In PwC’s 22nd annual global CEO survey, “four out of five CEOs bemoaned their employees’ lack of essential skills and identified that as a threat to growth.” With a worldwide skills gap that was one of the top three concerns of 79% of the CEOs surveyed, what can companies do?

A company’s growth is directly linked to employee performance. If it is apparent that there is a skills gap within the company, business leaders and managers are responsible for examining whether it is due to the work environment, employee behavior or leadership and then taking the correct measures to close it.

A great way to begin this examination is to ask the right questions. Using aspects of Gilbert’s behavioral engineering model, let’s analyze the work environment and employee behavior to determine the root cause of the skills gap.

Gilbert’s Behavioral Engineering Model

In 1978, Thomas Gilbert published a study promoting performance analysis as a means to identify the root cause of performance problems. This study asserted that employee performance is affected by three variables: information, instrumentation and motivation. Using this model, you can first examine variations regarding the work environment. You can start with information and ask questions such as the following:

Information

  • Do employees have all of the information they need?
  • Do they know what they are supposed to do? Are the expectations clear?
  • Are there metrics for employees to know when and what to improve?
  • Are they receiving timely feedback on their work?

Even if you identify a gap in the first question, continue until you have asked all questions within this information phase. A thorough examination is important to ensure that you address each issue.

Next, discuss instrumentation and then motivation:

Instrumentation

  • Do employees have the tools they need to complete the job?
  • Do they have easy access to help or resources?

Motivation

  • Are employees motivated to do the job?
  • Are they fairly compensated for their work?
  • Do they feel valued?
  • Do they feel like they are making a difference?

Once again, if you find issues within the environment, do not stop there. You must repeat the process with the employee behavior section of the model. Here are some examples of questions to ask:

Information

  • Was training designed to match the requirements of desired performance?
  • Are employees appropriately matched with their positions?

Motivation

  • Do employees want to be doing this work?
  • Are they overwhelmed or unaware of how much work their position requires?

Instrumentation

  • Are employees’ aptitude or intelligence appropriate for their position?

Leadership and Training

If you do not encounter the root of the gap within either the environment or employee behavior, it is time to dig deeper. Conducting interviews and surveying employees is a great way to gain feedback directly from the source. When doing so, however, it is important to consider the impact leaders may have on employees.

Managers and leaders may even benefit from flipping the questions to reflect on their own work. For example, are they providing the necessary information or feedback for employees to succeed? What can they do to support employees?

The quality of training could also contribute to the skills gap. It is important to review training and make certain that courses include strong learning objectives and measurable assessments. Further, are you delivering training through the best modality? For example, are you requiring employees to take online courses on their own time when they may be better served with instructor-supervised courses? Rather than completing training on their own, many learners benefit from an environment where they can ask questions or seek guidance.

In addition to determining the best modality, is there a way to measure the success of a training program and to reinforce the skills employees learn? At the end of each course, is there an exam or skills check to ensure employees have learned and understand what the course intended to convey?

What’s Next?

Once you have answered these questions, it is important to act on the findings. This process may have helped you discover the root of the skills gap and employee performance problems, but now, it is time to close the gap. Hiring and retraining are two possible solutions.

For example, you could invest in training programs to promote new skills or upskill employees, or you could invest in leadership training to help create a positive workplace culture. Incentivized training is also an excellent solution for working toward closing a skills gap and creating a learning culture. Managers and leaders should encourage a knowledge-seeking environment and reward employees for self-improvement, continuous learning and skill development.

You can also evaluate areas with gaps and determine if hiring a specialized person or team would help fill the gap. If budgeting for hiring is an issue, you can partner with local universities to create an internship or apprenticeship program. These programs simultaneously work toward filling the gap while giving students professional work experience — a win-win!

Get to Work!

To wrap up, we’ve covered Gilbert’s behavioral engineering model and discussed factors that can contribute to poor employee performance and skills gaps. It is vital to the success of your company to identify where your skills gap is occurring and how to close it. We’ve outlined some of the tough stuff; now it’s your turn to ask the right questions and get to work.

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