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Strategies To Address Skills Gaps in Your Workforce

6 Strategies To Address Skills Gaps in Your Workforce

7 minute read | January 31, 2024
Monica J. White

Written by:
Monica J. White

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As positive as progress is, the current pace of technological advancement is also rendering certain skill sets obsolete at an alarming rate. According to LinkedIn, the skill sets required for jobs have undergone a 25% transformation since 2015, and experts expect this number to double again by 2027. A recent survey by Springboard for Business (SB4B) sheds light on the escalating concern surrounding skills gaps. Startlingly, 40% of corporate leaders acknowledge that the skills gap has worsened in the past year. Moreover, the SB4B Survey indicates that more than one-third of these leaders believe the shelf life of hard skills is currently under two years, emphasizing the urgency for proactive measures in skill development.

With change happening so rapidly, it’s not feasible for companies to wait for new generations of workers with updated skills — instead, you need to upskill the talent you already have.

As industries, markets, and companies continue to grow, the business world becomes increasingly complex, and an underskilled workforce can pose substantial threats to company productivity, innovation, and growth. As the skills required for success evolve, companies must grapple with the challenge of ensuring their employees remain equipped with the necessary competencies. 

Thankfully, upskilling is also a growing market, with more courses and training companies appearing yearly. Keep reading to find out what strategies and training are most effective for creating a workforce ready for the challenges of tomorrow. 

What Is a Skills Gap?

“Skills gap” refers to a disparity between the skills that employees currently possess and the skills required to meet business demands. The problem is a natural consequence of the evolving nature of industries, technological advancements, and shifting job requirements. In essence, it reflects the mismatch between the skills employees bring to the workplace and the skills essential for achieving organizational goals.

As industries undergo rapid transformations, the skills gap becomes more pronounced, hindering the optimal operation of businesses. In practical terms, a skills gap can manifest in various ways. It might involve a shortage of employees with specific technical competencies, an absence of critical soft skills, or a misalignment between employees’ skills and the emerging requirements of their roles.

Addressing this gap necessitates a strategic approach, combining insights into the organization’s current skill landscape with a foresight into future demands. It’s also important to realize that upskilling is a continuous effort — the business landscape will keep evolving, so your workforce will need to keep upskilling.

What Are the Top Skills Gaps Today?

In a survey of one thousand corporate professionals, leaders identified the most-needed technical skills as:

And the most-needed soft skills as:

  • Strategic/critical thinking
  • Problem-solving 
  • Decision-making
  • Communication
  • Flexibility and adaptability

Aside from affecting overall efficiency and productivity, skills gaps can also create imbalance within workforces. Bringing in new hires with the needed skills is expensive because individuals with the desired skills can negotiate higher pay. This can leave less budget for pay rises for existing employees, and promote stagnation rather than growth. 

Top Strategies for Addressing Company Skills Gaps

Strategic Planning To Identify Company Needs

Strategic planning to address skills gaps begins with a comprehensive understanding of the current skill landscape within your workforce. Here’s a strategic approach to identifying and bridging those gaps:

The first crucial step involves conducting a thorough assessment of the skills present within your current workforce. This assessment should encompass technical competencies and critical soft skills that contribute to overall workplace effectiveness. Once you have a good idea of the skills your workforce possesses, compare them to the skills you need to meet your organizational goals. What do you already have enough of, what do you need more of, and what are you completely missing? 

Effectively bridging skills gaps requires a nuanced understanding of how skills align with organizational objectives. Mapping skills to OKRs enables a more streamlined and targeted approach to skill development. This process ensures that the skills cultivated within your workforce directly contribute to achieving specific goals and key results. 

Continuous Upskilling To Battle Skills Obsoletion

Upskilling is the proactive and continuous process of helping current employees learn new skills or enhance existing abilities to keep pace with the ever-evolving demands of their roles and the broader job market. The pace of technological change is relentless, and it contributes to an alarming rate of skills obsoletion. To safeguard against this, organizations must ensure that their current employees go through frequent training to keep them up to date. 

In the context of the modern workplace, it is essential to highlight the importance of upskilling in areas such as AI and data literacy. Ensuring that all employees are data literate, regardless of their function, is crucial. According to industry insights, up to 90% of business leaders believe data literacy is crucial for success, yet only 25% of workers feel comfortable working with data. This stark contrast underlines the need for targeted upskilling initiatives to bridge this gap.

