Start at the End to Close the Skills Gap

May 1, 2014 Celia Richardson

businessman leaping mountain gapThe latest ORC International HR Reflections report states that 60 per cent of U.S. organizations say there is a skills gap within their industry sector but 82 per cent say they do not undertake any formal research to determine what people need. Did I miss something? How is it that we can complain of a skills gap but not take the time and effort to figure out what the gap is and then create a plan to address it?

How do human resources and organizational development professionals begin addressing the skills gaps in your organization? 

At Knightsbridge, we are strong supporters of conducting a learning needs analysis. The greatest risk of not doing some analysis is to create a learning solution that does not meet a business need. Not conducting any sort of needs analysis is like trying to get to a new place without a map – you can take many roads but you may also get very lost along the way.

Of course, a thorough and extensive learning needs analysis is essential for large strategic projects that need to target new skills and behaviours but there are a few techniques that can be employed to get at the heart of the issue in a smart, controlled way. 

Here are a few tips:

1. Get clear on the problem you are trying to solve and why – articulate the business need that has to be addressed.

2. Ensure the problem can be solved through learning.  Some problems are best solved through better communication or process improvement initiatives.

3. Identify who can give you the most pertinent information about the problem.

4. Look at your audience and create a gap analysis. What do they have now by way of skills and knowledge and what do they need to meet the end goal?  You can do this step through a simple questionnaire or focus group. You should ask similar questions to the key stakeholder group as well.

5. Brainstorm solutions to close the gap. Look again at who's in your audience. Are they geographically dispersed? Do they prefer to learn online? Can you bring them together as a group?

In summary: Focus on WHAT is the gap? WHY is there a gap? HOW can you close the gap? Good planning leads to good results.

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