Addressing the Skills Gap in your organisation

How many times have you looked at the skill set in your team and thought "This is not what I need to solve the current problems being faced in my business?"

Many Managers have trouble finding people for skilled positions within their business and simply cannot find the budget to fill those gaps externally, due to ever tightening purse strings. What many managers don't realise is that at the same time, employees are just as stressed about the growing skills gap, and research shows that most of them are unclear about which skills they need to build on in order advance their careers. This mismatch between the skills that managers and their companies need, and the capabilities of the internal candidates, can result in lower customer satisfaction, missed service levels and obviously significant loss of revenue. The irony of this situation is that most companies have the solution right in front of them, but have failed to see the detrimental effect that successive budget cuts have had on the longer term success of their businesses. If only they had had the foresight to reverse the long-term trend of paring back on the delivery of training. A recent Accenture survey tells the story better than I ever could: 55% of the workers surveyed (1,100 people where surveyed) stated that they are under pressure to develop additional skills to succeed in their current and future jobs. However, only 21% say that they have acquired new skills through formal training which the company had provided during the past five years. All of our companies need to get creative in the battle to address the skills gap challenge. There are plenty of ways to find or develop the right people without spending enormous amounts of time and money. Here are some ways for companies to close the skills gap and improve their competitive position. 1. Understand and review the existing workforce for hidden talent Most large companies are surprised to learn that many of the skills they need already exist within their own organisation. Employers should gain a detailed understanding of employee capabilities and design processes to support internal moves of employees to roles which better match their skillset.  Designing more flexible career paths allows companies to easily deploy people to different roles where their skills are in demand. Companies should document every employee's specific skills, including languages, education, and previous job experience.  This can be a crucial advantage for matching needs with people internally - such as someone who speaks French can help the company penetrate new markets or simply deal with a customer query and increase first call resolution 2. Look for people who can learn quickly In most cases, the highly specific skill can be taught to strong generalists. For example, if companies try to find someone with experience in implementing a particular accounting software package, that mind-set might cause them to overlook candidates who could readily perform the task, based on their knowledge of accounting or of other packaged software programs. Specific skill backgrounds have also been proven to be one of the least important predictors of job performance. A Far more accurate guide is competencies (a person's general communication ability, as compared to expertise in PowerPoint presentations) and, secondly, cultural fit with the organization. Indeed, one competency shown to have a high correlation with performance is learning aptitude - the ability and willingness to learn quickly. 3. Use analytical techniques to find and cultivate talent Innovations make it easier to find high-performing people quickly and more cheaply than traditional practices. Competency, skills, or cultural fit assessments on the front end of the screening process can supplement an initial screening based on the candidates CV. Some companies, including Google, are broadening their search by screening candidates based on the quality of their work or their personal biography - not only where they went to school or what work experiences they've had. Google might, for instance, ask biographical questions shown to be statistically correlated with top performance at the company: Have you ever set a world record in anything? Have you ever started a club? What Internet mailing lists or daily blogs do you subscribe to? 4. Use on line training Development and learning don't have to consist of costly processes with long lead times. Recent moves by many companies to have e - learning at the heart of their development programs, have made it easier for employees to continuously acquire skills in the context of their everyday jobs. This blog post was contributed by Rob Crowe, CCMA Ireland.