The Skill Gap is Costing You – Here’s How to Close It

How is the “skill gap” affecting your company? More than 50% of employers have open positions for which they cannot find qualified applicants. When jobs remain open for longer than three months, it costs an average of $14,000 (with one in six companies losing nearly twice that). Fine, you’ll just promote from within. Except that 90% of employers report that their people lack “promotable skills.” The bottom line: you’re in trouble if you can’t start closing these gaps, and fast.

Helping Your Employees Help You

Identifying gaps in employee skill sets is based on their role and on their level. To figure out where, and how wide, those gaps are, you have to benchmark the job. The job, not the people currently filling it. Why this distinction? Because those people may not be the best people for that role.

By benchmarking the job, you identify the skills, behaviors, and motivators of the ideal candidates – the people who should be in the roles. When you have the benchmark, you can run a gap report to see where the discrepancies between ideal and real lie.

Identify Gaps – But Then What?

Once you figure out what the gaps are, you have to determine which need to be addressed first. It’s not necessarily the biggest gaps. Focus on what makes the most sense for the role, the level of the employee, and what the organization as a whole needs at this time. Ask yourself, “Which skills are most critical for the job’s success?”

Here again, the gap report can be an invaluable tool. It might, for instance, identify that this employee has an issue with personal accountability. If they’re going to be running projects, you need to help them strengthen that skill through a coach, mentor, individual development plan, or other targeted approaches.

If, eventually, they’re going to be a project manager but do not own the skills to hold themselves or their people accountable, it’s a huge red flag. Two options: either strengthen those skills, or break the news that they’re going to have to come up with a new career track.

Involve Your People

Actually, there’s a third option: ask the person. “Do you want to be a project manager? What do you think you want to do?” Maybe they don’t want to manage or lead. Not everyone aspires to that role. It’s important that you talk to your people. Once you know what the job requires and identify where the gaps are, have the conversation.

Do not put people in roles they don’t want to be in! It happens, especially with subject matter experts or people who excel in a more technical niche. They often want to just do what they do, contribute as an individual. That’s fine. There are still skills they can strengthen, but where they want to go will help identify the ones worth working on, the ones which will benefit both the organization and the individuals.

Skills gaps are a growing concern – and cost – for organizations. If you’re not working proactively to both hire people with the necessary skills and to develop them internally today, there’s no way you’re going to have the workforce you need to compete and thrive tomorrow.