The Skills Gap – Part III – Addressing the Skills Gap

The skills gap is a very real problem with 40% of employers in a McKinsey & Company study claiming they’re unable to find qualified employees for even entry-level jobs. In previous articles, we looked at some of the factors that influence this gap, but now let’s dive into what companies can do to close it in within their company,  boost productivity and morale, and reduce staff turnover.

Start Where You Are

To figure out what your employees need to do their jobs competently, start by understanding what skills they have. Do they have the hard skills (technical know-how) to do their jobs, but lack soft skills like collaboration, critical thinking, leadership, and communication? Or vice-versa? Do they have, or lack, a mixture of the two? The hard fact of this matter is you can’t get where you want to go until you know where you are.

You need to gather and analyze some pretty specific data.  This gathering and understanding falls under the area of people analytics.   Training Industry recommends four tools to help you learn where skills gaps might be lurking in your company:

  • Employee assessment scores from specific courses or modules
  • Self, peer, or manager assessments
  • Formal observations or video assessments
  • Work samples and portfolios

Keep in mind that skills gaps aren’t generalized, they’re personal. You may have team members who are very qualified in relevant technologies but who lack certain soft skills.   You may have some team members with terrific leadership and innovative skills who aren’t technologically savvy. Skills assessments will find out where each person is. If you have a people analytics program in place, or underway, this information can easily be identified. 

Personalize Instruction and Learning Opportunities

Once you’ve determined strengths and weakness, shore up the weaknesses that each employee has.  “There is no one-size-fits-all training to close the gap. Large-scale corporate training, while vital, can only go so far. Personalized training can be the key difference in making each individual a stronger employee” (Association for Talent Development).  Investment in training reaps big dollars in quality improvement, reduction in staff turnover, higher levels of productivity and performance, and employee engagement.  Virtual training is more cost and time effective, and if you use a virtual training software, like Jigsaw Interactive, it can also produce better learning results. 

New skill requirements often surface faster than employees and employers can keep up with them. Today the half-life, which is the amount of time it takes for half of the knowledge associated with certain skills to become irrelevant, of technical skills is less than five years (Society for Human Resource Management).  

Employees are aware that their skills can fast become outdated, and according to a Strada-Gallup Education Consumer Survey of 350,000 people, nearly half of those polled believe they need more education and training to move up in their careers. The more personalized, engaging, real-world training provided, the faster the skills gap will be reduced.  Again, virtual instructor led training (VILT) using Jigsaw Interactive lets everyone personalize their learning, offers customizable small group project/activity rooms for a unique and engaging learning experience, and provides critical data around engagement, learning behaviors and activities, and other important information that will help identify additional components needed to understand the “people analytics” of your training programs.

Finally, make sure your expectations are clear from the start. In your job descriptions, be specific about what you’re looking for and find ways to measure that, while realizing that a perfect candidate who already knows it all may not exist. Look for candidates with the right kinds of skills and plenty of potential and be willing to take them the rest of the way.