Almost every organization struggles with skills gaps, in one form or another. A skill gap is a gap between what employers want or need their employees to be able to do, and what those employees can actually do when they walk into work.1 In the manufacturing industry, 82% of executives report skills deficiencies in production roles have a significant impact on their ability to meet customer demand.2 In the service industry, soft skills like "customer service" and "problem-solving" are of the highest importance, yet 89% of executives in a Wall Street Journal survey reported having a very or somewhat difficult time finding people with the requisite attributes.3 For employers facing skills shortages, the impact can result in decreased productivity and efficiency, missed opportunities, and higher expenses.

Why Frontline Workers? 

In January 2015, five million jobs remained unfilled in the United States. Due to high turnover and hiring costs, employers who are able to retain key talent by building from within will have a clear advantage over the competition when looking to fill these positions. Unfortunately, there are over 24 million frontline workers in the United States who are half as likely to receive career relevant education as their skilled counterparts.4 These frontline roles are critical to the operation of a business and include positions such as assembly line worker in manufacturing, day laborer in construction, cashier in the retail and service industry, and more.

Prioritizing Learning & Development

With the appropriate investment of time and training, these 24 million frontline workers would have the opportunity to fill hundreds of thousands of vacancies that employers have in mid-skill, higher paying jobs. Ninety-four percent of senior business leaders agree that internal training and development programs are among the most effective workforce development strategies,5 but from 2014 to 2015, the average training expenditures for large companies decreased and remained flat for small to midsize companies.6 Learning and development is not always prioritized, but crucial to the growth and success of your organization.

In addition to filling the skills gap, learning and development solutions offer a myriad of other benefits, including increased retention, a strong brand culture, higher productivity and a stronger bottom line. These programs also give the frontline workforce the view that their current positions can just serve as stepping stones to robust career pathways. Throughout the rest of this series, we build the case for investing in learning and development to help you impact its prioritization for your own business. Stay tuned for Investing in Learning & Development, Part 2!

Recommended for You: Training Pilots from the Ground Up: What All Employers Can Learn from JetBlue

Resources: Photo Credit. (1) Forbes (2) Deloitte and The Manufacturing Institute.(3) The Wall Street Journal. (4, 5) Upskill America. (6) Training Magazine.