With trouble finding employees with the talents they need, businesses plan to beef up their training as a way to close the skills gap they're experiencing, new research shows.

A study by Accenture revealed that nearly half of U.S. executives feel they won't be able to find employees with the skills they need in the coming years. To combat that, 51 percent plan to increase their investment in training over the next two years.

The research found that businesses that don't address their skills gap face significant consequences. Among companies currently confronting 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 be forced to delay in developing new products or services.

For those executives who have or are anticipating a skills shortage, the biggest demand is for IT skills and engineering, with research and development and sales close behind.

"It's clear that U.S. businesses are looking to take a more active role in solving the skills challenge, and that failing to do so can result in significant business consequences," said David Smith, senior managing director of Accenture Talent & Organization. "Developing more effective and targeted training programs is a critical element in improving the skills of the work force."

To help businesses, Accenture has identified some key strategies for tackling the skills gap, including:

Find a balance between formal and informal learning: As digital technology blurs the boundaries between formal and informal learning, companies should consider ways to strike a balance between the two and help ensure that they work in tandem. For instance, embedding learning in everyday work — shadowing others, mentorships, or learning from peers through online forums — can help formal online or classroom training become more relevant and more effective.

Embrace new ways to develop skills: Other recent scalable developments are helping training become more relevant, such as social media tools that facilitate collaboration and knowledge sharing, gamification that immerses employees in virtual scenarios, and mobile training delivery that allows learning to take place wherever an employee happens to be.

Expand the candidate pool: Given the reported difficulty of finding qualified candidates, companies should consider dropping the notion of finding the "perfect" candidate based on a list of specific skills, education or experience. Instead, businesses should look for candidates with more generalist skills — even those outside their industry, in other geographies, or with adjacent or overlapping skill sets — that can easily be developed to perform the job.

Screen talent based on newly emerging data sources: Instead of screening potential candidates based on key words in a resume, exploit new data sources as part of the effort to get fuller and more predictive insights into future performance. For example, emerging websites offer samples of a candidate's work, assessments that gauge a person's cultural fit and motivations, or social media contributions that can reveal their interests.

Invest earlier in the talent supply chain: Leading companies are partnering with colleges and universities to review and revise curricula so relevant skills are acquired as part of their programs. Some companies are even setting up open access training programs to ensure that more people have the skills they need in specific regions. Once trained, the first right of employment is with the company that trained them.

The study was based on surveys of 400 executives with hiring and training responsibilities at large U.S. businesses across a broad range of industries.

Originally published on BusinessNewsDaily.