Addressing the Skills Gap Through Workforce Development

June 28, 2023

How can companies deal with the skills gap? One approach leading organizations are taking is upskilling employees in-house with learning management systems.

How can companies deal with the skills gap? Many leading organizations are upskilling employees in-house with learning management systems.

Mind the gap. The skills gap, that is.

Automation, AI, and the gig economy have caused major workforce disruptions, shifting what companies need from workers. Many labor-intensive office jobs can now be efficiently outsourced to robots, who can produce convincingly human copy or automate otherwise tedious project management tasks.

This has lead to a huge digital skills gap in today’s workforce. The jobs with the highest security in a future of automation are those that require skills like creativity, strategic thinking, and experience with coding, data, and software.

So, how can business leaders upskill and reskill their employee to stave off a workforce crisis that threatens to eliminate 26 million jobs within the next five years?

In this article we'll explore modern trends in skills gaps, including how to identify them and strategies to close them.

What is a Skills Gap?

A skills gap is the difference between the skills, qualifications, and experience your staff currently possess and what is needed for your business to work efficiently.

It occurs when education (at every level) has not kept pace with the demands of the business, especially in relation to emerging technologies.

Organizations are finding that workers are missing the skills and experience required to keep pace with rapid advancements in technology.

These changing business environments mean new skills, or expansion of existing ones, are needed in almost every type of organization. When it comes to recruiting and onboarding, organizations are looking for recruits who either have these new skills or are ready to take on learning opportunities within the business itself.

Where is the demand for skills growing?

According to the World Economic Forum, the roles experiencing the biggest decrease in demand (and greatest risk of redundancy due to automation) include jobs like data entry clerks, accountants, business administration managers, customer service reps, and general operations managers.

Per the same report, the roles with the fastest-growing demand are heavily technology-centric and include:

  • Data analysts and scientists
  • AI and machine learning specialists
  • Big data specialists
  • Digital marketing and strategy specialists
  • Process automation specialists
  • Business development professionals
  • Digital transformation specialists
  • Information security analysts
  • Software and applications developers
  • Internet of things specialists

Comparing these lists makes one thing abundantly clear: digital skills are becoming increasingly foundational, and employers (and employees) need to keep up. We are moving from a future of menial tasks to one that requires honed critical thinking and tools that can help organizations future-proof their operations.

How to Identify Skill Gaps?

So, how do you identify if there are skill gaps within your organization and, specifically, what they are?

The answers to these questions can help you create talent development strategies to tackle the gaps.

1. Ask your managers and supervisors

If skills gaps exist in your employees, the first people to notice will be managers, supervisors, and team leaders.

Any skill or ability shortfalls should be highlighted by them, and any assessments should be based on both their personal observations and solid data related to the efficiency and productivity of individual and team performances.

Consider asking your management and supervisory staff to collate this data and list what skills and/or experiences they feel employees may be lacking.

2. Conduct a skills gap analysis

A skills gap analysis is a systematic approach to evaluating current workforce skills and comparing them to the skills required to meet organizational goals. This exercise involves identifying the key proficiencies your organization needs, and then measuring employee competency.

The goal is to see if there's a gap between what skills your employees have and what skills they need. You can use this information to develop training programs or other interventions to help your employees close the skills gap.

3. Supplement with HR data

What data does your HR department collect from current and potential staff? Ideally, they should have a performance management platform that includes a comprehensive list of previous experience, qualifications, and any further training(s) completed while employed by you.

This data is incredibly valuable, because it can give you an almost instant overview of any current or potential skill gaps within your workforce. You should be able to analyze what percent of your workforce has certain certifications, or the last time they engaged in a training module. This is useful for seeing where any weakness or gaps are at scale.

4. Get to know your people

Talking to your staff or asking them to complete a survey can help identify current and future skills gaps.

Ask your employees directly: “What challenges are you facing in your day-to-day responsibilities?” and “What training do you need to complete your job more effectively?”.

Depending on the size of your workforce, 1:1s are a great way to gather this information. For larger workforces, you can send out an employee survey or ask managers to conduct interviews and provide skills gap examples from their findings.

Tackling Skill Gaps Within Your Workforce

The time to repair the roof is when the sun is shining.

If skill gaps don’t already exist in your business, it’s likely they will in the future. So, it’s critical to ensure strategies are in place before they occur.

Different tactics will be more effective depending on the sector in which you work, but implementing an effective game plan that suits your business’ needs will help both narrow any skill gaps and formulate successful and ongoing employee development strategies.

After you’ve identified any existing or potential skill gaps you can begin putting together your blueprint:

Reskill and upskill your current workforce

Already experiencing skills gaps? We suggest starting with internal reskilling.

Reskilling is teaching employees new skills in order to take on new responsibilities or a new role.

