This is a guest post written by Eric Friedan, the founder and CEO of eSkill Corporation, a leading provider of Web-based skills testing for pre-employment and training. With academic degrees in Psychology and Business, and experience with both mature and expansion-stage company growth, Eric has focused on how best to hire and motivate team members to be the best they can be for their companies.

Have you wondered why some of your employees are more unproductive than others? You might say it is because they do not keep a “To-Do” list, they don’t prioritize their tasks, they don’t focus on the 20/80 rule or they are multi-tasking. All of these might be true and valid, however, there is a more insidious problem: Gallup estimates the cost of America’s disengagement crisis at a staggering $300 billion in lost productivity annually.

But what does this disengagement really mean?

Disengagement happens when you must do an activity you don’t like. You do it reluctantly, or, worse, you avoid it. What if your entire job seems like a chore? Having a job you don’t like can crush your productivity level. It will make you feel unmotivated and uninspired, with no drive to excel, and it will ruin your work-life balance. Therefore…

Doing what you love + having the necessary skills Increased productivity

When employees are doing what they love, they are enthusiastic. They don’t feel tired, and all those “To-Do” lists become fun to accomplish. Hence, they find themselves more productive. "If you are passionate about your job, you are likely to take an active interest in learning every aspect of the business," said Patrice Rice, CEO and founder of Patrice & Associates. "This not only sets you on the path toward success, but it also helps you get through the daily grind."

What does this mean for the HR Manager?

When employees show a lack of productivity, it might be because they are lacking some skills or not doing what they love. Research has found that skills gaps cost an average of $1,200 per employee per year in lost productivity. Therefore, HR should assess for skills gaps, train in those skills and upskill or help employees re-skill, all while providing genuine feedback. You will need to plan for skills succession and find a way to transfer knowledge from experienced employees to newly hired Millennials in a rapid and effective manner. In other words…

Find people.

  1. Identify and define the skills needed for each job.
  2. Assess, select and engage the employees you hire.

Get productive.

  1. Establish a skills-developing business culture.
  2. Make sure employees understand the job and develop the skills and knowledge to excel.

Stay productive.

  1. Provide and collect feedback.
  2. Manage the work environment.
  3. Help employees grow and extend their careers.

Let’s see what each of these mean.

Take this 7-step action plan to fill the skills gap 

1. Identify and define the skills needed for each job. Companies first need to do an internal analysis and understand the skills needed for a certain position instead of just reaching out to the market to see “what skills are out there.” Use your organization’s performance metrics and strategies to help your managers map the skills profile for each job and decide where to cut, where to invest or where to “reuse”.

2. Assess, select and engage the employees you hire.  You can assess the skills gaps by using analytical tools, pre-employment and post-employment tests or conduct an internal audit to determine where the gaps are in employees’ knowledge and skills.

3. Establish a skills-developing business culture. The first-day impression an employee has of a company really counts. When employees see that the organization is a place for growth and encourages employees to take initiative, they might stay with the company longer. Investing in a skills-developing business culture and communicating clear expectations will positively impact employee retention. According to an IBM study, 62% of new hires intend to stay when training is provided.

4. Make sure employees understand and develop the skills and knowledge to excel. One way to fill a skills gap is through vocational learning and training. Combining on-the-job trainings with online courses will ensure people learn the skills they need. According to the IBM study, skill levels that are linked to business value can save $70,000 in annual costs and can increase productivity by 10% when teams are well-trained.

5. Provide and collect feedback. There’s nothing more rewarding than providing constructive feedback that eventually turns into productive actions. Fostering an environment of informal and constant feedback will always lead to increased productivity, plus a desire of the employees to upskill. To improve the trainings you offer employees, you should regularly send surveys to get participants’ feedback on your training programs.

6. Manage the work environment. Only when you clearly establish and communicate the direction of your business and how you plan to reach your goals can you achieve an alignment of skills.

7. Help employees grow and extend their careers. Many employees leave their workplace after three years of work to look for something new that they can’t even define. Having a manager who can offer career guidance, taking the coach role and providing development opportunities and skills training, can influence many employees to stay. Many times, it is just a matter of open communication.

Filling the skills gap with coaching, proper training, mentoring courses and learning programs will improve productivity and the competitiveness of your company because your employees will become more knowledgeable, upskilled, and motivated at work. When everybody is doing what they love and what they’re good at, it is impossible not to be productive and happy at work.

Do you train for skills when you sense a lack of productivity?