How High-Growth Midsize Companies Adapt To A World Of Widening Skill Gaps

Meg Bear

Part 4 of the series, “Top Trends Impacting Midsize Businesses in the 2020s

The demand for new capabilities and expertise is growing and evolving faster than most humans’ ability to acquire them. As the gap between business needs and skilled candidates continues to widen, HR leaders are redefining the “ideal candidate” for their midsize businesses – beyond the traditional triad of college degrees, industry experience, and workplace compatibility.

Such a reassessment can become a transformational moment in how growing businesses adjust their workforce to the changing nature of work. During the webinar “Winning in the 2020s: Six Trends Every Midsize Needs to Know,” Shari Lava, research director, small and medium business at IDC, shared that more than 40% of midsize companies are poised to take advantage of this opportunity within the next two years by defining new sourcing strategies and goals.

Knowing the difference between skill-gap need and skill-building

Common wisdom tells businesses that a solid market plan makes it easier to spot the skills that are needed to deliver expected outcomes. But unfortunately for most midsize companies, the reality of spotting gaps among their talent is not necessarily so straightforward, according to IDC research. In fact, the 40% that is actively addressing it knows which skill gaps are critical. Meanwhile, the remaining 60% is still trying to figure out which skills are pivotal, let alone putting a plan in place to bridge the most important gaps.

A midsize company’s ability to evaluate its skill gaps holistically can vary dramatically, depending on the industry and the competitive nature of the marketplace. For example, a business that’s facing competition that evolves organically and incrementally typically has a more solid foundation of skills available and a better line of sight into new needs coming its way. But if the company is experiencing significant threats from disruption, the range of missing skills grows exponentially, which is more challenging to strategically determine which areas should be tackled first and in which order.

Midsize companies that take an in-depth look at what’s happening in their workforce often realize that an incremental strategy is not enough. They also need a recruiting approach focused on hiring candidates with power skills such as effective communication in a business context, innovative thinking, curiosity, creativity, and adaptability in times of continuous change. Furthermore, new hires should view business needs through the lens of customer empathy and look to resolve them with agility, collaboration, and teamwork.

In times of disruption and accelerating business challenges, businesses need to adapt quickly and efficiently to leverage these opportunities and more in order to grow. By choosing technologies that can evolve with changing workforce skills, employee behaviors, and business processes, midsize companies can shape their future with the right strategies for the sourcing, development, reward, and recognition of talent. They can even build a business culture of continuous learning, agile action, and adaptability.

Take, for example, robotic process automation and artificial intelligence. These technologies are particularly interesting for business areas with processes that are repetitive or require the ability to understand and discern patterns immediately to make decisions, trigger action, or innovate new products and services.

Accelerated upskilling can help support and maximize the potential of technology-driven advantages with capabilities such as:

  • Real-time access to customer sentiment and employee feedback to solve otherwise hidden issues and identify opportunities
  • Rapid feedback loops beyond the employee culture to identify and remove roadblocks to new business opportunities as well as refine and speed up business processes, such as the delivery of HR tasks and operational activities
  • Faster innovation cycles, product delivery, and removal of process and system bottlenecks
  • Distributed workforce that is flexible and connected enough to create cutting-edge opportunities and a globally aligned and collaborative workforce culture

So, which is more important: personality or specific business skills?

Separately, each factor can only get the business as far as the horizon. When combined, they can help the company reach edges that cannot be seen today, responding to demand for new types of skills at an accelerated pace.

To get ahead of the skills gap, midsize businesses need to go beyond just surveying current and future organizational needs on a position-by-position basis and determining which skills are becoming outdated. What’s needed is a workforce that is adaptable enough to resolve the business problems of the future – in real time – for the next two months, as well as the next 10 years.

Discover how midsize companies are bridging the skills gap and getting ahead of business change to support their growth. Listen to an excerpt of our webinar “Winning in the 2020s: Six Trends Every Midsize Needs to Know with Timo Elliott, global innovation evangelist from SAP, and guest speaker Shari Lava, research director, small and medium business at IDC.

This article originally appeared in Forbes SAP BrandVoice.


Meg Bear

About Meg Bear

Meg Bear is the Senior Vice President of Products, Engineering, and Operations for SAP SuccessFactors. She has more than 25 years of experience leading product and engineering teams at technology companies such as Juvo, Imperva, and Oracle. She is a patent holder, change agent, startup advisor, keynote speaker, and a TEDx host. Meg is passionate about applying technology to solve business problems, building and growing teams, and defining market winning product strategies that are customer-centric and innovative.