4 Ways to Rethink the Skills Gap

March 23, 2016 Guest Contributor

The skills gap. It’s something we talked about a lot last year, and something the workforce is continuing to battle in 2016. We recently did a study among hiring managers at LaSalle Network, in which 44 percent of respondents cited the skills gap as the biggest obstacle they expect to face this year. The latest ASA Skills Gap Index identified 73 occupations as “hard to fill” for the fourth quarter of 2015.

But here’s the reality. Times change. Industries change. Roles change. It’s not a bad thing; it means society is progressing. So rather than worrying about the skills gap and leaving positions open for months or even years at a time because you can’t find qualified candidates, consider taking a different approach.

Here are four ways to rethink your approach to the skills gap this year:

Hire for culture fit.

Companies with great cultures have happy and engaged employees and see less turnover than companies who don’t. Instead of focusing solely on technical skills, focus on hiring candidates who fit the culture. They’re the ones who will be your brand advocates, expand the business and support the people around them. When you’re meeting with a candidate, ask yourself: Do you enjoy talking with them? Will they get along with others in the company? Do they share the same values and beliefs as the organization? Remember, hard skills can always be taught — but you can’t teach someone to want to work hard.

Look for people who want to grow.

Just because someone has a sales background doesn’t necessarily mean they aren’t right for a PR role. What matters is how hard they’re willing to work and how badly they want it. Are they reading about the industry? Are they coming into the interview prepared with ideas on how they can help grow business? The person with no prior experience who’s ready to dive in, learn, contribute, and gain skills they are lacking will likely be more successful than the person with five years of experience who thinks they know it all by now and aren’t willing to learn.

Offer contract roles.

If you have a candidate you’re uncertain about because they lack certain technical skills, give them a three-month test run. That way, you can see how quickly they pick things up and adapt. Are they learning new programs or software? Are they taking classes or getting certifications to become better in their field? If they do well and exceed expectations, they could be ready to take the role on full time. If not, you part ways and avoid the cost of a permanent hire.

Gauge emotional intelligence.

Emotionally intelligent people have strong communication skills and work well together. They’re empathetic and have the ability to build long-term relationships with co-workers and clients. A candidate may not know how to do all technical aspects of the role they’re applying for, but can they represent the company well and attract new business? Do they have a good sense of right vs. wrong? Emotionally intelligent people can gauge and handle uncomfortable situations that may come up at the office or with a client, and that’s a skill all companies should want employees to have.


ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Tom Gimbel is the Founder and CEO of LaSalle Network, a staffing and recruiting firm headquartered in Chicago. Gimbel is an expert on organizational development, securing a job and hiring successfully. He’s been featured on CNBC, The Today Show, Fox Business Network, Wall Street Journal, Entrepreneur Magazine, Fast Company, Inc. Magazine, Fortune Small Business and Crain’s Chicago Business.


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