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Posted by on Jun 5, 2017

Learning Cultures Close Skill Gaps

Learning Cultures Close Skill Gaps

Employees supporting each other as part of a learning culture at work

What is a skill gap? Traditionally, it is defined as the gap between the skills an employer needs to get the work done and the skills employees have when they walk through the door.

However, skill gaps can emerge with an existing workforce. A critical gap can occur suddenly with a new mission critical priority or slowly with looming predictions, such as the impending retirement wave.

When a critical skill gap emerges, an organization’s speed and approach are critical components to effectively closing the gap.

So, how does an organization build capacity to respond to skill gaps? Begin by creating a culture of learning.

Most workforce planning and human resource professionals understand that learning is vital to the health of the organization. However, few link learning to mission critical execution. If the workforce does not have the right skills, employees will be unable to effectively carry out the tasks required to meet the goal.

What is a learning culture? A learning culture is an agreed upon set of values, systems, and processes that encourage expansion of ideas, learning, and skills that positively impacts the organization and enables mission execution.

Organizations that value learning and development as a way of being are in a better position to address skill gaps as the behaviors and practices are a part of their organizational DNA.

How do you create a culture of learning?

  1. Make it an organization-wide focus. Creating a culture of learning should be a shared vision and organization-wide effort. Skill gaps do not just live with an individual, team, or division. Skill gaps are organization priorities. If not addressed, they could potentially put a strategy or mission at risk. Make learning part of the dialogue around strategy and mission.
  1. Make development a leadership principle. According to a recent study of 195 leaders in 15 countries (from over 30 global organizations), two key leadership principles emerged: Nurtures Growth and Shows Openness to New Ideas and Fosters Organizational Learning. In a follow-up Harvard Business Review article, The Most Important Leadership Competencies, According to Leadership Around the World, Dr. Sunnie Giles surmises, “If a leader has these strengths, they encourage learning; if they don’t, they risk stifling it.”
  1. Create various development opportunities. While training may be the right solution for specific skill development, organizations can reinforce knowledge transfer from the classroom to the job by creating additional learning opportunities such as job rotations, special projects, job shadowing, mentoring, and coaching.
  1. Mine the gap. Leaders are in the bridge position to know which skills are or will be needed organizationally to execute strategies and identify if a skill gap exists within their teams. Leaders are then able to feedback that information to the organization and work together to create a plan to address the gap.

Organizations can ignite excitement for learning by fostering a culture that encourages expansion of ideas and values development. In doing so, organizations position themselves to systematically respond to addressing skill gap issues that surface. This creates an added benefit to individuals, team, and leaders by retain institutional knowledge, minimize siloing, increase collaboration, and expand information sharing.

Talent gaps continue to be a critical issue for most organizations. Learn more about our organizational culture alignment work on our webpage here, and to receive more writing about organizational culture, check out our culture blog archive and subscribe to our blog using the form on the upper right.

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