Do you have a skills gap? Here’s how to identify & rectify it
Has your career or job search stalled? Is your resume not getting the attention it deserves? Do you feel that you’ve lost your confidence for interviews? Could a “skills gap” be the reason?
What is a skills gap?
According to Ask.com, “a skills gap analysis is a business tool used to assess the difference between the current state and a future goal state.”
This could be an identifier in an organisation, a process or an individual. The idea is that this tool can be used to assess “the current skills possessed and identify areas for improvement.” Identifying a skills gap will help an organisation or a person with refining the skills he/she/it needs, both now and in the future.
Common skills gaps
1. Technology gaps
One of the most common gaps a person may have in their knowledge is with technology, or a certain program or platform. This is getting more and more common as technologies speed up and industries broaden and diversify to meet expanding consumer needs.
The fast-changing nature of technology and a lack of training resources are two of the biggest factors causing a significant gap in IT skills these days, according to a new study from CompTIA, a non-profit IT trade association.
2. Staff management and interpersonal gaps
Not everyone is an outstanding manager and if you have found yourself in a role where you have to inspire and direct others, you will probably notice if you have a skills gap fairly quickly. A skills gap with managing people can often happen when there is quick growth in a company.
“National occupational standards can also be used to identify skills gaps and how to fill them. Skills management tools allow firms (or individuals) to gauge their actual and optimum skills profile, which can then be used to decide where and how to make cuts or invest,” says Terry Watts, an HR specialist.
3. Knowledge and process gaps
When we begin a new career, knowledge gaps are expected. Sometimes, knowledge gaps can come up even when you are already established in a role. Often in organisations, there are process gaps. These are where two departments may not be “talking to each other” effectively.
Perhaps in your job search you have noticed that there is a piece of training that you don’t have, that your contemporaries and competitors do. It can be discouraging to find that you don’t meet a certain benchmark, but identifying the issue is the first step to resolving it.
How to identify your skills gap
Identifying the areas where you need to improve your capabilities most, “is an important step in any change effort,” according to Pierre Gurdjian and Oliver Triebel from McKinsey and Company, a global management consulting firm.
Large companies (the proactive ones!) conduct analyses like these all the time, particularly when resources are tight. “(This is) helpful particularly in times of cost-cutting, where limited training resources must be used to close the critical competency gaps that prevent companies from meeting business objectives.”
Past history and feedback
It’s important to learn from past feedback from colleagues and past bosses. Even negative feedback! “Negative feedback is essential for negotiating life and social relations. Despite the feel-good mantra of current self-improvement manuals, much of our growth and development depends on interactions and other experiences that feel bad. Criticism has a hallowed role in nearly every area of human endeavour,” says Psychology Today.
There are online tools where you can enter in your current skills and the role/s you are aiming for and you will get a simple assessment of how your skills match up. One tool you might use is mySkills myFuture. “This tool helps users find and explore new career options by focusing on skills. It identifies the transferable skills you gained from previous jobs and shows you career options based on those skills.”
Changing organisational needs, changing marketplace
“Market research isn’t something you do as a one-off when you launch your business,” warns Info Entrepreneurs. “Business conditions change continually, so your market research should be continuous as well.”
Changing conditions can affect individual workers as well as large organisations. You need to constantly assess and research your marketplace, “Otherwise you run the risk of making business decisions based on out-of-date information, which can lead to business failure.”
So, you’ve identified your skills gap/s: what to do about it
The next stage of your process is to work out how to address and examine the best ways to fill your skills gap.
- Ask for help
Often, we are aware of where our gaps are but we are concerned that raising them may be negative for our career. No so, says Brazen Careerist, “It’s OK to ask. We don’t know everything, and it’s alright to admit that. Sometimes it’s actually your best strategy.”
- Do a course
If your skills gap is with management or technology, for example, it could be relatively easy to fill. There are literally thousands of courses available online (many for free) that can give you specific knowledge. Here’s a website that links to the Top 10 Sites for Free Education With Elite Universities.
- Find a mentor
Try to make a connection with someone who is doing what you wish to do, whether it’s someone higher up in an organisation where you already work, or with a businessperson who is “kicking goals” in your industry of interest. There are free online tools where you can find a mentor, matching mentors with potential mentees.
If you would be able to secure a better-paying role by up-skilling, should you consider it? Yes! If you’re currently employed, would your employer foot the bill for your training, if it aided you role? Telling your manager that you want training in people management, human relations, Microsoft Office products or other applications you might find useful may be something to consider.
The positive side to skills gaps
Skills gaps can be positive things for an individual or an organisation. “Identifying employees’ training needs and the ways of meeting those needs helps managers in planning, time management and budget considerations,” says eHow.
“With targeted training, employees receive job satisfaction, the company optimises its human resources and production levels are likely to improve.”