May 25, 2023

In the years since the start of the pandemic and in the wake of The Great Resignation, organisations risk facing unexpected skills gaps within their workforce. A variety of factors can impact the size and scope of an organisation’s skills gaps, but one thing is certain: it must be addressed in order to stay competitive and attract and retain top talent.

Wiley Workplace Intelligence sought to gain insight into what is causing these widening skills gaps and its impact on organisations, as well as understand what can be done to minimise gaps and position your business, and your people, for long-term success.

We surveyed 3,000 people, from executives to individual contributors, to understand how they are assessing the gaps in their organisation, as well as their greatest areas of need.

Assessing the Gaps

The impact of any skills gaps can be felt in a variety of ways. When there are key areas of specialised expertise that are missing, hard skills like systems experience, or soft skills like leadership development, these gaps can negatively impact business outcomes. Whether it is a less engaged workforce or lost productivity, the detrimental effects of skills gaps can add up quickly. As a result of the pandemic, many organisations were forced to change or adapt their business models, many moving quickly towards digitalisation, which also created or increased these gaps.

The Great Resignation, in which many companies lost large populations of skilled employees, forced organisations to hire on a large scale. This often meant changing the requirements for a position or moving people into new departments where their skills and experience may not be as close of a fit as needed to successfully do the job. These gaps can damage your organisation if left unaddressed and can be hard to identify.

While many organisations have recognised that they may have skills gaps, we found that the majority have not conducted a formal analysis to figure out where they are and how to move forward filling them.

Has Your Organization Conducted a Skills Gap Analysis?
No 52%
Unsure 35%
Yes 13%

Even more interesting is the variety of ways in which people identify the fact that there is a gap in their organisation – largely relying on anecdotal evidence, with the largest per cent (28%), reporting they are identifying the gap by peer and manager feedback.

Infographic:How Skills Gaps Are IdentifiedPeer/Manager Feedback 28%25Self-Reporting 18%25Training Course 17%25We Don't Currently Do This 13%25Employee Credentials/Certifications 13%25Assessment Tools 8%25Other 3%25

When Critical Skills Are Missing

Once you have identified that you have skills gaps, it’s important to create a timeline and strategy to fill these gaps.

Wiley recently released an eBook, Closing the Skills Gap: Employer Perspectives on Educating the Post-Pandemic Workforce. It highlighted the importance of soft skills, including leadership development, when looking to close the skills gap in your organisation. Upskilling and reskilling your people, while looking beyond traditional qualifications like education or previous titles, is an effective way to start leveraging the talent that already exists in your organisation by equipping them with the tools necessary to help them succeed.

The same goes for hiring new talent. By hiring people whose backgrounds are outside the standard role description, you could widen the talent pool and increase diversity, innovation, and agility. Encouraging people to make lateral moves to areas they have hands-on experience in, versus more traditional backgrounds like degrees, is another way to fill the need for diverse qualifications.

Our research showed that technical skills were the most critical missing skills, with 42% of respondents reporting gaps in that area, followed by soft skills at 32%.

Infographic:
Critical Missing Skills
Technical Skills 42%
Soft Skills 32%
Hard Skills 12%

Interestingly, executives and directors were more likely to say that soft skills were most critical, while managers and supervisors were more likely to say that technical skills were most critical. This data shows that executives are seeing systemic gaps in skills like leadership, relationship building, and teamwork whereas managers want people with the hard skills needed to complete tasks and meet objectives, such as systems and technology training.

Broken down by industry, our respondents reported gaps in both soft and technical skills, highlighting the importance of conducting your own assessment to see what is needed most for your unique business.

Infographic: Most Critical Areas by Industry
Military 69% Technical Skills
Healthcare 37% Technical Skills
HR 65% Soft Skills
Manufacturing 52% Technical Skills

The Right Training to Fill the Gaps

Once you have assessed the critical areas in your organisation, there are clear steps you can take to minimise the gaps. For example, facilitated learning experiences that improve teamwork, cohesion, and empathy can address the soft skills gaps on a large scale and are easily customisable to the needs of your organisation.

Similarly, engaging technical training, in commonly used systems (Microsoft Suite, for example) can provide a refresher for people who may not have had this kind of training in recent years. Investing in your organisation in this way can make a significant difference in your workforce’s ability to stretch beyond their typical skillset while growing in their soft skills, elevating your entire organisation.

One of the smarter investments you can make is the development of interpersonal skills. When respondents were asked what skills they thought were the most important in their particular organisation, interpersonal skills emerged as the winner with 36% reporting that was the most important skill.

This shows that while there is definitely a need for improved hard skills (as discussed above), investing in interpersonal skills training is a great way to fill some of the gaps on a large scale.

Infographic:
Most Important Skills
Interpersonal 36%
Communication 22%
Time Management 17%
Technical 14%
Technology 7%
Other 4%

The Easiest Way to Get There

Taking the time to assess and gather information about the skills gaps in your organisation is the first step in addressing them. Once the critical gaps are identified you can go about the work of upskilling and reskilling your people, while creating an ongoing plan or skills-focused training strategy for soft and hard skill development in your organisation that will attract and keep talent.

Engaging assessment-based learning experiences that improve culture and cohesion like Everything DiSC, or teamwork development like The Five Behaviors are powerful places to start equipping your people as well as your organisation for success now and into the future.