Human Resources

Closing Skills Gap with Learning and Development

July 4, 2023
3 minutes

Closing the skills gap with learning and development

According to LinkedIn, 85% of jobs that will exist in 2030 haven’t been invented yet. This means that the skills that we need are changing. Rapidly. It also means that a skills gap is inevitable. 

The disparity between the skills demanded by the job market and the skills possessed by the workforce can hinder productivity, innovation, and growth. Learning and development initiatives have emerged as a powerful solution to bridge this divide. Let’s explore how strategic learning and development programs can close the skills gap and equip employees with the necessary competencies to thrive in the modern workforce.

What is a skills gap?

A skills gap refers to the mismatch between the skills and qualifications that employers seek in potential employees and the skills possessed by job seekers or the existing workforce. It occurs when there is a disparity between the skills demanded by employers and the skills available in the labor market.

The skills gap can manifest in various ways. For instance, it may involve a lack of technical or specialized skills required for specific industries or occupations. Rapid advancements in technology, changes in industry practices, and evolving job requirements can contribute to the emergence of such gaps. Additionally, the skills gap can encompass a shortage of soft skills, such as communication, problem-solving, critical thinking, and teamwork, which are valued across a wide range of professions.

The ten steps to closing the skills gap

A skills gap may be inevitable for most organizations at some point in time. And that’s OK. The important thing is how to deal with it.

Follow these ten steps to get buy in from your leadership team on closing the skills gap with learning and development.

1. Define your skills gap: 

Do an assessment of your industry and market to forecast how the following areas are going to affect the skills your business will require and the availability of those required skills on the market:

  • Technological advancements - Emerging technologies such as artificial intelligence, automation, data analytics, and robotics are transforming industries, creating a demand for skills that were non-existent or less prominent in the past.

  • Industry shifts - Changes in response to market demands, economic trends, and global shifts.

  • Changing job requirements - Roles that once had well-defined skill sets now demand a broader range of capabilities due to increased job complexity, interdisciplinary collaboration, and the need for individuals to wear multiple hats. 

2. Identifying Skills in Demand:

Gaining insights into the current and future skill requirements, thereby aligning the learning and development initiatives with the evolving needs of the industry. Look to the following sources to do this analysis:

  • Market research
  • Industry reports
  • Talent analytics

3. Assessing Current Skills:

Create a skills inventory of the skills that exist in your workforce. This baseline of existing capabilities is critical to build upon. There are various assessment methods, such as self-assessments, performance evaluations, and skills gap analysis, to identify areas of improvement and tailor learning initiatives accordingly.

Ideally, house this skills inventory in a modern software solution so that the inventory isL

  • Searchable
  • Scalable
  • Universal across the organization

4. Designing Targeted Learning Programs:

Designing learning and development programs that align with the identified skills gaps. Explore various learning methods, such as training workshops, online courses, coaching, and mentoring, that can be used to develop specific skills and competencies.

5. Embracing Lifelong Learning:

It is not enough for this to be a one time activity. Learning is innovation and future-proofs organizations and people against the changing skills. Discuss the benefits of encouraging employees to pursue ongoing professional development, upskilling, and reskilling opportunities to stay relevant in the face of evolving industry demands.

6. Leveraging Technology:

Explore the role of technology in facilitating learning and development initiatives. Discuss the advantages of e-learning platforms, virtual classrooms, and mobile learning applications in delivering scalable, accessible, and cost-effective training programs to a diverse workforce.

7. Collaboration with External Partners:

Discuss the benefits of collaborating with external partners, such as educational institutions, industry associations, and training providers, to address the skills gap. Highlight the potential of partnerships in creating tailored learning experiences, accessing specialized knowledge, and leveraging external resources.

8. Measuring the Impact:

Be prepared to gather data and metrics to determine a return on the investment in learning. In order to do that, be clear on what is being measured. Discuss the use of key performance indicators (KPIs) such as improved productivity, reduced time-to-competency, increased employee satisfaction, and enhanced innovation to measure the success of skills development programs.

9. Creating a Learning Culture:

Explore strategies to create a learning culture within the organization. Discuss the role of leadership in promoting a growth mindset, fostering knowledge sharing, recognizing and rewarding learning achievements, and providing opportunities for continuous professional growth. 

10. The Future of Skills Development:

Keep an eye on the future trends in skills development and the forces impacting it, like the rising need for adaptable and transferable skills. Traditional career paths are giving way to more dynamic and fluid job markets. Employees are expected to be versatile, agile, and capable of transitioning between roles and industries seamlessly. Adapting to the changing demands of the job market requires individuals to develop a diverse set of skills that can be applied across different contexts. Organizations should emphasize the development of transferable skills such as communication, collaboration, problem-solving, resilience, and lifelong learning. These skills enable employees to navigate career transitions, explore new opportunities, and remain relevant in the face of evolving industry demands.

Moreover, the emergence of disruptive technologies, changing consumer behaviors, and global market shifts are factors that influence the skills landscape. Organizations need to stay informed about these external forces to anticipate future skill requirements. This awareness allows them to proactively address potential skills gaps and align their learning and development initiatives accordingly. For example, the growing emphasis on sustainability and environmental concerns is leading to an increased demand for skills related to renewable energy, green technologies, and sustainable practices. By recognizing such emerging trends, organizations can develop training programs that equip their workforce with the necessary skills to seize new opportunities and contribute to positive societal change.

The skills gap is an inevitable challenge in today's rapidly evolving job market. As technological advancements, industry shifts, and changing job requirements continue to shape the skills landscape, organizations must proactively address this gap to drive productivity, innovation, and growth. Learning and development initiatives have emerged as a powerful solution to bridge the divide between the skills organizations seek and those available in the labor market.

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