How to identify skill gaps

Imagine you are running a women’s fashion business.  You’ve focussed your product line on flattering dresses and managed to build a great brand name by getting those products right.  You’ve done so well in fact, you’re ready to expand.  Being an adventurous sort of person you decide to do something different, actually a lot different.  A new swimsuit product line.  It’s both exciting and daunting all at the same time because you have no experience in the swimsuit industry, but you are sure your designs will appeal to most women.

After some research you’ve sketched out a plan to make it happen.  But that just introduces another problem.  Making swimsuits requires a different skill set to producing dresses and you’re not sure if your people have the right capabilities…

What can you do?  Hiring a completely new team is not possible from a cost perspective.

The answer is to identify skill gaps.  You need to find out the gaps between the skills needed and those your people have.  Once you know that, you can fill in those holes with targeted training or recruiting.

But how do you do a skills audit?

The basic approach

A very basic approach is to just go out to your people and ask them some open-ended questions like “please list the skills you have?”.  As you can imagine, the answers you receive will be unstructured.  Since your people had no parameters around what skills to list, you may end up with irrelevant responses, or worse a shortage of information.

A slightly better approach is to list the skills needed for the various roles, then go out to your people and ask them which they have.  Here’s a few samples to give you an idea:

Swimsuit Fashion Designer
  • Swimsuit fabric selection
  • Swimsuit fabric procurement
  • Patternmaking
  • Functional design
  • Grading Ruler
  • Tracing Wheel
  • Computer aided design
Swimsuit Production
  • Industrial sewing machine
  • Interlocker
  • Overlocker
  • Cutting
  • Industrial steam iron
  • Fusing press
  • Photography
  • Photoshop
  • Model management
  • Lighting
  • Swimsuit props, background and lighting
  • Web design
  • Display advertising
  • Search advertising
  • Promotional events

You can then map each person and their actual skills to the role and skill requirements.

The benefit of this approach is that it provides most of the information you need very easily.  The downside is that the skill list is basic and has little use beyond the immediate gap analysis.

A more robust approach

A more robust approach is to define the competencies or capabilities needed for each role. There’s a great article explaining competencies here.  In essence, it’s a more detailed definition of the skills needed for each role.

After defining the competencies, you would then assess your people against them.  There are a number of ways the assessment can be done:

  • Self-assessment
  • Manager assessment
  • 360-degree feedback (we have a great article on this too)
  • Assessment centre

The advantage of this approach is that on top of the gap analysis, you also get thorough skill definitions that you can continue to use for:

  • Ongoing development of your people
  • Recruiting
  • Onboarding
  • Workforce planning
  • Succession planning
How do you do this when you are time poor?

How do you conduct the skills audit and find your skill gaps when you’re running a business and are already time poor?  The answer is technology. Cognology have a competency assessment system designed to make the process easy and give you great visual analysis of the results.