In today's economy, it is more important than now than during any previous generations to equip your workforce with the skills they need to succeed. If your employees don’t have that knowledge or expertise, you have a skill gap.
Skills shortages can be a huge problem for businesses, whereas closing them will be a big advantage. In this blog post, we will discuss what a skill gap is and why they matter in 2023.
What is a skill gap?
A skill gap is the difference between the knowledge or experience required to complete a task or drive certain desired behavior and the actual abilities that an individual possesses. In other words, it is the gap between the skills that employees have and the skills that employers need.
Skill gaps can exist among individuals, teams, or even entire organizations. The abilities that employees are lacking can include those categorized as both hard and soft skills.
A hard skills gap means that employees lack the specific technical skills required to do their jobs. A soft skills gap, on the other hand, refers to a deficiency in interpersonal skills such as communication, leadership, or collaboration skills.
Why do skill gaps exist?
There are a number of factors that can lead to hard and soft skills gaps, for example a discrepancy between the needs of employers and the training or education that employees have received. Such a mismatch makes it hard for companies to identify suitable job candidates, and for individuals to find work that they can do properly.
Another reason for skill gaps is the ever-changing nature of the workforce. As technology advances and new industries emerge, the hard skills required to succeed in the workplace are constantly changing.
This can be a challenge for employers who need to find workers for existing and new positions with the right skills, as well as for employees who must strive to keep their skills up-to-date.
Finally, skill gaps can also be caused by a lack of employer investment in training and development. In some cases, employers simply don't provide new opportunities for employees to develop the skills in general areas they need to be successful.
Why do skill gaps matter?
Regardless of the cause of skill gaps, they can have a negative impact on any company – both in terms of efficiency and its bottom line. Employees are a business’s most valuable asset, but a lack of the required expertise or know-how can equally be their biggest hindrance.
Skill gaps can make it difficult for employers to find skilled employees. In fact, according to recent studies, almost 50% of industry leaders say that they have difficulty finding qualified candidates and can’t fill open positions simply because they haven’t received sufficient training or lack the basic skills required.
This is a huge problem in virtually every industry, and it's only going to get worse in the future with a growing skills gap. That's why it's crucial for businesses and job seekers alike to pay attention to and address the skills gap now, if they aren't doing so already.
What are the negative impacts of skill gaps?
When skill gaps aren’t addressed, there can be a ripple effect of negative consequences for companies. Ultimately, all of the possible impacts of skill gaps detailed below will result in loss of revenue for a business.
#1 Decreased productivity
If employees don't have the skills they need to do their jobs properly, it can lead to reduced work efficiency. Lower productivity of staff means that a company will get less done than expected in any given time frame, and that work will have to be caught up otherwise deadlines will not be met.
#2 Increase in mistakes
Employees who are struggling to keep up with their workloads may result in them losing focus and making more errors. This can cause delays, rework, and even scrap work, which can all be costly and time-consuming to fix. In some cases, these mistakes can even lead to safety issues, for example.
#3 Demotivated personnel
Employees who feel like they're not good enough at their jobs or that are constantly being asked to do things they're not trained for can soon lose the will to work. In the long run, lack of motivation can be a cause of increased absenteeism and staff turnover, meaning more teams of new hires learning new skills all over again.
#4 Lower morale
When teams are constantly under stress because of their skill gaps, it can lead to a loss of confidence, enthusiasm, and discipline. This can have a negative impact on team dynamics, communication, and collaboration.
#5 Staff frustration
If employees feel like they're constantly struggling to keep up or are often making mistakes, it can lead to annoyance and burnout. In some cases, it may even lead to high turnover rates as employees seek out companies where they feel more confident in their abilities.
#6 Bigger recruitment budget
Employers may have to spend more money on recruiting and training, as they constantly have to look for new employees to fill skill gaps. In addition, they may have to offer higher salaries in order to attract qualified professionals who are in high demand for a specific role.
#7 Dissatisfied customers
If customer-facing employees are not properly qualified for their roles because of skill gaps, it can lead to poor customer service. This can cause clients to have a poor experience with the company and take their business elsewhere.
Also, when staff members are visibly demotivated, it can reflect poorly on the company as a whole and may dissuade potential customers from buying.
#8 Decreased flexibility
Skill gaps can limit an organization’s ability to innovate and be agile in response to change, which is more important than ever for organizations in today’s rapidly changing world. Addressing skill gaps, on the other hand, gives businesses the power to adapt quickly and position themselves for success, both now and in the future.
#9 Limited growth potential
When companies are unable to find employees with the right skill sets, it can hold them back from expanding into new markets or product lines. Skill gaps can therefore limit the growth potential of a business and prevent it from capitalizing on new opportunities.
#10 Difficulty attracting top talent
Today's job market is highly competitive, and skilled workers have their pick of employers. If your company is seen as being behind the curve in terms of its workforce skills, you may have trouble attracting top talent—which can further limit your growth potential.
#11 Inefficient work process
If your employees lack the skills necessary to work effectively, it can lead to inefficiencies and bottlenecks in your business functions. This can have a trickle down effect throughout your organization, impacting everything from productivity to customer satisfaction.
How can skill gaps be closed?
In order to address skill gaps, employers can offer training and development programs to help employees gain the new skills they need to perform the required duties to the best of their ability and be successful in their roles.
From a personal perspective
There are many resources available to help job seekers succeed in closing skill gaps by themselves, and it’s never too late to learn new skills and develop. Some steps that any individual can take to address skill building are attending workshops and webinars, reading books and articles, or studying online courses and how-to-guides.
If current employees personally determine and want to close skill gaps, they should ask a manager or HR representative about what resources are available to them. Many companies offer training programs to help workers further their careers, and some will even reimburse team members for taking courses related to their job.
From an organizational perspective
The first step in the process to identify skills gaps is by HR departments assessing the current skills that your employees have and what skills they need to be successful in their roles. This is known as a skill gap analysis, and conducting one has several separate benefits:
- Gives insights into employees' knowledge – identify which members of staff have the most expertise in certain business functions, as well as those who have the capabilities to perform other roles. This is invaluable information for promoting or restructuring teams.
- Allows for succession planning – similarly, if an employee with a critical skill set leaves the company, a skills gap analysis may identify which other employees have the potential to fill that role.
- Helps to fine-tune job descriptions – understanding what skills are actually required for a certain position means you are able to write more accurate and focused job descriptions, making it easier to attract the right candidates when recruiting.
- Improves communication – analyzing skills data can help HR professionals break down silos and communicate better with other departments about the skills that are needed across the organization.
- Allows for targeted training initiatives – once you know where the skill gaps are, you can design specific development programs to help employees improve their abilities in those areas.
Determining what current skills employees have and where there is a mismatch via a skills gap analysis makes it possible to create a plan for education and development that will help get your workforce up to speed in their current jobs. In some cases, it may be necessary to bring in outside experts to provide training on specific topics.
Additionally, you may need to consider revamping your hiring practices for open positions in order to only find candidates who already have the skills you require and so don’t need any additional training. Taking these steps will help close any skill gaps and set your business up for success.
Discrepancies between the skills employers want and those their employees actually possess can have a serious impact on businesses if they're not addressed proactively. However, there are many resources available to both parties that can assist them with closing skill gaps and have the best chance of a successful future.
Have you ever experienced the effects of a skill gap in your workplace? Perhaps a human resources management tool like Sloneek can help you avoid and address any potential skill gaps in your organization.