Conduct a Gap Analysis
Updated: May 25, 2021
Last week I shared the three-step process to develop preliminary action plans (from employee engagement surveys):
Conduct a Gap Analysis
Prioritize Possible Solutions
Develop Plans (focus on the golf balls)
In case you missed it, click here for the post.
This post is all about the first step in that process: Conducting a Gap Analysis. You may want to download the Gap Analysis Toolkit now, so you have it handy as you're reading this post.
OK, so assuming the feedback that you received from your survey isn't quite where you want to be, you have a gap between where you are now (your current state) and where you want to be (your future state). This first step ensures that any solutions you generate from your feedback moves you closer to your desired future state. At the end of this step you will have a list of possible solutions / actions you can take as a result of your feedback. Mind you, this list will not be prioritized... that comes next.
Here are two things to consider when planning a gap analysis discussion:
Who do you involve? This is really organization dependent, but conducting a gap analysis by yourself, or with just two people will limit the quantity and quality of solutions you generate. You also probably don't not want everyone in the organization participating (but a few representative folks would increase the diversity and creativity of the solutions). That said, depending on the size of your organization and how decisions happen, I recommend having 5 - 12 people involved in this process.
Who facilitates the discussion? This discussion may not be riddled with strife, but there are a few factors to consider as to whether or not you facilitate the discussion, or you bring someone in from outside the team. A few thoughts... regardless of who is facilitating, it will be very difficult for them to participate in the discussion as their role (as facilitator) is to enable the team to present their best ideas (not necessarily have their opinions heard). Specially, when the team leader facilitates the discussion, their opinions are likely going to be taken as direction (as their role dictates). Bringing someone in from the outside, who is trained in facilitation, ensures diverse ideas and perspectives are heard, creates an unbiased atmosphere, and helps you make decisions faster with increased buy-in.
So how do you actually conduct a gap analysis?
There are three steps (I know, I know, three steps within a three step process, I hear you, but it is what it is):
Define your desired future state
Document your current state
Close the gap
First, define your desired future state
Print off the Gap Analysis Toolkit (available at the top or bottom of this post) and use the Future State page, you could also grab a flip chart, or use a whiteboard (just start on the right side). Then, pick a time frame in the future (two years is good if you haven't done this before, five years is great if your organization regularly plans long-term), and brainstorm what you want the organization to be in the future. If you get stuck, here are some good prompting questions:
What do we want the organization to look like in 2 years?
What are our employees saying about us?
How about our neighbors / friends?
How about posts / comments on social media?
When you have a good list, set this paper off to your right.
Second, document your current state
Then, use the Current State page of the Gap Analysis Toolkit, or move to the left of the whiteboard (being sure to leave some room in the middle of the board), and summarize the survey results: what are your employees saying about you now (this is your current state). The intent here is not to document every comment in the survey, but rather to identify the trends. What are your employees saying are your strengths and areas of opportunity?
Then set this paper off to your left.
Last, close the gap
Finally, use the third page of the toolkit (or, you guessed it, use the space left in the middle of the whiteboard) and brainstorm what you could do to get from the left to the right; from your current state to your desired future state. These solutions could be simple or complex... either way, come up with as many possibilities as you can! At this point in the discussion it is really important to not evaluate any of the ideas... capture them all! No matter how silly, seemingly meaningless, complex, or expensive they may be, write them all down!
Congratulations, you have now made it to the to the end of the first step!
You are on your way to developing action plans as a result of your recent employee survey. You have completed a gap analysis, and have a list of possible solutions.
You may be feeling a little overwhelmed with the possible solutions list and how do you tackle it all. Not to worry, we will prioritize the list in the next step, but let me give you a spoiler alert: you won't, nor shouldn't try to do everything you just came up with.