Good companies have skill gaps. One default response is to see this as a recruiting problem that HR can solve with more and better recruiting.

But this is wrong. A skills gap is in essence an operations problem, one that can only be solved in the context of operations. This is especially true for professional services companies doing project-based work.

You need to start by looking at why you have the skills gap. There are a number of possibilities.

  • A strategic new project has come in and you have to find new skills to deliver it
  • Your company is growing and need to scale skills that it already has
  • You have lost some critical people and skill sets
  • You have found some complementary skill sets that you need

You can often discover skill gaps by studying your company, team, or your own skill map. The following patterns suggest risk:

  • SkillRank™ ratings are clumped at the bottom of the scale. This suggests a new area of expertise is emerging and you need to help people grow skills.
  • SkillRank ratings are clumped at the top of the scale. This suggests you are not growing the next generation of talent and that you need to give less experienced people a chance to build up expertise.
  • SkillRank ratings are valley shaped. You have a lot of newbies and learners as well as experts and gurus, but relatively few people who are solid. This needs investigation. Are you losing people once they gain experience? Is there a gap in your mentoring and training programs? Or is this how you design your projects, so that the work of a few experts can be leverage by a group of less experienced people.

Once you understand the nature of your skill gaps, you need to ask what skills are hidden inside your company or can be found in your extended talent network.

Internal Talent Pools Almost every company has untapped pools of talent that it is not aware of. These hidden assets are generally wider and deeper than are realized. Why is this the case? We see three common reasons:

  • The gap between operations, which knows what skills are actually being applied and how and HR which has an abstract and generalized understanding of skills
  • Lack of a skill detection system that can find emergent skills (the use of a top-down competency model ensures that the company will not find emergent skills)
  • Ignorance of people’s external projects and interests, and often active opposition to these projects

Companies will be able to make better use of the latent skills in their organization once they recognize – celebrate even – the autonomy of their employees and encourage them to share and develop their skills outside of any one organization.

Extended Talent Networks You will never be able to find all of the talent you need inside your own organization. And all the recruiting in the world is not going to change this. Over the next decade the best companies will excel at leveraging their extended talent networks. Key relationships to leverage include

  • People who have worked with your company on projects
  • People who have worked with people in your company on projects other than company projects
  • The people you can reach through these people (your second degree connections)

Partners and customers are also part of your extended talent network, as you are part of theirs (relationships flow both ways). Sharing skills information across your talent network is critical to activating that network.

TeamFit makes it easy to search across talent networks and to manage how skills information is shared. This is the real way to close talent gaps.

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Image of the Pont du Gard from Wikipedia.