5 Things to Know About the “Skills Confidence Gap”


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Article contributed by Mike Bollinger, Global VP, Strategic Initiatives, Cornerstone OnDemand

In 2020, at the height of the pandemic, Cornerstone launched a global skills study. The findings produced a surprising result, unveiling what became dubbed as “The Skills Confidence Gap”.  This study had both an employer and employee perspectives, and highlighted that organisational leaders and employees recognised the importance of skills development. However, the research also found that employees were losing hope, and that there was a lack of confidence and they were being left behind, hence this “Skills Confidence Gap” between what employers were investing in, and how employees felt about their ability to consume it.

In 2022, a report titled Thriving in the Global Skills Shortage: Your Path Through the Wilderness delved into the same issues and dove one level deeper – contemplating the why. The report confirmed that the major disparities between how employers and employees viewed skills development within their organisations were persisting. In fact, this “Skills Confidence Gap” had actually worsened overall. Additionally, nearly half of surveyed employers placed skills and talent shortages within their top three most urgent concerns in the next three years. 

But it wasn’t all bad. The report also identified a strong positive correlation between business performance and the quality of new skilling support and development opportunities offered. As such, there is clear value in choosing to prioritise employee skills and development. Here are five key things to understand about the “Skills Confidence Gap”.

1. The gap is growing

In 2020, a 30%-point Skills Confidence Gap was uncovered between employers and employees. Employers believed they were delivering skills to their employees effectively, whilst employees did not share the same confidence in their employer’s ability to develop their skills. In 2020, just 60% of employees felt confident that future skills were being prioritised, compared to 90% of employers. 

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In 2022, this gap actually widened. Employee confidence decreased by five points, with just 55% of employees saying that their organisation’s skills development was a priority. It seems, then, that while many employers may think they are giving their employees adequate opportunity to learn and develop, this effort is often not felt or seen by employees themselves. For average and low performing organisations, this gap was especially pronounced.

2. Organisational performance matters

Interestingly, the Skills Confidence Gap narrowed or widened depending on organisational performance. High performing organisations (HPOs) had a much smaller gap between employees’ and employers’ confidence levels. Additionally, HPOs not only prioritised skill development at a much higher level than their peers, but their employees agreed this was the case – with just an 11% confidence gap. Meanwhile, low performing organisations (laggards) not only rated their prioritisation of skill development much lower, but less than 20% of employees in those organisations agreed that skills development is an important objective – resulting in a considerable 42% confidence gap.

The difference in prioritisation of skills development between HPOs and laggards was also evident. At one end, 72% of HPOs said they were intending to address this within the year, with 42% having already started. At the other end, laggards were nearly three times more likely to stall skills development all together compared to HPOs, delaying any effort for three years – or even more.

3. There is value in personalised, meaningful content

The 2022 report found that, worldwide, 40% of employees turn to their organisations’ skills development platform when looking for information on how to develop their skills. This figure was even higher for HPOs. Additionally, 80% of employees said they wanted more learning content from their employers.

There is clear appetite for content. So, organisations should be looking to expand access to high-quality, fresh content in a variety of modalities and topics. Leveraging intuitive, AI-driven platforms to build sophisticated and constantly updated skills ontologies will be key here, allowing for content recommendations to be automated and personalised to support employee growth.

4. Visualising career development is key

Globally, three-quarters (74%) of employees want to be provided with more tailored, comprehensive career guidance. As such, partnering career opportunities with skills guidance is going to be critical for organisations looking to retain their staff.

Giving valuable insights into potential career progression will help employees to visualise their progression journeys, as well as understand the skills they will need along the way. An AI approach gives employees the option to gain the skills needed to progress into more senior roles within their team, or even to move teams altogether if this is a better decision for any given individual.

5. There are steps organisations can take 

The report found that high-performing organisations tended to have broad initiatives and not just one single approach.  This came through as an absolute best practice. To reduce the employee-employer Skills Confidence Gap, there are several practical steps organisations can take. These include: 

  • Predicting future skill needs by identifying potential skills gaps among its people, both within industry and across the board.
  • Integrating intelligent skills technology into other career development tools already in use
  • Fostering a learning culture that prioritises skill-building and empowers people to grow
  • Strategising and delivering more relevant, modern and personalised learning content to employees
  • Adopting an internal-first hiring mindset to encourage skills development and career growth 

The skills shortage is by no means going away overnight. However, by embracing the mindset of a high performing organisation, companies can begin to turn the tide. Taking a skills-forward approach to talent and learning is becoming increasingly crucial for organisations that want their workforce to be future-ready. This requires identifying what skill gaps exist, which skills will be needed in the future, and establishing engaging pathways that enable people to more effectively build those skills.



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