UK suffers Skills Blindspot not a Skills Shortage, and Management is key to solving the problem

Guest Blog by Jeremy Carter, Director Bridge EMEA

Have you ever wasted time looking for something you need, when it was right in front of you?

This is a scenario playing out across businesses in the UK with regards to finding talent with the right skill set.

Search for ‘Skills Shortage UK’ on the web, and you’ll find a raft of stories around talent wars and skills shortages. With employment rates at an all-time high, firms are paying more money, an estimated £527 million on pay alone to attract the skills set that they don’t have.

However, the perception by the media and businesses today may not be the reality, data and statistics can be interpreted in different ways, so here is an alternative opinion.

We recently asked employees and managers in the UK, and asked how they felt about talent development in their current place of work. Aspects of the data point to a different underlying trend, one of skills redundancy in the UK. 11.8 million workers (36.5% of employees) say that they don’t feel their skills are being properly used by their company. This suggests what we call a skills blind spot exists – looking for something that is right in front of your eyes.

In many organisations the default response to a new or open position is to actively recruit externally. Rather than buying in skills, there should be a more balanced focus on development of existing staff — honing existing skills and uncovering new ones through full skills audits of current talent.  Line Management and internal processes such as performance reviews and development conversations are key to eradicating this skills blind spot. Here are two consequences of the UK skills blind spot which demonstrate the need to resolve this issue quickly.


We found when it comes to performance reviews, an overwhelming number of employees are surprised by their manager’s assessments of them. A vital part of staff motivation comes from knowing how employees contribute to their employers’ business and what development opportunities exist for them. When employees feel overlooked when they see opportunities they can contribute their skill set to, this can lead to apathy and disengagement, which costs businesses in many ways. A recent  KPMG report identified the performance differences between businesses with engaged employees and those without including Income growth – up 19.2% v down 32.7% a delta of 56%, and sick days – 2.69 v 6.19 – a reduction of 57%.


Secondly, even more concerning is that regrettably a third say that unfair assessment by their line manager has led them to leave a position. I’ve already mentioned the estimated extra cost in salaries of recruiting new talent with the skills businesses think that they don’t have. But what of the cost in staff churn, of the staff who did have skills required, but were just not visible? A conservative estimate of avoidable staff churn in the UK puts it at a cost of £1.98 billion to the UK economy.

We work with many partners in this space, and recently Ruth Dance, Managing Director of the Employee Engagement Alliance, said:

“It’s often said that people don’t leave a company, they leave a manager. When it comes to identify an organisations required skills, or those that already exist, line management is pivotal to success. The right employee development conversations will mean a highly skilled, engaged and energised workforce. Get it wrong and you will hurt your business and hurt your people too.”

It’s a valuable reminder of the lesson we all experience as consumers, organisations that treat employees much like they treat consumers – putting more effort into attracting than they do retaining them, costs them billions.



Author: Editorial Team

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