How to identify knowledge gaps: Answered in 5 minutes

March 11, 2022
June 26, 2023

How do you know what you don’t know? It’s not some kind of ancient proverb, but a problem that plagues organisations all over the world.

We know there are things we don’t know, and our job is to spot them so we can close those knowledge gaps. Normally, the telltale sign is that we can’t reach our goals because we don’t have the required skills or knowledge.

But why wait until the damage is done? Do you let your petrol light flash for a day before getting fuel, or do you pre-empt that with an early fill-up?

In just five minutes, we’ll take you through ways to be proactive and self-aware in identifying knowledge gaps in your people and resources.  Plus, we’ll also give you a skills gap analysis template you can take away and use today!

First, establish your goals and KPIs

Life’s too short to learn things that don’t matter, and doing it for the sake of it is a waste of everyone’s time! Many businesses fall foul of not establishing the impact their learning and development efforts need to have, and it means they can’t build out resources that’ll make a true difference.

So before you do any of the knowledge gap detective work we’re about to discuss, truly understand your business goals and the role learning, upskilling, and knowledge sharing can play.

What are people searching for? And can they find it?

There’s a valuable lesson we can learn from our marketing friends here, and it comes in the form of the frequently asked questions page you see on most websites. Many companies add plugins to capture what people tap into their search bar, so they can understand what potential and current customers are searching for.

For all the existing content, they can look at how many people viewed it to understand what’s important. But for all the searches that return no results, they’d have no idea that people had even searched for them otherwise.

This is a tactic we can apply on a much smaller scale if there’s no tech that can do it for us. Slack conversations tell you commonly asked questions. Employee feedback surveys will you show whether there are consistent topics that haven’t been covered in enough detail. These are often overlooked for identifying knowledge gaps but they’re invaluable when used well!

In a nutshell, find the channels where your people ask questions, identify those that remain unanswered, create content that does and close those knowledge gaps.

Free Guide! Become a knowledge-sharing organisation in 5 simple steps

Analyse all of your data on learning content

Chances are that your content is organised into topics or channels, and a really simple place to start is by looking at the amount of content in each channel. In particular, look for topics that have very little content and determine if they need addressing – that’s a quick win in identifying your knowledge gaps.

However, we don’t want to fall into a quantity over quality trap and assume that just because content is there, it’s useful or covers all the angles people need to know. Two things are helpful at this stage: one, assess these topics in relation to the company and team goals. Two, consider metrics like views, completion rates and ratings/feedback from the people using them.

You might have a huge amount of customer success content, but very little on how to act in times of crisis – that’s a clear knowledge gap based on the role of your support staff.

Look at performance data, especially for customer-facing teams

Thinking about our goals and objectives, it’s useful to loop in company and employee performance data. We might be excellent at drumming up new leads but below par at converting them, which could indicate a knowledge gap when it comes to closing deals.

We could have support staff dealing with different areas of the product and business. In one area, customer feedback is all sunshine and rainbows. In others, it’s a mixture of frustrated and deflated faces at the other end of our calls and emails, indicating there’s a gap in our people’s knowledge and the resources in place to support them.

Check out employee turnover statistics

Good people leave, and a lot of the time they take invaluable knowledge with them. But how frequently is that happening, and in what areas? Let’s say we lost five of our biggest hitters in the IT department this year, which skills and specialisms have they taken with them?

If you’re not taking the time to understand why people leave, how often and which skills they offered, you’ll never truly get a handle on the knowledge you do and don’t have in the business.

Ask people – the simplest thing you can do today

Think about the questions we ask in those day-to-day moments and planned catchups with employees. How often are we asking people in they encountered a challenge they struggled to overcome? Or one where they were in desperate need of guidance and resources that just weren’t there…

The more aware we are of our subject matter experts, who people can learn from, the challenges people are facing, and the skills we do and don’t have, the more we’ll build this mindset for spotting and addressing knowledge gaps. Until then, speak to people frequently and give them a platform to tell you where those gaps exist.

Carry out a learning needs or skills gap analysis

A step-by-step learning needs analysis guide

A step-by-step skills analysis to help identify knowledge gaps

When it comes to our company goals and building the right skills and knowledge to reach those, there is a very handy tool at your disposal: A learning needs analysis, also known as a skills gap analysis.

Here’s a step-by-step approach you can follow:

Essentially, you’re understanding the skills needed to reach goals, the skills you currently have and the gap between the two. As L&D, HR and people development pros, our job is to close skills and knowledge gaps through learning that gives people the right information and capabilities.

Use our step-by-step guide to carrying out a skills gap analysis today, helping you identify knowledge gaps and start closing them ASAP

Check out our other knowledge sharing resources