Skills Supply & Demand Gap

When you hear the words “skills gap” what immediately comes to mind? Most of us instinctively think technical skills. Whether a mechanic, accountant, or doctor, employees in specific fields have invested time, effort and in some cases, (significant) financial resources to acquire expert technical knowledge for their job. 

And when an employer has a position to fill, the first line of thinking is naturally around the subject matter expertise required to get the job done. 

But once employees are onboard and working hard to meet the demands of their new position, the requirements for success shift.

Throughout physical conference rooms, video conferences and shared workspaces globally, leaders, hiring managers and HR professionals turn the conversation to “how” their employees work. 

Daily observations focus on if they are effectively communicating, how do they problem solve, are they critical thinkers, how do they approach negotiations, are they empathetic, humble? 

The language bandied about to best describe these capabilities has landed on “soft skills.”  Although, they are anything but “soft.”  They often demand deep, honest self-reflection, and require time to develop. 

The demand for soft skills is at an all-time high. 

The Wall Street Journal found:

92% of surveyed executives said soft skills were equally important or more important than technical skills.

The underpinning of most of these skills is emotional intelligence.  Daniel Goleman concluded while conducting research for his 1995 book Emotional Intelligence that:

67% of all abilities associated with strong job performance were related to emotional intelligence.

Even though it has been almost 25-years since this break-through research, today’s business leaders are still disappointed by the significant gap between their demand for soft skills and the mastery of them by today’s workforce.

And this gap is only set to widen now that Generation Z (Gen Z) is entering the workforce.  Gen Zers believe technical skills are more important than soft skills, which is in stark contrast to the skills employers’ desire most and those that favorably contribute to career success.

Given this contrasting opinion, the need for additional employee training continues to grow for both skills types.  In a 2019 survey, LinkedIn discovered Learning & Development professionals believe 61% of Gen Z will require soft skills development and 41% will require additional technical skills development.

Career development is just one of the confluence of topics that contribute to today’s employee experience. In order to be successful, employers need to recognize that defined employee engagement strategies are as critical, if not more important, than their strategic customer development efforts.  The catalyst for this stronger internal focus is the shifting workforce demographics to a larger percentage of Millennial and Gen Z workers, who have different views of what work is and how it should be accomplished.

As executives weigh the varied investment considerations to ensure employee engagement and loyalty, the discussion naturally turns to return-on-investment.  Similar to decisions about the customer experience, the question that needs to be answered is “What will provide the greatest return for our employee experience investment?” 

There is a growing body of empirical research that demonstrates the favorable impact of the investment in career development, especially when coaching is integrated.  (235%1, 529%2, 788%3)

Coaches help individuals identify improvement opportunities and provide guidance for growth.  They provide real-life work experiences to help put in to context the “how” of a job and career for today’s less experienced employees.

But just as today’s workforce youth have differing opinions of skills importance, their learning approaches differ from that of more tenured employees.  They want self-paced, on-demand access to content and feedback on progress, integrated with human interactions.  They not only appreciate the guidance of career coaches, but they want access to their cohorts across industries in order to learn from their experiences as well.

Organizations not only need to invest in career development as part of their employee experience, they need access to innovative, modern approaches to help grow and develop these new generations of workers.

And with this investment, they will build a greater sense of trust with their employees, which leads to stronger employee engagement, productivity and loyalty.  And hopefully closing the skills supply and demand gap.




1Evaluation Works, 2008
2Manchester, Inc, 2001, without retention benefits factors
3Manchester, Inc, 2001, without retention benefits factors




The Value of Setting Goals

As an avid tennis fan, let’s just say for a couple of decades, I’ve not seen the top ranking players shift all that often, especially in women’s tennis.  If you follow sports at all, you most likely know the Williams’ sisters and their dominance of the sport.  But at some point, they too will no longer play, so the tennis world is fascinated to see who will rise to the highest ranks.    What I am watching now is a group of aspiring young players dreaming of attaining the number one world ranking.  To reach the #1 spot, they all know they need to leverage their natural talents, as well as become more powerful, faster and strengthen their strategic thinking to know which stroke and ball placement to use to overcome their opponent.  Not all of these enhancements can be achieved at once. But with hard work, and a plan, they start building toward each.  They then set out on their journey of improving their game, and possibly becoming the number one player in the world.

