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How to identify and close your employees’ skill gaps

 
 

By promoting and developing your employees in a targeted manner, you ensure that they have the necessary skills to achieve the company’s goals. The rapid pace of technological development means that technical skills have a half-life of just 2.5 years. This makes it all the more important to be aware of the skill gaps within your company. Only then will you be in a position to develop strategies that successfully close these skill gaps.

Read this article to find out what skill gaps mean for your company, and how you can identify them. Learn about strategies you can use to close these gaps, and find out more about the technology that can help you do so. 

 

What exactly are skill gaps?

Skill gaps are the gulfs between the skills employers need or expect and the skills their employees actually possess. These mismatches can occur on an individual, team, or organization-wide level and affect a variety of areas, including technical skills, soft skills, and industry-specific knowledge. Skill gaps can arise for various reasons, including:

 

Technological change

Rapid developments in technology and automation mean that your employees’ existing skills are continuously becoming obsolete.

Training gaps

A lack of training opportunities, or educational programs that do not match the needs of the labor market, lead to a gap between the skills being acquired and those that are actually needed.

Changes in the world of work

New working methods, corporate cultures, and business models require skills that may not previously have been widespread in the company or on the labor market at large.

Demographic changes

The departure of experienced workers from the labor market (e.g. through retirement) without sufficient transfer of their knowledge and skills to younger generations can lead to skill gaps.

 

What skill gaps mean for companies

The earlier you identify and close skill gaps, the better. Open skill gaps have a direct impact on your company’s competitiveness. If your employees can no longer keep pace with the rapidly advancing requirements, you risk falling behind your competitors. This has a negative impact on market share, the company’s ability to innovate, and ultimately on financial performance. Skill gaps also lead to productivity losses, as employees may not work efficiently or may need additional time to learn and master tasks. Ultimately, employee satisfaction suffers, and with it: the corporate culture. 

Conversely, continuous education and training—and thus the closing of identified skill gaps—leads to

  • increased productivity
  • higher quality of work
  • increased employee loyalty
  • stronger innovative capacity
  • more competitive advantages
 

How to identify skill gaps

Recognizing skill gaps is the first step in determining employees’ development needs.  It is worth analyzing the trends in your industry and your competitors as a first step. Take a look at the Future Skills Framework from the Stifterverband and McKinsey & Company. It contains 21 future skills that your employees will most definitely need.

Then identify where there are mismatches between your target and actual situation to find gaps. There are various methods for identifying skill gaps:

Employee surveys

Employee surveys are a proven tool for identifying skill gaps. Employees provide feedback on their skills and knowledge by answering specific questions. This enables you to quickly identify areas in which training measures are required. Conduct employee surveys in writing, online, or in face-to-face meetings.

Performance appraisals

Performance appraisals offer another opportunity to uncover skill gaps. Managers assess each individual’s skills and abilities as part of their regular evaluations of employee performance. This enables you to identify strengths and potential areas for development. The performance appraisals serve as a basis for designing individual development plans.

360-degree feedback

With 360-degree feedback, your employees receive observations on their work from various people around them. For example from superiors, colleagues, or customers. This can take the form of online questionnaires, personal interviews, or anonymous surveys. The feedback providers evaluate the respective person on the basis of predefined criteria and provide critiques of the behaviors they have observed. Their different perspectives reveal strengths and weaknesses. 

Job analysis

In a job analysis, you analyze the requirements for a specific position or role in the company. Examining its duties, responsibilities, and required skills enables you to identify skill gaps. Use tools and techniques such as questionnaires, interviews, work samples, or simple observation. The results of the job analysis then serve as a basis for developing training measures.

Competence models

Competence models provide a structured description of the competencies that are relevant for certain activities or roles. Competencies include both technical knowledge and personal skills and behaviors. Evaluating employees using these models enables you to identify skill gaps. Competence models are also a valuable basis for planning career paths and identifying high-potential employees.

 
 

5 tried and tested methods to counter skill gaps

Closing skill gaps

You can close skill gaps by offering your employees further training in line with their abilities. Communicate transparently and as equals from the outset what you aim to achieve with the measures. Consider the employees’ own personal development wishes and stay in close contact throughout the process. Learner motivation (extrinsic and intrinsic) is incredibly important for their learning outcomes. Encourage them with the right learning opportunities, well-structured curricula, and a positive learning culture. There is no one-size-fits-all method for upskilling your employees. Choose the methods that suit your employees, your company, and your budget. Combine different approaches and simply try something new. Below, you will find a broad, but not exhaustive, selection of tried and tested methods for closing skill gaps.

