How to identify and bridge talent gaps

How to identify and bridge talent gaps

Unfortunately, if you’re struggling to fill specific roles and retain employees, that’s not where the problem ends.

Whether you have a shortage of role-specific skills or a lack of crucial soft skills like time management, a talent gap in your organization means more stress for employees, less time for training and upskilling, and not meeting customer demands.

As a result, your overall business performance takes a hit.

Several factors contribute to the problem:

  • Technology advancements
  • The pandemic
  • Evolving job descriptions and new markets
  • The talent shortage and current unemployment rates
  • A clash between employers’ and talent’s expectations and preferences

Some of these factors are entirely out of your control.

But don’t worry – with some strategic tweaks to your approach, talent gaps are a challenge you can overcome at an individual employee and company level.

Table of contents

What is a talent gap at an individual level?

A talent gap on an individual level means an employee doesn’t have the right skills to perform every part of their job independently.

For example, picture a software developer who doesn’t know all of the languages to be used for a project. They can complete part of the job, but what about the tasks involving unfamiliar languages?

Either somebody else has to do more than their share to make up for their colleague’s skills gap, or the project will start lagging.

An individual skills or talent gap poses a long-term problem that you need to solve with:

  • Reskilling and upskilling
  • Regular training
  • Better skills screening in your hiring process

We’ll go into more detail on how to overcome talent scarcity later.

What is a talent gap at a team/company level?

At a team or company level, a talent gap means the team or organization as a whole doesn’t have the right skills to compete in the market.

Maybe you don’t have enough technical sales experts because there just aren’t that many around to hire. Technically, your business does have some workers with the right expertise, but the amount of work you need to complete exceeds your capacity.

Or maybe your current employees are struggling to adapt to modern job requirements.

They need time to learn how to operate new systems or implement rapidly changing best practices, like staying on top of ever-evolving programming languages.

You must address a talent gap on any level as soon as possible to deliver stellar work and compete with other businesses in the industry.

There are many methods to deal with this issue on a company level, such as:

  • Hiring contractors to help you complete projects
  • Regular training and development
  • Widening your talent pool to include remote workers
  • Succession planning

If your business has a talent shortage, you’re not alone: 87% of companies currently have a talent gap or will have one within the next few years.

Why do talent gaps exist?

Why do talent gaps exist

Talent gaps can sneak up on any organization when there’s a disconnect between:

  • Required skills and available candidates who have them
  • Employers’ and candidates’ expectations
  • The urgency to fill roles and the efficiency and success of your hiring process

Even if you didn’t have issues with talent scarcity a few years ago because you were using the best talent strategies, things have changed dramatically – especially since the pandemic.

These are the main drivers of skills and talent gaps today:

  • Advancements in technology, automation, and digitization: Up to 85 million jobs could be displaced by 2025, and the need for upskilling and reskilling will continue to grow
  • Global disruptions (like the Covid-19 pandemic and Brexit) have changed the way we work: Remote and hybrid work, flexible hours, and freelancing have become more popular
  • Lack of talent in the job market: There is a shortage of talent due to a lack of necessary skills and low unemployment rates (only 3.7% in the US in October 2022)
  • Restructuring or job redesigns: When a job description changes, a gap forms between how things used to be done versus how they need to be done now
  • Changes in candidate expectations and preferences: Candidates value flexibility, learning on the job, and feeling that their work has purpose, so they’re attracted to employer brands that reflect those values
  • Poor hiring practices (not relying on skills-based hiring): Employers can exacerbate skills gaps when they push for arbitrary requirements, like a specific degree or number of years of experience, instead of focusing on hiring for the right skills and characteristics

For example, insisting that all applicants must be able to work from your office full-time disqualifies a lot of potentially valuable talent. This includes applicants from other countries, candidates who use a wheelchair (if your office isn’t accessible), and working parents.

If you accommodate their needs, these candidates might be perfect additions to your skill set and close your talent gap.

Shifting your talent strategies like this could be the change you need to spark lasting positive effects at your company. 

The first step to solving the issue of talent gaps in the long term is identifying and analyzing them.

How to identify talent gaps in your organization

You can identify talent gaps by performing a talent-gap analysis, better known as a skills-gap analysis.

We already have an article that explains how to perform a skills-gap analysis. You can read that in-depth guide, but we’ll also give you the abridged version below.

What is a skills-gap analysis?

A skills-gap analysis is a method you can use to determine what skills you might be lacking and how best to address the issue:

  • On an individual employee level by comparing the skills a specific role requires with the skills your employee currently has
  • On a company level by comparing the skills, knowledge, and expertise you need with the skills you have in your workforce

How do you know you need to run a skills-gap analysis?

It’s time to re-evaluate your situation as soon as you notice things are starting to slip up. Some warning signs could include the following:

  • Employees are missing deadlines or struggling with any part of their jobs
  • Projects are getting stuck
  • Your workload isn’t balanced, and a lot falls on the shoulders of a handful of employees because others don’t have the same knowledge

If these situations are chronic, they could all be symptoms of a talent gap and your cue to do an analysis.

