What is a skills gap?

A man holding a tablet with holographic visual above display

To build a successful business, you need to fulfill several requirements – assembling a qualified team is one of the most vital. Unfortunately, nothing lasts forever. Thanks to the constant march of time and technology, your business needs to adjust. Some positions are filled in with automation while new ones open up. Now, that’s a problem. Often, current employees don’t have the necessary skills to fill the new openings.

But training takes time, and hiring gets expensive. And that leads us to today’s topic – skills gaps. In this article, we’ll discuss what they are, why they matter, and how you can combat them.

What is a skills gap?

A definition of skills gap

A “skill gap” is effectively an absence of necessary business skills in your pool of employees, which prevents them from filling in new open positions or fulfilling their current responsibilities.

Often, people incorrectly think that skill gaps only relate to so-called “hard skills”, but the truth is that soft skills are just as important.

However, this article will primarily focus on skill gaps in traditional hard skills, like maintenance and manufacturing.

What causes skills gap?

Causes of skills gap infographic

Skill gaps in the workplace are the result of multiple factors. The COVID pandemic resulted in the 4.9% peak of US jobless unemployment rate in November 2020.

Job loss was most prominent in lower-paid industries, like maintenance, manufacturing, and construction.

Junior and senior workers alike were let go en mass, and despite the pandemic being all but over, many are skeptical of returning to work. This can partially explain the skill gap seen in the industries.

The second issue these industries suffer from is a lack of “fresh blood”.

In recent years, there has been a lot of talk about the so-called “silver tsunami” (sometimes also known as the grave wave) – the aging of the workforce.

The truth of the matter is that maintenance and manufacturing workers aren’t the most attractive career choices.

High school and college attendance is high, but vocational skills have all but been removed from the curriculum.

Due to that fact, finding a qualified new hire as an employer is becoming continually more difficult.

Finally, the third reason behind skill gaps in the workplace is the changes in business needs and technologies we mentioned before.

Thanks to automation, older positions are disappearing, and even hands-on careers like the ones described in this article demand a higher level of computer proficiency.

This is turning out to be an issue, as according to a study by McKinsey & Co., 87% of companies worldwide claim to have skills gaps or expect them in the next few years.

What are the consequences of skills gaps?

There are three main consequences of skill gaps in the workplace that affect a company’s bottom line.

More specifically, these include:


With fewer people employed and the same amount of work to go around, corners have to be cut somewhere. And oftentimes, these are in the quality department.

In manufacturing, this can tarnish companies’ reputations, lose customers, and decrease profits. In maintenance, it increases the risk of unscheduled downtimes and health and safety violations.

Work Inefficiency

Due to skill gaps, employees regularly need to tackle tasks they’re not trained for. This results in work being slower and of lower quality.

Sometimes, the only way to fulfill a specialized responsibility is through the combined efforts of multiple untrained workers, which only compounds the issue.


So, if work takes longer to do and employees need to work more, that reflects in your costs. If you want to train your employees to keep them viable, that costs money too.

And finally, thanks to the limited pool of qualified personnel, hiring a trained employee is now more expensive than ever, as they’re in such high demand and you need to outbid your competition.

How to bridge the skills gap

How to bridge the skills gap infographic

As we mentioned previously, there are two main ways a company can try to bridge its skill gap. Namely, they are:

a) Training

This includes three vital procedures you need to master if you wish to succeed – initial training, reskilling, and upskilling.

Initial training ensures that your latest hires properly grasp the necessary information and effectively contribute to company efforts.

Reskilling and upskilling are the processes responsible for helping your staff evolve past their current roles and either take on more responsibilities or transfer into a new position.

One way to aid these three is through effective collaboration.

However, as the pandemic has shown us, you can’t always count on the possibility of face-to-face explanations. Thankfully, new tech developments mean that you don’t have to.

By leveraging digital assistance tools like work instructions, you can outfit your field technicians and workers with a lifeline to their senior colleagues, which allows them to see step-by-step instructions in real-time.

To that end, it’s also imperative you capture tribal knowledge in case of churn.

If you haven’t heard of it before, it is the culmination of your senior staff’s knowledge regarding best work practices.

Unfortunately, it tends to be limited to the headspace of your more experienced workforce, meaning it leaves with them when they do.

However, it can be a powerful resource for training and onboarding, so you should put in extra effort to get and write down as much of it while you have the chance.

b) Hiring

As we mentioned above, hiring comes with its own set of issues. The financial costs of it are just one of them.

You can try to outbid your competitors for the best employees or offer them a better quality of life to win them over. However, all of that will be in vain if you don’t know what skills you actually need.

That’s where a skill gap analysis comes in.

To do one, you’ll need to identify future work trends for your industry, determine future-ready skills which you’re looking for, and assess your current workforce’s skills.

Once you have a solid idea of what you have and what it is you’re looking for, you’ll be ready to start hiring with the knowledge you won’t pointlessly invest in people and skills you don’t need.

That being said, training should be your main focus. And to help you with it, we created this e-book on the topic of Training a Workforce at a Time of a Global Skill Shortage.

Download it today for free, and prepare yourself and your company for the future.