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How to narrow the employee skills gap

(Image credit: Image source: Shutterstock/Trueffelpix)

The employee skills gap is real. A report by Wiley Education Services revealed that in 2019 alone, the skills gap has increased by 12 percent. In order to stay relevant, many businesses are embracing the benefits of the latest technological advances.

However, this is exactly when the skills gap becomes apparent. Employees are finding it extremely difficult to keep up, resulting in a shortage of skilled employees. A large number of businesses are risking losing out on revenue and new business opportunities. Not only that - but they are also under constant pressure that the workplace might again drastically shift in the next couple of years.

There seems to be no indication this trend will change in the future given the current trajectory of technological development. So, it’s vital to understand a number of different methods of upskilling organizations can use to help narrow the skills gap.

A more traditional roadmap

As every business is different, particular skills development tactics will likely have a stronger impact on closing skills gaps than others. Although tech-based solutions, such as the knowledge management system, provided by KMS Lighthouse might fulfill all of your requirements, there is still merit in considering different approaches. Here is a set of key recommendations that use both common and innovative principles in closing skills-related gaps, starting with the tested traditional methods.

The first method is creating a learning and development (L&D) program. It’s a relatively straightforward approach to teaching your employees new skills to increase their effectiveness in the workplace. They can be upskilled or reskilled to fill a new position in your business. While the increased performance is one of the main benefits of an L&D program, it can also be leveraged to increase employee retention and improve the general work experience.

As programs go, you can also create a peer support program that focuses on internal training opportunities. It typically consists of two methods that are quite like one another: coaching and mentoring.

Peer coaching allows two employees to work together to solve problems and swap and/or build new skills. In contrast, peer mentoring involves a more experienced employee who teaches all the necessary skills to an employee with less experience. The most useful benefit of these two methods is the speed at which new employees will gain practical knowledge that can only come from experience and experimentation.

The next method can be summarized as a job development pathway. This includes three main categories:

  • Rotation - enables you to shift employees between different roles in your organization. Job rotation leads to a boost in skillsets, abilities in different positions, and an increase in the general experience of the employees.
  • Enlargement - adds additional activities to an already existing role. Your employees will acquire new skills which will, in turn, let them accomplish different tasks to increase their experience.
  • Enrichment - builds on a specific role to make it more motivating. With this method, you can increase skill variety in the workplace while also giving the employee more accountability for the job at hand. Upskilling happens as a “side effect” of job enrichment due to the expansion of abilities from the added skill variety.

If your business doesn’t have access to employees with the necessary skills, and if limited time makes training current employees unfeasible, you can always use outsourcing as a method of upskilling. Provided you aren’t facing budgetary pressures, it makes sense to hire a specialist or a contractor so they can help you upskill your workers a whole lot faster.

A tech-based approach to a critical issue

If the more traditional methods above don’t quite resonate with you or their implementation isn’t practical for you, the solution might lie purely in the digital realm. Knowledge bases for training and development present an option in the form of a knowledge management system (KMS) to bridge the skills gap by using fewer resources with the added benefit of looking forward into the future.

For example, a KMS will enable organizations to decrease the time needed to access the relevant information needed to upskill their employees. It allows everyone to share information to a centralized searchable hub, including all the relevant documentation, FAQs, and the already valuable individual expertise within a business.

There are a lot of benefits in adopting a more future-proof approach by using knowledge bases:

  • A spike in productivity that stems from a decrease in time spent tracking down valuable information in inboxes, looking through repositories, and asking other employees for help. The more time spent searching for meaningful information, the more time is going to be spent on accomplishing the task at hand.
  • More engagement. There is a huge benefit in keeping your employees in the loop as it could all lead to more collaboration opportunities within your business. If you make your employees feel as if their voice is valued, productive things can arise from sharing ideas and nurturing the collaborative spirit.
  • Help for your remote employees. Especially relevant in today’s work climate, a KMS containing all the relevant information will enable your remote employees to save time and improve their workflow by having access to all the information when needed.
  • Preserve the information that’s already a part of your organization, making knowledge transfer very convenient.
  • Solve the problem of email-based knowledge sharing. In one move, you can make sure everyone has access to up-to-date content.
  • Future-proof at its finest. You will avoid all the pitfalls of traditional upskilling methods including budget constraints, constant changes in technology, and changes in various processes.

Knowledge is power

The ever-developing technology, along with shifts in demographics and business model are constantly reshaping the nature of work. While traditional methods are still viable, tech-driven solutions such as KMSs present a long-term approach that is worth looking into.

The skills gap will likely continue to get wider in the foreseeable future, especially with the ongoing pandemic still in place. The inability to find the right talent with the right skills is one of the key factors preventing growth, which in turn is changing organizational necessities. Expanding the talent pool is among the top business priorities today, and the sooner businesses realize the problem and its solutions, the sooner they can thrive in a post-Covid world.

Oren Rofman, senior technology writer

Oren Rofman is a senior technology writer. He's particularly interested in information technology, big data and the cloud