Conducting a Skills Gap Analysis: A Step-by-Step Guide

Conducting a Skills Gap Analysis: A Step-by-Step Guide

Finding talent in the modern workforce offers greater opportunities than ever. Telecommunications tools, digital collaboration platforms, and cutting-edge project management technology put a global talent pool at your fingertips. Couple this with an increasing trend toward remote work and the world truly is your oyster in terms of finding the best and the brightest.

However, all of that opportunity also brings added complexity. While companies look for workers with relevant skills, many use vague or shifting criteria in their hunt for qualified professionals. Everyone loses as a result of haphazard hiring. Companies get frustrated with workers who don’t meet their needs, and workers get lost in environments that don’t make the most of their talents.

A skills gap analysis is the solution. This offers a measured, step-by-step approach to strategically assessing what skills your team needs. This guide shows you how to complete a skills gap analysis for your team.

What is a skills gap analysis?

A skills gap analysis offers an organized approach to identifying what skills an individual or team is missing. By identifying these gaps, the analysis allows you to figure out how to fill them. It essentially involves articulating your organization’s strategic goals, determining what talents your team needs to achieve those goals, and pinpointing the lacking skills.

With this information, you can then address the gap, for instance, by engaging independent professionals. Platforms like Upwork can help build a remote workforce, whether you need independent technical talent or want to start a podcast with a top-notch team.

A skills gap analysis can do more for your company than inform hiring practices, however. It can also be used to guide management approaches. The information you obtain from this process allows you to identify areas of improvement at the team level and serve to redress training or mentoring shortfalls.

In either case, a skills gap analysis involves a set series of actions. Here’s how it’s done.

1. Define your business goals

With a skills gap analysis, start big and work your way down. First, identify goals for the company as a whole. Then, identify goals for your team. Finally, identify goals for the individual. With this strategic method, you can determine what skills an individual needs to contribute to the team goals and, by extension, to the larger business goals. This top-down approach creates an outcomes-oriented atmosphere.

To figure out your organization’s goals, consider short- and long-term targets. What is the vision one year, three years, and five years from now? Are there any areas into which the business wants to expand? Is a set target coming up on the horizon? With this information, you can determine which critical skills are needed to keep on track toward realizing the business vision.

Say you run an e-commerce fashion website, for example. Your goal is to grow your market share with each passing year. To meet your expansion goals, you want to get the word out about your business through more regular social media activity. You need individuals to create social media posts and strategically plan content, establish partnerships, and implement growth campaigns.

2. Methodically assess the talent

Now that you know what skills your team—and thus the individuals in it—need to meet your larger business goals, it’s time for the talent assessment. This will require detailed data collection using qualitative and quantitative methods, including performance reviews, forum discussions, questionnaires, skills analysis software, and interviews.

Review the position descriptions of existing roles within your team, including a comprehensive list of abilities each team member possesses and the tasks they perform. You can also review work history, such as performance evaluations. Finally, you can conduct interviews or focus groups with supervisors and workers.

If you have a web app development team, for example, the professionals you work with include UI designers, back-end developers, and front-end developers. To determine each individual’s precise skill set, start by reviewing the job listing you posted when engaging them. This will outline basic know-how, like the coding languages that they’re familiar with. Take it a step further and assess proficiency with a personal survey, asking individuals to rate their confidence with each language on a numbered scale.

3. List the skills you already have

With the procedural part of the skills gap assessment complete, take the time to list the skills you already have. You can create an Excel spreadsheet. In each column, list the workers, the tasks they currently perform, their skills, and the corresponding proficiency in those skills.

With this information, you should be able to categorize individuals as beginner, proficient, or expert in various areas. A beginner can only execute the job with supervision, while an expert can supervise others. If you’re not confident in the data collected thus far, you can conduct an additional skills assessment to validate these categorizations.

Say you’re trying to determine the skills you already have in your customer service team. You can use a self-assessment via survey to determine each individual’s ability with ticket/help desk software, call center technology, and live chat or social assistance tools. Additionally, quantitative feedback from customer satisfaction surveys will reveal behavioral competencies.

4. Identify what skills are missing

With a list of the skills you have, you can now identify the gaps—the skills that individuals on your team and your team as a whole are missing. Again, this isn’t just a question of whether the talent is there or not, but also the proficiency level. A room full of beginners won’t do you any good if you need an expert.

Create a comprehensive report of missing skills. Flag those areas where base skills are present but not at the level needed. This can help in the next step when determining whether hiring or training is the best way to redress lacking talent.

A simple Excel document can form the basis of your analysis, although a comprehensive talent management system may be more user-friendly in the long run. By putting all this information into one searchable database, you can easily review critical skills for the present and, just as importantly, the future. Identifying future needs now allows you to get a step ahead in determining talent needs.

For example, if you run a small publishing company, twenty years ago, you were working primarily with print media. Ten years ago, you made the shift to e-books. Now, audiobooks are taking off, and you see a need to build up an audio publishing team to hop on board this trend.

5. Create an action plan

With these steps, you can identify the variance between the skills that your current team offers versus the skills that your company needs. You can then consider how to address what’s lacking. While retraining existing team members is one option, engaging new professionals who have the talents that your team lacks is likely to be more efficient. Map out either scenario to create your action plan.

Maybe you’ve decided that you want to add podcasting to your marketing strategy, but no one on your team has podcasting experience. You can consider training eager team members. However, this will involve investing in training, for example, through online course marketplaces, and in the necessary technical equipment. Then, there’s the time wasted as your team hones this new skill.

Alternatively, you can look for independent professionals who have podcasting experience. Online platforms provide easy access to remote talent. Professionals are available immediately and will have the technical knowledge and tools needed to get the job done. You can easily vet individuals based on testimonials, portfolios, and interviews. You just have to adapt your hiring strategies for remote talent.

Find the skills to fill your gaps

A world full of remote independent professionals is waiting to help you fill your company’s skills gap. Upwork provides in-demand top talent, allowing you to confidently engage workers with the skills that your company needs. Get started today.


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Conducting a Skills Gap Analysis: A Step-by-Step Guide
The Upwork Team

Upwork is the world’s work marketplace that connects businesses with independent talent from across the globe. We serve everyone from one-person startups to large, Fortune 100 enterprises with a powerful, trust-driven platform that enables companies and talent to work together in new ways that unlock their potential.

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