Using online education to close the skills gap

Nearly every company in every industry has been challenged by a skills gap in their workplace. Whether it’s a significant gap, such as the inability to fill demanding positions, or more minor, such as the need for an employee to become more skilled in creating spreadsheets, the skills gap can be felt nearly anywhere there are employees. Companies use a wide variety of resources to close the skills gap, from external recruiting, to internal training and mentorship programs, but there’s another resource that isn’t often used but is highly valuable: online education.

In PayScale’s 2013 Compensation Best Practices Report, 61% of companies reported a lack of qualified applicants the top reason for unfilled positions, followed by ability to offer a competitive salary (22%). At the same time, the majority of respondents (56%) think the government should offer employers tax incentives to invest in educating their own workers. Whether or not those tax incentives materialize, online education is a cost-effective, and possibly necessary, way to invest in an existing workforce to help close the skills gap. Take a look at these four benefits to using online education to close the skills gap.

Endless possibilities

No matter what the training need, chances are there’s an online solution for it. Whether you’re looking for Microsoft training, HR certification or even a master’s degree program, there are countless options. Some come straight out of the box, so to speak, while others can be customized to meet specific needs. There are programs your company can enroll in that allow employees unlimited access to go online and view training options and decide what they’d like to take, or there are programs where you pay for specific training sessions individually. The great part about using an online solution is that you can find what works for your employees and company.

Accommodates different learning styles

As varied as the training topics are, there are also myriad types of training, from webinars and video lectures to interactive training to independent study. This allows you to find the right type of training for each employee or to find which method your company prefers to offer to employees. We all learn just a little bit differently, so online training is ideal for obtaining optimal results. People are more likely to succeed when they are given the right tools to do so.

Cost effective

Online education can be extremely affordable in comparison to other training options. When you weigh the costs of sending employees to conferences and seminars, bringing in a specialized trainer or starting an internal training program to meet a specific training need, it just makes sense to utilize online education. Keep in mind that the cost of online education can vary greatly but chances are, there’s something available in your price range. In fact, there are many free training options available.

Easily tracked

If you want to be able to see a return on investment for employees’ training, tracking is key. It’s often hard to measure what was gained at a conference, seminar or internal class, but with most online training, it’s automatically tracked. You can see which sessions were watched, listened to or taken, and you can often see scores from training assessments. Keeping track of your employees’ online education can also be helpful in performance reviews.


The main reason employers seek to close the skills gap is so that productivity is increased. The unfortunate part about closing the skills gap with training is that it’s time consuming. When it’s done internally, at least two people are taken away from their jobs and when employees are sent to seminars or conferences, there’s always unproductive travel time. With online training, employees can complete it on their own and right from their desk. It’s still a time commitment, but there’s less time wasted so productivity isn’t affected as much.

Does your company use online training to close the skills gap? If so, tell us about the pros and cons of using this method in the comments below.

Want to learn more about the Skills Gap and other hot compensation topics?

Download the FREE 2013 Compensation Best Practices Report.

Check out these related posts