To establish upskilling as an “always-on” activity, organizations should integrate regular short upskilling courses into their standard workforce development plans. This approach ensures that employees continuously learn, fostering a culture of adaptability and growth. 

Prioritize Cognitive Skills That Are Enduring and Business-Critical

In addressing skills gaps, it’s essential to prioritize cognitive skills that are enduring and critical to business success. Among these, critical thinking and problem-solving are foundational capacities that remain essential across diverse industries. Interestingly, these critical cognitive skills are often not explicitly taught or adequately fostered in traditional educational settings. Recognizing this is pivotal for organizations aiming to build a workforce that excels not only in technical competencies but also in the cognitive skills crucial for navigating complex challenges.

Cognitive skills can be taught through the same kind of short courses mentioned above, with a great example being the Data-Driven Strategic Thinking Course from Springboard for Business. The eight-week program is designed with immediate results in mind, teaching participants how to bring their new skills to the table through job-related projects in partnership with their managers. Content focuses on framing and structuring problems, organizing and analyzing data, synthesizing insights, and communicating effectively. 

Offer Reskilling Programs To Create New Career Paths

One effective strategy to address skills gaps and foster internal talent development is to provide reskilling programs, particularly targeting more junior employees. These programs, exemplified by tech bootcamps and specialized training, enable individuals to make career changes within the company. 

Instead of seeking external talent, organizations can invest in their existing workforce, tapping into the potential of individuals familiar with the company’s culture, values, products, and services. This approach fills immediate skill voids and builds a more loyal and committed workforce. For example, both Walmart and Amazon use Springboard to help their young frontline workforce transition into professional roles.

Employees value organizations that invest in their professional development, providing clear pathways for growth. Offering reskilling initiatives communicates a commitment to employee well-being and career progression, fostering a positive workplace culture. 

Addressing skills gaps through reskilling programs aligns with Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Belonging (DEIB) initiatives. Minority workers are often overrepresented in frontline positions like customer service and administration, and offering reskilling opportunities creates a path to upward mobility within the organization.

Cultivate a Company-Wide Culture of Learning

In the face of rapid technological advancements and macroeconomic pressures, the need for continuous learning has never been more critical. Traditional, “check-the-box” talent development programs fall short in this dynamic landscape. To foster meaningful change, organizations must embed continuous upskilling and reskilling into their company culture. Spearheaded by HR and L&D departments, this cultural shift emphasizes knowledge sharing and empowers employees to take charge of their learning journeys.

When seeking education partners, prioritize those that focus on community-building. Cohort-based learning programs, such as those offered by Springboard for Business, provide a shared company mission, group support, a deeper sense of belonging, and enhanced collaboration. By making learning a collective endeavor, organizations address skills gaps more effectively and create a culture where adaptability and growth are inherent values. 

Tie Corporate Training to Company Objectives

Company reliance on LMS and LXP providers in the past has shown these vast libraries of generic courses prove ineffective and often irrelevant to employees’ actual work. Instead, organizations should opt for human-led development programs. These programs actively engage participants, holding them accountable for their learning journey. Springboard for Business exemplifies this approach by incorporating coaches and mentors, resulting in a course completion rate that surpasses the industry average by threefold.

To ensure they offer tangible value, SB4B programs include a capstone project where employees address a real business problem or introduce an efficiency-driving initiative. This hands-on application of newly acquired skills makes employees feel successful immediately and ensures measurable contributions to key company objectives. This strategic alignment of corporate training with business goals reinforces the relevance of the learning experience and enhances the overall impact on organizational success.

This post summarizes findings from Springboard for Business’s The State of the Workforce Skills Gap 2024.

Springboard surveyed over 1,000 corporate professionals working at companies with at least 5,000 employees to understand where their workforce transformation priorities lie, how skills gaps are thwarting progress, and what employees are most eager to learn.

To grab a free copy of the full report, click here.

Since you’re here…
Springboard for Business grows businesses by empowering leaders and their teams with the critical thinking, data, and technology skills central to the future of work. Companies like Amazon, Walmart, HP, JPMorgan Chase, and Visa have partnered with Springboard for Business to upskill and reskill employees around the world. Click here to learn more.

About Monica J. White

Monica is a journalist with a lifelong interest in technology, from PC hardware to software and programming. She first started writing over ten years ago and has made a career out of it. Now, her focus is centered around technology and explaining complex concepts to a broader audience.