Addressing the Skills Gap of New Employees

how to address competency gaps

There is a large skills gap that exists in the US between what employers need and what candidates are offering. The issue of skills gaps in the workplace presents differently when looking at the white-collar and blue-collar labor market, but it is a universal concern. I would like to look at both spaces separately and address the unique concerns facing in labor market.
In the white-collar market recent college graduates have been found lacking in terms of what they can offer and what employers are looking for in new hires. A research study titled An Examination of Perceived Employability Skills between Employers and College Graduates performed by The James G. Martin Center for Academic Renewal found that of the 39 skills analyzes the gaps fell into three broad categories. The categories are:

  1. applied knowledge which includes applied academic skills and critical thinking skills;
  2. effective relationships, which include interpersonal skills and personal qualities, and
  3. workplace skills including technology use, systems thinking, communication skills, information use, and resources management.

This presents a troubling problem for employers as colleges aren’t likely to fix this issue anytime soon, so employers are left with having to find a way in how to address competency gaps on their own. The first step is just being aware of this skills gap and realizing that your new hires may not be aware of these skills that they need to develop. It may be helpful to employ an assessment like AcuMax to help identify the areas that a hire needs to develop the most. This will allow you to take a more targeted approach to skills development tailored to each new hire. Additionally, even knowing these three skills gap categories can also help you design more thorough onboarding and training programs designed to build skills in these areas. You should also consider providing external resources for new hires to be able to work on these areas through a personal development program.
Competency gaps are also an issue in the blue-collar space, particularly in industrial or manufacturing. The three categories of soft-skills mentioned above still apply within a blue-collar environment, but they aren’t the only skill gaps. Vocational or apprenticeship programs are in need of an update, and require an investment of resources to help them get elevated as a career path.  The most successful vocational programs don’t focus primarily on classroom work, which may help a student learn how to cram information or study but isn’t an indicator of the ability to actually do the job. Hands on training provides the best on-the-job skills training and new proposed models include this kind of training and suggest offering it even at a high school level. Most technical programs, including those at Google, Apple, and IBM, are starting to ditch the idea of needing a four-year degree because they realized that it isn’t a necessity to be able to do the job.

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