Farmers Insurance used several approaches to address the skills gap in their workforce. Employees are expected to have a core set of skills, whatever their position is. Employees with technical jobs also have ongoing training to ensure they’re updated on new products, processes, and system upgrades.
The above training goals are all accomplished with the help of Farmer’s multi-faceted approach to training, which includes:
- A competency portal that combines online books, courses, self-assessments, and hands-on activities that help them improve on 50+ core competencies required for their jobs.
- Curriculum that blends technical information customized for each business unit. Farmers’ call centers, for example, uses data from customer satisfaction reviews to identify skill gaps among their employees.
- A talent program that recognizes individuals with the potential to hold leadership positions
Employee training is a company priority in Farmers Insurance. It’s a must-have, not a nice to have in all levels of their organization, and as a result their workforce remains sharp and productive despite the changes in the insurance industry.
Skills Gap, Not Always the Result of a Bad Hire
Job descriptions change faster now because of technology and market trends, but many employees are often unprepared for these changes. They only find out when their boss hands them a task out of their current scope with little to no guidance on how to accomplish it. This leaves employees in a sink or swim environment, while managers complain about employees who can’t do their jobs.
Business needs and technology change frequently, according to research published on the National Bureau of Economic Research, so it’s up to employers to identify the skills gap in their organization, and prioritize training that will have the most significant impact to their bottom line and productivity.
Today’s information-based economy rewards trained employees who are up to date in their field of work. There’s no shortage of jobs in telecommunications and IT. The Department of Labor’s Future Work Report suggests the solution for employers now is to invest in their employees so they can stay ahead of the changing demands of their job.
Here are 5 Methods to Identify the Skills Gap in Your Office
1. Use Performance Appraisals
A performance appraisal is a process where a manager meets with their subordinates once or twice a year to discuss the employee’s key performance indicators (KPIs). While these appraisals are often used to determine career progression and salary increases, it can also be used to identify an employee’s areas of improvement.
For instance, if the appraisal reveals the employee had trouble identifying network problems in Cisco for the last two review periods, then it’s time to look a little deeper beyond urging said employee to “do better,” as is the usual pattern in many company-conducted appraisals. If other employees experience similar challenges, that suggests the problem goes beyond a “lazy” or “outdated” employee.
2. Learn from Critical Incidents and Customer Feedback
How do your managers react to mistakes? Does everything return to business as usual after the erring employee is told off? That’s a missed opportunity right there. Mistakes are learning opportunities, not just for the employee who did wrong but for the company as a whole.
If an employee made a severe miscalculation on how long it would take to complete a project, wouldn’t it be a good time to evaluate how often this happens to other project managers? If it happens often enough, consider the possibility that your project managers need a refresher or that your employees lack proper project management training.
Customer feedback can be used similarly. Analyze the information to determine how often a specific complaint is raised to identify where employees need additional training. You don’t even have to wait for customers to publish a negative review online. Be proactive and send out a survey to identify which products or services they’re not satisfied with.
3. Survey Employees
Adecco’s poll revealed that 44% of Senior Executives think US employees lack critical thinking, creativity, collaboration, and communication skills, while 22% felt employees lacked technical skills and 12% say they lack software skills. Of course, this isn’t representative of the whole workforce but if your company is suffering from a skills shortage, isn’t it better to get the information straight from the people in those jobs? It’s better than complaining or wondering why employees have trouble doing their jobs efficiently.
Conduct an anonymous survey of departments with poor performance and high attrition rate. The survey questions should focus on the employee’s current skills and knowledge, and the topics where they need additional training. Managers should also ask their subordinates to rate how their current tasks compare to the jobs they were hired to do.
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4. Manager Observations
Managers should observe their direct report’s performance regularly, taking note of their strengths and weakness, even if the annual review is long past. After all, the numbers in yearly appraisals don’t tell the whole story.
KPIs can’t give you specifics and details on the day-to-day performance and challenges of your employees. But first-hand observation and regular catch-up sessions with your subordinates can give you a clearer picture of what the real situation is with their jobs.
5. Certifications and Refresher Tests for Employees
Certifications and Refresher tests specific to the employee’s role can help you gauge their skill level at specific tasks and proficiency in using the software and other tools for their job. Of course, this isn’t applicable to all types of jobs, but the list below should give you an idea of the possibilities:
|Job Title||Possible Certification/Refresher Test|
|Customer service agent|
|Service Desk Analyst or Support Engineer|
A combination of practical and proctored certification tests can help you gauge your employee’s skill level, not just in theoretical knowledge but in real-life situations. For instance, an employee’s performance on a practical test will show you if they know the correct order of diagnosing an IT server problem, or whether they often take shortcuts that may lead to a wrong diagnosis or solution.
How to Fill the Skills Gap in Your Company before It’s Too Late
1. Create a Training Map
Your company may already have training materials on different subjects, so they just need to be distributed to employees affected by the skills gap. But if your employees have studied these training materials before, who’s to say they can remember and apply it effectively this time? Perhaps your training materials need to be revised, or maybe the onslaught of market updates rendered them outdated.
Conducting a thorough review of your current training materials will reveal specific areas where it needs to be improved or updated. You may also discover new ways to conduct the training.
Below are different factors to consider when creating a training map:
- Training content
- Training level: beginner, intermediate, advanced
- Training type: online learning with a live class, instructor-led, self-paced online
- Training goals: to improve a skill, train on new product features, improve customer service, etc.
Announce the start of the training sessions to the whole team, and let everyone know that management supports the activity. Set a dedicated training schedule for every batch of trainees, so your employees don’t have to multitask between training and completing their current workload.
Of course, some of your employees might have a strict schedule where their workload or that of their teammates may be affected if they leave for training, even if it’s just for a few days. But this is no reason to postpone or cancel their training. Training companies like GIT provide flexible training schedules, such as night classes, and on-demand classes.
2. Identify Key Performance Metrics (KPI) to Gauge the Training’s Success
How do you find out if your recent training was effective? By identifying specific metrics affected by the training’s outcome. For instance, if the training was conducted for a new product, then your employees should show improvement in answering questions related to it.
If you conducted a Salesforce training, then your employees should show an improved familiarity with Salesforce’s dashboard and different features.
3. Reinforce New Knowledge
Your training programs will only be useful if you give employees a chance to use the new knowledge they gained. Reinforce their learnings by allowing them to practice new skills through online or real-life simulations, or written tests.
Complicated subjects and intensive training courses require practice for students to assimilate new knowledge completely, so make sure the in-house training team and third-party training providers you work with include labs or simulations in their curriculum.
Without a way to practice their new skills, your employees will just forget what they learned, and all the time and money you spent on their training will be wasted.
Training is an Investment
You might think training your employees to address skills gap is expensive, and that hiring new employees to replace them is cheaper. But what you don’t realize is this approach will just lead you back to the same loop, eventually, your newly hired employees will experience skills gap once their jobs start evolving beyond their original job description.
The best solution is to train your employees on the skills they need and make sure the new ones you hire are up to scratch.
Invest in your employee’s training. Give them the gift of skill they need to gain confidence in the workforce, and they’ll give you the productivity and level of performance your company deserves.
To save on training expenses, Global Institute of Technology Partnered with different regional workforce development centers to provide employers with as much as 50% savings in their training programs. Investing in your employee’s training not only boosts their productivity, but it also helps you save on taxes, too. Expenses related to the education of an employee provide a double benefit—they are tax deductible for you (IRS codes: Section 127 – Educational Assistance Program, Section 132 – Fringe Benefits and Section 117 – Scholarships) the employer, and tax-free for your employees.