Skills gaps are mostly linked to incomplete and inadequate training

When exploring the possible reasons for skills gaps in staff and applicants, four key causes emerge:

  • Poor/incomplete training
  • Poor pay and employment benefits
  • Lack of funding
  • Poor staff retention

Poor or incomplete training

Inadequate and incomplete training is reported as a key cause of the skills gap. Employers identified training that is only partially completed as the main reason for skills gaps in current staff (60%), closely followed by ‘being new to the role’ (58%). Another reason given was that staff have been trained but their performance has not improved sufficiently (30% compared to 25% in the private sector) (ESS).

Chart 10: Incomplete training and being new to the role are the main reasons for skills gaps in staff

Pay and employment benefits

Poor terms and conditions (eg pay) was the second-biggest reason given for having hard-to-fill vacancies by one-quarter (24%) of voluntary organisations. This was similar to the public sector (23%) and much higher than in the private sector (11%) (ESS).

Issues around pay were more likely to affect those applying for lower-skilled than higher-skilled jobs. Machine operatives (33%), elementary staff (30%) and caring and leisure roles (30%) were more likely to be hard-to-fill due to poor terms and conditions than managers (9%) and professionals (20%). For these higher-skilled roles, having a low number of applicants was the main reason for not being able to fill the position (40% of professional applicants and 43% of manager roles) (ESS).

Further evidence shows that almost half (46%) of voluntary organisations did not offer any pay or incentive schemes for employees. This was much higher than the public (35%) and private (37%) sectors, and more likely in smaller voluntary organisations with 2–4 employees (51%) than bigger organisations with 250 or more employees (13%). Where this type of scheme is offered, it is more likely to be a flexible benefits scheme (41% compared to 47% in the public sector and 36% in the private sector) than bonuses (21% compared to 15% and 43% in the public and private sectors) or performance-related pay (21% compared to 34% and 35% in the public and private sectors) (ESS).

Lack of funding

While lack of funding was only reported by 3% of employers as a reason for having a hard-to-fill vacancy, it may impact on skills gaps in other ways, for instance, by reducing an organisation’s ability to invest in training and recruitment. Around half (51%) of voluntary organisations wanted to provide more training than they were able to. Of these organisations, around two thirds (67%) gave ‘lack of funds for training’ as a reason for not being able to provide training. This was much higher than the 47% of private sector organisations that reported this (ESS). Research from the Small Charity Skills report also mentions lack of funds for training, confirming that this is a barrier for voluntary organisations getting the skills they need (see the section on small charities for more information).

Lacking the funds for staff training was slightly less of an issue than in previous years, as the proportion of organisations reporting this barrier fell from 73% in 2013 to 67% in 2017 (ESS). Similarly, the proportion of organisations not providing external training because it is too expensive has decreased from 18% in 2012 to 13% in 2016. However, the proportion of voluntary organisations using external training has dropped (12% to 9% between 2012 and 2016), with more organisations favouring internal training – ie training run by employees within their organisation – instead (EPS).

Staff retention

Problems retaining staff were also an issue, with 13% citing this as a reason for the skills gap in their current staff. Staff retention was more likely to affect bigger organisations than smaller ones, as those with 250 or more employees were more likely to cite this as reason (37%) than organisations with 5–24 employees (11%) (ESS).

Issues around staff retention could further compound the impact of skills gaps on employees, as a decrease in staff numbers is likely to add more pressure on employees (ESS).