If your managers ask employees where they want to be in five years’ time, many will have a pretty good idea. Even if they don’t, it’s a great way to start a conversation. Whether your people have their careers mapped out in detail or are just starting to consider the question, everyone should know which skills they’ll need moving forward.

Giving your people a helping hand to map their career vision and achieve growth should be a priority for any organization. Focusing on employees’ needs isn’t only an investment in them but also an investment in your company’s future.

Adapting to Meet the Demands of the Future

Skills development is becoming increasingly important as the world of work evolves and skills gaps grow. With disruptions to the workforce, technological advances and growing demand for soft skills, companies are stepping up to meet these challenges. We can all recognize how important closing the skills gap is. Deloitte found that the ability for people to adapt, reskill and assume new roles is the top-ranked item to navigate future disruptions, but only 17% say their workers are “very ready.”

These demands can’t be met by hiring new talent either. According to a 2022 report from the job site Monster, it’s getting harder to hire, with 91% of employers struggling to fill vacancies due to skills gaps — an issue that 29% of employers believe is worse since 2021.

The answer to your future success lies within your current people.

Success Starts With Your People

Data from Salesforce shows that 75% of employees believe an increase in workforce development will also help them grow in their careers. If you don’t invest in employees, they notice. Lack of support and focus on employee career advancement can lead to a less engaged workforce and a greater churn rate, which means your company is a less attractive destination for potential new hires.

It all comes down to how you develop your people’s skills. Poorly focused and ill thought-out reskilling and upskilling efforts that aren’t personalized to their needs and don’t align with their career goals won’t make the difference you’re looking for.

How to Identify and Overcome Skills Gaps

Addressing and closing your company’s skills gaps requires planning, a careful look at the current state of play, and a firm understanding of where you want your company to be in the future. You also need to understand the individual needs of your workforce, the talents they possess and their career vision.

1. Find Skills Gaps and Think Ahead

Take the first step and identify the skills your organization is missing. Engaging with your workforce and getting honest feedback from managers and employees about where they excel and where they have skills gaps is crucial. Gather useful feedback on each employee from their peers and managers to ensure a thorough appraisal of your workforce and where skills gaps lie.

Future skills gaps can be at the organizational or individual level. If you plan to adopt new processes or technologies, or expand into new markets, then those plans require skills that your entire workforce needs. Future skills gaps for individuals can often lie in their aspirations and career vision. Working with your employees to identify the trajectory they want their careers to follow means an appraisal of their current skillsets and the skills they need to achieve their goals.

2. Make Skills Training Relevant

Your people need to learn skills that align with business goals, but you should also factor in how engaged they’ll be about these opportunities. The two aren’t always mutually exclusive, but if employees can learn skills that help them grow professionally and increase business goals: It’s a win-win! Personalized progression plans that outline training and development help streamline skills development and engage your workforce. Each employee has a clearly-defined path with learning and development (L&D) objectives to keep them motivated, and so it becomes easier to track and measure progress.

3.  Allow Employees to Track Their Own Skills

Employees should drive their own journey. They should define their own career ambitions, take charge of their development by using a learning management system (LMS) or another platform, set objectives and add personal goals to their plan.

Regular communication between employees and managers helps to keep your people focused on their goals. Treat one-on-ones as a tool for managers to help employees develop their skills and grow. Topics covered in these meetings can range from the deeply personal to the highly tactical. Future career goals and the skills necessary to reach those goals should be ongoing conversations during these meetings.

Having shared agendas can create an effective feedback loop that can help employees and managers stay aligned with both personal and company goals. Managers should gain a better understanding of where their people want to go and the support they need to get there.

4. Build a Learning Culture to Keep Your Workforce Agile

Putting learning at the heart of your culture means having an agile and mobile workforce capable of meeting any challenge as it arises. A company that values learning, encourages employees to enrich their careers through professional development, and embraces the aspirations of its talent pool is one that’s well-placed to succeed.

The Bottom Line on Skills Development

Developing your people and nurturing their talents means giving them opportunities to grow their skills and move into different roles. It doesn’t just benefit your business by keeping your workforce agile but creates an environment for your employees to feel empowered by the work that they do.