Tap into skills surplus to survive recession

Employers are operating on a skills surplus rather than facing a skills gap, and must change their management practices to survive the recession, research has found.

The Western European Location Skills Audit by Oxford Intelligence, publishedlast week, found that two-thirds of UK workers do not use their specialist skills in their professional lives.

Of 10 countries polled, the UK had the best workforce for eight ‘hard-to-find’ skill sets,ranging from IT to foreign languages to engineering, but also the highest number of staff not using their skills.

Peter Lemagnen, Oxford Intelligence managing director, said the UK was wasting valuable skills.

“If the UK is going to compete in the international market and prepare for the upturn, business and government need to find ways of reconnecting with skilled workers,” he said.

The Manpower Annual Shortage survey of 2,238 UK employers, also published last week, found barely one in 10were facing a skills shortage, despite the recession.

John Philpott, chief economist at the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD), said it was up to employers to take advantage of their staffs’ many talents.

“Our own research shows that nearly 40% of employees are overqualified, so these findings back up the need for employers to fix their management practices to take advantage of this skills surplus,” he told Personnel Today.

Philpott said that businesses that moved to a “high-performance” work model that featured continuous appraisals, regular performance management and adequate award packages for talent, would be less likely to make the mistake of undervaluing staff.

According to the report, Britain has 3.2 million fluent language speakers, but less than one-third (31%) are currently using their languages at work. Meanwhile, about 2.6 million people have advanced engineering skills in the UK, but only 42% use them.

The survey took two years and collected 40,000 responses from western European countries including the UK, France and Germany.

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