The world of work is changing faster than ever, and business owners are having to look forward rather than simply focusing on managing the day-to-day. With numerous challenges facing businesses in the light of Brexit, Covid, the Ukraine conflict and rising prices, it’s tempting to become pre-occupied with survival, but progressive businesses are also mindful of the need to future proof their organisations to ensure that they thrive and grow.

One area in which future proofing is critical is in the area of skills, especially if there’s a chance that your organisation may experience a skills gap in the short to medium term. Add to that the growth in flexible working and the availability of automation within certain functions and it’s easy to see how less forward-looking companies are in danger of being left behind. Being faced with a potential skills gap should be something that concerns any business owner and addressing it should be embedded into the recruitment and HR strategy.

The automation of routine tasks is potentially a powerful tool for businesses as it can free up time to spend on delivering an enhanced service or driving the business forward, but it needs to be done without losing the organisation’s true personality. In some senses it’s futile to fight against progress, but there’s still something to be said for the traditional approach – in a world of emails and text messages, it can be reassuring to speak to someone rather than having to navigate an automated system. So while digital transformation can increase efficiency, if it isn’t managed carefully it can also make the business appear impersonal.

In terms of future proofing the talent within the organisation to avoid a skills gap, it’s vital to ensure that throughout the business the right people are in the right positions to embrace changes in technology, the workplace and the marketplace within which you’re operating. Your people strategy should take account of this and should reflect not only the state of play today but also project forward to try to identify which skills will be needed down the line. In effect, it’s about weighing up the skills base you have available currently against the skills you feel will be needed in the future, and any gaps that you identify can then be addressed in your recruitment and HR strategies. As with most things in business, it’s important to be proactive here – waiting until a gap in skills appears in the headlights can leave you behind the curve and effectively playing catch up. And that’s if you can then even find the talent you need at short notice.

Managing a skills gap is also about evaluating where you and your team are as a business and then assessing which of your workforce have the potential to grow. In other words, plugging a skills gap isn’t only about recruiting new people, it’s also about nurturing your current talent and giving them room to develop. Bringing together recruitment, onboarding, HR and training & development into one streamlined process can not only help with identifying and developing the right people to carry your organisation forward, but with retention as your teams will see a clear career path and have goals to work towards.

For Rosa dos Santos, owner of Exact Sourcing, future proofing may be far from an exact science, but attempting to predict the skills that your business may need in five years’ time is good practice. ‘As recruitment specialists, we’re always looking to help our clients on several levels,’ comments Rosa. ‘Of course we’re there to assist with the short-term recruitment of talent to fill immediate vacancies, but we’re also available to work with clients on longer-term planning. We often discuss with clients what their future plans are and the type of candidates they’ll need to ensure they achieve them. Future proofing in terms of the incorporation of new technology and the relevant skills associated with that is a central part of business planning, and we work alongside our clients to make sure they’re equipped for what lies ahead.’

Exact Sourcing is a recruitment agency in Cambridge and Newmarket, and we also serve Ely, Bury St Edmunds, Haverhill, Royston and Sawston. If you’re looking to future proof your organisation and would like some advice, please contact us for an initial chat.