How to understand, measure and act on your Skill Gaps

Analyzing and acting on skill gaps has become one of the major talking points when it comes to talent acquisition, management and retention. 

McKinsey, BCG, and Gartner have all produced compelling reports on the current acute focus on skills. But the statistic that has really turned many heads is from the World Economic Forum who reported that by 2030 more than 1 billion people will have to be reskilled. Importantly this is not just a critical insight on the Skill Gaps of today, but it highlights that upwards of 85% of individuals entering early education today, will be joining jobs and roles that simply don’t exist yet. 

As more industries continue to become digitally mature, there is an ever increasing strain on the talent pool. A great example over the last few years is the Cyber Security industry.  The Information Systems Security Association (ISSA) and analyst Enterprise Strategy Group ESG have both focused heavily on analyzing this skills gap. They recently reported that despite a heavier workload, unfilled positions and worker burnout are adding even more fuel to the  skills gap fire.

It can be easy to look at these high level stats and say “it’ll be right”, “we’re doing just fine”. The reality of the situation though, is that individuals, teams, and organizations as a matter of survival need to become more agile and focused when it comes to managing skills.

When 69% of employees think it’s easier to find new jobs, than new roles in their existing organization, it’s clearly time to do things differently. 

So, how can we understand, measure and act on skill gaps? 

Identifying and Mapping Skills

The first step to understanding any skills gap is to build the underlying data structure or schema. This is usually in the form of a skills taxonomy, ontology, inventory or library (you can find a guide here). The goal is to have a clear picture of what skills are important to your workforce now, but also what will be required in the future to execute your strategy. 

For example, you’re a tech company and you know that in order to remain relevant and competitive you need to develop a meaningful understanding of how artificial intelligence or deep learning could complement your product.. By building these Skills into your skills taxonomy, even if no one in the team is currently competent, you will be providing a transparent baseline; In essence you have a clear picture of the truth as it is today. 

Armed with this insight, you can then move forward on decisions to upskill existing staff in highly targeted ways or bring in new skills through recruitment. It might also be that you only need certain skills as a stepping stone so you could contract them on a short term basis. This approach is not only efficient, it is outlining the critical path for you and your whole team.

Once your skills data is an accurate reflection of your organization, the next significant step is to create skills mapping between the different parts of your organization. 

  • Skills need to be mapped to people 
  • Skills need to be mapped to teams 
  • Skills need to be mapped to roles   

This is all about adding further context and structure to your underlying skills data, which in the long run will have tangible, measurable benefits to your ability to manage, visualize and act on the data. (more on this later). 

Setting a rating criteria for competency

Let’s say you’re looking for a restaurant on google maps. You search for something in your area, and there are five restaurants close by. Now, what if there are no ratings to provide an easy way to compare those five restaurants? The rating scale is there to create a clear, unified understanding for making comparative decisions. 

Setting up a rating criteria for your skills is just as important. You can report 10 people having the skill “CSS Development” but without a way to understand ability, it can be useless – especially when trying to analyze your skills gap.    In Skills Base, you have full control over the ability to create a rating scale that makes sense to your organization (learn more on our knowledge base). The table below is what this could look like.

Skill Rating Level
Skill Rating Name
Rating Description
Level 1
Low / No Skill
  • Limited or no experience
  • Limited or no knowledge, familiarity and/or training
  • Undemonstrated understanding
  • Extensive assistance or supervisor required
Level 2
Basic Capability
  • Less than 1 year of experience
  • Reasonable knowledge, familiarity and/or training
  • Demonstrated understanding
  • May require assistance
Level 3
  • Over 1 year of experience
  • Good knowledge, familiarity and/or training
  • Demonstrated proficiency
  • Able to apply autonomously
Level 4
  • 3+ years’ experience
  • Strong knowledge, familiarity and/or training
  • Demonstrated advancement
  • Able to assist others
Level 5
  • 5+ years’ experience
  • Expert level knowledge, familiarity and/or training
  • Demonstrated mastery
  • Able to train others

Setting Skill Targets for teams and roles

Now that you have a skills taxonomy correctly mapped to the different entities within your organization and a unified understanding of measurement, an often overlooked task is setting targets. 

