Magazine article Workforce

Use Your Head When Identifying Skills Gaps

Magazine article Workforce

Use Your Head When Identifying Skills Gaps

Article excerpt

Like so many things in life, improving business performance is a journey, not a destination. It's clear that business performance rises and falls with the ebb and flow of human performance, but finding a way to keep human performance flowing instead of ebbing always seems just over the next wave.

HR professionals lead the search for ways to enhance the effectiveness of employees in their jobs today and prepare them for tomorrow. Over the years, training programs have grown into corporate universities with these goals in mind.

To contend with the failing grades that corporate executives are giving training programs ["Learning Revives Training", WORKFORCE, January 2000], HR professionals are looking for new ways to train "intelligently" so that training programs enhance performance and enrich the contributions of the workforce. To this end, a technique called "skills gapping" has emerged as a method to fit training to the specific needs of the individual employee.

But the question arises, does "skills gapping" adequately prepare our workforce or is it rising in popularity because it's simple and neat?

"Skills gapping" a technique often used by recruiters to siphon a manageable number of candidates from a sea of resumes, appeared to training administrators as a way to make training programs more significant. more real, and more "personal." In the current economy, the feverish search for talent coaxed the merger between the training and recruitment departments.

The ultimate goal of both trainers and recruiters is to place the appropriate talent in the workforce in order to keep the business growing. To build a talented workforce, organizations are using a two-pronged approach: As recruiters try to extract talent from the labor market, trainers attempt to develop it internally.

The "Skills Gapping" Process

"Skills gapping" is a matter of comparing supply and demand. Organizations determine what skills are critical to each job (demand) and then assess people to determine the skills they possess (supply). Skills gapping or skills matching essentially compares these two laundry lists of skills.

Recruiters often call this process "skills matching." After filtering the candidates, any applicant with a high degree of match between skills desired and skills acquired is thrown into the "keeper" pile.

Training administrators take this process one step further. Training administrators become involved when an individual's skill inventory is not totally matched with the skill inventory needed to be successful in the current or upcoming job. Training courses must be categorized according to the skill (or skills) addressed in the course.

If there is a deficiency or gap between the skills employees have and the ones they need to have, then the employee, his manager, or training administrators can look at a menu of specific training courses or events that address that skill.

This allows a company to target training that bridges skill gaps. By determining the gap between the skills an employee exhibits and what's required by the work, organizations should be able to intervene with a personalized, precision training program.

Technology facilitates this process. The logic is easily built into software applications. It's simple arithmetic. Recruitment software applications routinely offer a skills matching approach to filtering resumes. Training vendors routinely provide administration software that tracks their courses to specific skill categories. The "gapping" process is convenient, highly measurable, and beautiful in its simplicity and objectivity. But maybe it's too simple.

Beyond Matching into Business Intelligence

Generally, the more technical the work, the easier it is to define the specific skills needed to satisfactorily perform the job. In software development, for example, it's a fairly straightforward process to define requisite skills in terms of prefer-red programming languages. …

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