Navigating the Global Workforce Skills Gap

Developing a global professional development program can be a tremendous asset for an organization, especially as skills-gap concerns grow.

Group of coworkers sitting at a wood table.

For more than two years, the world has been reeling from the Covid-19 pandemic, but as that crisis wanes, other concerns are beginning to emerge – one of which is the global skills gap. 

The pandemic, coupled with a heightened reliance on automated technology, has forced many younger individuals out of the workforce. In many parts of the world, the unemployment numbers for this younger population are nothing short of staggering. According to a recent Harvard Business Review article, “the youth population (ages 15 to 24) grew 30% between 1999 and 2019, their labor force participation rate globally decreased by approximately 12%.” 

This disparity creates both short- and long-term issues for the global economy, particularly as it relates to social and economic stability in those countries most affected. One report indicates that by 2030 “roughly 14 percent of the global workforce” will likely need to shift to jobs focused on AI, automation and digitization.

Addressing such a systemic problem is too tall a task for any one organization, but there are steps global businesses can take to offset the consequences of this global skills gap – and even position themselves well for future. 

Make Professional Development Fundamental to Your Company Culture

While productivity is an important measure of business success, devoting time and resources to upskilling and reskilling your existing staff and offering a professional development plan for new employees is equally paramount. Your culture needs to support your organization’s business for both today and in the years ahead. From the top-down, emphasize the importance of pursuing new trainings, certifications, and other opportunities for global employees to deepen and widen their skillsets. This encouragement should come with the necessary accommodations so that employees can complete these opportunities without causing any undue burden on their existing workload. 

Recognize Different Countries May Need Different Approaches 

Understandably, different countries have different unemployment rates and average levels of education. For example, nearly 47% of South Korea’s population has a college degree, compared to Ethiopia, which has a literacy rate of 52%, according to the World Bank. 

It’s not always possible to relocate operations or outsource jobs when there isn’t an abundance of skilled professionals. When thinking through employee training programs, it’s important to objectively assess where different locations and/or operations are across your organization from a skills perspective. One area might be ready to dive into more technical online courses, while others may first need basic computer skills training to succeed. Expecting each location to learn the same skills at the same speed will almost certainly lead to headaches across the board. 

Additionally, learning styles can vary across different cultures – just as some cultures can approach work in general quite differently. Accounting for these nuances when developing professional development initiatives can significantly boost their effectiveness. 

Establish an Employee Mentorship Program

Mentorship programs can be quite effective at transferring skills and knowledge across global organizations. Having mentors who are seen as a valued team member and who can encourage staff to grow within the workplace can be transformative for younger, under-skilled staff. Such programs can foster a more inclusive, diverse environment where people feel comfortable to ask questions and approach their work with a more collaborative mindset. 


Developing a global professional development program can be a tremendous asset for an organization, especially as skills-gap concerns grow. Both employees and organizations will continue to be susceptible to the changing landscape of workforce needs as technology advances. Training and upskilling programs help prepare for the future needs of your organization, and in countries experiencing high unemployment levels, particularly among younger workers, these efforts can help provide much needed economic and societal stability.

If you need assistance with your global workforce and recruitment efforts, we can help. Hilldrup specializes in assisting organizations navigating the many nuances associated with international relocation.