Setting targets is one of the most important steps to understanding and acting on skill gaps. 

The reason for setting targets is to create a data structure for differentiating teams or roles by capability. Let’s take the role of Software Engineering as an example. No matter where an individual is at in their career, the skill “python” is relevant to your organization. What differentiates a junior software engineer to a senior software engineer is the target that you set.

Junior Software Engineer
Software Engineer
Senior Software Engineer

As you can imagine, this gives you the ability to easily understand the skill gaps of individuals, teams and roles. It also gives you the ability to see where strengths are. For example, a junior software engineer might also be Expert in Ruby on Rails. 

When you begin to look at hundreds of people, across many roles and thousands of skills, this becomes a task that is completely unmanageable with spreadsheets or manual processes. 

Measuring Skill Gaps

Congratulations! Your data structure should now be in a great place.

The next step is to get your people to perform a skills assessment based on the skills that were mapped to them (Here’s 4 benefits to get employees on board).  

There’s a lot to cover on how Skills Base approaches assessment through a proven Structured Subjective™  methodology, but we’ll leave that to another article. 

Skill Gap Analysis and visualization

Your machine is now complete (or is it?). You’ve put the effort in to create a process for managing and measuring skills, now insights can be found and acted on in real time. One of the most sought after visualizations for comparing gaps and strengths is the trusted skills matrix. (here’s why Excel isn’t the answer)  

By setting up a skills taxonomy, and creating the necessary mapping we can now start to better understand the gaps of individuals, teams, roles and even different geographic locations at the click of a button. Below are three different skills matrices that span from an individual developer, to the entire development team, and all developers in our Sydney, Australia office.

Having these skill insights at your disposal now gives you the ability to act on, and close any gaps that might exist.

Closing Current Skill Gaps

Each individual is different and will have their own strengths and weaknesses. It’s important that training and education can be made in a targeted way, not just for the benefit of each individual, but to also improve the ROI on training in general.

As an example, the developer we looked at earlier, Erica Bowden, is highly competent in her role but has one skill gap. There’s no use providing training that targets skills she is already expert in. Instead we can look specifically at the “solutions acquisition” gap, and send her to a workshop, provide mentoring, or get her to take some online training. 

In Skills Base, you have the opportunity to map skill levels to individual training courses no matter where they sit.

Individuals that complete training can then demonstrate their ability by using the skill, and any skill level changes will be reflected in their next assessment.

Closing Future Skill Gaps

People are dynamic. They learn new skills, their interests change, and they aspire to grow. Organizations need to better understand this and provide genuine career pathways that align to each individual.

Rather than just looking at current skill gaps, we can begin to look at the skill gaps that might exist for an aspirational role. Let’s say someone is a developer, but they want to be a senior developer. By having the skill targets set, and mapped properly, we can begin to build a long term learning pathway; creating a better employee experience and retaining more skilled people.

This can also work for adjacent roles and skill sets. Maybe someone is tired of being a software developer and instead wants to become more customer-facing as an account manager. By comparing current skill levels, and the target skill levels of any role, decisions can be made on how best to act.

In Skills Base, you have full control over understanding and acting on these future skill gaps, and linking this with the training that will help each and every individual thrive.

Understanding, measuring and acting on the skills of your people and organization is all about becoming skills based. This article is just the tip of the iceberg and there are so many more benefits no matter what industry, geographic location, size of organization, or digital maturity. If you want to see how you can start acting on your skill gaps, book in a time to talk to the Skills Base team today.  

Want to understand, measure and close skill gaps?

The Skills Base team is always ready to chat to start you on your journey. Schedule a 15 minute chat today. 


Ready to start benefiting from skills management? Book your free 30-minute meeting with a skills expert today. 

A Skills Base Whitepaper

The Skills Base Methodology
A Framework for Skills-Based Organizations and Teams