Even the best-prepared companies will eventually run into situations where they don’t possess the internal skills for a particular task or strategy. A Skills gap is increasingly seen in organizations of all sizes as responsibility-creep becomes more common in many departments. Employees are expected to be increasingly versatile, possessing a range of skills that may even encompass areas that they weren’t originally hired to handle.

Despite these lofty expectations, it is unreasonable for any company to expect their employees to be everything all at once. Having a skills gap in your organization can slow critical projects, cause rapid changes in strategy, and put companies in positions that force errors and bad decisions.

However, there are some simple steps that any company can take to not only reduce the frequency of internal skills gaps but prepare themselves to deal with them when they do arise. Talent acquisition must be paired with strategic decision making to limit the effect of skill gaps and institute hiring practices that leave the bases covered.

As you look to reduce the likelihood of a skills gap within your company, consider these tips:

Identify a Skills Gap Early

The companies that are able to quickly rectify skill gaps are those that identify them early — preferably in advance of the gap actually affecting their operations. There is no reasonable excuse for having a skills gap unexpectedly hinder a strategy or limit your ability to complete tasks. That information should be readily apparent during the planning process.

To identify skill gaps in your organization early and rectify them before those skills are required, ensure that you are prioritizing these tasks:

  • Test and Assess. If an employee was hired more than three years ago, there is a very good chance that their skill set has changed considerably in that time. They may gain skills that are specific to your internal processes or learn new skills on their own time. By regularly testing and assessing the skills of your employees you can identify where you are strong and where there is room for improvement. Most importantly, you can identify where you lack skills entirely and use that information in your hiring processes.
  • Encourage Transparency. Unfortunately for many companies, the internal culture encourages employees to overstate their skills during and after the hiring process. The “if I don’t know how, I’ll figure it out” mentality might be useful to employees who want to grow, but it doesn’t always result in positive outcomes for the company. Companies that are able to identify skill gaps early do so by encouraging employees to speak up when they don’t have the skills necessary to complete tasks in ways that result in the desired outcome.
  • Connect Recruiting and Strategy. Skill gaps can also result from problems in the hiring process. Either certain skills are not being prioritized, or hiring is not being conducted in a way that results in a well-rounded workforce. Recruiting and strategy should be linked together to ensure that you are able to deliver a sound hiring strategy that covers future strategies as well as current ones.This kind of collaboration means that different departments will need to work together for the greater good of the company. Providing your employees with org chart design software can be a great way to encourage this collaboration.

Identifying a skill gap early helps you to respond quickly before it has a noticeably adverse effect on your organization. However, it takes a concerted effort to do so. Too many companies are happy to wait until a gap in their skills actively affects their projects before taking action.

Find the Right Partners to Avoid a Skills Gap

When you identify a skills gap, it is important to take quick action to fill it. Without a strong network of hiring partners in the form of schools, institutions, and industry-connections, it can be hard to find someone with the particular skill set that you are looking for in short order. This is why it is so important that companies spend the time to develop these resources over time.

Partnering with schools can be a great way to identify and recruit emerging talent with specific skill sets. In a pinch, it can be a great way to fill a skill gap with emerging talent. Don’t overlook trade schools either, which can provide talent that has a very specialized skill set that may meet your needs.

Additionally, partnerships with schools can be a great way to get your company in front of young talent and get them thinking about working for you. Over time, these partnerships will result in a better, more reliable pool of applicants for every position.

Empower Employees to Move Laterally

skills gap

One big mistake that companies often make that results in skill gaps is not empowering their employees to move laterally within an organization. Once someone has been in a particular position for a good amount of them, their priorities and goals will change. Organizations that don’t allow employees to shift gears in these circumstances end up driving their employees to new companies.

This is especially damaging because companies aren’t seeing the bigger picture. Sure, keeping employees in a specific department or career track might simplify things, but giving them the ability to make their own choices without leaving the company cultivates loyalty and appreciation.

For instance, an employee that was hired for sales may one day aspire to take what they have learned and start a career in marketing. Organizations that would discourage this move aren’t accounting for the fact that helping to train them for a new marketing position would give them a well-rounded employee with a wide range of skills that can help them to improve both departments.

Effective Planning Reduces Skill Gaps

Companies that are able to limit skill gaps are those that look ahead and plan effectively. Having a concerted effort to have strategy and recruiting work hand-in-hand to find candidates that will not only help them now but help them as strategies evolve in the future will put them in a position to have their bases covered.