Keeping a team strong and effective can be difficult in today’s business landscape, when requests come from all directions and every day provides a different challenge. A department needs to be able to work together, using everyone’s strengths and weaknesses to move along like a well-oiled machine.

There are many team-building activities available, but why not choose methods that will benefit individuals, the team and the company? Consider working your team through a skills gap analysis and a safety toolbox meeting to bond in a way that makes the workplace run more smoothly.

What is a Skills Gap Analysis?

A skills gap analysis, or competency gap analysis, measures the gap between the skills the company wants or needs and the skills its employees offer. An analysis can be done on the individual level, focusing on individual contributors, or on a team, department or organizational level, focusing on the collective skills of a group and whether they meet the intended target. The skills gap analysis is a crucial part of ensuring an effective, successful department that can contribute to the business as required.

On an individual level, it’s a measure to determine the training or development required to close that gap with current employees, and it also defines the hiring requirements for future employees. With a team approach, it’s meant to collectively evaluate a group and highlight how individual strengths or weaknesses can work together.

Skills Gap Analysis Template

A skills gap analysis template is the metric used to evaluate the existing and desired skills and note where there are skill gaps in the workplace to be crossed. The template is designed to help execute the skills gap analysis study; it should provide space to list the places where performance is falling short, the suggested fixes and the person or team responsible for enacting the resolution.

Executing a Skills Gap Analysis

In order to perform a skills gap analysis, management needs to consider the individual, department and business goals and translate them into skills required for the job. Consider which skills the company and management value, and which skills employees will need to be successful in their positions.

This is the point where it’s important to define the scope of the analysis. If evaluating a team against, say, an upcoming project, the metrics can be easily defined by the specific needs of that project. When evaluating individuals against a set of skills required for their position, the metrics may not be as easily defined and may be hard to measure. A skills gap analysis provides a good opportunity to allow teammates to highlight areas where they would like more training or more potential for advancement, as well.

Assessing Skills and Gaps

Once these skills have been defined, employees should be evaluated against this metric. This can be measured by performance reviews, employee interviews, evaluations or surveys; there are also services and software (such as Avilar or EDSI) that can help evaluate skill gaps more efficiently, especially in large workforces.

Assessing an employee’s skill set against a metric can be challenging. Most references recommend using generalized skill levels; for example, no skill, entry-level, intermediate, and expert, with additional levels added as required. This allows some grouping and consistency within the analysis.

Evaluating a team or group makes the analysis a collective review, summing the skills of the resources and personnel assigned to the team. This snapshot of the team should help project planning determine whether additional members, resources or skills will be required.

Applying a Skills Gap Analysis

The results of a skills gap analysis should be used to identify training opportunities and areas of development for the current employees. Ideally, these should help employees gain knowledge in their field and improve their performance; it’s usually best to cater a plan to each employee, if possible, and emphasize that this development plan is to help the employee, rather than punish them.

These results should also inform hiring practices. Skills gaps can often come along when hiring requirements are unclear or unenforced, so updating the job postings with more specific definitions of the required skill set can help bring in qualified employees who won’t need additional development to meet the department’s needs.

Keep in mind that some skills gaps can be easily filled, while others may not be as straightforward. For example, an employee who doesn’t understand a piece of business software can be easily given a training, or paired with another employee who can offer help. If the gap identified is a knowledge gap, or even a softer skill such as communication or collaboration, this will require a much more careful training plan.

Team Gap Analysis

A skills gap analysis can be done in a group for a team-building exercise. This kind of evaluation should be approached carefully, as employees may view it as a criticism or a test; when presented as an opportunity for improvement and advancement, though, this type of evaluation can benefit both teammates and leaders. Having the team self-evaluate, looking at their own strengths and weaknesses, in the interest of identifying gaps to be fixed rather than penalized, will help employees stay engaged in their own career development, which benefits the team overall.

Teams can bond through these workplace evaluations, and you can add to that by helping your department become more engaged in workplace safety as well as in their own development paths.

Team Safety in the Workplace

Employee safety is the top concern of many businesses today, and it’s incredibly important for management to keep their departments and teams safe in the workplace. There are a number of approaches to workplace safety a business can adopt, but the most efficient way to emphasize safety is to develop a safety culture where individual contributors understand that safety is part of their work.

Employees can develop the bad habit of thinking that workplace safety is the job of the safety department or safety coordinator; this leads to a cavalier attitude toward safety practices and should be discouraged. Encouraging teammates to take responsibility for their own safety and the safety of their peers keeps individuals engaged in the safety program.

Safety Toolbox

The “toolbox” approach is an effective way to discuss safety in the workplace. A teamwork safety toolbox talk is an informal meeting to discuss a particular safety issue related to the job. The meeting usually focuses on safe work practices and workplace hazards, is normally focused on one or two specific issues and remains casual to keep employees engaged and comfortable.

Toolbox talk topics can range from common safety mistakes to fire and electrical safety. In an office-focused workplace, these toolbox talks should focus on safe work practices such as housekeeping, fire alarm drills, ergonomic injury prevention and workplace stress. In a production or plant-based environment, toolbox talks are often driven by Occupational Safety and Health Administration regulations and requirements, covering everything from hazard communication to electrical classification.

Team-building opportunities come in a number of forms. When done deliberately with a sense of intention and a positive approach, both skills gap analyses and employee safety meetings can help a team bond over their own safety, value and development. Keeping teammates engaged in their workplace culture as well as their work is key to a successful, strong and effective team.