Closing the skills gap requires business and academia collaboration

Research highlights how skills needs have changed due to new technologies and the evolving nature of work. The research also uncovers what barriers exist to ensuring that new graduates and existing workers are prepared for today and tomorrow's workplace.

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The illiterate of the 21st century will not be those who cannot read and write, but those who cannot learn, unlearn, and relearn.

— -- Alvin Toffler

The ability to engage with employees and customers is increasingly becoming a strategic business solution that leaders must understand, embrace, and prepare to implement.

I recently joined Emma Chandra, news presenter and senior producer at Bloomberg TV, at a Bloomberg Next conference to discuss the impact of emerging technologies -- artificial intelligence, internet of things, cloud computing, mobile, social networking, blockchain, mixed reality (AR/VR), 3D printing -- on future of work in the Fourth Industrial Revolution.

To better understand tomorrow's talent, Bloomberg Next, in collaboration with Workday, surveyed 200 corporate and education leaders to understand the strategies of leaders in terms of ensuring new recruits and existing talent have the right skills necessary to support the near-term company growth.

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Emma Chandra, news presenter and senior producer at Bloomberg TV and Vala Afshar at Bloomberg Next Tomorrow's Talent Conference.

(Image: Bloomberg Next)

Here are five key takeaways of the B uilding Tomorrow's Talent: Collaboration Can Close Emerging Skills Gap Bloomberg Next survey:

Recruit/Student Preparedness Gap

A majority of respondents said new hires are not well-prepared to perform at a high level in a professional environment, primarily because of insufficient soft skills. Only 35 percent of corporations believe students are well-prepared with both hard and soft skill sets -- compared to 44 percent of respondents from academia.

Read also: Welcome to CNET@Work and the future of your business - CNET

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Preparedness of recruits/students to perform at a high level in a professional environment.

(Image: Bloomberg Next / Workday Survey)

The Five Most Important Soft Skills

It is not the hard skills but rather the soft skills that are deficient in new recruits.

According to the survey:

"90 percent of corporate respondents and 88 percent of academics surveyed said new recruits have the hard skills, such as computer literacy and written communication, to do their jobs successfully. But both groups, however, were far less satisfied with new employees' soft skills. Nearly four in 10 corporations and almost half of academic institutions said new hires lack the soft skills they need to perform at a high level. Survey respondents from both business and academia agreed the most important soft skills are teamwork, analytical reasoning, complex problem solving, agility, adaptability, and ethical judgment."
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5 most important soft skills

(Image: Bloomberg Next / Workday Survey)

Existing Talent Needs Re-skilling

According to the survey, some 55 percent of corporations plan to evolve job responsibilities to reflect future needs, which means existing employees need to be re-skilled because their jobs will change.

Mid-career professionals must adapt and meet the same challenges as new recruits. It is encouraging that more than 40 percent of corporations surveyed said they will re-skill rather than replace employees when technology change requires it.

Read also: Digital Transformation: A CXO's Guide

However, only 30 percent of corporations and 39 percent of educators said they are collaborating to help re-skill and retrain employees. Business and academia need to address this critically important issue to ensure that the workforce is prepared.

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Anticipated/planned action items for corporations.

(Image: Bloomberg Next / Workday Survey)

Lack of Formal Business Plans to Prepare Future Workforce

The survey shows a lack of planning by both business and academia. Only about half of businesses and two-thirds of academic institutions have a formal plan for addressing the impact of emerging technologies.

Read also: How to bake digital transformation into company culture - TechRepublic

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Formal business plans in place to prepare future workforces.

(Image: Bloomberg Next / Workday Survey)

Collaboration Between Business and Academia is Lacking

The survey's findings:

"A majority of respondents feel their counterparts are motivated or highly motivated to collaborate (60 percent and 67 percent, respectively). But the level of actual collaboration is quite a bit lower, largely because businesses are not making it a priority.

Only 38 percent of corporate respondents are actively collaborating to establish education-to-work pipelines. Just 38 percent of businesses are working with their academic counterparts to shape curriculum. Academic institutions are doing better, with 66 percent of survey respondents collaborating with business to build education-to-work pipelines, and 66 percent working with corporations to align skills with what business expects."

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A lack of collaboration between business and academia.

(Image: Bloomberg Next / Workday Survey)

"Millions of jobs go unfilled every year because willing workers lack the proper training and skills to land these opportunities," said Leighanne Levensaler, senior vice president of corporate strategy at Workday and managing director and co-head at Workday Ventures.

"There is a clear disconnect in what it takes to successfully equip new graduates and existing workers with the skills they need to be successful in the workforce--and businesses are suffering. Now is the time to rethink how we truly put reskilling our people at the center of corporate talent strategies, while building stronger bridges to the academic world so we can establish a clear path forward," Levensaler explained.

Read also: Digitally transforming into an intelligent work campus

Tomorrow's talent will succeed if corporations and academia can bolster collaboration efforts with the purpose of adopting new and innovative ways of re-skilling potential recruits and existing talent. Companies must plan for innovation and recognize the unprecedented speed of innovation and adoption of emerging technologies, like artificial intelligence.

At Salesforce, we have invested in online training -- that is free for all of our stakeholders, employees, customers, partners, and our communities -- called Trailhead. We have awarded over 7 million badges to digital trailblazers.

The survey concludes that businesses and academia already have a strong foundation for successful partnerships. In order to reduce the skills gap that exists today, business and academia must proactively collaborate in order to develop formal processes and curriculum to position tomorrow's talent for success in the Fourth Industrial Revolution.

Your company's success depends on tomorrow's talent. An investment in your talent is an investment in your future.

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