A few examples of what internal reskilling might look like:

  • Internal training program. A homegrown curriculum, built for and by your organization.
  • Apprenticeships. Sponsor an apprenticeship program for training employees to advance in their careers.
  • Vendor partnerships. Partner with third-party corporate training companies to provide tailored training opportunities.
  • Peer coaching and mentoring. Leverage the internal expertise of your workforce and create mentor/mentee relationships to pass on valuable skills.

Invest in a Learning Management System

As you focus on training current employees, consider investing in a robust learning management system (LMS). An LMS can hold a vast library of training content that equips employees with the skills they need.

An LMS not only serves as a huge repository of customizable learning materials but it can also significantly lighten the load of HR professionals when it comes to organizational development. Required trainings can be with specific courses queued up for employees based on department, seniority, specialization, and more.

Don’t forget employee-friendliness. The right LMS should also be easy to use (and accessible from any device), so workers are empowered to self-direct their own professional development, whenever they have the time, without HR intervention.

Make it easy for subject matter experts to pass on knowledge.

There are few minds more able to help shape your workforce than subject matter experts (SMEs).

Think about how easy it is learn from world-renowned experts on platforms like Coursera or MasterClass. How can your ensure your organization has the same capabilities to pass on professional knowledge from internal experts or external consultants?

One way is with integrated video solutions that allow your internal SMEs to easily record themselves teaching valuable skills. You can even easily save these recordings within an LMS for easy access for current and future employees.

Adjust your recruitment

Bridging skill gaps is not only about your current workforce, but also looking at how and who you recruit in the future.

Make a list of the skills and experiences you feel your current employees are lacking and share with your HR managers and recruiters This can be used to add skillsets to your job descriptions or creating "specialized" positions.

You may not always find a perfect fit, so it’s important to ensure potential recruits are willing to undertake further training as well.

Diversify your talent search

Many organizations think that to close skill gaps, they need to focus on younger demographics when recruiting.

But, depending on your needs, you should be looking to expand any demographic parameters, including age or location, and consider more diverse talent pools during your recruitment process.

Work with university associations and job fairs that serve diverse communities to expand your talent pool. Go beyond the job board behemoths and post your open roles to community-specific job portals as well. Consider opening remote roles to avoid restricting talent by location.

Lastly, don’t forget the power of employee referrals. If your organization has employee resource groups (ERGs), tap into those networks to source diverse candidates as well.

Forecasting Skills Gaps and Open Roles

While the automation wave certainly merits a great deal of organizational preparation, the good news is that skill gaps aren’t mysterious, unpredictable forces of nature.

In fact, best-in-class organizations have already implemented HR and payroll solutions capable of collecting data that can help forecast skill gaps and open roles with minimal effort on the part of HR.

For instance, a growing number of workers obtaining professional certifications are earning them digitally, creating more visibility for employers.

Kristin Sharp of Credly points out that “90% of Autodesk badge earners in a recent survey noted using their digital badge on a digital resume, portfolio, or email signature.”

“Creating this talent transparency allows both individuals and companies to effectively invest in new skills,” Sharp says.

This same logic is true for organizations that use formal LMS solutions. The beauty of this digitized approach is it provides talent transparency throughout the organization, and gives employees the opportunity to:

  • Choose from a variety of course methods, including on-demand and webinars
  • Search by training title
  • Filter by supervisor, department, cost center, or office location
  • Take advantage of training opportunities anytime, anywhere through the self-service portal

Plus, the system can be set up to send workers reminders to finish incomplete training and makes it easy for HR professionals to assign state-required compliance courses or assess the effectiveness of training through quizzes and surveys.

What’s more, a formal LMS can keep track of classes taken, modules completed, and credentials earned by employees across the company, giving detailed insights into skill gaps and unexpected skill resources within the organization.

These skills gap statistics can empower leaders to shift company direction accordingly to close the talent gap.

Closing the Skills Gap with the Right Tools and Strategies

In this age of growing skill gaps, organizations simply can’t afford to not arm their workers with the knowledge they’ll need to succeed now and in the future.

In a jarring landscape where workforce changes are coming thick and fast, now is the time for HR to take the lead in human capital management (HCM), and collaborate with business leaders to drive organizations into the future with cohesive and robust development strategies.

“No longer can HR afford to sit in the traditional silos of the function, simply playing a supporting role and primarily operating as a processor,” Deloitte said in its report “Estimating the ROI of an HCM Solution."

It’s time for HR to take a more strategic role, and it all starts with empowering organizations through the right tools and technologies.

Download your copy of Deloitte’s report to see how the right HCM solution can offer potential time and cost savings in ten core HR responsibility areas.


Grow Your Talent with Better Training

Now, more than ever, employees want more career development opportunities from their employers. The right Learning Management System (LMS) can help develop new skills while training your workforce on company policies, products, and more. Empower your employees to grow professionally with LMS, a modern, mobile solution that fits different learning styles and connects to your existing systems and processes.

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