According to Lorri Freifield in Training Mag, “solving a skill gap is like solving a puzzle—not only do you have to make the pieces fit, you have to make sure you have all the necessary pieces from the get-go.”
What is a skill gap analysis?
A skill gap exists when the talents and competencies of your workforce do not match up to the requirements or needs of the job at hand. In other words, there is a “gap” between the skills your team has and the skills it needs. This can cost companies lots of money, especially if your company is competing in a fast-paced field like technology.
Companies can use skill gap analysis to catalog the skills and competencies of their current workforce and compare that with the needs of the company. This can be extended to future planning as well, such as 3 or 5 year plans. If your company is getting ready to take on a big new project, you want to know if your team has what it takes, right?
Why is skill gap analysis important?
Skill gap analysis in the workplace is important because you need to make sure your company has the skills it needs to succeed in today’s workforce. If your organization is targeting a new vertical, for example, it helps to know if your employees have the skills to perform successfully in this area. Sure, you may have hired them for one thing, but we all know that job roles and requirements can change over time.
Skill gap analysis helps organizations and their employees continue to grow and learn in today’s fast-paced world. And organizations that choose not to engage in professional development are often left in the dust by more innovative competitors. James Bessen at the Harvard Business Review suggests that many employers struggle to hire because of skill gaps in the workforce, so it definitely pays to have up-to-date and well-educated employees. Skill gap analysis doesn’t have to be difficult, costly, or time-consuming. We’ll go through a step-by-step process to gather information and make the most of your findings.
How to perform a skill gap analysis
Describe roles in your organization
First, take a good long look at the members of your organization. What teams and departments exist? What different kinds of roles? Sit down and make a list of the different job titles at your company. If some of them have very similar competencies, you may combine them into one role for the purposes of this exercise.
Describe skills and priorities
Now you want to understand what your company is up against. What skills are a priority for your organization going forward? Do you plan to take on new responsibilities or projects in the near future? This is also a good time to consider your company’s missions, goals, and values.
Come up with a list of the most important skills your team needs, and how important those skills are. Cognology suggests that you list both behavioral and technical skills. Both are important. For example, your list might look something like this:
- Database management
- Customer support
- Web development
- Digital marketing
Take a moment to assign a priority to each of those skills, as well. This list will come in handy for the next steps.
Perform an assessment
There are a couple of different ways you can go about performing a skill gap assessment. Ideally, you want something that can give you the most information with the lowest disruption to your employees. Workable suggests one of these strategies to collect information on your team’s current skillset:
- Use feedback from performance reviews
- Prepare a survey and distribute to employees
- Conduct interviews with employees
The method you choose will depend on your company’s size, resources, and goals.
Compile and analyze results
Once you have data from your assessments, interviews, or feedback, what do you do with it?
First you want to get it into a form that is easily manageable and ready to analyze. For many organizations, this takes the form of a simple spreadsheet. Using the list of skills we created earlier, you can compare the reported skill levels for each position with your requirements. Any discrepancies are your new skill gaps.
Addressing skill gaps
If skill gaps exist (and they often do), then you can use that knowledge proactively. Here are some ways to address skill gaps:
If there are large gaps and the need can be fulfilled by one or a few people, consider hiring externally for people who can help fill in these gaps. Of course, you will still need to develop your organization’s talents over time, but if you find the right person it can be a quick win. The feasibility of this option will depend on your headcount constraints and budget.
If you can’t hire new employees to fill the skill gaps, it’s time to make the best of the ones you do have. Over half the companies in a recent survey say they use training to develop their employees’ skills in-house using tools like learning management systems, so they are able to fill open positions internally. Over time, your team will continue to grow and develop new talents to meet the needs of a changing workplace. You have options for employee training. Here are a few you can consider:
- Online courses/eLearning
- Individual training
- Hire a private training company
- Mentorship programs
- Offer a stipend to employees to attend conferences, take courses, etc.
When you address skill gaps in your organization quickly and carefully, both your team and your bottom line will thank you.