Are Skills Mismatches Hurting Your Business?

Is your job a fair reflection of your abilities, or do you find that some of your skills aren’t used at all? According to a recent CIPD report, almost half (49%) of employees claim that their skills are not well-matched to their roles. Of these employees, 37% believe they could handle more demanding work, while 12% feel out of their depth.

Such mismatches have serious consequences. When your people aren’t using their abilities to their fullest, you fail to tap into their true potential. On the flipside, if employees lack the prerequisite skills for the job, performance is bound to be sub-par.

In both cases, skills mismatches not only have a negative impact on the organisation, they are damaging to the individual as well. Being over-skilled can result in boredom and apathy, while being under-skilled can be make people stressed and low on confidence. Ultimately, both situations lead to the same place: disengagement, poor performance, and a desire to move on.

If your employees are empowered to use their full skillset, however, they will naturally feel more engaged and motivated. As a result, the quality of their work will improve, and they will be more likely to stick around. According to the CIPD, just over a half (53%) of over-skilled employees are satisfied with their job, compared with three-quarters of those whose skills and work are aligned.

In a world where employee disengagement, low productivity, and high turnover are ongoing problems, skills mismatches are a key area to address.

Why does this happen?

Skills mismatches are generally the result of systemic inefficiencies, a lack of communication between managers and employees, and outdated approaches to the way jobs are designed.

For instance, we often fall into the trap of seeing people through the narrow lens of their job description – a static list of tasks and responsibilities that may be suitable when an employee starts, but does not change and grow as they do - or, as frequently happens the role does.  

If there aren’t systems in place to continuously align skills with work, and if regular conversations about professional development and job satisfaction never take place, employees will find their professional lives limited by their job descriptions.

Further, the fact that more people feel over- rather than under-skilled could be the result of what the CIPD call ‘credentialism’, where companies filter candidates by education level, with university graduates seen as a safe bet for jobs that don’t, in fact, require degree-level expertise. As a result, many graduates find themselves in roles that simply don’t require the skills and knowledge that they worked so hard to acquire, leading to frustration and boredom.

Based on the CIPD statistics, chances are a good proportion of your workforce are either under-utilized or out of their depth – a situation that needs addressing as soon as possible, but how? Here are some practical suggestions.

Perform a skills audit

The first step is to get a clear picture of the skills you have at your disposal. A skills audit allows you to look beyond your employees’ job titles and descriptions, helping you to better understand the full extent of their abilities.

Utilise technology

Modern HR platforms provide the perfect space for storing, viewing, and using the information that comes from a skills audit. People First, for example, gives you full visibility of your employees’ skills via talent profiles. You can then map talent profiles against positions, helping you to identify suitable successors from your current talent pool.

Get your people in the flow

Technology can also help track how employees feel about the work they do. At People First, we built flow technology into our software for this very reason. By checking in with an employee each day to gauge how their day went, the system can spot when they fall out of flow – i.e. that sweet spot where work is challenging enough to be interesting, but not so much that it becomes stressful.

Keeping employees in a flow state is key to improving employee engagement and productivity and ensuring that skills and tasks are aligned is a key ingredient to flow. 

Adopt check-ins

To avoid situations where employees find themselves either going through the motions, totally unchallenged and bored by their work, or rather feeling overwhelmed and under-skilled, it’s important that managers hold regular, ongoing conversations with them.

Check-ins allow managers and employees to work through issues as they arise, and provide a space for discussing professional development, job satisfaction, and any barriers – which could be related to the job, or something outside of it - to enjoyable and productive work.

Rethink the way you work

The idea of limiting employees to inflexible job descriptions naturally lends itself to skills mismatches – a job description is never going to match someone’s full skillset perfectly. Over time, job titles and descriptions can act like shackles, restricting your people from achieving their potential.

By rethinking the way you design jobs and designate work, it may be possible to provide a more flexible approach to skills matching. One such example is focussing on project work, rather than rigid, unchanging roles. This way, employees can use a broader range of skills, as they move from one project to another. 

Ultimately, the aim should be to understand your workforce at an individual level. This way, instead of asking people to fit into predetermined and limiting roles where they only use a fraction of their potential, you can shape work to fit their unique skill sets.

Find more about People First can help match skills to roles in your business, and download the People First guide.


Nick Edwards - http://www.praguecopywriter.com/

Nicholas Edwards is a freelance writer and editor based in Prague, the Czech Republic. When he's not helping local businesses master the English language, he loves writing about the future of work for People First. 

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