What is a skills gap?

A skills gap is the difference between an individual’s knowledge level and the required criteria for the position. A skills gap can refer to a person’s lack of competence concerning a job or a general lack of skilled applicants in the labor market. 

Business Roundtable outlines three common areas of skill inadequacies among professionals:

  • Collaboration, communication, time-management, problem-solving, basic math skills, or an inability to comprehend technical manuals 
  • Trade or technical capabilities for working in physical labor with tools or mechanical equipment 
  • Technical or analytical abilities for working in science, technology, engineering, or math positions

Why should HR leaders care about a skills gap?

HR leaders must know how to address a skills gap. A skills gap can pose a challenge when identifying qualified candidates both internally and externally. HR leaders will need to focus on closing the skills gap to ensure a productive, high-performing workforce and efficient usage of the company budget.

What can HR leaders do to address a skills gap?

HR leaders may want to address the skills gap differently, depending on the company, the job, and the industry. Here are several ideas for tackling a skills gap:

  • Run a skills gap analysis. A skills gap analysis can help HR leaders holistically evaluate their company’s overall needs, people’s skills, and job requirements.
  • Notice people’s potential. Keeping track of essential skills such as a good work ethic, a high level of Emotional Intelligence, or strategic planning abilities can help HR leaders jumpstart succession planning. Monitoring which employees display such valuable skills is the first step in nurturing their talents. 
  • Encourage upskilling. HR leaders can mitigate the skills gap with a learning and development (L&D) program that facilitates professional growth. A coaching program can also help people improve teamwork skills, sharpen performance, and achieve goals. 
  • If possible, hire remotely. If the candidate pool is too small and the job can be done off-site, consider hiring remotely. Remote hiring can increase the number of applicants and the chances of finding top talent. 
  • Offer creative options to widen the candidate pool. Hybrid work or working from home are attractive options for many people, especially, for instance, young mothers or physically disabled candidates. Non-traditional benefits or incentives, such as unlimited vacation days (under specific conditions), financial planning resources, or student loan coverage, can also attract a larger candidate pool. 
  • Offer internships. While internships may not be ideal because many are unpaid, they allow individuals to familiarize themselves with the company and get a head start on the job’s learning curve.

Why should reducing the skills gap be a part of modern HR strategy?

High employee performance is an essential ingredient in any successful company. By employing methods to reduce the skills gap, HR leaders can facilitate conditions in which people can thrive professionally, increase their value, and contribute to the success of their company.