Skill gaps in the workplace

How to Identify and Close the Skill Gaps in the Workplace?

64% of HR leaders surveyed by Wiley Education Services and Future Workplace said they see a skills gap in their companies. This is the 2nd time the Closing the Skills Gap Survey has been conducted. Which has shown the skills gap widen further -up from 52% in the previous year.

Clearly, the skill gaps in the workplace are a growing problem. The recent report from McKinsey Global Institute shows that the number of jobs that require complex skills will grow by 40% in the next decade.

With our labour markets being constantly challenged by various external forces, it's imperative that education and training systems can keep up with the fast-evolving pace of work.

While governments are slow-acting to meet the demands of this change, many private companies are taking the initiative to reform education and training systems. All in aid to close the increasing skills gap.

So for now, what can companies do?

Reasons for growing skills gap in the workplace

The skills gap has been growing in recent years. The reason for this is that the demand for skills is increasing, but the supply of skilled workers is not.

This section will explore the reasons behind the growing skills gap in the workplace and what can be done to fill it.

Training and development

Companies typically don't want to invest in training and development when they can't afford it. Could they be more profitable in the long run without it?

In the past, companies had to invest heavily in training their employees. But the cost of training has been going up while the return on investment has been going down.

Often companies who invest in learning and development rarely see the improved organisational performance. This is often due to employees reverting back to their old ways of working.

When they do invest successfully, it often takes a long time before any changes can be seen or felt on a large scale.


How important are retraining and reskilling employees?

When a business loses touch with forecasting future strategies and challenges they can become too focused on the present.

This ends up stagnating the business, getting caught up too much in the day-to-day. When this happens there is no understanding of what skills are needed to achieve future goals and overcome challenges.

Reactionary recruitment to the market can delay solutions greatly.


Some circumstances can’t be predicted and the global pandemic caught a lot of businesses out!

Covid -19 made it more clear that the skills gap is getting bigger and should be a pressing concern to workers and businesses.

Recognizing that both human skills and digital skills need to be augmented for the digital world, companies need new investments and mechanisms for up-skilling and reskilling.

The online market has forcibly increased in use to stay connected. It is crucial that companies make the effort and increase the retraining efforts of these employees helping them adjust to new working conditions. Many have adapted to the market and have very successfully found a home/working environment to be productive.

But much of the workforce needs to develop and improve these skills for home working.

Likewise, governments can better prepare for the future by proactively building provisions that will help workers be able to take advantage of new job opportunities. These provisions include upskilling and reskilling.

How to close the skills gap

As the skills gap grows, so does the frustration of companies and employees alike.

This is because there are not enough skilled workers to fill all of the open positions in today’s job market. This leaves many companies with unfilled positions- which then leads to lost revenue and wasted resources.

Companies can either hire people with skills that are similar, (but not exactly what they need). Or they will have to train their own workforce on the job. But this can be expensive and time-consuming.

Company Solutions

Closing the skills gap is no easy task, but with growing problems comes real necessary change.

Companies should focus on their goals and direction first and foremost.

While predicting their direction is an arduous task, it will benefit the company to be confident in its path to take.

Once a clear direction and goals have been identified, it’s easy to determine what skills are needed to complete the mission.

Companies can try any of the following solutions to not get caught out with an underskilled task force:

Automate existing tasks to free employees time:

This time can be spent working on new projects and undertaking necessary and worthwhile training to reach long-term company goals.


Companies are now looking for ways to train their employees without spending too much time and money. They are using AI-powered tools to do this. These tools provide a more efficient way to teach skills and knowledge to new hires and existing staff members.

In order to close these skill gaps, we need to start teaching new skills in schools and colleges as well as making sure that people have access to online training programs for those skills that are no longer being used in the workforce.

Hiring gig workers

47% of employers choose to hire temporary employees in order to fill skills gaps in their workforce. This is not only cheaper, but companies are also getting the right skills needed to fill the gap needed in their business. When the project. The goal is achieved, employers can let the gig workers go, without needing to continue their employment long term.

Likewise, 61% of the people Mckinsey & Company surveyed, plan on hiring more temp employees.

Technology and automation

Is automation a great solution for closing the skills gap?

While automation arguably contributes to the loss of employee skills, it can serve a very real benefit to the organisation and its workers.

Up to 30% of the time can be saved with automation, allowing employees to spend their free time on new projects.

The key to closing these skill gaps is to use technology as a solution. The digital world is a place where skills can be learned and practised at any time from any location.

Company culture change

According to the McKinsey report, many companies predict a cultural change to how their teams work. The change most needed for developing the workforce is to instil a culture of lifelong learning to work successfully in the future.


There also needs to be a strong shift to make the workplace more agile.

More emphasis needs to be on cross-functional team-working. Keeping the culture flexible to change is what will allow the company to thrive in the future.

This network of teams needs to be able to rapidly learn while maintaining fast decision cycles.

Identifying valuable skills for new hires

Mckinsey found that certain skills will be particularly important for the future workplace, and the need for some will decline. These are:


1.    Advanced technological skills

The need for advanced technological skills will undoubtedly grow. The need for advanced IT and programming skills have been expected to grow to up to 90%!


2.    Basic digital skills

The second fastest-growing skills need is basic digital skills. Increasing by as much as 69%!


3.    Finely tuned social and emotional skills

Soft skills are just as important as technical skills. That’s because the valuable skills are the ones that machines are a long way away from mastering. Resulting in a significant rise for:

  • Entrepreneurship and initiative-taking skills
  • Leadership and management skills


4.    Higher cognitive skills

Cognitive skills such as critical thinking, creativity, decision making and complex information processing will increase in demand. However, as automation advances, we will notice a decline in the need for basic literacy and numeracy. Therefore jobs that require basic data input and processing will be less and less in demand as machines take over.

We will also see a decline in demand for most manual and physical jobs. - While remaining the largest category of workforce skills (measured by time spent).


Conclusion- What can be done about the skill gaps in the workplace?

The skills gap is a growing problem. However, with the use of advanced technology, innovation and training we are getting one step closer to narrowing this gap.

When processed properly, employers can alter their recruitment process to hire workers with long-term skills. This includes full-time employees as well as gig workers.

Companies implementing a useful training and development programme will see a more adaptable workforce, as well as witnessing strengthened productivity growth.

If you’d like to know more on hiring for strong leaders, check out our post on: Situational leadership interview questions to ask during an interview.

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