Talent shortages are at a 12-year high and new skills are appearing as quickly as old ones disappear. Almost all employers are pursuing one or more talent strategies to secure the skills they need and companies with a plan are more confident of expanding their headcount than those that are hesitating.

According to ManpowerGroup’s 2019 Skills Revolution 4.0 report, titled Humans Wanted: Robots Need You, by 2022, over half (54%) of all employees will require significant reskilling and up skilling. Of these, about 35% are expected to require training of up to six months, 9% will take six to 12 months to reskill and 10% will require additional skills training of more than a year. Learning will be essential.

Companies are deploying a myriad of approaches to address this. Lyndy van den Barselaar, managing director at ManpowerGroup South Africa notes that to really compete in the Skills Revolution, companies need to promote a culture of learning, provide career guidance and offer short, focused up skilling opportunities.

“People need to know how to prepare for high growth roles of the future, and be sure that their employer supports their learning,” she explains.

According to the Talent Shortage Survey 2018 by ManpowerGroup, almost 45% of employers worldwide have difficulty filling vacancies because the right talent is not available. This is up from 40% in 2017 and the highest in more than a decade. Employers in South Africa, report a 32% talent shortage.

Organisations prioritise talent strategies differently depending on where they are on their digital journey. ManpowerGroup looks at the build, buy, borrow and bridge talent strategies for the skills revolution.


More companies are planning to build talent within their workforce than ever before. Eighty-four percent plan to up skill employees by 2020 – an exponential increase from 21% in 2011. Companies are realising they can no longer expect to find just-in-time talent, even if they are willing to pay the premium for it.

“Continuous learning is a two-way deal: essential for individuals to make better career decisions and stay employable, and critical for companies to develop the talent they need,” says Van den Barselaar.  Identifying future potential, driving a culture of learnability through the organisation and providing accelerated training programs will be critical to success in the digital age.

“It’s simple. Companies need to invest in learning and development for success,” she says.


Wages are rising for those in demand. Organisations have long been used to being able to spend to find the skills they need, when they need them. However, this is not so today.

In a tight labour market when skills needs are changing faster than ever, the most in-demand talent can call the shots. While wage stagnation is much talked about and wage growth is stubborn for low-skilled workers, companies are happy to pay more for sought-after skills.

According to the report, 79% of employers plan to buy the skills they need, either paying higher market prices or improving compensation for existing staff.  Twenty-nine percent are offering higher salary packages to solve recruitment problems and 46% are paying more to attract and retain existing staff. The challenge comes when those skills are not available. Then the only option is to build.

“Employers are having to go to market to attract the talent that cannot be built in-house,” says Van den Barselaar.


Digitalisation has created new ways of working and new generations of workers who are increasingly comfortable clocking in part time, working on a contract or project basis and pursuing other forms of alternative labour. While 87% of workers say they are open to these NextGen work approaches only 32% of employers are offering alternative ways of working. Companies need to address this disconnect to be able to attract NextGen workers while retaining and motivating those they have today.

“For success in the Skills Revolution, companies need to cultivate communities of talent beyond their organisations,” says Van den Barselaar.


According to the report, over half of organisations (56%) are helping people move on, move up or move out to new roles inside or outside the organisation as part of their talent strategy. Of those, 47% of employers are moving employees around within their organisation, while 27% are helping workers whose skills no longer fit move to roles outside the organisation.

Bridging requires tools including assessment, big data and predictive performance to define adjacent skills, identify strengths and help workers create clear career paths. “Companies need to treat workers fairly and with compassion if their skills are no longer required,” Van den Barselaar asserts.

It is evident that a new talent landscape is emerging to meet the demands of the skills revolution. Faced with a high-change environment driven by technology, organisations have to create a culture of learning and put their employees first by developing a talent strategy incorporating build, buy, borrow and bridge. “This is how we begin to work towards solving talent shortages and enable individuals and organisations to reach their potential in the digital age,” concludes Van den Barselaar.

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