2012 survey, ATD cited a
McKinsey Global Institute report projecting major skills shortages
interpersonal skills training are a key need for E-12 schools through
said the ATD works mainly with its members who are talent development
professionals that provide training and development for their
organization's workforce. As part of the discussion during the
meeting, those in attendance asked what is meant by communications and
interpersonal skills. Homer noted this may mean presentation skills,
communication with co-workers and supervisors, and even
workplace-specific skills such as running a meeting effectively,
getting a message across in an email, and proper use of words, written
and oral, among other things. Attention to those skills begins in E-12
schools and continues through university training.
Employer-government-education partnerships are critical --Public-private
partnerships are critical in closing the skills gap, Homer said. She
cited as an example the University Health System in San Antonio, TX
that is highlighted in the ATD's 2012 report on the skills gap.
Urgently needing to train more of its English-speaking employees to
speak Spanish, the health system successfully contracted with
International Language Center of San Antonio and Spanish English
Foreign Languages for America.
Minnesota is a good
example of effective use of the public workforce system--Homer
noted the Governor's Workforce Development Council in Minnesota report
early in 2015, "Minnesota
on the Move: The World's Best Workforce". The report recommended
several changes to improve the state's WorkForce Center system of 48
one-stop centers providing job search services, career planning, and
skills training. Among recommendations in the report:
better alignment, increased leveraging of resources, broader
partnerships and improved communication.
infrastructure and technology to support the centers.
responsiveness to business.
single unified brand for the centers to provide a common understanding
of the system and better serve jobseekers and businesses.
Other states with
good results attacking the skills gap--Asked
to identify exemplary states that are worthwhile to emulate in
building strong work forces and attacking the skills gap, Homer made
note of Georgia, for its Quick Start program that has provided
training to support companies in biomedical and manufacturing;
Connecticut, for a joint state-federal grants to support job training
programs, and Virginia, with $900,000 in grants to help close skills
gaps in industries that are key to the commonwealth.
ATD members deliver,
design, and/or provide the training--Asked
how employer-members of ATD carry out their training, Homer replied
that members themselves are conducting the training within
organizations or on behalf of client organizations/businesses. Thus,
the training is carried out by people who are themselves working in
the same areas. The key objective in training, she said, is how it
connects to the objectives of the organization, and what the
organization is trying to improve or affect in areas such as customer
service, productivity, sales, and bottom line, among others.
Professional and trade associations usually are industry-specific and
may provide training or professional development to individuals
working in that occupation.
A significant trend in
business today is informal training, not necessarily in a classroom,
but peer-to-peer coaching as one example. Increasingly, organizations
are using technology to deliver learning and sometimes the learning
content may be delivered on a tablet or another mobile device.
discussion of the ATD role in employee training, Homer agreed with a
questioner that ATD is an organization that does more training of
trainers than training of employees in specific organizations. In
other words, ATD is a membership association that provides
professional development for trainers.
training is concentrated, among employees with varied tenure in the
ATD 2015 skills gap survey did not identify whether people are
inexperienced or experienced in a given field. The survey asked about
existing skills gaps and employee length of tenure. Respondents to the
2015 skills gap survey noted that in their organizations, employees
with less tenure in the company (0-5 years) had more pronounced skills
gaps than employees with longer tenure.
What's behind the
urgent need for skills training today?--Responding
to that question, Homer cited pace of change in the nature of jobs,
competition among firms, dealing with economic factors, mergers and
acquisitions, and the growing number of baby boomers retiring and the
need for skilled, knowledgeable professionals to take their place.
Is there too much
talk and too little decision-making?--A
questioner was involved in several one--hour business conference calls
this week with different businesses. It was obvious in each session,
the questioner said, that people were doing their best to talk around
the problems and avoid making decisions. There seems to be a lack of
willingness--or ability--to assume leadership. Homer replied that in
any collaborative approach, expectations, accountability, and
ownership should be clear.
U. S. Chamber report
recommending employers be more assertive with educational institutions
is "spot on"--
Homer noted that a recommendation in a recent U. S. Chamber of
Commerce report, urging businesses to involve themselves directly in
the design of curriculum at educational institutions, would help
organizations ensure there is a pipeline of future workers with the
skills and knowledge the business needs. The report recommends
businesses identify educational institutions to which they will give
preference in hiring, if those institutions demonstrate a commitment
to directing their education and training to employer needs.
Won't skills gap
close if employers offer higher salaries?--A
questioner asked whether increasing compensation would have the effect
of automatically reducing the skills problem because qualified persons
would seek out jobs that pay more. Homer replied that ATD does not
collect data on wages/salaries related to skills gaps. Compensation
and skills can be very specific to a given job.
training approaches available--A
questioner noted that ATD is only one of several entities that
concentrate on improving the training of employees. Yes, Homer
replied, there are many approaches to training.
Why train if the
employees will just end up going elsewhere?--This
question produced dialogue between Homer and the group about the
disappearance of long-time employees in many firms today. Homer noted
that there are several generations in the workforce today, including a
growing majority of workers in the Millennial generation and a
still-significant percentage in the Baby Boomer generation who are
poised to retire. She noted that many organizations don't approach
training from the perspective of 'what if we train them and they
leave?' The key is to ensure workers have the skills and knowledge the
organization needs to perform and be successful in measures that are
meaningful to the business. Firms seem more inclined to let go of
valuable employees in economy measures, one person suggested. Another
said that individual employees don't have the same sense of loyalty
that many had in years past.
The Civic Caucus
is a non-partisan,
tax-exempt educational organization. The Interview Group
includes persons of varying political persuasions,
reflecting years of leadership in politics and
business. Click here
to see a short personal background of each.
S. Adams, David Broden, Audrey Clay, Janis Clay, Pat Davies, Bill
Frenzel, Paul Gilje (executive director), Dwight Johnson, Randy Johnson, Sallie
Kemper, Ted Kolderie,
Dan Loritz (chair), Tim McDonald, Bruce Mooty, Jim Olson, Paul Ostrow, Wayne
Popham, Dana Schroeder, Clarence Shallbetter, and Fred Zimmermany,