Woman using a cell phone to do training at work

Closing the Skill Gap

by Becki Leonard, PHR, SHRM-CP, on May 17, 2019

The skill gap, or difference between the skills an employer needs and what an employee can do, has become a hot button issue in human resources. With unemployment remaining historically low, one of the most pressing matters is how to find qualified candidates in an increasingly narrow market.

More challenging still, for both companies and educational institutions, is the problem of developing training that can keep pace with the velocity of technological innovation. Employers are waking up to the reality that college alone is not always the ideal means to develop certain highly-sought-after skills.

Forward-thinking companies are beginning to come to a realization. If they can’t have the workforce they want, they need to develop the workforce they have - efficiently. Here are a few smart strategies managers are implementing to help quickly close the skill gaps. 

Simulations are approximations of workplace situations in a contained and controlled environment that are mainly used for high-stress or high-stakes work situations. Think about the CPR dummies used in the medical field or flight simulators designed for the aviation industry. Technological innovations like virtual reality (VR) are changing the workplace and making this type of training more routine. Simulations can combine actual work situations with a competitive element or point scoring as a way of making learning fun – a technique known as gamification. Simulations and gamification both appeal to younger generations entering the workforce because they grew up connected with cell phones and gaming consoles.

Online Videos
Not just for cats and gaming anymore, online video platforms like YouTube offer everything from language learning to Photoshop courses, and younger generations are already using it to teach themselves. According to a 2018 study by Pew Research Center, 70% of millennials access YouTube monthly, with 51% reporting they are there to learn something new. This type of training also takes advantage of the "microlearning" principle. Microlearning is on-demand, highly-targeted training designed to last only a couple of minutes, which is perfect for the “give it to me now” world we live in. Online video platforms are easy to use, and depending on the skill, the content you need might already be available, saving your company time and money.

Webinars – or web-based seminars – are another way to use online video to fill the skill gap. Thousands of hours of webinars are streamed monthly for nearly any topic or industry your business could need. Some webinars allow for real-time chat boxes so viewers can ask questions, providing the balance of technology and human interaction.

Peer-to-Peer Training
Peer-to-peer training is in-house instruction where one of your employees trains another. This type of training provides hands-on experience that is directly applicable to the employees’ job, in the environment they will need to apply it.  Your business probably already uses this kind of training when new employees are brought on, but you can reapply it to help a current employee broaden their skill set and move into a new role. When the Chief Technology Officer of eyewear company Warby Parker struggled to find a software engineer, the company used peer-to-peer training, opting to retrain another employee to fill the role instead of continuing a job hunt. The retraining proved to be incredibly successful, and the company has continued the process.

Job shadowing is another peer-to-peer strategy that can give employees a sneak peek into a day in the life of another role within the company. It can help employees determine if a job change will be a good fit for them and for the company. It’s also a great strategy to improve communication and collaboration. When teams begin to understand each other’s roles, working together becomes much more efficient.

No matter which method you choose, embracing new and agile methods to develop your current employees is relatively low risk and leads to greater satisfaction, engagement, and opportunity internally.

LandrumHR offers a variety of customized classes, seminars, trainings, and workshops geared toward gaining and building skills. Find out more about our training webinars and HR consulting services and take the next step toward closing the skill gap.
Becki Leonard, PHR, SHRM-CP

Becki has over 25 years of Human Resources experience and holds a business degree with a concentration in HR. She is certified as a Professional in Human Resources (PHR) by the HR Certification Institute (HRCI) and a Certified Professional through the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM-CP). She also holds her SHRM People Analytics Specialty Credential. At LandrumHR, Becki has worked with the staffing, PEO, and consulting divisions of the company. She currently holds the position of Managing Consultant for hrQ, their national Human Capital Consulting firm. Becki is passionate about helping organizations best manage their greatest resource – their people. A teacher at heart, Becki focuses on helping business leaders understand the “why” behind the “what” so they can move forward with confidence in their decisions.

View more blogs by Becki Leonard, PHR, SHRM-CP