Learn the 3 Ways to Close Your Skills Gap


About Dr. David DeLong

Dr. David DeLong is an author, speaker and president of Smart Workforce Strategies, a consulting firm that helps organizations find solutions to critical skill shortages and risks of knowledge loss. A veteran researcher, David DeLong has spent more than 20 years studying the strategic impacts of changing workforce demographics and knowledge loss on organizational performance.


If you’re looking at a skills shortage you might be looking in the wrong place. Often the real problem in staff performance is an overdue management change.

Before you launch into yet another mentoring program, succession planning exercise, or recruiting new team members read this short article.

It could be a game changer.

Closing the skills gap

In my practical work experience I’m constantly reminded that what you think is the problem is usually not the whole problem. Like the proverbial hole in a bucket, we need to first look at how the hole got there.

Competitive leaders are systems thinkers. Instinctively, they look at cause before tackling outcomes—they ask why something happened, before running down a rabbit hole trying to fix the problem.

Like a skills shortage.

Through my research, I’ve identified three key areas to address as you assess your skills shortage: create a sense of urgencybuild a coalition, and create short-term wins.

Managing Change in the Workplace

1. Create a Sense of Urgency

Without urgency, well intentioned change management initiatives risk being relegated to To-Do lists.

As leadership expert, John Kotter wrote in “A Sense of Urgency,” for change to happen your people have to want it. Creating a sense of urgency around change plans will spark motivation, encourage deadlines and make progress an essential part of corporate culture.

However, creating and sustaining urgency is a tricky business. Here are two ways to keep the fire burning and your team focused:

  1. Remind your staff of growth and revenue targets and continually ask: What skills are needed? Do we have those skills in place? What can we do differently to meet our goals?
  2. Remove barriers to success. For example, you might have lost sales opportunities last month because of unfilled openings in the sales department, or a training gap. The more tangible you make the problem, the better your team can act on creating solutions.

2. Build a Coalition of Supporters

Get the support of the key stakeholders in the organization.

Obviously, you need to invest in management buy-in before launching a major change managementinitiative.  Sometimes that means slowing down to go faster later.

Start by building your case, promoting your plan and enlisting the support you need. And don’t stop short with just a show of hands—you need both the cognitive and emotional buy-in of stakeholders. This is a long-game play and getting your team on board from the start will make bumps in the road easier to navigate.

Not all leaders have titles—sometimes the most influential people are lower in the hierarchy. Getting their support can often be more strategic than winning the support of more obvious candidates.

Be willing to roll up your sleeves for more of a one-on-one, interview-style conversation. You are building a coalition and this investment will pay dividends when the real work begins.

3.  Create Short-Term Wins to Maintain Momentum

Everyone loves a win and sometimes you need to manufacture it. As the change champion, your job is to not only hold the flag high, but also provide short term wins to celebrate progress.

Are there smaller projects with a higher probability of success you can tackle first? For example, you might set a target of updating SOP’s (Standard Operating Procedures) or accelerating a staff on boarding program.

Celebrating improvements goes a long way towards building momentum and credibility for your longer term plans.

Managing organizational change is an ongoing challenge. The more important the business issue, the more essential it is to set the stage for effective change management to perform.

Can you be the change champion your organization needs?

To Learn more about Dr. DeLong contact [email protected]

Derek Sweeney is the Director of Speaker Ideas at The Sweeney Agency. www.thesweeneyagency.com. For 15 years Derek has been helping clients find the right Speakers for their events. Derek can be reached at 1-866-727-7555or [email protected]