It’s also a good idea to conduct a talent-gap analysis whenever you introduce a change to your normal processes or try new technologies.

How do you run an analysis to identify gaps at both the individual and company levels?

How do you run an analysis to identify skills gaps?

The process of performing a talent-gap analysis looks similar for the individual and company levels:

  1. Talk to leadership to define business goals
  2. Decide on short- and long-term objectives
  3. Identify the skills you need to achieve your goals and objectives
  4. Ideally, conduct talent-gap analyses at both the individual and company levels
    1. On an individual level, test whether each employee can fulfill all their duties successfully
    2. On a company level, test if your team/company has the right sum of skills to carry out each project without problems
  5. Measure skills using tests, SWOT analyses, external assessments, and 360-degree evaluations
  6. If there’s a gap, identify which skills are missing and decide on a course of action to bridge the gap

Additionally, you should analyze why the talent gap happened so that you can address it in your hiring process and prevent it in the future if possible.

How often should you do it and why?

You should run a talent-gap analysis periodically, ideally twice a year.

The reasons for this are simple. Regular talent-gap analyses enable you to:

  • Learn more about your business and tailor your training efforts to your needs
  • Make better use of your learning and development resources
  • Keep reinforcing your skills with the latest practices to stay ahead of the competition 
  • Improve your talent strategies to minimize talent gaps and make better hires

Think of the skills-gap analysis as good hygiene. That effort you put into maintaining and optimizing your talent helps prevent expensive disaster scenarios later.

7 strategies for bridging the talent gap you’re facing

Once you know what talent gaps exist in your organization, it’s time to do something about it. 

We suggest adopting these seven strategies:

Talent strategiesKey points
1. Set up mentoring and coaching programs to develop staffIdentify current talent’s strengths; Provide tailored coaching and help employees grow into new roles; Retain workers longer; Have a succession plan so that you’re never caught off guard
2. Offer internal training to share skills across teams and departmentsKeep reinforcing skills with new knowledge to prevent gaps; Make learning a part of your workplace; Try cross-training and sharing skills across departments
3. Try external training to gain new skillsBreak echo chambers with fresh outside perspectives; Learn from experts; Get external help from contractors and consultants
4. Develop a culture of continuous learning and developmentProvide group communication channels that include remote workers; Incentivize people to share discoveries and tips with the group; Encourage the use of designated channels to use the hive mind; Recognize great work done by employees
5. Use a skills-based approach to hire new employeesHire for skills, personalities, and learning potential; Drop outdated and exclusive hiring criteria; Use tailored tests to identify the right skills and make better hires
6. Leverage your employees’ internal networks to attract passive candidatesCreate a referral program; Decide how you will keep your talent database organized; Incentivize employees to participate; Cultivate an attractive employer brand that applicants want to join; Stay in touch with passive candidates
7. Be open to hybrid/remote workingProvide workplace flexibility and meet candidate expectations; Attract more talent; Accommodate top talent with all the right skills to close your gaps

Now let’s go deeper into each strategy with examples of how to implement them and bridge your talent gaps.

strategies for bridging the talent gap

1. Set up mentoring and coaching programs to develop staff for key positions and succession planning

Having documentation for each process and role in your company is a good practice, but don’t rely on written guidelines alone.

You can do much more to optimize your talent and get the best out of employees based on their unique experiences, strengths, and needs.

Start by:

  • Identifying workers’ strengths and experience
  • Investigating what future roles they could grow into and what they need to get there
  • Providing regular tailored coaching sessions
  • Tracking employees’ progress

You can support the existing employees you already trust and have a good rapport with to help them transition into new roles and take on more responsibility, building your talent pool from within. 

When you implement succession planning and coaching, employees won’t need to leave your business to advance in their careers. This helps you avoid employee turnover and prepare in case a senior staff member leaves the organization.

A LinkedIn report shows that taking the initiative to reskill a current employee is the cheaper and all-around better option when it succeeds.

2. Offer internal training to share skills across teams and departments

A study estimated that specific abilities like tech skills have a half-life of five years or less, meaning they’re quickly rendered obsolete.

You should proactively address this issue by investing in professional development to prevent talent gaps.

By making learning and development an integral part of your workplace, you can keep reinforcing and building employee skills in the field, cultivate an attractive employer brand, and stay competitive.

You can offer training internally by sharing skills across departments. For example:

  • Your IT team can train other employees on cybersecurity so that everyone can do their part to keep the organization safe
  • Senior staff can teach juniors and new hires to transfer knowledge gathered over years of job experience and help establish healthy, positive work relationships
  • You can cross-train employees to perform duties of another role (if they agree) so that they become more adaptable

The downside of too much internal training is the time it takes away from employees’ regular responsibilities at work.

Not to worry. You can balance it out by introducing it alongside external training.

3. Try external training to gain new skills

The two main arguments for external training are that:

  1. Adding fresh perspectives and insights prevents company groupthink
  2. Learning from industry experts who have a wider knowledge base can help you spot patterns your business might not see

Hiring for culture add instead of culture fit is a great start to challenge your employees with new ideas and grow as a company.