 

(1) Individual learning paths

Individual learning paths are personalized educational paths, tailored to the specific needs and goals of your learners. Employees have different skills, knowledge, and experiences on which they can build. It is therefore important to offer customized learning paths to address their individual development needs. Individual learning paths are:

  • efficient
  • motivating
  • flexible
  • personalized

 

Instead of all receiving the same general training, your employees work specifically on the skills that are relevant to their current and future roles. As the content is precisely tailored to their specific needs, learners remain engaged and motivated. 

Examples of individual learning paths:

  • One employee wants to improve his leadership skills. His individual learning path includes various modules on the topics of leadership, communication, and time management.
  • Another employee wants to expand his digital skills. His individual learning path consists of courses on digital transformation, data analysis, and IT fundamentals.
 

(2) Microlearning

Very few people have the time or the attention span to devote hours to a single topic. Microlearning is an effective method for facilitating learning in small, easily digestible units. Training content is presented in short, compact modules. These modules usually take no longer than five minutes and focus on a specific learning objective. The brevity of the learning units means that employees can integrate them flexibly into their everyday working lives. Learners absorb the information better and remember it for longer. Microlearning is:

  • flexible
  • easy to integrate
  • more effective
  • targeted
  • easy to update

 

Microlearning helps you close skill gaps quickly and efficiently. Use it for product training or onboarding, for example. It is also suitable for developing soft skills or for compliance training. Microlearning is most effective when you have clear learning objectives, focused content, and a selection of interactive elements. 

 

(3) Blended learning

With blended learning, you combine traditional classroom teaching with digital learning methods. In so doing, you utilize the strengths of both forms of training to create a more effective and flexible learning experience, and effectively close skill gaps. Blended learning is:

  • flexible
  • efficient
  • varied 
  • sustainable

 

By making strategic use of blended learning, you can not only effectively close existing skill gaps, but also create a learning environment that promotes innovation, improves employee retention, and makes the company more competitive overall.

An example of blended learning:
A retail company wants to improve customer satisfaction by training its staff in customer service skills. Its blended learning program combines eLearning modules covering the basics of customer service, communication techniques, and complaint management, with role plays and group discussions in face-to-face seminars. Employees can learn the theory online at their own pace, apply it in practice during the in-person sessions, and develop it further with feedback from trainers and colleagues.

 

(4) Mentoring

In mentoring, you close skill gaps by matching a more experienced person (mentor) with a less experienced person (mentee). Mentors share their knowledge, experience, and insights with the mentees to bolster their professional and personal development. This process is based on a trusting relationship between the two, and is tailored to the specific needs and goals of the mentee. Mentoring is:

  • Individualized
  • personal
  • enriching
  • a bonding tool

 

With mentoring, you create a customized learning experience that is tailored to the specific needs and goals of your employees. This approach not only promotes professional development, but also strengthens self-confidence and networking within the company.

 

(5) Gamification strategies

Gamification refers to the application of gaming elements and principles in a non-game context, such as in personnel development. The aim is to increase employee motivation and engagement, and to promote learning. Implement elements such as points systems, badges, leaderboards, or challenges in your learning activities. These can work both digitally and offline. These elements motivate employees through direct feedback, recognition of their progress, and by giving them clearly defined goals. 

Or use simulations and game-like scenarios to offer practical experiences in a risk-free environment. These simulations are particularly effective for teaching complex skills, as they encourage your employees to learn by trial and error, make decisions, and apply critical thinking tactics. Gamification is: 

  • entertaining
  • motivating
  • fun
  • team-building

 

By using gamification strategies, you create a learning environment that not only supports skill development, but is also fun and encourages employees to actively engage in their own development. This methodology effectively closes skill gaps, increases employee loyalty, and fosters a culture of lifelong learning.

 

Closing skill gaps with digital tools

This software can help you find and close skill gaps

Skill management software

Skill management software enables you to systematically record and analyze your employees’ skills. It provides you with a clear overview of the existing skills in the company and helps you to precisely identify skill gaps. You create competence models that reflect the needs of your company and compare them with the skills your employees actually have. This enables you to detect exactly where action is required.

