Closing the Skills Gap in the Workplace
The skills gap is nothing new, but it has risen to the forefront as a top concern for businesses everywhere.
According to McKinsey & Company, in 2021, 87% of companies worldwide were aware that they already had a skills gap or would have one within a few years.
With the acceleration of technology and digital platforms, as well as the impacts of COVID-19 and hybrid working, the skills gap has evolved once again, and many would even say it’s widened.
What is the skills gap?
The skills gap is essentially a disparity between the skills required to fulfil a role or complete a workplace task and the skills available to your business from employees.
This may sometimes be down to the employee, but more likely the issue is down to roles progressing and technology and software developing, leaving previously qualified employees lacking the skills they need.
An example of this is, if a role requires an employee to know a programming language, but that develops and changes to a new language that the employee is not skilled in – there is now a skills gap, as the employees' abilities don’t align with those now required to do their jobs.
This is more of a ‘hard skill’ example, which most companies identify as their leading skills gap in the workplace. However, there are often soft skills that are also lacking and can provide a skills gap too. These include skills such as communication, time-management, and critical thinking. A 2022 study found that 83% of employers are struggling with employees having poor soft skills, and 78% were expecting to eventually have to confront a skills gap.
A skills gap can also be created by high levels of employee turnover, especially in more senior roles, leaving a gap in experience. With a smaller pool of qualified individuals heightened by these skills gaps, senior roles are harder to fill and therefore companies may resort to hiring less competent individuals.
Has the skills gap been widened by COVID-19?
Technology and IT progression has also played a huge role in creating a skills gap, which has been accelerated by the pandemic. Exponential digital transformation and the move towards remote work has deepened this disconnect.
The pandemic has quickly led to the greater use of innovative digital tools as well as increased automation and AI, which are skills that are now key in most job roles. As a result, a survey of employees around the world conducted by the RPA software company, showed that nearly half of participants were concerned they would lose their jobs due to a lack of skills.
There has also been a dramatic decline in communication skills, providing another example of a workplace skills gap. Due to remote working and the lack of everyday social contact, communication skills weren’t practiced or developed for over 2 years; but communication is key in any workplace.
How can a skills gap affect your business?
When there is a skills gap in your business, and employees are lacking the skills to complete tasks, jobs can go uncompleted, or completed to a low quality for a longer space of time. This is why businesses are likely to experience:
Lower level of productivity
Lower level of employee morale and engagement
Higher staff turnover rate
Loss of revenue and growth
How to identify a skills gap in the workplace
The most effective way of identifying a skills gap in the workplace is by conducting a skills gap analysis, which will help you identify skills you need to improve in order to meet your business goals.
A skills gap analysis can be conducted at both an individual and a team or business-wide scale.
You can think of them as three steps:
Identify the skills you and the business value, and more importantly, the skills you need.
Measure the current skills within your workforce.
Identify the disparity between what you need and what you have.
The first step in conducting a skills gap analysis is to identify the goals of your business – what skills do you value, and what skills do employees need to successfully do their jobs. You can rank these in terms of highest to lowest importance.
You’ll then need to see where you’re at currently. Measuring the current skills of your workforce allows you to see where the gaps are and gives you an idea of where you need to develop skills further.
Once you’ve identified what skills gaps you are experiencing, you’ll want to bridge the gaps, right? Here’s how:
1. Determine the demand for skills
Ask yourself, what skills are in demand for the goals of your company.
2. Provide workplace training
Whether it’s by internal in-person or online presentations, or enrolling employees in training programs and courses, training sessions are a keyway to upskill your workforce.
3. Develop soft skills
This could be as simple as adding more internal team meetings or encouraging more team-building exercises. This puts focus on skills such as problem-solving and communication.
4. Invest in coaching
Rather than a sole focus of education as with training, coaching provides help and guidance on learning and improving, and is a long-term strategy where individualized goals can be achieved and upskilling is unique to a role, team, or individual.
5. Start to create tailored learning plans
These plans will differ role-to-role, as well as between levels of seniority, but you could think about creating unique, tailored plans for each team or even individual. This creates a focused plan to upskill your employees.
6. Offer mentors at work (or a buddy system)
Use the skills you already have in your workforce to help others by mentoring them or having a buddy to learn alongside with.
7. Track progress and development
Keep on top of the progress you’re making in upskilling your workforce. This way, you can see what’s working, what’s not, the benefits and more, keeping you on-top of the gaps that exist as well as providing a measurement of how well these are being closed.
Closing the skills gap is now, perhaps more than ever, becoming more obviously important. The benefits for your employees and your company are endless.
For your employees, they’ll see a improvement in performance, growth, career development, and self-confidence.
For the business, staff retention will be increased, your workforce will be better equipped to meet your goals and needs, a culture of learning will be enforced, and improvements in performance and revenue will come hand-in-hand.
Now that the pool of job seekers with the required skills is smaller but in higher demand, there’s never been a better time to invest in upskilling within your workforce.