Whatever the sector, if a fledgeling new business has a small workforce, then the gulf the reduced size creates between skills can become a problem if it goes unchecked. Whether it’s technical skills like software knowledge or softer attributes such as communication and leadership, it’s important that any skills gaps across your business are addressed.
Additionally, your status as a small business means that your finances might not afford you the chance to hire new employees either. Because of this, there is no one-size-fits-all approach to closing the skills gap, however, there are some strategies to take to improve things in a straightforward, effective way.
Before you launch into training programs, new hires and other approaches, it’s a good idea to start by identifying the skills your employees lack. A skills gap analysis serves to determine the skills your business needs, compares them to the expertise your employees currently have and illuminates the gaps – but how do you go about carrying one out?
Step 1: Plan
A skills gap analysis can be conducted either on an individual or team/company level.
There are lots of reasons why you might need to conduct a skills analysis, from seeing changes in an employee’s duties or poor performance to the need for new skills in order to complete a project. Your own reasons for analysis may, of course, differ.
Step 2: Identify important skills
Ask yourself two questions: what skills does the business value? And what skills do my employees need to do their jobs well now and in the future?
Answering these will help you determine whether you have difficulty filling jobs because of skill gaps, or that the skill gaps are a product of unrealistic expectations.
Consider your company’s job descriptions, business objectives and company values. What new skills might you need later down the line? Ask team members for what they think is missing too; their insights can often be essential. Compare your findings with theirs and assign each skill a numerical rating, defining each number on a scale ranging from poor to excellent.
Step 3: Measure current skills
Now look to your company or employees’ current skills and set about measuring them using some of the following methodologies:
Step 4: Act on the data
Once you’ve completed a skills analysis, you should be in a better business to identify the gaps in your business where skills may be lacking. This gives you the perfect platform on which to plan and develop a process for bridging these gaps, affording you the certainty of acting on concrete data.
Below, we explore the ways in which you can begin acting on data to plug the skills gaps in your business.
A straightforward way to address the skills gap is to provide training to existing staff. If you’re low on funding and simply can’t afford to hire new employees, then it’s the next best step to take. It helps to improve morale and maintain retention levels by illustrating their value, while also optimising their own expertise.
They’ll have to take a step away from their usual duties while they’re learning, so it’s important to weigh up whether it’s worth the short-term difficulties or not. Likewise, depending on the size and resources of the business, you might choose to go to an external trainer or keep things internal, which is generally a more cost-effective approach.
Automating the tasks that once required humans to carry out is on the rise. There are plenty of pros and cons to automation in the long-term, but for the time being, it can be a useful temporary solution for dealing with skill shortages.
Using technology to automate certain tasks can enhance organisational processes and improve efficiency. By taking care of the more repetitive elements of an employee’s role, they’re able to free up their schedule so they can focus on acquiring new skills too.
It might be difficult attracting potential employees from abroad in the current economic climate, so if your finances allow it, moving your business abroad could be the solution. If money is an issue, however, flexible and remote working may be the better option. You can still take advantage of skilled workers who live abroad, and neither party has to make the move to another country.
How well this goes may be dependent on your industry, but with video calling and online communication tools, it may be easier than you think.
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If you’re having difficulty finding employees with in-demand skill sets, you may have to go strategic with your hiring. Consider partnering with recruiters, schools and relevant associations, as this will put you in a position to better capture talent in a more strategic fashion. For example, hiring recent graduates who have the training you require can help businesses to bring in the right in-demand talent without having to fork out the money.
Devising and providing your employees with developmental opportunities in-house is not just a good way to ensure the skills gaps are being closed, it also helps to improve employee engagement and retention. They’ll feel valued by your investment in developing their skills, so be sure to leverage in-house learning opportunities as much as possible.
It may take a while, but it can be tailored in a way that fits your business in a highly beneficial way. Look to harness things such as video and mobile learning tools, as well as personalised learning paths. Creating an environment of continuous learning will help employees feel empowered, participating in their own professional development with enthusiasm as they share knowledge across departments.
Though remaining in-house can save you money, it still may be worth taking a look at external opportunities to develop your employees’ skills, and could even work out the cheaper and more effective option. There are plenty of organisations who are willing to pay for your employees to pursue certifications or degrees that can help to enhance their credentials. Association conferences can be also be sponsored, creating a great perk for your employees, while also allowing you as a business to improve the level of training.
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