Once you have identified the gaps, use the software to create targeted training plans. Assign your employees individually tailored learning content and activities that precisely target the skill gaps the software has identified. This personalization significantly increases the effectiveness of the learning processes.

The software also helps you to track your employees’ progress. You can see who completes the assigned learning activities and monitor how your team members’ skills develop over time. This continuous evaluation enables you to measure the success of your training measures and make adjustments where necessary.

Skill management software also promotes transparency within your company. Employees can view their own skills profiles, carry out self-assessments, and actively participate in their own professional development. Working under their own initiative not only closes skill gaps more efficiently, but also promotes motivation and loyalty.

 

Learning management system (LMS)

With a learning management system (LMS), you can structure and optimize further training in your company to help you close your employees’ skill gaps in a targeted manner. An LMS is a central platform that enables you to manage learning content, create courses, and monitor your employees’ progress. By systematically organizing and delivering training resources, an LMS ensures that you can manage skill development among your workforce effectively.

Start by identifying the employees’ training needs and creating appropriate courses in the LMS, or simply reuse existing content. These can range from subject-specific qualifications to soft skills, depending on the skill gaps you have identified. The LMS enables you to assign these courses to the employees who need the training.

Use the various functions of the LMS to create learning paths that are tailored to the employees’ individual needs and career goals. This increases the flexibility and efficiency of the learning process.

The LMS gives you comprehensive reporting and analysis tools with which you can track the employees’ progress. You can see at a glance who has completed the assigned courses, what their test results were, and where there may still be some catching up to do. This transparency enables you to intervene promptly and offer additional support where it is needed.

Engage your employees through interactive learning formats and tests that can be implemented within the LMS. The opportunity to apply knowledge and receive feedback immediately promotes understanding and motivates the learner to develop further. In addition, discussion forums and group work functions can promote collaboration and exchange between learners.

 

Learning experience platforms (LXPs)

While a learning management system (LMS) is primarily focused on managing, delivering, and monitoring learning content and courses, a learning experience platform (LXP) provides a personalized and user-centric learning experience that promotes self-directed learning through recommendations and social learning features.

The platform analyzes your employees’ skills and automatically recommends relevant content, courses, and learning resources that match their individual development goals and identified skill gaps. This tailored approach ensures that your employees are committed and motivated to continue their training.

Use the LXP’s social learning features to promote a culture of sharing and collaboration. These enable your team members to share knowledge, discuss learning content, and learn from each other. This exchange not only expands individual skills, but also strengthens team spirit and your corporate culture.

The LXP gives you detailed insights into your employees’ learning progress. Monitor what content they are consuming, how they are improving in certain areas, and where they may still need support. This data enables you to continuously evaluate and adapt the effectiveness of your learning and development strategies.

Engage your employees with gamified elements and reward systems in the LXP. Such features increase motivation and participation in the learning process, which in turn increases the likelihood that employees will successfully close their skill gaps.

 

The bottom line.

Skill gaps are the gulfs between the existing skills and the required competencies. Companies need to close these gaps to ensure their future competitiveness and productivity. You can identify skill gaps among your employees using various methods such as employee surveys, performance appraisals, 360-degree feedback, job analyses, and competency models. To close these gaps, you have a wide range of digital and analog learning methods to choose from. Combine them in a way that suits your employees and your company. Technological support in this is provided by skills management software and learning platforms such as LMSs and LXPs. 

Would you like to revitalize your personnel development processes and identify and close skill gaps? The chemmedia AG Consulting Team will support you in your project, provide you with the right software, and be at your side with their digital learning expertise. Arrange a non-binding consultation or contact us with your request. 

 

Our understanding

We are chemmedia AG
chemmedia AG: We are chemmedia

We are architects, craftspeople, and artisans. We are chemmedia.

From small and down-to-earth to complex and innovative.

As you accompany your employees, we accompany you! Let us advance your personnel development together! Rely on 360° consulting from strategy to content and technology to learning and business success. Your individual solution is based on your circumstances, your framework conditions and your wishes. Step by step. You set the pace!

 
Nadine Pedro
[Translate to English:] Nadine Pedro, chemmedia AG
Nadine Pedro
Senior Marketing Manager
 

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