As your business grows and expands, you’ll find that your team has to adapt to rapidly changing circumstances. Roles evolve, the demands from your customers and other stakeholders change, and it’s common to get into a position where it feels like you’re missing some key competencies that could support your growth. It’s so common in fact, that research from McKinsey shows that 87% of companies worldwide already have a skills gap or expect to have one in the next five years.
As we’ve written before, what got you here, won’t necessarily get you there.
In this article, we’re going to examine this phenomenon and explore how you can create a workplace strategy for identifying these skill gaps and taking action so that you don’t get in the way of your own growth.
What is a Skills Gap?
Put simply, a skills gap exists when there are misaligned expectations about what skills are needed to fulfill a team’s job and the actual skills that exist within that team. Often this manifests itself in dissatisfaction from team leaders who want to see certain outcomes and can’t quite figure out why the team is unable to produce them to the appropriate level of quality.
The Identified gap may not be about the strength or quality of the individual people in that team, but rather is an acknowledgment that there is something missing that needs to be rectified through additional training or through a completely new hire. Research from LinkedIn shows that 64% of learning and development professionals consider filling these skills gaps a priority for the future prospects of their organizations.
What is a Skills Gap Analysis?
A skills gap analysis is an exercise that you can run through to flesh out the current skills that are needed to grow the business and the skills that you have on hand so that you can make an informed comparison. This procedure can be done on an ad-hoc basis when you feel that something is missing, but it can also be done regularly (to great effect) as a consistent check-in regarding the state of your staff and where the company is looking to go in the future.
There are four key pillars of a robust skills gap analysis:
1. Identify your company’s objectives
It’s impossible to evaluate what skills you need if you don’t have clarity on the goals and mission of the company as a whole. Step back and think strategically about the priorities for the short, medium, and long term – and work to codify these so that you have a north star to aim towards.
2. Break down skills based on individual jobs
Now you can zoom in one level and look at the specific skills you need in order to deliver on those objectives. You can be as detailed as you want here, but it’s helpful to categorize them by the individual jobs so that you get a sense of what it looks like practically.
3. Identify your employees’ skills
Now, it’s time to set that aside and move to the other side of the equation. Look at each of your employees and make an honest assessment of the skills they already possess. This might require talking with line managers and other personnel if you aren’t close enough to them on a day-to-day basis. Further, there are tools available to monitor employee effectiveness in real-time such as, in the case of sales roles, Chorus AI, Outreach, and Gong. Try to get as much feedback as you can so that you can make as precise an evaluation as possible.
4. Collect data, analyze, and compare
Finally, it’s time to compare the two sets of skills to identify the ones that are missing. You can do this in a subjective way by getting opinions and insights from managers and team members, but you can also inject more objective data by doing cognitive and behavioral assessments. The more effort you put into precisely identifying the skills gap, the better decision-making power you have to go and rectify the situation.
It’s also worth noting here that a useful distinction to make is between hard skills and soft skills. What proportion of your missing skills is technical? And what proportion is intangible? This distinction goes a long way to inform your strategy moving forward, and it also says something about your company and hiring culture.
Why Do Skills Gaps Arise?
Skills gaps arise naturally as a business grows and evolves or the competitive environment shifts, but there are some common factors that often act as catalysts. By understanding some of these factors, you will be better placed to understand when a skills gap has opened:
Developments in technology
Every time there are advancements in technology within your industry, the knowledge and skills in your team become more out of date. With training, this can sometimes be mitigated, but when there is a radical paradigm shift, it often requires fresh perspectives and an entirely different set of considerations as you adapt to the new enabling tools.
Lack of training
The skills needed to stay relevant in our modern business landscape are continually changing; if employees are not receiving regular training that allows them to upskill and reskill, gaps will appear. Research from MIT and Deloitte shows that this is more common than we think, with only 34% of workers feeling supported in terms of being offered the requisite skill development opportunities. Timely and relevant employee development must be prioritized and become part of the company culture as a whole.
If tertiary education institutions are not teaching useful and forward-looking skills, then there is going to be a gap as those people move into the workforce. This is a systemic issue that you have limited control over as a company, but it’s still worth mentioning so that you can take it into account strategically.
This refers to the unique skill preferences that you see across ages, generations, backgrounds, and so on. If you’re only hiring from certain demographics, then you’re not going to get a well-rounded team dynamic, and that can exacerbate those skill gaps. Diversity matters here, not only in terms of race and gender, but across every aspect of demographic selection.
Perhaps you simply don’t have the money to increase hiring and/or training, and that creates the gap over time. In these situations, it’s important to do rigorous cost-benefit analyses so you can make an informed decision about whether investing in that skills gap would actually give you the return on investment that you need.
Remote or hybrid working
When your team is working remotely, it’s sometimes more difficult to keep on top of the missing gaps in your operations, and that can lead to a skills gap if not managed well. Often this comes down to communication, and it can be solved if you adjust appropriately to a remote working environment. But it needs to be a constant consideration at the top of your mind as a manager.
This is not an exhaustive list, but by keeping an eye out for these factors, you’ll be better positioned to get ahead of the curve and identify skills gaps proactively before they become a problem.
3 Ways to Address a Skills Gap
Now that you have identified a skills gap, how do you rectify it? Let’s run through three different strategies that all have their merits and associated downsides: Build, Buy, and Borrow. Your choice will depend on a number of factors inherent to your specific scenario.
- Bring in experts to retrain your current staff so that they can gain those skills that you’re missing.
- Establish a consistent upskilling and reskilling program as part of your training and professional development within the organization.
- Combine or evolve current roles to better address the skills gaps in the team.
- Establish career pathways that address these skills gaps so that your staff can start to acquire them in a structured format.
- Identify overlooked talent pools within your organization and see if you can better utilize that talent.
- Source new talent externally to fill those gaps and hire them.
- Revise the recruiting process to specifically address the desired skills.
- Develop recruiting marketing that attracts diverse talent with needed skill sets.
- Acquire another company that are experts in the skills that you need and integrate them into your organization.
- Partner with another company to leverage skills that they have on board.
- Leverage the current capabilities of your existing vendors to fill in the gaps.
- Outsource tasks to contractors when it makes sense to do so.
Depending on your circumstances, you might need a combination of these strategies to arrive at a solution that works for you. Our advice is to try and be holistic in your thinking and long-term in your planning. This allows for more flexibility in uncertain situations, and it can empower your company to be more agile over the long run.
Building World-Class Teams
We’ve now run through what skills gaps are, how to identify them, and how to fill them. All that’s left to do is for you to start with your own skills gap analysis. As mentioned at the beginning, we always encourage clients to review their workforce plan and skills gaps regularly because conditions change all the time. By making it something that you do on a quarterly or annual basis, you’ll always be well placed to optimize your operational capability and make the most of the resources at your disposal.
If you’d like some assistance with this process, we’re here to help at The Renaissance Network. We offer a full team and individual evaluation processes utilizing objective assessment tools. We have extensive experience in the space and can help you build your world-class team. If this sounds like something you’d like to explore, get in touch today!