Please Mind the (Skills) Gap

By: Matt Gainsford


Please Mind the Skills Gap

What if we told you that 2022 and the world of business share some interesting parallels with the London Underground?  

Mind the Gap started in 1958 in connection with London’s Underground system. Straight trains arriving at curved platforms meant there was space between the carriage and the platform and unfortunately a passenger by the name of Lillian East found that 8inch gap and had fallen through (it’s ok she survived). 

Over the last couple of years, the global pandemic changed the way most employers think about how work gets done in their organizations. Even before then, however, CEOs and CHROs were already working to address the “skills gap” within their current workforce. Whether it be the inability to find talent with the appropriate skills needed to fill vacancies in the organization’s most critical roles, or the gap in competencies within the current workforce, this is a crisis that has been headed our way for several years. 

Here’s what we do know:

  • We’re all looking for the fastest and most efficient way to get to where we’re going 
  • Technology is advancing to help us on our journey 
  • There can be a lot of changing lines (careers) to get to where you are going, and the path is not always linear… “all change at Piccadilly for the Bakerloo and Victoria lines” 
  • Sometimes lines close unexpectedly and we experience detours and delays 
  • There are times when the carriages are full and you are struggling to find space, and competition for a seat (or in this case, a job/role) is fierce. 
  • Most of the stations have gaps between the platform and the carriage 
  • Sometimes trains breakdown and there are delays (turnover)
  • It takes a significant amount of effort to keep things running smoothly, most of it behind the scenes. 

So, how do you mind the skills gap? 

Here are some stats that make for interesting reading: 

  • Approximately 10,000 Baby-Boomers are retiring each day in the US, which equates to about 30,000 skilled workers each month
  • Skills gaps are costing the economy around $13 Billion per month (side note, I would love to meet the person/people who are able to calculate this)
  • 3 out of 4 US employees are open to hearing about new opportunities 
  • 87% of companies say they have a skills gap or expect to have one in a few years – McKinsey & Companyreport 

“From a talent strategy perspective,” Placid said, “those companies that are probably focusing too much on the buy side may not be hitting the sweet spot. At this point in time, it is equally important to be on the market, acquiring talent, but also investing in your employees and growing talent from within. 

Here are 4 ways to address the skills gap while retaining your top talent. 

1.Career pathing, and the vehicles to get your people to where they want to go. 

The number one reason people leave a job, according to Gallup, is the lack of growth and development. It’s not just about learning and growing; it’s about having a future direction; something to work towards. When you’re addressing the skills gap, starting with understanding where your people are, where they want to get to and how this lines up with your company vision and values is essential. Goals are achieved and new goals are made. The landscape changes, job roles change, and maybe surprisingly (or not), people change too. 

According to Talent GuardMany employees don’t believe they are capable of advancement, because they don’t have the information necessary to move along their career paths. This keeps employees in a holding pattern, which kills engagement, and hinders employers’ abilities to move talent into essential open roles.  

Some practical ways to do this may include: 

  • Engage your people as mentors for new hire. This is a low stakes approach to giving team members a taste of people management while also providing opportunities to share what they’ve already learned.  
  • Have team members sit on strategic meetings or invite them to engage in projects that may be outside of their current roles 
  • Give your people 4 hours per week for intentional learning and development that could include shadowing managers or leaders. 
  • Have team members lead their own trainings in weekly meetings 
  • Open opportunities for hybrid roles 
  • Provide opportunities for extra-curricular activities. Maybe you have a blog team or a social media team for people to join. Perhaps you have a party planning committee or something where team members can try their hand at learning a new skill or employing a current skill and growing in it. Low commitment, high impact opportunities that could grow into something more permanent are exciting for people. 


2. Keep your eyes open for employees to develop new skills by equipping your managers to become coaches. 

Do you have an account manager who is showing an aptitude for sales? What about a talent acquisition consultant who’s persuasive messaging and storytelling abilities could be utilized in a marketing capacity. Perhaps you have a team member who is showing effective people management potential, or they have a strategic ability that could be used effectively in a process development capacity. As a “People First” organization we take the perspective that a manager should be more of a coach.  

Venturefizz describes the difference between a manager and coach as: “The terms coaching and managing are often used interchangeably, but that doesn’t suppose they mean the same thing. While a manager typically organizes the work and processes to deliver results, a coach drives team performance and helps people get to their next level of effectiveness.” 

What is alarming is that there is a 17-year gap between someone getting their first direct report (age 26) and receiving training on how to effectively manage people (43); that’s a great example of a profound skills gap. 

By equipping managers to become coaches you help them look beyond the KPIs and the demands of goals and targets by seeing the people in front of them. A coaching approach will see leaders becoming intentional about providing team members with an opportunity to develop new skills. 


3. Start as you mean to go on with an effective onboarding experience 

You’ve taken a candidate through the hiring process. They’ve got the job and they’ve said yes to you. Now the real work begins. The onboarding process is where you begin to make good on the promises that enticed the candidate to join the company, a second first impression if you will. The quality and effectiveness of your onboarding process will tell the candidate what they can expect to experience working with you.  

According to Fellow in their article on ways to address the skills gap in the workplace: 

Offering an organized, clear, and straightforward onboarding process is key to filling a skills gap in the workplace. The onboarding process leaves a huge impression on the new employee and gives them an indication of the support they will feel in their role. It’s important to create a standardized onboarding process that can be used with all new employees, so managers of new employees feel confident and comfortable with the procedures that are to be followed.  


4. Measure Twice, Cut Once 

Make time to regularly review the gaps in your organization and where further distance between what you have and what you need may be occurring. When it comes to your people it is essential that you have the right tools to effectively measure performance management and that you can see, and address, potential problems early on. Tools to harvest data combined with empathetic and engaging connections between managers and their team are essential to knowing exactly what’s going on and preparing solutions. The way we do this at Titus includes. 

  • Weekly one on ones with managers and team members to keep a finger on the pulse of what is happening. These intentional conversations may include talking about life, work, achievements, struggles and everything in between. These connection points also develop vulnerability and trust which makes challenging conversations easier and deepens the working relationship. When you have trust you can go the distance 
  • Engage in quarterly conversations instead of yearly reviews. Quarterly conversations assess the last 90 days and give both the team member a chance to assess performance and experience against a set of definable and objective metrics to chart progress. If there are gaps you don’t have to wait a year to address them. 
  • Assess what’s happening in your company monthly and give your people transparency by showing how the company is performing. At Titus we dedicate one weekly Huddle per month to do this. The impact of providing this is information is not just to show statistics but to invite team members into celebrating achievement and/or providing solutions to being part of the improvement process. It increases ownership and gives opportunity for impact.  
  • Regularly assessing your skills gaps will also impact your hiring strategy and/or cause you look within your organization to see where you can move people around for maximum impact. 

By providing a defined career path with relevant learning and development resources you can vastly improve your chances of holding on to growth minded people who also understand your company. Equip your people to move within the company. Equip your managers to understand their people. Turn those managers into coaches who know how to get the best out of their people in a committed and genuine way. 

More than recruiters, Titus Talent Strategies are a team of Talent Optimizers who genuinely care about the work we do. We empower companies to put the right people in the right seats through informed, connected strategies that combine data with an empathetic understanding of what makes people tick. We recognize that our partners are investing in us and that results mean more than just people placed in a role. It’s about impact and connection.

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