Work as we know it is changing. As leaders and employers look toward the future of work, we must ask, “Are our workers fully prepared skills-wise to take on today’s glaring business problems?”

Hybrid work, cybersecurity threats, artificial intelligence, cloud computing, emotional intelligence, employee wellness— but the tip of the iceberg of areas that have changed work as we know it in the past few years. It’s time companies started addressing these issues and narrowing the skills gap. Let’s dive in.

The Current State of Company Skills Gaps

What is a skills gap? A skills gap is mainly the difference between the skills employers need and job seekers' skills. A significant mismatch between these two can make it difficult for employers and job seekers. It also creates tension inside an organization as existing employees might need help to meet industry demands.

Now that we all know what the skills gap is, the next question is this: Is it really a problem worth paying attention to? Sometimes, companies sweep it under the rug, thinking it’s not as glaring an issue as operational or sales-based ones. But plenty of indicators show that it’s a problem leaders should not ignore.

The skills gap problem could cause an $8.5 trillion deficit over the next decade. Companies can’t ignore the financial detriment of ignoring the skills gap. Likewise, addressing this issue could bring about greater short-term and long-term rewards. 

What Companies Can Do to Address the Skills Gap

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How do you solve an $8.5 trillion problem? The answer, fortunately, is simple. It’s not easy, but it’s simple nonetheless. It’s to make continuous learning in your organization. We can’t outsource learning to other institutions. It has to start within our companies and departments. 

Continuous learning is a crucial strategy to address the skills gap for several reasons:

  • Rapid Technological Advancements — The pace of technological change means that skills can become obsolete quickly. Continuous learning lets employees stay updated with the latest technologies, methodologies, and industry practices.
  • Enhanced Employee Engagement — Continuous learning opportunities can lead to higher employee engagement. A study showed that 30% of employees saw career development as important. Meeting this need could be key to improving your employee engagement.
  • Adaptability — Companies that foster a culture of continuous learning are better equipped to adapt to changes and challenges in the marketplace. Employees accustomed to learning and updating their skills regularly can pivot more easily when business needs shift.
  • Creativity — Continuous learning encourages a culture of curiosity and innovation. Employees exposed to new ideas and skills are more likely to think creatively and bring innovative solutions to their work, driving the company forward.
  • Filling the Skills Gap Internally—By focusing on continuous learning, companies can develop the specific skills they need internally rather than relying on the external job market, which may not always have the required talent. This approach helps customize the skill sets available within the company and reduce recruitment costs and time.

How to Implement an L&D Plan to Address the Skills Gap

Implementing a Learning and Development (L&D) plan to address the skills gap within an organization requires a strategic approach, integrating modern technology and traditional training methodologies to ensure a skilled, adaptable, and forward-thinking workforce. This process involves several critical steps:

1. Identify the Skills Gap

The first step in creating an effective L&D plan is identifying the organization's existing skills gap. What do your employees need to learn? What trends do you need to keep up with? The gap will differ across industries and even departments. A nursing major will have different learning needs than a medical professional or technologist.

To identify your skills gap, you’ll need to thoroughly analyze the workforce's current capabilities and contrast them with the skills required to achieve the company's strategic goals. Surveys, performance reviews, and consultation with team leads are some of the best ways to do this. Given how fast industry practices change now with technology, you'll likely need to re-analyze every year.

2. Set Clear Objectives

When you know what skills you need to improve, the next step is to set clear, measurable objectives for the L&D program. These objectives should align with the organization's overall strategic goals and be specific enough to guide the development of training materials and courses. Setting objectives helps later in evaluating the effectiveness of the L&D plan.

3. Develop a Learning Culture

Building a plan for continuous learning will not work if people don’t see its value. So, you’ll need to create a culture that values continuous learning and development. 

Create an environment where employees feel motivated to acquire new skills and knowledge. Leadership should lead by example. When managers engage in professional development, they set the tone for the company. Other great ideas are to recognize or reward employees who make significant strides in their learning.

4. Leverage Technology

Use technology to keep up with technology. There are many solutions that now make continuous learning more streamlined, accessible, and engaging. Using AI in learning and development is a game-changer, allowing for personalized learning experiences that can adapt to the pace and style of each employee. 

AI can help identify learning patterns, recommend courses, and provide feedback, making the learning experience more engaging and effective. You should also incorporate cloud-based e-learning platforms, learning management systems, and online community tools for peer-driven learning. These tools can enhance the learning experience and accommodate different learning styles.

5. Design Tailored Training Programs

Based on the identified skills gap and the objectives set, you’ll then need to design training programs tailored to the organization's and its employees' needs. This could include a mix of online courses, workshops, seminars, and hands-on training sessions. 

It's important to offer a variety of learning modalities to cater to different learning preferences and ensure that the training is relevant and practical. If your company doesn’t have the resources to create a training program from scratch, you can also choose to curate courses from sites like Udemy and Skillshare.

6. Implement the Plan

Drastic changes aren’t always the best way to go about things. You’ll need to roll out the L&D plan in phases, starting with pilot programs to test the effectiveness of different training methods and materials. 

A phased approach allows your team to adjust and acclimatize before you move into full-scale implementation. Give adequate support for learners. That could mean access to mentors, learning resources, and technical support.

7. Monitor Progress and Gather Feedback

Continuously monitor the progress of the L&D plan against the set objectives. Assessments, quizzes, and practical assignments measure learning outcomes and skill acquisition. Additionally, gathering participant feedback helps you understand how effective your training programs are and identify areas for improvement.

Evaluate the overall impact of the L&D plan on closing the skills gap and achieving the organization's goals. This should involve looking at performance data, employee engagement metrics, and other relevant indicators. 

Based on this evaluation, adjustments should be made to the plan to address any shortcomings and to keep it aligned with changing business needs and technological advancements.

8. Foster Continuous Improvement

Finally, an effective L&D plan is not a one-time effort but a continuous process of improvement. As the business environment and technology evolve, so too should the L&D plan. 

Regularly revisit and update the training programs. This will ensure that your workforce remains competitive and prepared to meet future challenges.

Keep Learning, Keep Growing

With these tips and insights, your company can implement an L&D plan that effectively addresses the skills gap. We recommend you leverage the latest technology and training methodologies to build a resilient, skilled, and innovative workforce.