Fill that skills gap for career success!
Ever felt like an imposter in your own workplace? Not quite certain sometimes of how to perform your job to the best of your ability? You might be lacking some vital skills that would make all the difference. Not your fault, necessarily. Job roles are shifting all the time, and the role you took on as Administration Assistant a year ago has changed - a new system has been introduced and you need to know how to operate it, but don't currently have the skills in order to achieve this.
Recent research from Oxford Learning College states that, “around 40% of current workers in the UK don't have the right qualifications for their job, either being under qualified or overqualified.” A lot of this is down to an increase in digitalisation across many sectors with “27% of UK workers saying that they lack the sufficient digital skills required for their job role.” A further 58% say, “their employer has never provided them with training to improve their digital skills.”
So let's delve deeper into what a skills gap is and how it can be tackled and resolved.
What is a skills gap?
A skills gap is, essentially, a mismatch of skills between what an employee can do and what their job requires. There's a gap there that needs to be filled.
To illustrate, a skills gap example could be a Software Developer who'd been specifically recruited within a business because of their in-depth knowledge of a particular programming language. A few years down the line, the company needs them to use a new language that they haven't learned yet. This is the skills gap problem. The Software Developer will require some training on how to use this new language to close that gap.
What causes a skills gap?
There are a few different reasons that can lead to a skills gap in an organisation.
A dearth in technical training
With technology moving at a faster pace than most of us on a good day, all this automation needs employees, such as Electrical, Mechanical, and Software Engineers, to keep up. But it's not just specialised jobs such as these that are potentially being left behind. Working for any established business will probably mean you'll need to keep up with some sort of technical training to fill the digital skills gap, no matter what your position.
It's a sad fact that younger people from lower socioeconomic backgrounds are at a distinct disadvantage when it comes to possessing digital skills, mainly due to insufficient access to electronic devices and the internet. This makes it that much more difficult when it comes to developing digital knowledge.
A lack of soft skills
Soft skills, such as effective communication and critical thinking, are often dismissed as not as important as hard skills. But they are. Not only are they vital in the workplace, most of them are transferable, meaning you can take them with you to whichever job you go to next.
Skilled workers retiring
As the UK population ages, and with some workers retiring earlier than expected, this leaves a huge gap of senior and executive level roles that need filling. In fact, almost 1.2 million baby boomers - those born between 1946 and 1964 and named so following a spike in the birth rate at the end of World War II - exited the workforce during the pandemic.
While we are past the major lockdowns and total disruption to our normal lives, the legacy of shutdowns and only being allowed out once a day still exists, and is likely to be around for some time yet. Many workers lost their jobs and there was a massive shift towards digitalisation with remote working. In addition, employers were struggling to keep businesses afloat, let alone afford the time, effort, and money to upskill staff with training and the development of new skills.
How to address a skills gap in 5 steps
1. Perform a skills gap analysis
This is a method by which you can identify which skills and abilities members of staff currently have and what they require in order to perform their job well. Using a skills gap analysis will determine individual and company needs. It can also help to provide a fresh approach when hiring new staff, determining which skills are required from new hires in order to combat any skills gap in the future.
2. Embed customised learning paths for specific roles
Including specific, personalised learning paths where needed the most will significantly aid the upskilling of workers. These paths need to be clearly structured and set out over a certain timeline, so staff can learn, retain, and apply the new skills. Additionally, assigning employees to cohorts who have similar experiences will mean they can deploy these new skills while being guided and supported along the way.
3. Offer a mentoring programme
Mentoring is vital to help staff build on, and use, those newly acquired skills, pairing coaches and mentors with learning programmes that will improve skill development and retention. If your company doesn't have internal resources for this, consider hiring external experts as mentors for your employees.
Top tip: Ensure there is a robust matching process, bringing together a mentor / mentee fit that works, as this is critical for a successful outcome.
4. Invest in a learning management platform
There are many learning management platforms out there, so you'll have to do some research to decide which is the best fit for your workers and the organisation. Most have interactive courses, an allowance to tailor the system to individual requirements, and the ability to hone in on what training your staff need now and what they'll require later on.
5. Track development and progress
How are you going to monitor how everything is progressing if you don't keep an eagle eye on proceedings? Tracking the results of any learning and development effort is vital. This can be anything from assessment and progress reports to certifications, course completion times, and the evaluation of success rates.
Closing the skills gap of the future
It's been predicted, by the Industrial Strategy Council, which is part of the UK government, that there will be a huge skills shortage within the economy by 2030, meaning a potential 20% of the labour market won't possess the necessary skills to be able to perform their jobs.
Oh, that's way off, I hear you cry! But these things need long-term solutions and action now.
Check out the following three ways to tackle this issue.
Nurture those employees who show potential
Having an overview of skills development is the right approach to meeting the obstacle of a future skills gap. It's that cliché of seeing the bigger picture. If you identify employees who show true potential, you can begin to upskill your workforce, gaining a head-start on plugging that skills gap. It'll be down to the management teams on the ground to pay close attention to which skills their employees have an aptitude for, and then encouraging them to develop them further.
Emphasise the benefits of continuous professional development
To tackle the skills gap, more value must be placed on how much professional development and learning counts to both employers and employees. Not only does it boost motivation and confidence within the workforce, it also improves productivity, efficiency, and the retention of staff, as they can see how they are being valued - and this saves employers money in the long run.
Foster a culture of learning
Cultivate a learning culture across all staff to show that knowledge and continuous training is paramount to achieving objectives. This can be achieved by devising a learning strategy for all levels, securing the go-ahead from senior management, and nurturing the skills of workers.
Identifying if you have a skills gap could go a long way to rooting out other problems in your career. If you're not happy where you are, or feel your skills could be put to better use elsewhere, have a think about changing roles. To approach it professionally, you'll need a polished CV. Check out TopCV's free CV review, where you'll be given advice on how to improve this very important career document.