After the first shock caused by the pandemic, many companies closed ranks in a relatively short period of time, making plans for survival. In many organizations, it proved to be crucial to quickly complement the skillset with IT skills or self-organization of work. The skills gaps that emerged were quite obvious and easy to identify. However, it is generally easy to miss the moment.
In 2010, one Mexican entity of Coca-Cola Company, entered the market with a new product—coffee sold from vending machines. The launch of the new product was based on a similar strategy to that of the other drinks of the American giant. Yet it soon became apparent that the strategy was failing. Both in terms of supply chain and distribution, and in terms of the operation and maintenance of the machines.
What is a skills gap?
The reason for the failure was the lack of internal skills to manage the new product, which requires specialist knowledge and specific skills. A skills gap usually appears when changes are implemented in the organization. Nevertheless, it is also the result of inadequate or inattentive management of skills, or involves employees leaving or changing their job. Sometimes companies have no influence on them because the labour market lacks candidates with the relevant competences.
A market full of gaps?
The skills gap is a common phenomenon that can affect a company at different stages of its activity. For instance, a study carried out in the US market by Deloitte in 2018 revealed, the skills gap could cause difficulties in filling as many as 2.4 million jobs in the industrial sector by 2028. The resulting losses are estimated at USD 2.5 trillion. Certainly, there are many examples of skill gaps like this.
The second wave of the epidemic in Poland, for example, has revealed a dramatic shortage of medical staff, including anaesthesiologists, who are the only ones who have the qualifications and skills to operate ventilators. This example, though extreme, makes us aware of the importance of strategic thinking and human resource management. In business reality, a way to avoid serious consequences can be to monitor internal resources on an ongoing basis, then to verify them against the planned strategy and to implement a coherent Learning & Development policy.
Diagnose a skills gap easily and implement measures to reduce it immediately.
How to identify a skills gap in the organization?
Identifying skills gaps should constitute an integral part of effective skills management. This process usually involves three aspects.
1. Skills Identification
When identifying the key skills needed to achieve objectives of an organisation, the starting point is always the business model and the resulting set of skills and knowledge. Nowadays, there is no universal set of skills assigned to a particular position. Skills must be verified and updated in line with the current needs. This is, of course, due to changes in the organization.
This can be restructuring, change in the business profile, launching a new product, or external factors such as an ongoing pandemic. Example? One of the main skills assigned to the position of Regional Sales Manager in the retail sector will be the ability to set short and long-term sales targets and to achieve them. Skills related to team management (motivation, support, recruitment) will depend on the scope of activities and size of the company. As the company grows, the skills related to direct sales will become secondary. In turn, critical and strategic thinking skills will come to the fore.
2. Verification and evaluation of the current situation
In identifying skills gaps, systematic and reliable employee assessments play an important role. This allows the verification of hard figures and soft skills, which are becoming more and more important. Leaders should assess the changing level of individual skills on a regular basis. Best with the use the available HR tools, including employee development platforms.
If your regional manager qualifies for an international leadership skills training program, you can expect them to increase or even exceed the expected level of skills in this area. What to do about the skills surplus? It can be used for training of other employees or promotion. Suppose that a clothing company is planning to expand its assortment with cosmetic products. It will be crucial for the success of this project to use or recruit people with specialist knowledge and skills. It is them that will launch a new product on the market. Knowing your internal resources accelerates this process. However, it is also a tool to motivate and appreciate employees who can use their skills in a new project.
3. Activities in the view of the knowledge gained
44% of medium-sized companies have experienced difficulties in finding people with the right skills on the labor market, which the pandemic has changed greatly. However, the lack of talents will continue to undermine the growth of many organizations. Ongoing monitoring of skill levels enables talent management, including more effective planning and execution of both internal and external recruitment processes. Additionally, a reliable and regular identification of skill surpluses and shortages is a valuable criterion in the implementation of development programs and promotion paths. For example, a regional manager acquiring new skills may be asked to lead a new project related to entering the cosmetics market. That’s because they have done a great job managing their team. Moreover, their participation in an international leadership program developed their strategic planning skills and improved his English language skills.
Managing internal skills is a powerful tool that can be critical for building competitive advantage. After all, it is well known that effective Talent Management is one of the most important internal processes of an organization. And the occurrence of a skills gap is a natural stage of business development. However, overlooking or ignoring it can have serious consequences and cause losses that will be difficult to make up for.