In the fast-paced world we live in today, there is a gap between what employers want and the skills employees have. The skills required to succeed in the future are not the same as the skills required up till now.
The skill gaps exist in all spheres of industry, affecting employees in offices as well as those working on construction sites or in warehouses or factories. The gap could even threaten the sustainability of certain businesses. It is an issue that faces businesses across the globe and if it is not addressed, it is likely to become wider.
Too many employees are stuck in low-skill jobs with no future and too many businesses are unable to find skilled workers. Fortunately, there are proven ways to increase the skills of employees and improve your Future Workplace. A combined approach includes open communication, support, workshops and the use of state-of-the-art HRIS in training to help to address how to bridge skill gaps head-on.
Where does the root of the skills gap lie?
There are many reasons why a skills gap exists but the main problem is that the education system has not evolved to keep pace with the changes that have taken place in the business world. So many careers that did not even exist a decade ago are flourishing now.
Education has traditionally focused more on theoretical knowledge and although this is important, companies need individuals who are able to come up with practical solutions to problems.
Many industries count on employees with middle skills (those that don’t need a four-year college degree but do need more than a high school diploma. These employees represent a fast-growing segment of the workforce and this is where one important gap exists.
Educators are partnering with employees to create a flow of people with middle-skills through community partnerships, internal training programs, internships and apprenticeships. Businesses are also driving middle-skills growth to help workforces earn higher wages and improve their living standards.
Southern New Hampshire University (SNHU) launched the CfA degree program designed to bridge skill gaps and it is the first workforce initiated competency-based degree to be approved for federal funding. Students must demonstrate mastery of competencies instead of accumulating grades and credit hours. This ensures that they have workforce skills such as collaboration, communication and critical thinking.
Conduct a skills gap analysis
Before you can bridge any skills gaps that exist in your business, you need to conduct a skills gap analysis to discover where and why skills gaps exist. Is a skill one that an employee once demonstrated successfully? If so, when did the change occur and what contributed to it? Is it more of a “will” issue than a “skill” issue?
You should have a list of required skills and competencies of each job role and assess what skills your employees need to work well at present and in the future. You also need to decide what skills your organization values most.
Evaluating current skills can be done in various ways, such as using assessments, surveys, and performance reviews. While quarterly and annual reviews usually offer some insights, constantly assessing strengths, weaknesses and improvements is more helpful. Using skills management software such as TrackStar can make a skills gap analysis less time-consuming.
Make a plan to fill the gap
Making a plan to fill the gap will include looking at your budget, considering training type (instructor-led, self-study or both) as well as training content and level. You will also need to consider a training provider and the timing of training.
You may need to use a combination of hiring and training to fill skill gaps. You won’t always find employees with all the skills you need and if you see they have potential, they can always acquire skills through a training program.
After you have formulated your plan, you will need to get everyone on board. If you want to get support, you will have to demonstrate the need for dealing with the skills gap and what effect it could have on the bottom line of the company as well as the lives of employees.
Open communication is essential if you hope to bridge the skills gap successfully. When you inform employees that they need to improve, it should always be in a constructive way that focuses on their best interests. Any tests should be fun and easy to administer. It must be emphasized that they are not to determine the ability to keep a job to help map out a future training path.
It’s important to create a company culture where everyone in your business is invested in generating new ideas and building new skills. This will help to encourage positive discussions around the subject instead of dwelling on flaws. It is always better to frame discussions around opportunities, rather than deficiencies.
No-one should ever feel that they are being singled out and you need to understand the capacity of workers and where their primary focus lies to prevent this. You can’t apply a single set of benchmarks to everyone and it helps to encourage development discussions between workers and their performance managers.
Companies must conduct training programs if they hope to stay competitive. No matter whether people work in factories, offices or on site, training can make them work more efficiently and feel better about what they’re doing. Training has to be presented to them as an imperative rather than an option.
Organizing such training may be expensive but it can yield great dividends. When it comes to choosing a training solution, it may be useful to run a pilot program so you can evaluate its effectiveness and hopefully win over participants who will promote its value to their peers.
Offer employees the opportunity to obtain certifications like Professional Certified Marketer (PCM) or Project Management Professional (PMP) that will greatly benefit your business as well as their career progress.
Deloitte Consulting, LLP, made a choice to personalize training for each individual employee by utilizing cutting-edge innovation, the latest technology, and proven curriculum and networking plans. It emphasized development in career progression, coaching and client service, which resulted in the creation of a learning resource known as My Development Plan.
Adopt a multi-pronged approach
The theoretical knowledge acquired in universities is often not enough to bring success in the workplace. Continuous learning is a great solution. Workshops are a good starting point for this and ways to study further are more accessible than ever, thanks to online digital courses.
Farmers Insurance has a competency portal that allows employees to improve their skills in key competencies by completing online courses and experiential activities. They can self-assess to determine proficiency levels, moving from basic to advanced levels in a specific focus area.
IMG College is a collegiate sports marketing company with a large sales force that found a skills gap that needed addressing. The main way chosen to bring about change was to have an informal monthly learning series that focused on the soft skills they needed.
The sessions were called the “Brown Bag Lunch Series” and topics addressed ranged from public safety to effective communication. This was just the first step in addressing the skills gaps in the sales team. One session was focused on teamwork and had a charitable component to it. Money was donated to buy children’s bicycles and helmets, teams assembled them during the sessions and participants learned the importance of working as a group with a unified purpose. The bicycles and helmets were then donated to a worthy cause.
The Hershey Co established a partnership with the Shenandoah Valley Workforce Development Board in the hopes of encouraging young people to go for careers in manufacturing.
It is not enough to just conduct training programs but to assess whether your strategies are effective or not. Change doesn’t happen overnight. Knowing what to do and achieving it are two different things. You have to actively use best practices and avoid the chances of any program being a once-off initiative by embedding it into the fabric of the business. It is important not only to consider what’s required for excellence in a role today but in five years from now as well and build toward that as well.
Upskilling can be stressful and demanding but the end result is worth the effort for both employers and employees. Crucial to the process is a good support system and a company culture that supports ongoing learning. When fixing skill discrepancies, it’s more helpful to view this as an opportunity to progress rather than an obstacle.
Bridging skills gaps is never easy because there is not a single cause or a single solution. It requires conducting a skills gap analysis and coming up with a plan to help address the issues. It requires support at all levels, from management down, and the use of new technology and methods to accelerate learning. You will also need to keep analyzing the strategies you’re using and adapting them so that they’re most effective.
As well, don't forget your remote workers. Working at home makes people more productive however they can't be productive if they are not properly trained. Keeping these workers in mind when bridging the gaps is crucial to success.
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