Understanding the skills gap: How to create strategic employee development

Dr. Alan Cabello

There is a growing skills gap within the workplace that, left unaddressed, is at risk of preventing resilient economic growth and limiting companys’ development. Skills gaps can become roadblocks to innovation within a company and restrict its future possibilities. Companies need to upskill workers by investing in employee talent development to future-proof their business, utilizing the talent pool already available. Investing in closing the skills gap means progressing the future of work by mapping out a more efficient labor landscape for the long term.

Receiving educational opportunities present many benefits, from aiding people to live an enriching and fulfilling life to studies that show learning makes new neurological pathways that can reduce the chances of dementia. When provided by a company, it also improves employee retention. In a 2019 LinkedIn Workplace Learning Report, 94% of workers said they would stay at a company longer if they had learning opportunities offered to them. Investing in workforce training is like planting seeds for your company and employees to grow together.

While the current skills gap may be presenting challenges across industries, change is always possible. Upskilling can effectively leverage existing skills within a company, especially when facilitated with varied modes of study, learning, and accreditation that ensure the validity of workplace training. Tasks are likely to become more automated, and tooling workers with transferable behavioral skills such as creativity and critical thinking will better equip them in this new work environment.


Identifying a skills gap

An increase in remote working has accelerated an already emerging technical and digital skills gap within the workforce. A 2020 report indicated that while 74% of CEOs say they are concerned about the availability of key skills in their workforce, only 18% have made progress so far in upskilling workers. Upskilling existing workers to address specific skills gaps identified in your company and promote corporate innovation is how you can stay competitive without reinventing the wheel.

Technological developments have transformed our workplaces, but labor skills sets have been slow to catch up. Digital jobs make up 46% of the labor demand in the US yet, despite being some of the best paid, employers often still find it hard to find someone with the right skills for the job. Employers that can aid employees in strategizing their professional development are likely to see higher employee retention results and keep an up-to-date workforce that gives companies an industry edge.


Addressing a skills gap

By analyzing the strengths and weaknesses to identify any skills gaps within your existing teams, you can focus on employee development. Introducing an accredited learning program to your company gives you the ability to draw out talent in your team that might have gone otherwise unnoticed. As our use of technology in the workplace increases, at least 50% of the US workforce will need reskilling by 2025, and employees can be proactive in training workers with the skills they need to adapt.

Investing in certified and ongoing employee development in behavioral skills such as critical thinking and problem-solving is vital. Independent and group learning opportunities help equip employees to solve any potential technical and interpersonal problems they may encounter. While current employees can benefit from workplace training on an individual level, companies can leverage and build on existing employee expertise and skills to create fresh possibilities for growth.

A business that invests in behavioral skills will reap the rewards of a highly-trained and effectively communicative team. The future of work is already here, with 84% of employers rapidly digitalizing their work processes. Online learning opportunities can complement a company’s digitalization and assist in guiding employees through this process or transition to remote working. Educational programs address skills gaps while building a collaborative and productive company ethos.


Future-proofing the workplace

The World Economic Forum reports that critical thinking and problem solving will be essential skills in the future workplace. Within the next five years, the report expects an equal focus on skills beneficial to remote working such as active learning, stress tolerance, flexibility, and resilience. Interpersonal skills foster smooth communication in the workplace, with attributes such as active listening and creative problem solving and a collaborative mindset, and emotional intelligence all rank as highly desirable to employers.

As technology advances, it can benefit employees by providing opportunities for learning and corporate development. Giving employees the chance to study online through a combination of digital modules and practical assignments means they can learn skills that will stick with them and support company-wide change.

If you think you’re behind in business, you probably are, so if your intuition says something is missing, it probably is. Corporate learning is an opportunity to create a shared language for problem-solving within your company that helps teams better face challenges. You can then form an incubator for the future talent of your company by identifying desirable interpersonal or leadership skills within certain employees and introducing an online learning strategy to develop them.

Businesses should look for skills gaps and work to make training programs with tailored solutions for their company to maximize their investment and efforts. Closing the skills gap is vital for a healthy workforce and resilient economy, while nurturing employee learning can be of equal value to companies. Employee development opportunities foster a collaborative and proactive work environment that keeps businesses relevant by creating space for innovation.


About the author

Dr. Alan Cabello is the CEO and Co-Founder of Sparkademy, Alan holds a Ph.D. from the Swiss Institute of Technology on Strategic Innovation, including a position as a Visiting Researcher at Stanford’s d.school. He also holds an M.Sc. in Management and a Dip. Eng. in Mechatronics. His previous professional experience includes positions as General Manager at Adjoint, a blockchain fintech, and as Innovation Manager for Allianz corporate insurance. Currently, Alan is also a partner and co-founder of Spark Works, is an associate and lecturer at ETH Zürich, a business angel and sits on the board of different start-ups.

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