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How to Start Filling Capabilities GapsOnce again, you’re staring down a pile of work that needs to get done that no one can do. It’s not that nobody has time; it’s that nobody has the right skillset to tackle the workload effectively. Whether you’ve got a small business and you don’t have a trained bookkeeper or you need someone to administer an ancient Unix mainframe, having a large capability gap can severely impact your day-to-day operations for the worse.

And it’s a problem that seems to be getting worse and worse as the ongoing pace of technology means that the skills your team is trained for can rapidly become obsolete, or at least irrelevant to their job as it exists. Graphic designers, for example, are often primarily trained for print design – and then get into the workforce and find they need to create designs optimized for responsive mobile-oriented websites that look good in multiple orientations and mesh well with moving elements.

In most cases, nobody trained them for this.

And what’s more, employees are frequently not incentivized to expand their skillset, especially when they aren’t certain the investment in time and money on their part will pan out by providing them with the resources needed to secure a steady, well-paying career.

In other words, skill isn’t a single thing employees have, but a set of competencies that need to be kept up to date over time, and finding the right skillset for your company isn’t easy.

The fact is that there are significant areas where there are demonstrable shortages of skilled workers, especially in the information sector and healthcare, where wages have shot up in recent years to help entice those few skilled professionals out there.

Which means that filling these gaps isn’t going to be as simple as hiring someone with the right skills; even if you can find the right candidate, there’s a really good chance you’d never be able to afford her.

So what do you do?

Filling these high-demand skills gaps means that companies need to make two priority shifts:

  1. Investing more in skills development opportunities
  2. Focusing the hiring process on candidates with the ability to learn quickly and excel at skills mastery

The first one is relatively simple, and is available to organizations large and small to varying degrees. Investing in skills development means giving your employees the opportunities to learn more about how to do their jobs, or even expand into other areas (such as if you have a need, and a team member with an interest in that area, it would be smart to help that team member expand their skillset). These investments can include everything from partnering with local community colleges or universities to provide outside educational opportunities, or simply buying a Lynda subscription for the office. In either case, what this allows you to do is to hire less educated, less experienced workers at a lower cost, and raise them up to the level you need them at, while instilling loyalty by demonstrably investing in their success.

In other words, it’s a mistake to assume the only way to build up your team and fill your skills gaps is by hiring the most educated, most skilled, and most expensive person you can find. Experience gained over time, the maturation of technology, and employees’ technical skills development all make the process of covering these gaps much more flexible than one might think, as long as one doesn’t start with the assumption that a candidate must hit the ground running.

Embracing the hiring of people with less education who have the capability and, more importantly, the desire to grow into this and other roles allows businesses to grow sustainably, if more slowly, and to ensure that skillsets align with the company’s goals.

The added bonus of that is that it keeps your payroll manageable and requires fewer fringe incentives to retain team members. It turns out that providing for your team members’ skills development encourages loyalty and satisfaction by ensuring team members advance steadily in position, scope of responsibility, and salary over time.