But after a while, the new air inside your organization may become stale unless you shake it up regularly.

Try to collaborate with education providers and business partners to build training programs for the skills you’re looking for and keep moving forward.

Alternatively, bring in contractors or consultants for outside help – they may see something you hadn’t even considered.

4. Develop a culture of continuous learning and development

Make it part of your organization’s day-to-day environment to “learn it all” and commit to growth.

Fostering a learning culture starts at the top, so you need to be the torchbearer and motivate employees to participate by:

  • Providing online group communication channels and chats any employee can participate in (which is especially important for remote employees)
  • Incentivizing people to share their discoveries and tips with the group
  • Encouraging employees to ask questions privately but also specifically in the designated channels to use the hive mind and benefit everyone
  • Proactively offering coaching or training and talking about it together
  • Recognizing great work done by employees to show you appreciate them and providing useful examples that others can learn from
  • Asking for your employees’ feedback and ideas and co-creating your learning path

As people develop the habit of solving problems together and sharing insights, you’ll no longer need to bear that torch alone – and employee engagement will increase at the same time.

A culture of continuous growth relieves some of the pressure on you as a leader and helps you prevent and bridge talent gaps.

5. Use a skills-based approach to hire new employees

strategies for bridging the talent gap continued

Taking a skills-based approach to hiring means you test skills and expertise, evaluate characteristics and behaviors, and look for potential in your talent.

It’s easier to define this approach by looking at some hiring practices that aren’t skills-based.

A common example is dismissing candidates who are self-taught or come from a different background because they don’t have a certain degree.

There are three main problems with this approach:

  1. It significantly limits your talent pool, so you may face unnecessary gaps and have fewer solutions to choose from
  2. It has negative implications for workplace diversity and inclusion
  3. A degree doesn’t guarantee the person can do the job well

Moving past arbitrary rules enables you to attract more candidates and retain talent longer.

So, what would switching to skills-based hiring look like?

You would need to use some evaluation tests. Here are a few examples of how you could use tests in skills-based evaluation:

TestSkills-based evaluation example
Leadership testAsk talent to complete a leadership test to assess whether they would be adequate for a management role even if they’ve never officially held that title
English proficiency testAn English proficiency test along with a paid assignment could give you a full picture of a writer’s grasp of the language much more than a “native speakers only” requirement would
Python coding testA test in Python coding or another specialized skill would help you filter a sea of candidates and zero in on the right expertise faster

Prioritize your talent’s skills and learnability.

Using evaluation tests to assess candidates gives you more quality options and yields much better results in the long run than you’d get from resumes and interviewing alone.

6. Leverage your employees’ internal networks to attract passive candidates with the right skill set

Passive candidates are people who aren’t currently ready to interview but have the potential to make great hires eventually. They could be your employees’ former colleagues, friends, silver medalists, former employees – the list goes on.

You can never be sure that a hire will be a success story. But with passive referrals, you have a reason to believe they might make a good hire.

A candidate who worked well with your current employee might be a good addition to your team or be able to share some expertise.

Make the most of the sum of your collective networks to open the door to many more potential candidates and keep your talent pipeline full.

Here’s how you do it:

  1. Create a referral program
  2. Decide how to keep your talent database organized and updated
  3. Incentivize employees to participate
  4. Cultivate an attractive employer brand that applicants want to join
  5. Stay in touch with passive candidates, and update their information over time so that you can reach them easily when you have a gap and need to hire

To make passive referrals work, you need to make yourself a more attractive employer so that people want to work with you, which brings us to…

7. Be open to hybrid/remote working

You can no longer push aside hybrid and remote working options. Many people, most notably Gen Zers, put workplace flexibility at the top of their priority lists when choosing a company.

For others, it’s not about preference. Flexible hours and remote options let you access:

  • International candidates who wouldn’t want (or be able) to relocate for the role
  • Candidates with disabilities, like chronic pain or other issues that prevent them from working full-time
  • Working parents or caregivers who need to prioritize their families but have all the expertise you need
  • Freelancers who are working on other projects but have the capacity to step in when you have a gap you urgently need to fill

If we were to boil it down to a numbers game, offering flexible work arrangements is a non-negotiable approach to expand your headcount and overcome skills gaps.

When you have enough options, you can find the ideal person for any role instead of settling for less and later paying the price of rehiring.

Close the talent gap proactively and sustainably

Talent management is essential in avoiding talent gaps in your existing workforce. Being proactive in identifying and closing these gaps helps you achieve the following:

  • Avoid burning out your current employees and retain them longer
  • Have time to upskill and reskill to prevent future talent gaps
  • Keep your projects on track and clients happy
  • Hire better without the urgency

Starting now helps you uproot the problem and create a more sustainable workforce.

Our article on expanding your talent pool can give you some pointers on where to find solid candidates and how to never have a talent shortage again.

When it’s hiring time, you can start your evaluation with a simple Communication test or another situational-judgment test to measure the competencies relevant to most roles – and then keep testing for the appropriate hard skills. Sign up for your free plan today, or book your free live 30-minute demo with a member of our sales team to learn more about how we can help you bridge the skills gap.

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