Understanding your talent gaps
Every organization has gaps related to talent. These gaps may include skillsets and competencies missing from their ranks, a lack of diversity, or employees who don't have the resources to be successful in their roles. However, few organizations intentionally and successfully understand these gaps. And organizations can only improve by first understanding where they're falling short.
In recent years, however, organizations in both the private and public sectors are increasingly focused on understanding their talent-related gaps — and what it'll take to close them. Companies like Amazon have rolled out daily assessment questions for their employees, and government agencies have devoted special task forces to take on the issue. Through these efforts, we've seen several strategies emerge for improving the way organizations assess and start to close their talent-related gaps.
Listen to your current, past, and prospective employees
- Survey candidates in your hiring pipeline
- Capture information as part of exit interviews
- Conduct stay interviews to learn what current employees like and dislike about coming to work
- Create other pathways for existing employees to safely and effectively share what they need
Document and benchmark your talent gaps
Capture data related to talent-related deficiencies
- Identify talent goals (for example, reducing time-to-hire)
- Identify metrics associated with those goals (for example, number of days from job posting to start date)
- Measure the organization's current performance as a baseline
Establish goals for your organization by comparing your metrics to those of high-performing organizations
- Focus comparisons on organizations who are leaders in that space (for example, U.S. Digital Service at the federal level) since there's a great amount of variety among performance of government institutions
- Organizations like Glassdoor are a good source of information on industry standards (for example, How Long Should Your Hiring Process Take?)
Review progress made in other organizations to build on what works
When possible, look at what's been most successful in organizations with similar resources and structure. For example, it may be unreasonable for a state agency to successfully employ the same tactics as an extremely large and well-resourced human-resources team. Model your efforts after successful practices at organizations most similar to yours in terms of resources and regulations.
That said, some of the larger and more well-resourced organizations will be the most likely to measure and document progress made with respect to talent. For example, Mobilizing Tech Talent is an excellent resource for metrics and best practices on improving hiring tech talent into government.
Take steps to close gaps
- Work with staff closest to the issue areas to understand the current process and existing constraints
- Consider producing a process map (example) to clearly identify the steps in a process and to ensure other stakeholders also have that visibility
- Identify the aspects of the process that pose the biggest challenges and target these for improvement
- Establish tactical steps for improvement
Hold yourselves accountable to progress
- Identify and empower individuals to implement improvement plans
- Review progress at regular (and reasonable) intervals
- Be transparent: report out publicly on your process and accomplishments
- Identify talent gaps
- Look at similar organizations for inspiration
- Document gaps and identify benchmarks
Case study: The City of Durham
The City of Durham in North Carolina conducts an annual workforce survey and publishes the results. While employee engagement surveys are standard across many levels of government, this survey's feedback loop makes it stand out from the rest. In addition to traditional questions to identify pain points, the survey measures whether or not employees felt action was taken after the previous survey.
When conducting an employee engagement survey:
- Write clear, concise questions that touch on one issue at a time (avoid double-barreled questions. Test these questions with a few people to ensure their meaning is straightforward.
- Incorporate both open and closed questions. Open questions allow for longer, more personal responses, while closed questions have a fixed number of options to respond to (like yes/no or multiple choice). Open questions will generally produce better results. But they can also get tedious for respondents to answer, and introduce more complexity into the survey evaluation process.
- Use the "funnel" technique — start with questions that are easy respondents to answer, move into complex questions, and finish with simple questions.
- Make responding as easy as possible. Only ask relevant questions, accept partial responses, and use an online survey tool that can be accessed from any device.