What you need to know about the skills gap

Kerrie-Anne Chinn, Content & Editorial Manager

As we move into 2017, there’s a lot of talk about the skills gap that’s taking place across job markets worldwide. What is the skills gap, and how can it affect your organization and staff?

In Australia, statistics tell us that 800,000 people are currently unemployed – yet at the same time, there are an estimated 150,000 jobs that remain unfilled. And this is happening in many countries. As employment expert Nicholas Wyman neatly summarises, the skills gap is simply "people without jobs and jobs without people".

To expand on this, the skills gap is essentially a mismatch between the skills that employers want and need, and the skills that workers actually have. While it’s easy to expect new employees, particularly graduates, to be equipped with the most up-to-date and relevant skills when they walk through the door, in reality this may not be the case.

In addition to this, sometimes companies will roll two positions into one or simply expand the duties of one position to avoid making new hires, further contributing to the gap. So what can employers and managers do to help bridge the skills gap in their organizations?

Acknowledging the Skills Gap in Today’s Workforce

For today’s organizations, it’s important to acknowledge the skills gap and be prepared to take action on this issue.

Author and HR professional Jessica Miller-Merrell says that skills gaps can be seen as “the point at which the organization can no longer grow or remain competitive, because they don’t have the right skills to help drive business results and support the organization’s strategies and goals.” This is a very unstable situation for any company to be in, so it’s vital to have some strong strategies in place to help prevent this from occurring. 

Miller-Merrell recommends the use of skills testing and ongoing employee training to help avoid and overcome the challenges of skills gaps for your business.

The Importance of Skills Testing

It’s very important for employers and managers to recognize the need for constant skills testing and training, so teams and individuals can keep up with industry changes and needs.

Miller-Merrell advises skills testing as a very effective way for employers to “stay on top in our changing world … and see where their employees stand in reference to specific skill sets.”

Skills testing also serves the purpose of providing employers and managers with a benchmark of results across the organization. You can use these results to identify improvements or changes in employee performance after training. They will also be useful for recognizing top performers and making sure you’re getting a return on investment from your L&D spending.

Invest in Training and Development for Employees

Investing in learning and development is absolutely essential to make sure your employees have the skills they need for today’s workforce. As an employer, it’s your responsibility to ensure your staff have opportunities for professional development in their career.

You also want to make sure you’re creating a workplace that attracts and retains top talent. In today’s competitive work force, people pay close attention to the work culture offered by organizations and expect employers to be committed to investing in ongoing training and development.

Managers can create professional development programs for each member of their team, to help identify and address any skill gaps. This will help make sure each employee continues to learn, develop and grow within their role, organization and industry. In terms of the skills gap, managers and team leaders can work with their staff to improve, update and develop technical skills that are required for their roles and have become necessary for the organization.

Encourage Employees to Bridge Skills Gap with eLearning

As an employee, you should also be taking the initiative to assess your own skills and determine any gaps that need bridging.

Look at your current capabilities and realistically assess their relevance in today’s workforce. With so many advancements in technology, across all industries, it’s likely you’ll need to develop new or improved skills to stay on top.

Sit down with your manager to discuss training tools that are available to you. One of the best ways to learn new skills, or improve existing ones, is through eLearning. Online training courses have become a very successful and popular way for staff to receive ongoing learning and development in the workplace. You can simply enroll in the courses you need and complete training modules online, at your own pace.

You’ll have many new skills available to you, helping you to become better equipped for today’s competitive job market.


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