What is a skill gap?
A skill gap is the gap that exists between a workforces current skill set and the skills required to do their jobs. They occur for both soft and hard skills. Where soft skills are less-defined universal skills and hard skills are measurable talents and abilities. An example of a soft vs. hard skill would be creativity vs. inventory control.
Managers tend to focus on skill gaps for hard skills as they are easier to measure and at times, easier to detect. However, skill gaps can occur for any type of skills and managers need to be aware of this in order to build a strong workforce.
A prominent reason for skill gaps is changing technology, expectations, and trends. Consider for example, the myriad of skill gaps that occurred when the use of office computers first took off. This is an example of a hard skill gap that has since been minimised thanks to the efforts of employers.
How common is it?
According to Gartner 64% of managers don’t think their employees are able to keep up with future skill needs. On top of this, 70% of employees say they haven’t even mastered the skills they need for their jobs today.
BetterUp also conducted research into skill gaps across industries, to look at the most prominent ones. They measured what % of respondents believed they had a skill gap on a particular skill and used this to rank the largest skill gaps across industries. The top five are below.
- Data analytics 43%
- IT, mobile and/or web design and management 26%
- Executive management 25%
- HR and talent management 23%
- Sales and marketing operations 22%
It is worth noting that, unsurprisingly, the skills mentioned above are hard skills. This is expected as they are the easiest to detect, however, there may be many skill gaps for soft skills that were not as easily measured.
What can we do about it?
There are four major pathways employers can take when they’ve noticed a skill gap in their workforce. They can contract, redeploy, hire, or train. We’ll go through each pathway below and talk about when it is best implemented.
Contracting refers to engaging with freelancers or external businesses. Conducting work with contractors can help you bridge skill gaps by bringing in talent that directly specialises in areas your workplace is lacking.
It is a good strategy to consider when looking at skills that are only needed temporarily. Such as during major projects, but not in day-to-day work life. Contracting may not be the best solution to solve long-running issues as your workforce will become largely underutilised.
Shifting workers around in their roles can help bridge some of the skill gaps and put employees into more optimised positions. It will also engage employees as they move into a change of scenery. The benefit with this strategy is that you are simply optimising your current work force, without additional expense. However, there will be some productivity losses as workers change positions as they need to readjust. It is also worth considering the fact that, those employees were in their original positions for a reason. You may move them somewhere else to address a skill gap, only to find they don’t fit that position as well as their previous one. Which leaves employers with the same problem they had originally.
This is an obvious solution to the problem. If your workforce is lacking in skills, build a new one. Hire new experienced individuals who can help bridge the gaps needed. This could mean either moving in new staff or additional staff. In either of these scenarios however, there is the additional cost of training and recruitment to consider. Though these costs could well pay for themselves depending on the severity of the skill gap and the experience of the new employees.
4. Training and reskilling
Training is the major, and most common solution to a skill gap. It helps address the problem at it’s core. Fixing the issue of the skill gap, while retaining employees, which has the added benefit of holding onto current skills and knowledge. Giving your employees training and coaching also helps to create a better work environment. Your workplace can be seen as a spot to grow, which helps to make current employees happier and also assists in recruitment.
McKinsey found that reskilling programs had positive effects on numerous key performance indicators. Some of the major ones being employee satisfaction, customer experience and brand perception among employees and customers. It seems that reskilling programs have a myriad of business benefits outside of just skill gaps.
It is also a good way to target skill gaps for soft skills as these can be hard to detect in new recruits. As a result, rehiring or outsourcing may not be the best solution. Some examples of soft skills that can be targeted through coaching is teamwork, patience, time management, and communication.
Do I have a skill gap in my company?
Almost every company will have a skill gap of some sort, though these gaps may be very small. The hardest part of dealing with a skill gap issue in the workplace, is detecting what exact areas your staff are falling behind on. As a manger, you may be able to detect some areas that are easier to spot. However, employees will largely try and hide their skill gaps to avoid appearing incompetent and it makes assessing the workplace difficult.
One way to get around this is to give your employees the opportunity to self-report fully anonymously through an employee survey. An employee survey can give your employees the space to be honest about what type of reskilling they may need, without feeling singled out. It can provide insights into the major areas where a workforce is lacking skills. Leading to better solutions and actions by management teams.
If this interests you, enquire today. At CiVS we work consultatively with your team to help you achieve your perfect survey. With an easy-to-read, detailed report provided at the end to deliver all the key insights without any of the clutter. To learn more about the survey structure, set up or process feel free to contact us at email@example.com or (08) 6314 0580.