6 Steps To Address Skill Gaps as a Leader

2023 has undoubtedly been a year of change for Marketing, Creative, and Digital professionals. Between the rapid rise of AI and the swift evolution of can’t-miss marketing trends, teams nationwide feel the impacts of the uncharted tools, new processes, and unique software required to complete their jobs. 

As we all strive to keep up, one challenge is moving to the forefront of plans for many leaders: skill gaps. Nearly 58% of the workforce reported needing new skills to complete their jobs during 2023 alone. 

So, how can a leader even begin to address skill gaps when things are moving quickly? What resources are available to leaders, and where should they even start

You’ve asked, and we’re here to break it down with a step-by-step guide. Complete with insights from our Senior Marketing Manager, Jamie Duong, and Recruiting Director, Brendan Haugo, we’re diving into everything from the basics to the signs and solutions.

The Basics

In its simplest form, a skill gap is the space between a manager’s expectations, needs, or strategies and the reality of skills present in a team or employee. Jamie explains, “Any time there is a real-time need for a specific skill that is not present on the team, you have a skill gap.”

Skill gaps can form in many ways, covering a complete range of soft and hard skills. Recent studies show that there are a few core areas that may be the most likely to impact your team, including:

  • Critical thinking and problem-solving skills
  • Managerial and supervisory skills
  • Communication and interpersonal skills 
  • Teamwork and collaboration skills
  • Negotiation skills
  • Digital and technology skills

Regardless of role, tenure, or position title, these skill gaps can impact contributors of all levels – from your highest performer to your newest addition. In fact, 87% of organizations “know they have a skills gap or will have one within the next few years,” so you’re not alone if you’ve been starting to question whether a skill gap is present on your team.

The Signs

Now, what does a skills gap look like in practice? While each team is unique, a few telltale signs are pointing towards a prevalent gap in skill for Marketing, Creative, and Digital professionals. 

As expressed by Jamie, here are six indicators that a skill gap may be on the horizon.

1. Decreased Productivity: Projects that consistently take longer than anticipated or result in a sudden drop in output do not necessarily mean a lack of effort – they may indicate a skill gap impacts your employee. Take a look at the projects and plans that cause stress for your team.

2. Increased Reliance on External Resources: If a team frequently requires external consultants or contractors for tasks that should be within their domain, you’ve got a clear sign of a skills gap. Each time that you tap into external resources make a note outlining why you did so and work to connect the dots between your team’s capabilities and outside assistance.

3. Low Morale: When you notice regular frustration or symptoms of burnout from your team, it can often be because they feel they lack the skills or tools to do their job effectively and may even be overwhelmed because of it. During these scenarios, reflect on what specifically causes your employees to feel this way and what support may best remedy the situation.

4. High Turnover Rates: If your team is experiencing people leaving at a higher rate than usual, it might be because they feel unable to meet the demands of their role with no way forward. Maintain consistent, open communication channels with your team to check in on their well-being – inside and outside the workplace.

5. Inconsistent Quality of Work: If the quality of work varies greatly among team members or if there are frequent errors and oversights, it might indicate a skill disparity. Take what you have learned about each of your team members and consider the resources needed to fuel both their growth opportunities and strengths.

6. Lack of New Ideas: A team that isn’t bringing new ideas to the table or exploring novel approaches might be constrained by their skill set. Using the 80/20 guide as a rule of thumb, ensure your team is only at 80 capacity, leaving room for inspiration, creativity, and innovation.

While the signs and indications will look different for every organization, team, and employee, these six core signals will help keep you in tip-top shape to recognize skill gaps before they have the power to pose significant implications.

The Solutions

While realizing that a skills gap is impacting your team can be frightening for leaders and managers alike, rest assured – you can take several solid steps to remedy them. Here are six tried-and-true solutions that have been successful for Marketing and Creative teams within our network.

1. Be Honest

To address skill gaps in the workplace, the first and most important thing you can do is be honest. Be honest with yourself, your fellow leadership team, and your managers about the signs you notice and the steps you plan to take to remedy them. 

As Jamie explains, while we would ideally like to spot skill gaps in projects or initiatives in advance, more often than not, we realize skill gaps in real-time and need to act quickly. And this is okay

As long as you are honest about the specific skill gaps your team is experiencing and the impacts that they have had on your functioning as a team, you are on the right path toward addressing them and moving forward stronger than ever. Dive into the nitty gritty and find where skills may be missing.

2. Take Note of the Areas Where Your Team Does Excel 
In the mix of busy workdays and changing responsibilities, it can be easy to focus on the missing pieces and look past what your team is already excelling at. So, take an honest audit of the things that make your team thrive. Dive into the “why,” then use these findings to strategize your efforts and clear calendar time to address your skills gaps meaningfully.

3. Talk With A Trusted Mentor

You’ve done the heavy lifting and are off to a great start at this point in your journey. Now, it’s time to create a path towards addressing the skill gaps impacting your team. 

While no two leadership journey looks the same, speaking with a mentor can help you learn real-life insights, see the bigger picture, and collaboratively brainstorm effective solutions for your workplace. “Connect with someone with experience in your industry to help you unpack what specific skill is missing on your team,” Jamie explains, “that could be a peer at your company, a mentor, or a staffing professional.” 

Once you understand your specific needs, you can effectively explore opportunities to address them.

4. Invest In Learning Resources

We know it’s not always ideal to slow things down, and in instances where immediate help is needed, this strategy may not be feasible. However, if your day-to-day allows, addressing your identified skill gaps head-on through learning resources may be just the piece needed for your team’s success. 

Learning resources can take form in various ways – courses, team partnerships, podcasts, or even a thorough process explanation. As a leader, this is your unique chance to frame resources as mutually beneficial growth investments, so be sure to be open and honest when explaining why you are having your employees tap into these new learning opportunities.

5. Create A Measurable Strategy to Move Forward

You can implement your findings by creating a quantifiable, measurable strategy to track your team’s progress and investment into remedying skill gaps. 

Set attainable goals to address your skill gaps – whether it be an employee completing a skill-specific course by a specific date or identifying a timeline for future hiring decisions. Take what works for your team, and create a feasible strategy with both short-term and stretch goals to measure the effectiveness of your investment.

6. Tap Into Outside Talent Options

If you’ve walked through these steps and found additional help to be the answer, it may be time to start weighing the pros and cons of external talent options. From part-time and short-term freelancers to longer-standing consultants, specialized professionals are available and eager to jump at the opportunity to help your team. 

As Brendan describes, “Working with Celarity can help you identify freelancers and short-term consultants when there’s not enough work for a full-time hire; Or, when there is a need to bring on someone for full-time work, Celarity can help find consultants or permanent hires to get your team hitting on all cylinders.”

Decisions on headcount are always challenging, but unique staffing solutions are available to support your team through skill gaps.

The Next Steps

Remember that skill gaps don’t reflect poorly on your management capabilities or your team’s functioning but rather pose an opportunity to grow and become stronger together. With this outlook, you will be ready to propel your Marketing, Creative, or Digital operations in no time!

Whether you have one direct report or 100, navigating a skills gap is challenging. If you’re feeling the impact and are looking for additional assistance, our team would love to help!

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Celarity is an award-winning Staffing & Recruiting agency for Marketing, Creative & Digital talent with a mission: Creating happy careers with meaningful connections. For 30 years we have proudly connected 600+ companies with over 5,000 candidates.


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