What is your aspirational vision for your career?  How is your progress going? Are you feeling a little short of where you want to be?  You are not alone.

We all have a vision of what we believe will give us a sense of purpose and happiness, but many of us struggle to realize our aspirations.  Businesses are live beings too and without a clear vision, employees will take on responsibilities that may not contribute to growth.

And as we watch colleagues, friends, public figures and businesses across a variety of industries achieve great success, we become frustrated.  So how are these diverse individuals and successful companies thriving? The common thread is the practice of setting goals; and more importantly, clearly defining plans or actions needed to achieve them.

Goals allow us to transform an obscure path of hope into clear steps to achieving our vision.  Why is this?  When we take the deliberate action of writing down our goals, we commit to working to achieve them.

Writing down goals is a great first step, but it is only the first step to achieving a vision.  Next, a plan for success needs to be defined.  The comprehensive goal-setting process includes:

  • Define goals. The optimal number of goals to maintain focus and ensure success is between 3 and 5.  When defining your goals, be as specific as possible and ensure they are realistic.  You will want to consider if you have access to the needed resources to achieve them in the desired timeframe.  You should include both short-term and long-term goals.  The key will be to balance goals that are not too easy or too hard.  Easy goals are not motivating.  And if goals are too difficult, you may become frustrated, which can lead you to abandon your goals altogether.
  • Define success. Whenever possible, set quantifiable measurements for each goal within a specific timeframe.  These markers will help ensure you direct your energy appropriately to achieve the desired outcome.  Tracking your progress will identify when you might need to pivot to overcome unexpected roadblocks.
  • Define a plan. Success starts at the planning phase.  Get specific. Think deeply about the desired result and then work backwards.  Define in detail the actions needed in order to achieve the desired outcome.  For larger, longer-term goals, this process will identify short-term actions or milestones needed to achieve the overall goal, like a 50% improvement in employee retention within 2-years, 200% year-over-year revenue growth, 25% increase in brand awareness within 12-months, etc.  Setting dates for these short-term milestones will help keep pace and make progress toward achieving the larger goal.  Finally, write down every detail to ensure nothing is forgotten when executing your plan.
  • Do the work.Execute your defined plans and pivot as needed to move closer to your goal.
  • Share progress. Research has shown that sharing progress with others strengthens commitment to and the ability to achieve a goal.  Identify someone (your manager or mentor) to share on-going updates.  You will become more determined when you have successes to share.  And talking through challenges may lead to breakthrough ideas to get back on the path to achieving your goal.

Journey to Achieving Goals

successful goal roadmap

There are many benefits of the practice of setting goals.  The most significant include:

  • Creating a sense of purpose. When we know what we are working towards, we are energized and challenged to achieve our defined purpose.
  • Providing accountability. Goals define how we and others will hold us accountable, providing clear focus.
  • Maintaining focus. When a new request comes our way, we will naturally ask “Will this contribute to achieving my goals?”  If the answer is no, we will de-prioritize it, or better yet, feel empowered to respectfully say “no.”  This focus significantly improves our ability to manage our time and increases our productivity.
  • Strengthening decision-making. Goals allow us to think more purposely.  We consider how an action will impact the achievement of defined goals, leading to more sound decision-making.  Sounder decisions lead to goal achievement, which increases confidence, which strengthens decision-making.  This cycle becomes a self-fueling energy source.
  • Stimulating growth. Even the best defined plans will hit roadblocks.  The greatest opportunity to learn and grow is when things don’t go as planned.  When unanticipated situations or mistakes occur, reflecting on the planning process and analysis of each prior step helps strengthen strategic development skills.

Organizations who encourage their employees to set goals experience even greater benefits, including enhanced communication across teams and more favorable financial results.  When leaders clearly layout the corporate objectives or goals for a period of time, employees are empowered to set their personal jobs goals to ensure they are contributing to the overall success of the organization.

Goals become self-fulfilling motivators.  As we achieve goals, we are motivated to set new ones and work hard to achieve even greater aspirations.

Emotional Intelligence Contribution to Career Success

Discussions about emotional intelligence (EQ) and its impact on the success of a career first surfaced in the 1990s.  Daniel Golemanconcluded while conducting research for his 1995 book Emotional Intelligence that 67% of all abilities associated with strong job performance were related to emotional intelligence.

