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CEOs Think Collaboration Is the Answer to the Skills Gap

Clare Hopping

Handshake_2_menAs global businesses attempt to tackle the skills gap problem, collaboration has become an attractive solution for many CEOs. But can this strategy be implemented as a sustainable recruitment practice?

Recently, 1,322 top global CEOs were interviewed in research published by PwC. In their opinion, the single biggest threat to business is the ‘skills gap’ shortage. The skills gap, in essence, is an inability to find the talent that employers seek – and just one year ago, it affected nearly 40% of all businesses, according to the Harvard Business Review.

To address this growing concern, many CEOs are looking to part-time and/or contingent workers to fill niche voids, as well as expanding deeper into the world of collaboration and Mergers & Acquisitions (M&A).

Global Trends

Since last year, The PwC study noted a dramatic 10% increase in CEOs who list the skills gap as a significant recruitment problem. Ranging in locales from Japan and South Africa to China, Hong Kong, and the UK, nine out of ten CEOs now believe the skills gap is damaging to an organisation’s growth prospects. While these findings reflect an almost decade-long trend, this most recent spike in concern is the most prominent in over a half-decade.  

Sharing the Work

Instead of trying to win the best talent, many CEOs are now seeking to share it: by hiring part-time or contingent workers and increasing company mergers, managers find the talent they need with reduced cost – indeed, over a quarter of CEOs engage in these practices just for talent’s sake. This theory is articulated in Paul Graham’s “Hiring is Obsolete,” where he argues that, by acquiring startups, larger companies are “effectively fusing recruitment and product development.” Even better, employees are already engaged with work they enjoy.

This increasing shift to non-traditional recruitment has altered the CEO/competitor relationship. Joel Allison, CEO of Baylor Scott & White Health, noted in a separate US PwC survey, “One way we address [new competitors] is to ask the question, ‘Can we partner with them?’” Global leaders are finding that relationships, more than organizational structure, offer the most salient business quality of the modern era.

Gig Economy

But is collaboration really the answer to the skills gap dilemma? Or is it simply perpetuating it? Regardless, the result is the ‘gig economy,’ in which workers with the most in-demand skills can effectively leverage the location, duration, and payment of their work. Recently, Fast Company suggested that the gig economy is unsustainable and leads to an unhappy workforce. However, sites like fiverr have emphasized the virtues of greater worker flexibility. The debate rages on.

However, from a CEO’s perspective, the gig economy is undoubtedly easing the recruitment burden, even if high-skilled workers can charge a premium. Jon Andrews, leader of PwC’s global people and organisation practice, writes that “organisations can no longer continue to recruit people as they’ve always done – they need to be looking in new places, geographies and from new pools of talent.” Until another solution is offered, collaboration presents the perfect resolution.

Collaborative Industry


If the PwC report proves anything conclusively, it’s that the skills gap is a highly influential factor in contemporary CEO thinking. And while collaboration is a compelling solution to talent woes, the full impact of the gig economy has yet to be felt. And indeed, six in ten CEOs report that creating a skilled and adaptable workforce should be a top priority for government actors – until that happens, innovative recruitment techniques, M&A activities, and contingent workers are here to stay.


Main image source: Flazingo Photos/Flickr

Secondary image source: Gerard Fritz/Flickr

Clare Hopping

Clare Hopping has been involved in the recruitment of both full-time employees and freelance staff for ten years. She specialises in recruiting staff via social media and digital platforms.