Bridging the skills gap

Bridging the skills gap

Today’s world of work changes rapidly, with new jobs emerging and existing jobs evolving on a regular basis. As a result, the skills employers need also change over time. Add the existing shortage of certain skills in high demand, and employers at some time or another find themselves asking the same question: How do we respond and close our current skills gap?

But before you can work on overcoming the skills gaps that exist in your organisation, you need to identify the required skills that your staff lack. In other words, you need to conduct a skills gap analysis.

What is a skills gap analysis?

A skills gap analysis allows you to identify the mismatch between your employees’ current skills and those you will need to achieve your organisation’s future success. It evaluates your current capability and compares it to what is required.

Once you’ve identified skills deficits, you can then put a plan in place to close the gaps, either by upskilling existing employees or recruiting new staff.

Depending on your needs and future plans, a skills gap analysis can be conducted across an entire organisation, within a particular team or even at the individual employee level.

How to perform a skills gap analysis

Conducting this analysis begins with reviewing your organisation’s strategic priorities and each department’s goals. Think about the skills that will be required in the next few years to achieve growth, complete projects and remain competitive. This allows you to identify the critical skills that will be necessary for your organisation’s ongoing success.

It’s a good idea to work with line managers and department heads to not only identify the specific competencies they will require to deliver their team’s objectives, but also the level of proficiency required for each skill, both now and in the future.

Along with the technical skills required, also consider the soft skills you will need to achieve your organisation’s future growth. Since your analysis is based upon strategic priorities, this will ensure the skills you identify have long-term value for your organisation.

You can then compare this list of required technical and soft skills to the existing resources in each team. Working with line managers, review each individual employee’s skills and determine if they can be upskilled to fill identified gaps or whether a new skilled professional should be recruited into the team.

To help make these decisions, you may also like to reexamine recent performance reviews, conduct employee interviews or run skills and behavioural assessments.

When conducting your analysis, don’t forget to consider outside forces, such as industry-wide skills shortages. If there is already an extreme shortage of certain skills, then upskilling existing employees to fill this gap might be a long-term solution that you can support in the short-term with external recruitment to fill immediate requirements.

The potential to automate certain functions should be considered too, since algorithms and machines could take over routine and repetitive tasks, freeing employees to upskill to fill other gaps. So too should future technological trends or regulatory requirements, which would require employees with new skills so that your organisation can take advantage of developments or ensure compliance.

A six-point strategy

The six points below are designed to highlight the main areas of focus needed for employers to attract and retain the most appropriate and best-skilled candidates.

1. Upskill suitable employees to fill gaps. Offering regular upskilling is a great way to help your staff develop new competencies. Some employers shy away from this strategy because they believe it can be costly, however upskilling does not need to be expensive. Microlearning, on-the-job training, mentorships and involvement in stretch opportunities can be used to teach employees new technical and soft skills. Paying for membership to an industry or professional association can also provide staff with access to continuous learning programs that can help you plug skill gaps.

2. Create an employer brand to attract like-minded candidates aligned to your values and way of operating. By communicating an accurate employer brand to potential employees, you’re more likely to attract staff who will be retained long term because they thrive in your organisation. You’re also more likely to receive unsolicited applications from people who want to work for you because they are attracted to and aligned with your way of doing business. This can be a huge advantage when it comes to attracting new skills or retaining valued staff who you can upskill to bridge your competency gaps.

3. Source far and wide when you are looking to recruit externally to close a skills gap. Don’t restrict your search to only those located in a certain geographical area, and ensure that equality, diversity and inclusion principles are inherent in your recruitment activities. Many organisations elect to undertake unconscious bias training, either for hiring managers or for their entire workforce, to ensure they consider equally a diverse candidate pool, and so attract the very best talent to overcome their competency gaps.

4. Be flexible to adapt to the changing market. Being flexible opens new options for you to consider when you are planning to close your skills gaps. For example, candidates with transferable skills rather than an identical industry background or candidates with potential who could be trained up into the role. Such flexibility allows you to open a vacancy to a larger pool of candidates who have experience, suit your organisation and can become a highly valued asset with a little technical upskilling. In addition, embracing flexible working options allows an organisation to not only retain critical skills but widens the pool of potential talent to include those who need flexibility to remain in the workforce.

5. Consider temporary assignments to close skills gaps of a short-term nature. For instance, if you are about to commence a particular project that requires skills for a short period of time, it might not make sense to invest in the upskilling of existing staff or the recruitment of a permanent employee. Instead, a temporary or contract professional can be utilised for the duration of the project.

6. Focus on retention and implement a strong succession plan. A successful retention plan includes training and development, effective performance management, the provision of clear and transparent career progression opportunities and staff engagement. The salary and the rewards and recognition on offer are also critical, as is assessing your managers – after all, people join organisations and leave people.

To conclude, it’s worth considering that adopting one or two of these points in isolation is rarely enough to close all of an organisation’s skills gaps. Instead, we suggest that these six points are used in parallel to forge a robust and effective strategy. Combined with the solid tactical foundation of your skills gap analysis, this will ensure you meet the future skills needs of your organisation.

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