Since Goleman’s provocative findings there has been mounting evidence of the impact of emotional intelligence on the success of a career, and the favorable financial performance of organizations.  The results of different research studies vary slightly, but the overwhelming conclusion is that EQ is the most important factor in determining career success.

Based on a number of recent studies, experts believe a successful career is determined by:

  • 25% general intelligence (IQ)
  • 10% – 20% technical competency
  • 55% – 65% emotional intelligence (EQ)

Organizations of all types need to consider these research findings and the fact that the World Economic Forum’s Future of Jobs Report has recognized emotional intelligence as a job skill.  The report also indicates EQ will become one of the top 10 job skills by 2020.

The financial benefits of an emotionally intelligent culture are vast.  All key performance indicators are favorably impacted when employees have strong EQ.  Here is an example.

A powerful study by Benjamin Palmer and Sue Jennings demonstrates that the skills of emotional intelligence are worth over $2 million per month.At Sanofi-Aventis, a pharmaceutical company, a group of salespeople was randomly split into a control and development group. The development group received emotional intelligence training and increased their EQ by 18% (on average), after which they out-sold the control group by an average of 12%, or $55,200 each x 40 reps = 2,208,000.00 per month better. The company calculated that they made $6 for every dollar they invested in the training.

So, what is emotional intelligence?  EQ is the ability to be aware of, control and express emotions and handle relationships empathetically.  With high EQ we can recognize and control our own emotions and the emotions of others. Emotional intelligence helps us identify our preferences in decision-making, successfully purse goals and persuade others for or against an idea.

The elements of EQ include self-awareness, self-management, social skills and relationship management.  Individuals with high EQ often seek feedback from others on these elements.  They then self-evaluate to determine their strengths and opportunities for improvement.  With this deeper self-knowledge, high EQ individuals experience:

  • Greater confidence
  • Heightened creativity
  • Sounder decision-making
  • Stronger relationships
  • Effective communication

Like technical expertise, we must deeply study to develop strong emotional intelligence.  The learning starts with a commitment to self-reflection in order to honestly view our current behaviors, our impact on others and the need to make changes.

How would you assess your EQ?

  • Self-Awareness: How do you show up for work?  Would your colleagues agree with your self-assessment?
  • Self-Management: Do you factually debate an opinion without getting emotionally charged?
  • Social Skills: How well do you relate to your co-workers?
  • Relationship Management: Are you investing adequate time to build collaborative and productive work relationships?

After a first read, the answers to these questions may seem simple, with a high probability of positive responses.  But with deeper thought, many individuals often uncover behaviors or language used that can be interpreted differently than intended by others.  By strengthening our emotional intelligence, we are able to avoid creating unknown barriers to career success.



1Daniel Goleman is an internationally known psychologist who lectures frequently to professional groups, business audiences, and on college campuses. As a science journalist Goleman reported on the brain and behavioral sciences for The New York Times for many years. His 1995 book, Emotional Intelligence was on The New York Times bestseller list for a year-and-a-half, with more than 5,000,000 copies in print worldwide in 40 languages, and has been a best seller in many countries.
2Jennings, S. and Palmer, B (2007), Enhancing Sales Performance Through Emotional Intelligence Development, Organisations & People, May 2007, Vol 14. No 2, and personal correspondence with Dr. Palmer. The salespeople in the study were selected because all were in the in the same revenue band starting at $460k/mo in sales.


CEOs Add Chief Employee Experience Officer to the C-Suite to Achieve Financial Goals

Chief Employee Experience Officer

Innovative organizations understand a delightful customer experience (CX) is driven by an intentional, positive employee experience (EX). Given the importance of creating a seamless link between employee engagement, customer satisfaction and company financial success, CEOs are establishing a critical new role in the C-Suite – the Chief Employee Experience Officer (CEEO).

The competencies required of this strategic position merge responsibilities of several traditional roles — the obvious “people” executive of the CHRO, the planning, communication and measurement focus of the CMO, the digital workplace enablement of the CIO and the execution skills of the head of Operations.

