The COVID-19 pandemic set off a wave of employees taking career breaks, and others leaving the workforce all together. It’s no surprise that employers are struggling to fill open positions with qualified people.

While skills gaps and labor shortages are common across nearly every industry, the problem has become particularly apparent in manufacturing, construction, shipping, transportation and energy. And it makes sense: Deskless jobs in these industries tend to require highly skilled workers — and those skills aren’t cultivated overnight.

A recent survey by TalentCards and When I Work revealed that 48% of managers believe that new hires are lacking necessary skills for the job. As a result, these new hires require a significant amount of training before they are able to execute their jobs correctly.

Bridging this skills gap isn’t something that can happen overnight. But there are concrete steps that employers and companies can take to set themselves up for success. Let’s evaluate three ways to continuously bridge the skills gap for deskless workers in your organization.

3 Actionable Methods to Help Bridge the Skills Gap

1.    Invest more time in comprehensive onboarding.

Onboarding can make or break a good hire. According to a Gallup survey, employees who have a clear plan for their professional development are 3.5 times more likely to have had an exceptional onboarding process. And this applies to deskless employees as well.

In the TalentCard survey, 69% of managers reported that the onboarding process is critical for new hires, and without proper onboarding, they would most likely fail to execute their roles correctly. It also revealed that 32% of companies have experienced an accident due to improper employee training. Considering that 46% said that new hire training takes two weeks or less to complete, it may be time to reevaluate the length and structure of the process.

With to fill open positions, under training shouldn’t be an option. Investing more time in a longer and more intensive onboarding process might slow down how quickly you can get people working on the front-line, but it means that once they are on the job, they will be better equipped to do it well.

In addition to ensuring quality of work and reducing the chances for accidents, a comprehensive onboarding experience also can help increase employee retention. This is particularly significant now that there is greater turnover among deskless workers. A Boston Consulting Group (BCG) survey on deskless workers found that 37% of these workers could be out the door within the next six months. Investing in your employees now, from the start, will save you from having to pay more six months down the road to re-hire.

2.    Promote continuous learning and development.

Employee training shouldn’t stop after onboarding. Regular training and upskilling should be built into your company’s culture, rather than being a one-time event.

It’s unreasonable to expect employees to continue performing well without reinforcement training and the opportunity to learn new skills. The good news is that data shows companies are moving in this direction, with more than one-half of organizations increasing their learning and development (L&D) budgets in 2022.

The reality is that deskless employees want L&D opportunities just like anyone else. In a report that surveyed deskless employees directly, 63% said they want more training — and 80% said they prefer short training sessions that happen at regular intervals in place of long, one-time training events. This is something for employers to consider, since only 23% of surveyed companies offer additional training opportunities to employees as a means of preventing them from quitting.

Beyond boosting your workforce’s skills, you’re also boosting their loyalty. If you don’t want the skills gap to reopen every few months, or every time an employee quits, it’s important to foster this kind of workplace loyalty.

3.    Recruit young talent entering the workforce.

Upskilling your existing workforce is a huge step in the right direction, but it can’t be your only plan of action. Investing in younger generations who are entering the workforce is the only way to ensure that your business can continue to operate and grow. Tapping into the younger talent pool can be a great way to close skills gaps in the near and distant future.

The younger workforce is eager to quickly acquire new skills and experience and crave new development opportunities. If you haven’t done so already, find out what relevant trade or vocational schools exist in your local area, and try to set up partnerships with them. You can send representatives from your company to speak to students in these programs about their career path, highlighting why your company is a great place to work at once they’ve graduated.

This plan of action can give you a fresh wave of talent to look forward to and can help close any skills gap that may arise in the future.

The Bottom-line: An Industry-wide Problem Needs an Industry-wide Response

While tackling an industry-wide skills shortage isn’t something your company can accomplish overnight, focusing on onboarding and offering continuous training can help ease the burden. Coupling these efforts with mentoring younger generations entering the workforce can help you hire qualified workers in the future and sustain your company’s growth.