What is a Skill Gap Analysis and Why is it Important?
Have you ever marveled at the beauty of a bridge as it crosses a gorge or a river? Our country is filled with beautiful bridges, from the magnificent Golden Gate Bridge to small local covered bridges. What’s interesting is how many different types of bridges that exist; there are suspension bridges, like the Golden Gate, there are cantilever bridges, there are arch bridges, the list goes on. Each type of bridge serves a particular purpose. Not long ago as I was taking a local covered bridge tour, while on the tour I was reminded how skill gap analyses are like the blueprints used to build bridges.
A skill gap analysis helps to identify the skill gaps an individual or group of individuals has. Just like a gorge or a river, you can probably recognize there is a gap from here to there, but what is the best way to span that gap? The skill gap analysis is like a bridge’s blueprint- it helps to identify the best way to span the gap. It is also a critical part of designing an effective training program. Specifically step 1-analyze, which is focused on identifying training needs.
Conducting a skill gap analysis is a three-step process that includes determining desired skills, assessing a candidate’s skills and identifying gaps. See below for an illustration.
At EDSI we use a process called job task analysis (JTA) to determine the skills needed to complete a job function. This includes identifying the larger job responsibilities, then digging down to a more granular level and identifying the tasks involved to complete those job responsibilities. To learn more about conducting a JTA click here.
After the JTA is complete, it can be used as a tool to assess the skill level of an individual. Let’s use the example of a mechanic, responsible for performing the task: “Troubleshoot malfunctioning muffler”. In order to properly gauge the mechanic’s skill level, turn the JTA into a skill survey and use the following rating levels.
The survey can be self-conducted or used by a manager to assess the employee’s ability to perform each task to a required level. Establishing the required skill level for each task is a critical component in order to identify the employee’s skill gap. For example, you may want to require your apprentice mechanic to reach a level 2, or be able to troubleshoot a malfunctioning muffler with assistance. However, you may want your master mechanic to be able to instruct others on how to troubleshoot mufflers, skill level 4.
Skilldex, EDSI’s proprietary web-based skill assessment tool, automatically generates and distributes skill surveys from job descriptions. This makes creating multiple JTAs and skill surveys a very quick and easy process. The software also allows the user to establish a required skill level for each task. With required skill levels for each task, the system can auto-generate a skill gap report. See the example below:
The skill gap report serves as the foundation on which to build out a customized training plan. The beauty of this entire process is- the training plan is built on strong, accurate and highly relevant data. Through the skill gap analysis process, we have identified the exact responsibilities and tasks required to complete the job, the level of skill required to perform each task, and the ability of an individual employee to perform that task to the required level.
This same process can be applied to a shift-wide, department-wide, or even company-wide level. This is where the benefits of conducting skill gap analyses really gets interesting. Imagine distributing a skill survey to each employee who works on the same shift, or within an entire department, or at an entire location, or even across the entire company. This data allows you to see trends across a group of employees.
Evaluating a single employee’s skill gap is highly beneficial and can show data such as ability to perform specific skills and skills required for advancement. Yet expanding the skill gap analysis to a shift, department, location, or company-wide level can show trends in the data such as issues in meeting business goals, new skills required due to technological advances, need for cross-training and need for improved scheduling. Check out the graphic below for specific examples of job analysis benefits by level.