The CEEO needs to successfully execute three key initiatives:

  1. Lead the addition of consumer-focused employee initiatives to their company’s culture
  2. Oversee employee-facing functions
  3. Establish a strategic development practice to employee experience

Employee expectations have evolved, and today’s workforce behaves more like consumers, creating a need for someone who can balance strategic development plans with strong execution and evaluation skills.  This individual needs to be effective in pulling together cross-functional teams to build innovative, holistic solutions.  A Chief Employee Experience Officer also needs to effectively execute the addition of an employee-centric focus across functional areas, joining the existing customer-centric thinking mindset.

This emerging business need for improved employee engagement has re-energized HR teams to demonstrate their strategic thinking and execution abilities.

There are five key tenets the Chief Employee Experience Officer needs to be successful:

  1. Commitment and support of their executive peers
  2. Additional financial and people resources
  3. An open, transparent and supportive culture across the entire organization
  4. Exceptional, influential communication skills
  5. Empathy to respect each individual employee as unique

The CEEO must be measured on the core elements that have driven success for customers and now employees — attraction, retention and development.  Employee analytics are central to measuring success.

It is no surprise the CEEO acronym differs only slightly from CEO, given the strategic focus on all aspects of their internal customer — employees.


Employees Now Demand Excellence from their Employer

Employee Engagement Beyond Data Collection

The capabilities evaluation and cultural fit of a prospective new employee is no longer one sided.  Yes, organizations continue to seek exceptional individuals. But those prospects, who have successfully achieved results for others and exhibit consistent values, are evaluating their potential new employer in extreme detail, especially younger workers.  Their desires for an ideal employer extend beyond job content and financial compensation.

Employees are now demanding excellence from their employer.  Our research shows job seekers, and existing employees, are evaluating their employer on the following merits:

  1. Meaningful company and job purpose
  2. Strong corporate culture and values alignment
  3. Work and personal life harmony
  4. A creative, empowering and caring work environment
  5. Technology support of their job responsibilities

At a human level, employees want to feel cared for and valued.  They consider their employer and its members a second family, where they can build strong relationships.

If an employer is not measuring up, data shows workers will move on to one that does.  The average tenure of Millennial employees is just over 2-years, down from 7-years for Gen Xers and 11-years for Baby Boomers. Businesses can no longer simply “sell” a positive employee experience, they must invest in it and live it every day.

Millennials Want To Actively Contribute to Strategy Development. New Mentoring Models Realize this Desire

mentoring millennials

Millennials are extremely confident in their technical job abilities.  And why not, they are the most educated generation, in addition to being the largest.  They have been encouraged to excel at every stage of life.  So as intellectual thinkers, it is only natural they want (expect) to offer their thoughts and ideas to the development of their organization’s strategy.

One of the generational gaps experienced in the workplace today is the skepticism of more experienced employees in their younger colleagues’ ability to develop an effective strategy, and then successfully execute it.  There is some validity to this uncertainty.  For many Millennials, their first work experience follows graduating from college.  With competing academic and required extra-curricular activities, many individuals born between 1981 and 2000 did not have time to also work before the age of twenty-two.

The antidote to this generational ability quandary can be new forms of mentoring.  The Millennial generation is questioning the status quo and pushing change in all aspects of the workplace.  These disruptions are spurring new, innovative approaches, including to mentoring.

In years past, a younger person would identify a mentor from whom they would learn and emulate.  Now, mentors come in all shapes, sizes, age and experience levels.  Forward-thinking organizations are leveraging mentoring in fresh, new, and fun ways.  And in the process, executives are discovering creative ideas to business challenges, while offering guidance, based on their experience, on deep strategic thinking and how to execute effectively — a win-win for mentors and mentees.

Here are some examples of how.

Reverse Mentoring to Tackle a Critical Business Issue:  Reverse Mentoring teams an experienced, often an executive, with a less experienced, lower-level employee.  Many businesses are using this mentoring approach to brainstorm ideas for breaking down barriers to company growth or an internal problem.  For example, defining and testing new social media approaches to modernize a brand and enliven the company’s external communications, changing corporate culture from a fearful environment to an empowered environment to do the right thing for customers and other employees, to reversing low employee engagement rates and high voluntary turnover.  The lower-level employees provide executives with a deep view into ideas and opinions of the company’s employees.  And the mentees are excited by their opportunity to contribute to strategic issues.  Some CEOs have gone so far as to create a team of less experienced employees, with just one executive sponsor, to tackle these types of issues.

