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Leadership Development

How to Fix a Skill Mismatch

Article contributed by Robert Half International

confusion at workAlthough your staff work hard, do they seem to be playing catch-up, working overtime and missing deadlines? Are you spending an unusual amount of time talking with your team about what went wrong on the last project and how to improve processes moving forward?

Such scenarios are more common than you may think. They’re often due to under-staffing, but they also can be caused by a skills mismatch. Here are some examples of skills mismatches and what you can do about them if they are plaguing your organization:

Mismatch #1: Skills Skew
If your firm laid off staff and reallocated job responsibilities among remaining employees during the downturn, your workers may have had to take on some duties that neither align well with their skills nor take advantage of their greatest strengths. They may be spending valuable time struggling through unfamiliar territory, making mistakes and having to redo work.

Hot to Fix It: The first step is to identify positions with responsibilities that have changed since the last time they were filled. No doubt you hired for particular experience and attributes at the time.

Contrast those original job descriptions with what your employees are actually doing now on a daily basis. Re-evaluate not just the skills of the employees who may be struggling in those roles but also the spectrum of talent available within the entire organization. Could responsibilities be switched to make better skills matches with positions that have evolved over time?

If it is not feasible to switch responsibilities around, could you bring in temporary professionals with the required expertise? Hiring temp workers could stabilize the situation and buy you time to determine if you need to make another full-time hire.

Mismatch #2: Misunderstood Roles
Your firm has won a major project for a key client, and you’ve hired new employees to handle the workflow. A month later, however, they still seem a little lost.

There are two potential reasons for this confusion: Either the new employees were not given an adequate orientation regarding others’ roles in the department, or current workers do not understand how the newcomers are expected to augment the rest of the team’s work.

How to Fix It: Gather the group together to give everyone a chance to learn about each member’s role and how the team should ideally work together. Both new and current employees will also be able to ask questions and get to know one another better.

Mismatch #3: New Rules, New Methods
Your staff may be experienced and capable, but changes in the industry — such as new regulations — are creating the need for new knowledge and skills.

How to Fix It: To help your employees keep up with changes in the profession, support their professional development efforts. Consider offering reimbursement for continuing education or giving employees time off to attend seminars and workshops.

Another good option is to cross-train employees in complementary areas of expertise. Such rotational programs can be extremely effective in enabling employees to expand their skills and act as backups when key personnel are out of the office.

Fixing a Skills Mismatch: A Skill in Itself
Overcoming skill mismatches will take time and careful attention, and it may involve some trial and error. Revisit any changes and realignments with the affected employees after a few weeks and be willing to fine-tune if necessary.

Recognize too that this is an ongoing process. As workflows ebb and flow, and as the collective skill set of your staff evolves, you’ll likely encounter skills mismatches in the future. But by being aware of where mismatches most commonly occur and having a plan for dealing with them, you’ll be able to efficiently and effectively correct them.

ABOUT: Robert Half International is the world’s first and largest specialized staffing firm with a global network of more than 350 offices worldwide. For more information about our professional services, visit www.roberthalf.com. For additional career advice, view their career bloopers video series at www.roberthalf.com/bloopers or follow them on Twitter at www.twitter.com/roberthalf.

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