Executives at large U.S. companies confirm that a skills gap persists for their businesses, with more than half indicating that they either won’t have the skills they need in the next one to two years (46 percent) or they currently don’t have the skills they need (6 percent), according to a survey conducted by Accenture, titled “Accenture 2013 Skills and Employment Trends Survey.”

For those executives who have or are anticipating a skills shortage, the biggest demand is for IT skills (44 percent) and engineering (36 percent) with R&D (29 percent) and sales (29 percent) close behind; these skills are particularly in demand among manufacturers.

Accenture provides five “key strategies” for reducing the skills gap: Find a balance between formal and informal learning, embrace new ways to develop skills, expand your candidate pool, screen talent based on newly emerging data sources, and invest earlier in the talent supply chain.

In a positive sign, 51 percent of companies expect to increase investments in training over the next two years, and 35 percent of executives whose companies are facing a skills shortage admitted that they have not invested enough in training in the past. Executives are also continuing to use new methods of delivering training to employees. The survey found that 42 percent use mobile delivery for training, 35 percent use social media, 27 percent use massive open online courses (MOOCs) and 13 percent use gamification.

In addition to training investments, nearly one-third (31 percent) of the 400 U.S. executives surveyed — 13 percent representing finance/insurance — anticipate increasing their workforce over the next one to two years, while 62 percent expect their hiring to remain the same.

Businesses are facing substantial consequences as a result of not fixing their skills gap. Among companies currently facing or anticipating a skills shortage, 66 percent anticipate a loss of business to competitors, 64 percent face a loss of revenue, 59 percent face eroding customer satisfaction and 53 percent say they will face a delay in developing new products or services. Eighty-seven percent also agree that a skills gap is a cause of increased stress among existing employees.

Among those who have or anticipate a skills shortage, 41 percent said it is because they cannot attract candidates with the skills they need in their industry, 38 percent would hire more people if they were getting qualified candidates, 26 percent cannot pay what candidates want and 19 percent did not anticipate the skills they would need.

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