Skills Gap: How To Understand and Use it to Your Advantage

6 minute read

Posted by Chris Platts on 2 November 2020

The future of work has already arrived, is your business ready for it? Skills gaps represent an existential threat to companies and a constant headache for recruiters.

The required skillsets for jobs and industries are constantly evolving. According to the World Economic Forum’s Future of Jobs report 2020 50% of all employees will need reskilling by 2025 and 40% of current workers’ core skills are expected to change in the next 5 years. It is therefore essential that organisations are familiar with any current or future skills gaps they could face.

In this post, we will explain the importance of identifying skill gaps, how to tackle these and how to hire smart to avoid facing more skills gaps further down the line.

What is skills gap and why does it matter?

The ‘skills gap’ refers to a mismatch of what employers require and what employees or job seekers are offering. It is important for organisations to be aware of what the workforce is excelling in, and where support is needed. Being aware of skill gaps within the workforce is the first step in filling those gaps and meeting future goals. 

Skills gaps are becoming increasingly common between employers and job seekers. There are not enough of the ‘right’ candidates for the job vacancies that are emerging. On average, companies estimate that around 40% of workers will require reskilling of six months or less and 94% of business leaders report that they expect employees to pick up new skills on the job, a sharp uptake from 65% in 2018.

If skill gaps are ignored or go unnoticed, they are likely to cause your business to fall behind competitors. That’s why we are explaining how to understand skill gaps and how to use them to your advantage. 

How to understand skills gap and use it to your advantage.

So here’s how to avoid facing a skills gap

Know your business

It is valuable to know how each department in the company is coping with the changing world of work. Having a clear overview of the organisation and where it’s heading will help to determine which teams are not meeting objectives and why. You can look at resources and evaluate individual performance to determine what skills each team requires training on.

Measure your skills

Evaluate how your employees are contributing to the business by conducting surveys and skill assessments. Creating a skills matrix could be a great place to start.

The top skills and skill groups that employers see as rising in prominence include critical thinking and problem-solving, as well as skills in self-management such as active learning, resilience, stress tolerance, and flexibility.

Skills gap: Top 10 skills 2025
Source: https://www.weforum.org/reports/the-future-of-jobs-report-2020

Be Generous with Training

Providing your employees with the requisite training will help to fill skill gaps and provide you with an engaged and productive workforce.

Employees are often keen to receive career development training and will be appreciative. There has been a four-fold increase in the numbers of individuals seeking out opportunities for learning online through their own initiative, a five-fold increase in employer provision of online learning opportunities to their workers and a nine-fold enrolment increase for learners accessing online learning through government programs.

You can provide training internally or externally, reaching out to professional training firms that provide workshops or seminars can be helpful and a good team-building exercise.

Hire Smart 

Aim to foresee where skill gaps may arise in the future and build out your workforce plan accordingly. Don’t hire employees reactively every time a new need arises, instead focus on building a proactive recruitment plan. Have a long-term strategy for all new employees and make sure they fill requirements for the present and the near future. Using pre-hire assessments to measure not only the skills you currently need but are likely to need in the near future is a great way to proactively reduce your skills gap.

Skills gap - reskilling
Source: https://www.weforum.org/reports/the-future-of-jobs-report-2020

Refocus Your Recruitment Mindset

Whilst you should be specific about what you need from a future employee, you should also keep an open mind. It is unhelpful to create an overly exhaustive list of requirements for applicants to meet – you are only limiting your range of candidates.

Try to focus on skills and abilities that you require but also acknowledge non-tangible qualities such as commitment and drive. Allow yourself to identify overlooked and diverse talent pools. Different candidates that your workforce may not already have are likely to bring something new and beneficial to your organization.

Be Ready

Always be thinking ahead. How is your organization prepared to change with the times? What future work trends could emerge that may affect your organization? How could the industry change with emerging technology and do you have people in the business that will be able to adapt? You may need to fill positions that don’t exist yet.

Skills gap: time needed
Source: https://www.weforum.org/reports/the-future-of-jobs-report-2020

Beat the Competition

84% of employers are set to rapidly digitalize working processes, including a significant expansion of remote work—with the potential to move 44% of their workforce to operate remotely. Identifying growing skill and working trend gaps in your workforce and industry will put you ahead of your competitors who are less equipped to overcome them.

How to understand skills gap and use it to your advantage.

Tips on handling skills gap

In summary, you should start by evaluating the teams within your organization and determine where attention is required. A good knowledge of your business as a whole will save you from skill gaps slipping under your radar. 

Training is key! Training will make your current employees feel valued and new/prospective employees be more productive. A high quality workforce is likely to be the highest determinant of business success, so don’t hesitate to offer training and support.

Thirdly, make sure you have a robust hiring strategy. Be specific but open-minded about the candidates you consider. Think about what each person can bring to your business. 

Closing

Automation, in tandem with the COVID-19 recession, is creating a ‘double-disruption’ scenario for workers. By approaching your skills gap head-on, you can get more comfortable in knowing where you need to invest in training, resourcing and how you are going to actively tackle them. For many companies skills gaps are a weakness, but you can turn them into strengths!

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