Researchers, executives, and recruitment officer often refer to the “skills shortage” or “a skills mismatch”, “gap” or “competence gap”. However, these terms can mean many different things in business. Often it can refer to new hires lacking the necessary skills to fill the vacancies they were appointed to. Other times it rather denotes a current employee’s lack of skills need to stay current with their jobs as the business evolves.
So, what is a “skills gap” and how can it be identified? As the term implies, it is “a significant gap between an organisation’s skill needs and the current capabilities of its workforce.” The first step towards identifying this gap presents itself at that very moment when a company realises it can no longer advance, keep up with goals, or remain competitive unless certain skills are learnt or improved on.
Furthermore, to build effective and focused training programmes and ultimately support business goals, it is crucial to identify these gaps. Companies often set out on a training mission or launch training programmes with not enough understanding of where exactly the skill gaps exist in their workforce. This leads to poor results and employees feeling that they are “failing” in training or advancing their careers.
It is, therefore, essential to first identify the skills gap by:
1. Identifying your company’s objectives
The idea of a well-rounded workforce seems nice, but it is important, if not essential, to realise that your business probably needs one skill more than the other. By identifying your company’s objectives first, you are better suited to identify that skill and the training, now and in future, your employees will require. Through this process of identification, you will be able to decide what type of training is more important – technology, customer service, or even both.
2. Identifying those skills employees already possess and what skills are required to achieve the objectives
As mentioned above, as nice as it might be for your whole workforce to have well-rounded customer service skills, it is arguable that your IT people need far less customer service training than, for example, your sales staff or sales representatives. It is, therefore, necessary to ensure you don’t train your employees in the wrong areas and to identify the skills most needed for each job type in your company and then evaluating what skills your employees already have.
3. Conducting a skills gap analysis
A skills gap analysis is, simply put, a list of what skills you need and what skills employees already have (step 2 above). The difference between the two is your skills gap. To reduce it to an even simpler equation: Skills needed – skills possessed = skills gap. From this point onwards, you can start closing the gaps.
Armed with the information above concerning the skills that are in place, those that require further development, and those that are completely absent, it is time to start closing the skills gaps by developing and implementing a training programme that has as its focus embedding learning into your company’s culture.