A 2019 Harris poll of 1,433 employees cited lack of development as one of the most common reasons for leaving a job, second only to dissatisfaction with their pay. This alarming factor is one major contributor to the skills gap, defined by Training Industry as, “A gap between the skills an employee has and the skills he or she actually needs to perform a job well.” Employers may choose to tackle this challenge in a number of ways, including contracting and hiring new employees, in addition to the obvious option of upskilling their current workforce.
Recent market shifts have pushed skills development to the top of the priority list for many organizations in an attempt to close the skills gap and retain top talent. Gallup has documented that U.S. businesses lose a combined total of one trillion dollars annually due to voluntary turnover, and the cost of replacing even one employee can amount to two times the employee’s annual salary.
Whether you’re facing a skills gap within your immediate team or across your organization as a whole, consider these six factors as you define your strategy to close this gap.
1. Review the drivers that make skills development a priority for you
Analyze the gap between what your organization needs and what skills your employees can offer. Whether your organization’s needs have evolved due to digitization, automation, or other shifts in the market, chances are you’re hiring for different skills and abilities than you were a decade ago. Take the time or identify both qualitative and quantitative characteristics that describe your ideal candidates, and then create a plan to upskill your current team members so that they meet this criteria. Your employees may in fact thank you for the opportunity; a LinkedIn survey of 2,400 professionals revealed that “The most inspiring thing about work is the work itself...and the opportunity to grow.”
2. Identify the necessary competencies for each role
HRSG defines competencies as “The observable abilities, skills, knowledge, motivations, and traits, articulated in terms of the behaviors needed for successful job performance.” Only when you know the competencies for each role in your organization can you take meaningful action to close the skills gap that affects both individuals’ and your organization’s performance. Competency-based management can positively impact motions across the business, from recruiting, to performance management, to career development and succession planning. Use competencies to gain visibility into the effectiveness of your workforce and to clear a path for development and growth.
3. Write competencies that can be measured and/or have proficiency levels
A best practice for implementing competencies is to define proficiency levels for performance. Clarify what distinguishes a novice from an expert and what traits or characteristics fall in the middle of this spectrum. Frame each competency around a clearly defined, measurable, observable behavior, with higher proficiency levels corresponding to more sophisticated skills and behaviors on the job. This process helps to classify current employees and identify skill gaps across an organization, and also helps create a roadmap for employee development.
4. Assess your employees
HRSG states that, “Assessing competencies as a part of performance management is an important means of assisting employees in understanding performance expectations and enhancing competencies.” Whether this is done through formal annual reviews or informal 1-1s and check ins, it’s necessary to periodically discuss employees’ performance and how well their talents align with the competencies of their role. Simply put, if they do not know what is expected of them, they can not be expected to meet that requirement. Furthermore, your top talent should equally have a solid understanding of what distinguishes them from others. Framing the conversation around employees’ observable actions that relate to measurable competencies demystifies this process for both the employees and the managers alike.
5. Align development to competencies
By aligning competencies with performance goals and metrics, both employees and the employer alike have a clear vision for success. The review process becomes streamlined, by combining both what must be done, and how it must be done. Performance and development plans can document progress towards mastery of identified competencies, resulting in more productive conversations during performance reviews.
As stated above, turnover is both costly to the organization and demoralizing to tenured employees. Once on-the-job competencies and current employees’ skills have both been identified, the next logical step is to align employees’ development plans with the desired competencies. Explore formal and informal learning experiences ranging from internal training to external certificates and degrees to provide employees with the necessary knowledge and skills to close their performance gaps.
6. Pull it all together with a next generation learning management system (LMS) or talent experience platform (TXP)
Drive success in your performance management strategy by harnessing the power of performance management software. Break down silos across your organization and gain crystal-clear visibility into metrics including learning and development records, performance management data, and even employee engagement.
Brandon Hall, an analyst for Totara says, “Totara Perform is a performance management system with adaptability and productivity at its core. Organizations can create evidence-based performance reviews, get an objective view of employee performance and quickly identify and close skills gaps to ensure they remain competitive.”
Don’t let a widening skills gap between your employees’ potential and their performance derail your organization’s goals. By proactively identifying and rectifying the issues that contribute to poor performance on the job, you will empower your organization’s most important asset, its people, to reach new heights. Make skills development a critical component of your organization’s strategic plan, and reap the rewards of a highly motivated and highly engaged workforce that is as committed to your success as you are to theirs.