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Convince Leaders That a Learning Culture Solves the Skills Gap

Monday, August 12, 2019

To convince leaders that a culture of learning can solve the skills gap problem, you need them to connect skills gaps to engagement and other key business metrics. Today, it would be hard for a leader not to recognize that they’re facing skills gaps and engagement challenges. A culture of learning empowered by role-based competency models can fix them.

Skills Gaps

Ask leaders, “How do you know if our people have the skills they need to do their jobs? You know we have skills gaps. How do you know where they are? How do you know how big they are and how likely they are to derail our ability to achieve our objectives?”

To know what skills gaps exist and measure improvement, you need a baseline. A competency assessment with a role-based competency model can help you assess where your employees are, how they can improve, and what they need to get there.


Research from Deloitte shows there is a new social contract between employees and employers , which can be summarized as:

  • You agree to develop me and help me grow.
  • I agree to be engaged while I’m here and to put my mastery toward achieving your goals.

Don’t do the first, and I won’t do the second.


To successfully develop employees and help them grow at scale, you need people to own their development and career planning. Role-based competency models tied to personalized learning enable organizations to shift from training to learning.

  • Training is an event, something you do to people.
  • Learning is a continuous process, something people do for themselves.

Real personalized learning creates learning efficiency. It’s just what employees need to fill their current skills gaps or to prepare them for their next roles.


Similar to getting a skills gap baseline, you also need an engagement baseline, which you can determine using engagement survey metrics, attrition rates, and exit interview results.

Create a Business Case

Next, you’ll need to identify the costs associated with not closing skills gaps or fixing the engagement problem. You need to show them that the cost of doing nothing, (for example, the cost of replacing people, the impact on creativity and innovation, and what turnover does to competitive advantage), far outweighs the costs of trying something different. This is the business case you’ll use to influence them.

You must speak in their language (financial) and make it obvious that they should adopt your approach or plan before the situation worsens.

Want to learn more about how to create a business case for influencing leaders to embrace a culture of learning? Join our ATD webcast “Create a Culture of Learning That Supports the Speed of Business” on August 21 at 1 p.m. ET.

About the Author

Cheryl Lasse is SkillDirector’s managing partner. Her goal is helping people and companies achieve their potential. Cheryl has extensive experience with competency model development and implementation, and enjoys sharing her knowledge and passion with others. Check out the LinkedIn group Competency Models For Professional Development.

She believes people are intrinsically motivated to excel, if they are given access to a competency model for their role, the opportunity to assess themselves against that model, and personalized learning to help them close gaps and meet aspirational goals. This philosophy has been embodied in the Self-Directed Learning Engine, the engine behind the ATD Skill Tracker.

Cheryl has a strong background in consulting, marketing, and sales, mostly in technology companies, where training has played a chief role throughout her career. She holds bachelor’s degrees from Syracuse University in computer science and HR, and an MBA from the University of South Florida.

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