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Filling the skills gap in your team

If you’ve weathered the storm and want to ensure continued growth in the contract flooring sector, you’ll need to embrace the changing environment by identifying and filling skills gaps in your team, says Jerry.

IF there’s one thing we’ve all experienced in the past year, it’s having to adapt to new ways of working. Even as restrictions ease over the coming months, it’s likely some traditional ways of doing business, such as in-person sales meetings, will change for the foreseeable future. If you’ve weathered the storm and want to ensure your continued growth in the contract flooring sector, you’ll need to embrace the changing environment by identifying and filling any skills gaps within your team.  

It’s even more important than ever that your team dynamic matches the needs of the business. The first step is to identify where any skills gaps exist.

Skills gap audit
Your skills audit starts with your company strategy. You need to understand what role skills will be required in the future to conduct your business competitively. Identifying what roles will be required to reach your goals will be key to your success.

Take developing customer relationships for example. Pre-covid, sales reps armed with flooring samples would be visiting clients to sell-in the benefits of your offering, developing a customer relationship that could last for years into the future.

Now, this way of working has undoubtedly changed, but the need to create that customer partnership is still essential. You need to develop new and effective ways of networking, prospecting, and taking that client through the customer journey digitally.

Create an inventory of skills required for each role in your business and once you have these, prioritise them in two ways – by type of skill and by level of mastery. This will give you a more manageable understanding for each role.

Then it’s time to conclude where your team currently stands. You can assess staff in several ways, and I’d suggest considering appraisals, 360deg reviews and observations. You can also benchmark your team against your top performers.

Following a thorough review, set aside time to put together your skills gap analysis. This will show you where you need to concentrate your training efforts or recruit external expertise to help shape your team.  

Communication is key
Second, to ensure your team is fully on-board with your plans, it’s essential senior management have open lines of communication. A cohesive approach will bring forward new ideas, encourage buy-in, and motivate staff. It will also enable you to identify strong advocates that have the potential to grow into new or adapted roles for sustained success.

Make a plan
Stage three is a well-thought out and thorough training programme, this is vital to the continuous learning and growth of your team. As a former training manager, I’d suggest breaking this down into three core components.

  • Essentials for all employees. For example, basic training including an overview of company standards, systems and processes, health, and safety.
  • Team focused training. This programme will be specific to different departments. For example, a negotiation course for sales reps and buyers.
  • Specific individual training needs. Whether you’re looking to up-skill an employee or recognise their talent and want to prepare them for a promotion or a variation in their role, there’s certainly a need to define an individual’s training requirements. For example, a recently promoted manager may benefit from formal management training, time management, or other universal skills so they can effectively lead their new team.

Training can be organised in-house or through external channels, and it’s important to build in assessments and performance monitors to evaluate and refine the training needs against your skills gap.

Equally important is the need to recognise the success of colleagues when they have particularly excelled and applied their knowledge to improve productivity and effectiveness in their role. They’ll feel motivated, encourage others, and be more receptive to changes within the business.  

Recruiting from outside
If your skills gap analysis identified areas that cannot be easily filled with training, or there is an immediate need to get up to speed in an innovative new approach to working, you should look to recruit new staff members.

Bringing relevant experience and a fresh new approach can invigorate your team and working practices, especially at senior levels where they have an opportunity to influence the team from the top down.

Selecting the right candidate pool is key and that’s where I feel a specialist consultant can sort the wheat from the chaff and put forward high-calibre applicants that can add value to your business. The right recruiter will have industry knowledge, an active candidate pool, and a personal, professional approach to truly understand your needs.

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