Discovering skills gaps and filling them can improve your business.
Uncovering the skills gaps in your company can help you train or hire to grow your company. — Getty Images/fizkes

No single person possesses all the necessary skills to run a business effectively. Everyone has professional strengths that they bring to the table, but they also have areas of weakness or less expertise. Ideally, your team will have a balanced profile of abilities that match the needs of both the team’s various job positions and the company.

In some cases, however, people may have skills gaps that prevent them from doing their job most effectively. That’s why it’s important to identify skills gaps, in both yourself and in your team, to ensure all your bases are covered.

[Read: Top 8 Business Development Skills]

What is a skills gap?

A skills gap refers to the difference between the skills required for a position and the skills an employee actually possesses.

Between technological advances, automation and the increasing popularity of the “gig economy,” the nature of work has shifted dramatically in recent years. As the business landscape changes, so too do the skills a prospective employee needs and an employer values. This phenomenon has led to an increased prevalence of skills gaps in the workforce and companies struggling to identify, hire and retain qualified workers. The tech field is particularly susceptible to skills gaps, as academic institutions and training programs cannot always teach students about rapidly changing technologies that they’ll need to work with in the future.

Similarly, gaps can emerge in existing teams as the needs of the company evolve, such as when new technology or processes are introduced. Skills that were once necessary may become obsolete, while other skills may emerge as vital to an employee’s success. For example, legacy programming languages are no longer a necessary skill for many IT professionals, so they must become familiar with current programming languages to stay competitive.

[Read: Guide to Employee Development]

You’ll want to consider not only the skills your team needs right now but also the ones it may need in the future.

How to identify skills gaps in your business

Conducting a skills gap analysis can help you identify any gaps you or your team might have, then close those gaps to help you meet your company’s goals. Here are the steps to take to identify skills gaps in your business.

Identify important skills

Before assessing any potential gaps in skill, you must first identify the skills that are most important to your business and the job position in question. This information can come from job descriptions, your business’s goals and your company values. You’ll want to consider not only the skills your team needs right now but also the ones it may need in the future. You may elect to rank these skills using descriptors (e.g., high/moderate/low) or numerical scales (e.g., 1 through 5, with 1 being “inexperienced” and 5 being “expert”).

If you aren’t sure where to begin, you can also ask your team members what skills they believe they need to develop further. Your employees can not only provide valuable insight, but since they’ve been involved in the process, they may prove to be even more invested in closing the skills gap.

Measure current skills

Next, you’ll need to evaluate your employees’ current skills, at either an individual or a team level. For an individual assessment, you measure an employee’s skill levels against that of their job requirements. For a team or company-wide assessment, you look at the skills your team has as a whole and find any lacking skill sets.

You can use surveys or assessments, employee interviews, information from performance reviews or even skills management software to help you gather the necessary information.

Train or hire for any skills gaps

Once you have identified any gaps between current and desired skills, you’ll need to take action. To fill a skills gap, you either need to train your existing employees or hire new ones.

[Read: How to Hire for Soft Skills]

Providing relevant training can help bridge skills gaps in your current employees. This could be a workshop on new software, a seminar on a rising issue in your field or even on-the-job training for recent hires.

If your skills gaps cannot be covered by training or you only need a skill for a specific project, you may choose to hire new employees or contractors to close the gap. If hiring full-time or permanent employees, carefully evaluate your current hiring process to ensure you’re getting the right candidates on board and don’t be afraid to look for passive candidates that may have the skills you require.

CO— aims to bring you inspiration from leading respected experts. However, before making any business decision, you should consult a professional who can advise you based on your individual situation.

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