A skills gap is the difference between the skills you need and want your employees to have and the skills that they currently have. Having these gaps is completely normal and does not reflect negatively on the employee or the organization. In 2022, there are some common skills that are missing across many organizations, but there are ways to close these gaps.
Common Skills Gaps:
- Analytical skills
- Database management
- Ability to obtain insight from data
- Effective communication
- Critical thinking
- Ability to work as a team
- Using data analysis tools
- Software testing
- Artificial intelligence
- UX Design
How to Identify Skills Gaps
The 5 Moments of Need is a model created by Bob Mosher & Conrad Gottfredson, that considers the different moments necessary to go from learning something new to using it successfully and regularly in the workplace. Supporting the learner at each moment of need gives the learner the opportunity to truly learn and integrate new behaviors:
- Learning For the First Time (New): This is the perfect time to introduce new skills, processes, and characteristics. This can be done in different ways for example: e-courses, modules, or events, any of these training methods work if they are engaging, interactive, and necessary for each individual involved.
- Learning More (More): All these moments must come from the learners, their need for “more” knowledge, skills, or experience will help them retain the information being taught. Wanting “more” will make them eager to use what they learned and able to apply it to real life situations. If the individual takes an interest in “more” it is important to provide them with the necessary skills and support needed for their success.
- Applying What You Have Learned (Apply): This moment applies to on-the-job and real-life situations where you can support the employee by providing references and transition support: manual, notes, microlearning, reminders, learning in the flow of work, and managers/champions/peers. This moment is lynchpin for transferring learning to new behaviors. This is about helping learners not to get stuck in a situation and providing opportunities for the learner to practice safely. Having access to these supports will build confidence and competence for the learner.
- When Things Go Wrong (Problem Solving): In this moment it is important to have immediate access to help, such as from an onsite manager or experienced peer, access to FAQ’s, help desk, etc. These moments often are ones that cannot be trained or foreseen, so having a help process in place is critical. Social learning and learning in the flow of work are excellent supports for this moment.
- When Things Change (Change): This moment can be particularly challenging because it usually entails unlearning and relearning. Trying to change a practiced skill or process is challenging for the human brain. Often these moments require access to other people and new information for the learner to navigate. If you are truly trying to create mastery, you must support the learner all the way through this moment. Some good tools are repetition with changing parameters, access to other employees to make sense of changes and their impact on what has been learned, and follow-on learning and performance support.
How to Bridge the Gap Between Training and Performance
- KPIs: Key Performance Indicators are extremely important and dependable when wanting to determine skills gaps in your organization. This is a perfect tool to determine how well an employee is performing compared to the organization’s compensation.
- Assessments: Having monthly or quarterly employee assessments can also determine any skills gaps. This assessment can be tests, surveys, quizzes, role-play, virtual engagements, etc. These assessments can directly challenge an employee on certain skills to determine where the skills gaps are for that individual employee.
- 360-Review: This method reflects on an individual employee by gathering feedback from their colleagues, managers, department heads, and even client feedback and reviews submitted on the web. It is important to ask specific questions about the employee’s performance and what others view as a strength and weakness of that individual. It’s a 360 review because it goes around in a complete circle gathering feedback from multiple sources and bringing it back to the employee.
- Observations: This method can seem obvious to most, but if done properly and consistently it can be extremely beneficial. Having a manager or department head hold monthly or quarterly observation days with each employee is ideal for this method of skill identification. This can consist of a full day of shadowing, or just a half day, and must be done consistently without any direct involvement throughout the observation. The one observing should not interfere; instead they should gather notes and tips to then develop a plan to help the employee enhance certain skills they are lacking or need improvement on.
- Performance Benchmarks: This final method would consist of the standard soft and hard skills that will be expected of the employee. There should be specific examples and details of what will be expected of the employee throughout their employment. This will also have to be consistent and documented by managers to hold the employees accountable. It is also important that this does not result in a negative repercussion, but instead support and positivity to help them reach the skill standards even if there is a gap present.
- Insight on the organization: By identifying the skill gaps in your organization, you will be able to determine where the organization is at in real-time compared to the image of where you would like the organization to be. This will allow you to focus on the needs instead of blindly teaching and skilling employees, cutting down on time and costs for the organization.
- Enhancing individuals’ L&D: Identifying skills gaps in an organization is not only beneficial to the organization, but to the individuals as well. Helping an employee with their skills will empower them, increase their productivity, and increase their trust in the organization, resulting in higher employee retention. Supporting your employees as individuals is incredibly important, and that can be done by investing in their skills.
- Planning in the workplace: By identifying the skill gaps in your organization you can plan your trainings according to what is needed instead of what is traditionally taught. Planning according to your organization is more beneficial than planning according to what is the “norm.” This will allow for extra time spent on what is lacking and less time spent on what is already successful. You can then modify your training schedules per department or skills for specific positions.
- Make recruiting more efficient: This benefit is simple: if your organization knows exactly what it needs, hiring new employees will be faster and simpler. Identifying the gaps will give the recruiters an exact skill to look for when hiring, cutting down once again on time and costs.
- Advantage over competitors: Identifying the skills gaps in your company gives you an advantage over your competitors in multiple ways.
- Efficient recruitment: Hiring prime prospects before your competitors.
- Less money spent on trainings: You will cut down on funds for training and can use the extra money for different areas in the organization. Your competitors will still be using all their funds on training, giving your organization a financial advantage.
- Power for success: Becoming a more skilled company will allow for more productivity, effectiveness, and efficiency, making you powerful in the industry of your competitors.
You now know the most common skills that are causing gaps in multiple organizations this year, and you have the tools to identify these gaps in your own organization. Remember that minimizing these gaps is not only beneficial to the organization, but also to each employee on an individual level. Keeping the support and focus on the employees will make them more willing to learn these new skills and apply them to the organization’s benefit. There are many reasons to identify these gaps ahead of time, and the top reasons are listed, but think about how it will impact your organization specifically. Each organization is different, and they have different goals and needs. Take the ideal image and base your trainings from that. Do not try to fix these gaps as they come, but instead get ahead of your competitors by minimizing these gaps before they have an impact on the organization.