“Speed-Dating” Mentoring Too Improve Cross Organizational Communication:  A universal business challenge continues to be communication.  Many employee satisfaction surveys point to the lack of understanding by employees of corporate strategy or other internal information. “Speed-dating” mentoring offers lower-level employees the opportunity to ask executives clarifying questions about the company during their allotted time.  Employees appreciate the deeper understanding of the company vision, desired culture and strategy.  And executives gain insight into what employees think and understand about the company strategy and why employees may not be living the desired culture.

Group Mentoring to Stimulate Innovative Ideation:  Many employees are creating a new form of mentoring, group mentoring.  In companies where employees are empowered, they leverage this trust to organize groups of their peers and sometimes next level managers on their own, to brainstorm a new market opportunity or company issues.  These groups are defining innovative solutions that are moving their company forward at accelerated rates.

Although the definition and approach to mentoring is evolving, the benefits are unwavering. Organizations who invest in the development of mentoring programs experience boosted employee development, engagement, retention and improved profitability.  And they provide younger employees the opportunity for accelerated career growth and development by offering a forum to contribute to the strategic initiatives of the organization.

How a Mentorship Program Can Be Your Company’s Competitive Advantage

Modern companies have a problem – a people problem.  According to Gallup, a staggering 87% of employees worldwide are not engaged.[1]  Meanwhile, as the Millennial generation takes over as the majority of the workforce, they are also three times as likely to switch jobs as previous generations.[2] Employee turnover is costly, both in terms of the cost to recruit and retain and in the cost of corporate knowledge and moral lost.  Businesses have to spend the equivalent of six to nine months of an employee’s salary in order to find and train their replacement, while some studies show higher numbers.[3]   Today, nearly all organizations, or 79 percent of businesses, are seriously worried about engagement and retention, according to Deloitte.[4]

Corporate sponsored mentorship programs may hold the answer.  Although mentorship programs have traditional footings, new programs are being designed to fit generational preferences, offer flexibility, and incorporate modern technology.  The fastest growing organizations are beginning to take notice.  Beyond the big names of Google, Facebook and Apple, 70% of Fortune 500 companies practice formal and informal mentorship programs.[5]  Case studies of companies such as Google, demonstrate successful mentorship programs in conjunction with some of the lowest turnover rates world wide.[6]  Why do mentorship programs suddenly seem to hold the keys to success?


Compared to previous generations, today’s workforce has immediate access to information and training via technology.  What they do desire, however, is frequent communication with corporate leaders, feedback, and a corporate culture that supports more than the bottom line.[8]  Strategically structured mentorship programs have the opportunity to offer these benefits to the Millennial workforce and employees of all ages.  In return, corporations have the opportunity to retain a greater portion of their workforce, their associated knowledge and training, and increase engaged productivity overall.

How to Organize a Successful Mentorship Program

Mentorship programs created without expert guidance or strategic structures have the opportunity to create more harm than benefit.[9]  Meanwhile, mentorship programs run correctly can be the key solution to the most pressing challenges of a corporation.  Today, mentorship programs can take many forms, including:

  • One-on-one Mentoring – to allow individual support and personal connections to develop between the mentor and the mentee.
  • Group Mentoring– to help employees to become more familiar with their work environment and their fellow employees.
  • Peer Mentoring– to provide a support network among fellow employees who share a similar rank.
  • Reverse Mentoring – allows younger generations to teach older generations about modern technology or perspectives of current corporate challenges they might not otherwise have insight to.
  • “Speed Dating” Mentoring– Cross-Company/Functional mentoring can give mentees objective insight, as well as an outside opinion of their work at a glance.
  • Expert Mentoring – to provide coaching for individual needs and personalized advice from leaders in the field.

While these are basic layout options for a modern mentorship program, strategic details and program organization such as a mentor selection and participation incentives will help your program succeed.  We now have decades of case studies, collaboration technology and research to help you design a mentorship program tailored to succeed and fit your unique company culture and goals.

Be sure to download our e-book for comprehensive details on how to structure a successful mentorship program, including the:

  • Benefits of a company sponsored Mentorship program
  • Varied Mentorship Structures
  • Pros & Cons of each
  • Qualities of a good mentor
  • How to recruit & train mentors
  • How to ensure mentee participation