When I hear “skills gap,” I think of a chasm as wide as the Grand Canyon quaking, like it’s the backdrop for the penultimate scene in a bad 90s action movie. Maybe I’m a little dramatic, but the skills gap is really rocking the talent development space lately — and it’s only getting worse.
From the United States to France and Germany to India, the rapid pace of change is being felt across the world. And it’s costing us all. The U.S. alone is expected to lose out on $8.5 trillion in unrealized revenue from the skills gap and talent shortage by 2030.
If you are in the human resources or talent management field, it’s easy to get a little dramatic when it’s getting harder and harder for your company to find the right fit for empty roles. Human resource leaders are reporting that skills only have a four-year average shelf life before a worker needs upskilling.
The skills businesses need for the future are constantly evolving. We’ve all seen how important adapting to digital offerings can be. Digital transformation either created a lifeline or a crushing cannonball to one’s business during the COVID lockdowns. But by growing creativity, adaptability and digital skill sets, your organization can upskill and reskill your workers more quickly — and even survive the next pandemic.
Understanding your organization’s skills gaps can help you boost engagement, drive productivity and keep your organization competitive for years to come. L&D leaders know upskilling (especially digital upskilling) and reskilling are top priorities, describing them as the most important functions of their L&D programs after leadership and management training.
Let’s take a look at the impact of the widening skills gap — and how you can build a stronger bridge over that shaky canyon.
What is the skills gap?
The skills gap is the difference between the skills a job seeker, candidate or employee has and those they need for the role they’re seeking, interviewing for, or hold. It’s the great divide between what an employer needs and what an employee (potential or established) can deliver. A skills gap can also occur across a team, department or entire organization when its aggregate skills don’t line up with what’s needed to drive the business forward.
The gap can include technical skills or not. While companies in France are currently seeing a major digital and technical skills shortage, many in Brazil are experiencing a time management and leadership skills shortage. And because an enormous amount of us are still communicating through pixelated rectangles on our computer screens, communication skills are the most important skill for the future, according to Duarte.
The Impacts of the Skills Gap
For many organizations, the impacts of a widening skills gap are long-term. Having a large skills gap can create added stress, lower the quality of work, slow down employee productivity and create disengagement with your workforce, which leads to issues with retention and cuts into your bottom line.
Looking for talent and not finding the right fit is also leaving companies in a precarious position. As vacancies remain open, workers find themselves doing more work and stretching themselves thin to fill holes in production. Stretching employees to cover too much work can lead to increased burnout and low morale, which leads to even more turnover and more open positions.
All of these impacts can lead to a big loss in revenue from the top to the bottom line.
Bridging the Skills Gap
You can’t glue a canyon back together, but you can start crossing the divide by laying one board of your bridge at a time.
As with anything in talent development and workforce planning, an analysis is needed. Performing a skills gap analysis will help highlight the skills your organization values, which ones you have, which ones are missing and how exactly you should go about creating your bridge to the future.
To perform a skills gap analysis, first find out what skills your organization has. You can do this by creating a skills taxonomy, which is an evolving list of skills for each current and future role within your organization. Once you have this taxonomy in hand, you can determine if the skills it describes are outdated, need refreshing or good to go.
Next, create a skills map of what your employees already have. This is different than a taxonomy because it’s a visual representation of what skills your employees possess or are working toward. It’s often confused with competency mapping, but there’s an important difference rooted in level of detail.
Once you have your skills gap analysis in place, you can decide how to create your rainbow bridge to Valhalla. From there, everything boils down to two options: develop your internal talent or hire new external talent.
Developing Internal Talent
If you develop internal talent, you can drive success by creating strategic upskilling or reskilling programs using a learning platform that supports self-directed development. You can also offer stretch assignments focused on missing skill sets to help current employees build new skills or even grow hidden expertise. And by offering your people upward mobility pathways that are accessible to all can infuse your workforce with new energy and close the skill gaps you need to address.
Eighty-seven percent of organizations surveyed worldwide recognized the widening skills gap occurring or about to occur amongst their staff, but only 53 percent of them were able or willing to reskill their own workforce to close those gaps.
Bringing in External Talent
Sometimes you have to hire outside talent or consultants. Your skills map and gap analysis is going to help you find the people you need, because you can use it to ask staffing agencies or job candidates great questions about the skills they can offer. And this can save you a lot of heartache — and splinters! — in the long run.
Getting the Most from Your Learning Tech
When COVID hit, many organizations realized they needed reliable video communication platforms, online collaboration applications and instant messaging software to compete. This necessitated generous IT budgets, and L&D received some of that largesse.
The great digital transformation is not only upon us, it’s pricey. Organizations across the world will spend $4.4 Trillion on IT in 2022. But what good is having the most impressive instructional design software if there are no well-versed eLearning professionals in your organization? What are you going to do with the data you receive from your learning systems if your people can’t do data analysis? Who will integrate your tech stack if you keep purchasing the right software but don’t have the right people to correctly deploy those applications?
Your organization could lose millions of dollars if you don’t prepare your workforce. To stay in the game and support your growing business, start recognizing and fixing your growing skill gaps. Do anything less and you’ll risk getting sucked into the void of business history books.