How to Identify Skill Gaps in Three Simple Steps

Identify Skill Gaps

Identifying skill gaps is an important part of any people strategy. It helps ensure that an organization has the right skills and resources to achieve its goals. Skills gap analyses can also help guide hiring priorities, create training and development opportunities, and identify areas for new technology or partnerships.

Currently, 76% of decision-makers in tech companies experience critical skills gaps on their teams. When done right, skill gap analysis can pre-empt these vacancies and support stronger and more seamless business continuity. Let’s see how it’s done.

Here are some ways to identify and address skill gaps:

  • Define organizational goals: Clearly define the objectives of your organization to understand the skills you need.
  • Conduct job role analysis: Assess the skills required to perform a job effectively.
  • Survey employees and managers: Get input from employees and managers.
  • Perform skills assessments: Measure the current skill level of your workforce.
  • Analyze performance metrics: Compare employee skills and knowledge with the skills required to achieve organizational goals.
  • Conduct ongoing training: Regular training sessions can help you identify and address employee strengths and weaknesses. This can include mentoring, reskilling, upskilling, and digital training.
  • Leveraging an alternative workforce: Using freelancers, contractors, or gig workers to fill in skill gaps of in-house employees.

This article is part of our guide on the skill gap.

Performing a skills gap analysis

A skills gap analysis will compare the skills you currently have in your workforce with the skills that you need. This might be current needs, or you could approach this in a future-focused way – for example thinking about your organizational roadmap for the year ahead and defining the roles and talent that you’ll need ahead of time. There are additional types of skill gaps listed here.

Step one: Define organizational goals

Start by listing your business objectives and key results (OKRs), from high-level organizational goals such as “offer an enterprise-grade solution”or “ penetrate the mobility market” to more granular objectives like “Increase cloud adoption” to “Launch new mobile app.”

Now is also the time to think about growing trends in the wider market, and new roles and responsibilities that may become important over the next months or years. For example, is there an upcoming compliance regulation being passed into law? Check that you have the skills in place to manage your obligations.

Step two: Conduct a job role analysis

You’ll then want to map different roles to the objectives, by thinking about who is responsible for meeting these goals. Under the goal of “reduce churn” you’ll have Customer Success or Education teams who work to support existing users with their challenges, while to meet cloud adoption roadmaps you’ll want to see cloud engineers, architects, or developers on the list.

While it’s easiest to identify the skills gaps that are glaringly missing roles within the company, you might also find that you seemingly have the right employees, and yet they have missing skills. That’s why the next level down is to think about the skills you need to attach to each of the roles you’ve outlined. After all, you might already have a large Customer Success team, but if your renewal rate for subscriptions is abysmal – they don’t have the right skills in place.

Reminder: Not all skills are hard or technical skills. Don’t forget that leadership roles need skills like problem solving, creative thinking, and providing supportive feedback on their lists, too.

Once you’ve identified all the skills you need and mapped them to specific roles, mark the skill level you need for each one. While your CISO will need an advanced level of security awareness, an entry-level data analyst could get away with basic knowledge of security without being a poor fit for the role.

Step three: Survey employees and managers

Another way to gauge the skills needed for your team is to ask for the input of your employees. What skills do they think they need? Do they feel they need more practice improving a particular skill set? Maybe they want to focus on the non-technical side of things. Think of how you can help them improve their confidence.

Managers and team leaders are uniquely positioned to understand their team’s needs. They often have a close relationship with the workers on their team and know what they might be missing. 

Likewise, being responsible for ensuring the team’s productivity and success adds a level of accountability to the manager’s role. The manager has an interest in ensuring that everyone’s skills are up to scratch. If some team members are underperforming, that reflects badly on the manager, meaning that they need to find a way to improve that performance.

Step four: Perform skills assessments

The next stage is about data collection and analysis. How many of the required roles that you’ve mapped are already in place among your workforce, and how adequately do these workers perform the required skills?

You probably already have some form of measuring the abilities and skills of your employees, for example – annual performance reviews, 360’s, or technical assessments. There are countless ways to measure the skills and weaknesses that employees have, but one popular model is the SWOT matrix. This stands for Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats.

Using this model, your employee and often their line manager will answer questions on each section, defining what they see as their greatest strengths and weaknesses, and what organizational factors are supporting them or blocking them. With your skills gap analysis done during step one, employees can even answer these questions directly relating them to the skills listed under their role.

For example, an employee might have cost management listed as an essential component of their role. When asked, they say that they are struggling with budgeting, and call out the lack of a VP Finance to support financial strategy. Equally they might say that they are communicating well across remote teams, and highlight a specific technology or tool that’s making this a seamless process. The opportunities and threats section will help to identify skill gaps that you can solve to alleviate imminent risk to the business and open doors for growth.

You can look at this data on an individual level and also on a macro level across the business. You might find that 20% of your developers don’t feel confident with a specific technology that’s listed as essential at a high-competency level for that team, or that the majority of entry-level employees don’t get regular and supportive feedback.

Step five: Analyze performance metrics

Before you can adequately address any skills gap in your organization, you need to have a clear idea of how to assess the success of your solution. Consider the key performance indicators (KPIs) that you can use to set goals and evaluate the improvement in the team’s performance. 

This could be things like time to resolve issues, accuracy of the team’s response, the number of issues that arise, and customer satisfaction. Look at metrics such as inputs, outputs, outcomes, and impacts. For example, input metrics might include the amount of time or effort required to achieve a given goal. The output metrics would measure the quality of the service or product, or perhaps the number of objectives delivered within a given timeframe.

These metrics should be directly linked to the OKRs you defined in step one. They should give you a clear picture of how well your team is performing now. This will be crucial in determining how effective your team’s upskilling has been, or how well new employees are integrating into your work flows.

Step six: Conduct ongoing training 

The main way to address a skills gap is to provide training and other educational resources. Training should be ongoing and take into account the schedules and needs of the employees. Here are some of the ways that companies can encourage the continuous improvement of their workforce’s skills:

  • Establish mentoring relationships: If you have skills within your organization, sharing is caring! Ask higher-competency staff to mentor or train those without the required skills, and expand their use across the business. There is more movement than ever before in today’s career paths, and you might find that employees have moved from one department to another and still have core skills they can train on or mentor elsewhere.
  • Reskill and upskill your staff: Professional development is increasingly important for today’s entry-level staff. However, certifications, digital badging and credentials are more than just an employee perk. They also fill skills gaps, allowing your existing employees to acquire new skills needed for changing business demands. add valuable CV capital and at the same time support the business with emerging needs. Closing skills gaps and encouraging employee retention becomes a matter of killing two birds with one stone. And that stone is education.
  • Upskill your team: Sometimes, what you’re looking for is to improve your team’s existing skill set. This includes periodic refresher courses and updates on new technologies or other emerging trends in your industry. It could also include employer-lead training sessions and the provision of educational material to enhance your workers’ abilities.
  • Leverage digital training: There are various online resources for improving employee skills. It may be worthwhile to offer workers a subscription to an online education platform, arranging times when they can focus on learning rather than addressing work tasks. This can help them become stronger employees in the long run.

Step seven: Consider using the alternative workforce

Look over your skills gaps and the roles that they relate to. Do they all need to be handled in-house, or can some be outsourced to freelancers, consultants, or agencies? If you’re not sure, highlight the gaps that are short-term but require deep or advanced competencies, and these are likely to be perfectly placed to fill from outside the company.