When employees lack basic skills, companies suffer. In a recent survey of more than 300 executives, more than half said that the lack of skills had resulted in increased costs. But most stunning was the gap between skills deficiencies and the training offered: while companies were very much aware of the skills gap, many had actually scaled back their training programs -- a disturbing trend in light of the workplace changes that are actually driving the skills gap. Below are survey responses from executives of companies with less than $50 million in sales:

* * *

What's driving the need for basic skills?

Increased computerization 62%

More teamwork or participation 61%

Shortages of qualified applicants 31%

Decreased quality of graduates 31%

New job descriptions 21%

A lag in educational curriculums 3%

* * *

Percentage of companies reporting critical needs in certain skills, versus those offering training

Needs Training
enhancement offered
Written communication 71% 26%
Basic computer skills 74% 63%
Inter-personal communication 68% 40%
Customer service 68% 48%
Organizational skills 71% 61%
Basic math skills 47% 5%
Cross-cultural communication 47% 10%

Source: "Managing and Developing the New Work Force," the Olsten Forum on Human Resource Issues and Trends, Melville, N.Y., 1995.

* * *