Addressing the skills gap with a thorough skills audit of your workplace

By Lisa Cefali

I recently attended The Associates’ AGM where the keynote speaker, Perrin Beatty, president of the Canadian Chamber of Commerce, spoke on the topic of Canada’s business competitiveness. One of the key points that he referenced was the skills gap that many Canadian organizations face today.
Organizations are desperate to meet the needs of today while also understanding what they will need for the future. He went further to say that it is imperative that they have this understanding if they want Canada to be competitive globally.
Often, one can easily see what skillset is currently missing, but it is extremely difficult to even imagine future skills where technologies, processes, and true business applications of those technologies have yet to be developed!
He also warned of the effect of the knowledge drain that will occur when the baby boomers really do retire and take their experience with them. Mr. Beatty went on to add that having business work closely with post-secondary institutions is recommended as it provides insight into the types of skills and programs that should be taught.
At this point, I found myself nodding in agreement with the strategies he was suggesting, as companies do need to look forward and focus on bringing in good talent – and working closely with post-secondary institutions plants the seeds to grow future employees. The question that came to my mind was whether organizations are truly doing all they can to really understand the skillset they currently have – the talent within.
In most companies, some form of a “budgeting process” occurs, is expected, and is committed to. Most companies do this on a yearly basis. Each department is asked to submit a planned budget consisting of day-to-day operations, enhancements, improvements, and new initiatives. The numbers are then vetted and added to or changed.
The people element is taken into account as part of this equation by way of monetary salary increases and the additional human resources that may be needed.
But are we really doing this with the same vigour and diligence on the people side? Is it time we do? Mr. Beatty felt we should!
The skills gap is real and companies need to address it. But where do you start? Consider answering five specific questions as a means of completing a skills audit:
1. What skills do we know we currently have?
2. What skills do we NOT know we currently have?
3. What skills do we know are going to walk out the door with retirees?
4. What skills will we need to address the leaks?
5. What skills do we anticipate we will need for future initiatives?
Organizations often do realize that in order to address the skills gap, they need to go external. However, the real difference now is that organizations need to enlist recruiters who can search out where the talent is and reach out to those individuals – candidates that will address the skills gap the best.
In my interviews with candidates, the number one reason people are interested in even entertaining a new opportunity is their desire to expand their skillset and often to use a skillset that they are not using in their current role. Often they have been categorized a certain way or have been doing a role, and that is the only role the organization feels they are able to do.
As a recruiter, we approach the individual and take inventory of all skills – those in the immediate role and those in their past roles. We see these skills as being fully accessible and transferable.
Skills audit
Organizations can no longer make skills a priority for the Human Resources department only. A skills audit needs to be part of the strategic planning process – just as important as the yearly corporate budget process. If the senior team along with the board can request/demand/insist on an effective and thorough budgeting process of the finance lead or department, there is no reason the skills audit cannot be addressed as well.
Those firms who incorporate the urgency of addressing the skills gap with the first step of a skills audit, are those that will remain competitive and be well prepared for their future direction. Conducting a skills audit, creating a strategic human resource plan, and then implementing said plan will ensure your firm is on the leading edge.
Being aware of what skills lie within, and those that you then need to attain, sends a strong message of commitment to your current employees, and also to those employees you are attempting to attract into your organization.
So, what are you waiting for? It’s close to the end of the year – have you completed your skills audit yet?
Lisa Cefali is the Vice President Executive Search with Legacy Bowes Group where she uses her many years of business experience and assessment of emotional intelligence to uncover organizational insight and those attributes that provide for the best organizational fit for her clients with their strategic planning needs. Please feel free to contact her at for your executive search, recruitment, coaching, and strategic planning needs.

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