Learning how to identify skill gaps is a vital part of any HR manager’s role.
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.
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: Identifying the skills you need
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.
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 two: Understanding the skills you have
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 three: Addressing the skills gaps
It’s time to put this data into action to make a difference in mitigating skills gaps. Of course, the obvious answer is to hire for these roles and skills – but in the era of the Great Resignation this is often easier said than done. Here are some other ideas for tackling the skills gap.
- Check open job descriptions: As we said, it’s not just about vacant positions – many organizations are hiring employees who have the wrong skill set in place. Go through all of your job descriptions and check them against the competency and skills mapping you completed at the start of your skill gaps analysis. Adjust them as necessary to ensure you’re hiring based on the right needs.
- 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 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.
Lean on an 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.