How Custom E-Learning Development Bridges the Skills Gap Instructional Design / eLearning16 min read

How Custom E-Learning Development Bridges the Skills Gap

I. Introduction : the Skills Gaps Challenge

The widening skills gap poses one of the most pressing and complex challenges facing today's business leaders. As technology, automation, AI, and other innovations transform roles and redefine work, organizations are struggling to find and develop talent with the right capabilities to drive success.

At the same time, rapid disruptions require continual reskilling and upskilling of workforces at a scale and speed never seen before. As a result, skills gaps – the mismatch between current workforce competencies and those needed to achieve business goals – are becoming more prominent across industries.

This skills deficit threatens to severely impede innovation, productivity, and strategic growth for many companies. But custom eLearning solutions offer a powerful way for organizations to bridge skill gaps and build agile, future-proof workforces tailored to their unique vision.

Custom eLearning goes far beyond generic, one-size-fits-all training materials, to create dynamic learning experiences personalized to each organization's culture, objectives, challenges, learners, and strategic priorities. When designed and delivered effectively, custom eLearning courses can successfully equip employees with the specialized skills and knowledge to drive both short and long-term business success.

In this comprehensive guide, we’ll analyze the causes and impacts of growing skills gaps, the benefits of custom eLearning, and how leading organizations leverage custom learning experiences to build capabilities, engage employees, anticipate future needs, and gain talent advantages over the competition.

II. The Widening Skills Gap – Causes, Impacts, and Strategies

Before exploring solutions, let’s look closer at what exactly is driving skills gaps and their detrimental effects on business performance when left unaddressed.

What is the Skills Gap? The skills gap refers to the deficit between the current skill sets of an organization’s workforce and the specific competencies and abilities needed to optimally perform and achieve strategic goals based on present and future plans. It is a mismatch of talent supply and talent demand.

Key Causes of Skills Gaps 

Accelerating digital transformation and emerging technologies like AI, automation, IoT, VR, and more are drastically altering the competencies required in every industry and role. As processes and offerings move online, organizations have an exploded need for tech-savvy talent with skills like data analytics, predictive modeling, UX design, cybersecurity, cloud computing, and more. But most companies greatly lag in developing these digital capabilities across their workforces. This results in a deep deficit of the technical skills necessary to compete.

Additionally, innovations like RPA, AI, and machine learning are transforming how everyday work gets done, reducing the need for some manual or routine skills while massively increasing the need for more social, creative, analytical, and cross-functional skills. With robots and algorithms taking over repetitive tasks, employees must focus on higher-value work that requires adaptability, problem-solving, collaboration, and the ability to continuously learn. Many workers currently lack the agility and breadth of capabilities to thrive in this evolving environment.

As older, experienced employees retire, they take years of niche, experience-based knowledge and skill mastery with them. The expertise of mature workers is often irreplaceable. Replicating their institutional knowledge and specialized capabilities with new, younger hires presents major challenges. This experience and expertise gap can significantly inhibit productivity and growth.

Even existing skills have a much shorter shelf life today as the pace of change accelerates across industries. The half-life of current in-demand skills is shrinking rapidly. Skills now have an increasingly transient lifespan, requiring near-constant reskilling and upskilling of workforces just to maintain baseline relevance, let alone stay competitive. This speed of skill decay means perpetual new capability development is now necessary.

When organizations embark on strategic shifts into new initiatives, technologies, markets, or products, this often creates immediate new talent requirements that their current workforces lack. Internal skills gaps emerge around these new strategic priorities that companies are unprepared to fill without significant training interventions. This inability to reskill hampers growth.

Mergers, acquisitions, reorganizations, and internal expansion also frequently blend workforces that have differing competencies, cultures of learning, and institutional knowledge. Significant internal skills gaps can surface as a result of these shifts that require training programs to integrate, uplevel, and align disparate groups within the newly combined organization's objectives.

Essentially, the speed of change has outpaced many organizations’ ability to continuously develop their people, resulting in a growing chasm between existing competencies and those needed to compete.

Impacts of Unresolved Skills Gaps

When skills gaps go unaddressed, critical roles stay unfilled for extended periods due to lack of qualified internal talent. This severely hinders an organization's ability to pursue new projects, expand to meet demand, and innovate. Growth initiatives get blocked without access to people with the skills to execute them.

Additionally, skills deficits force overreliance on external contractors, vendors, and consultants to fill talent needs. This exposes organizations to higher costs, intellectual property risks, cultural mismatches, and integration challenges. Developing skills internally is far more cost-effective.

Inferior quality and innovation of products and services results from workforces lacking modern capabilities. Offerings suffer when teams lack skills around new technologies, methodologies, and consumer expectations. This causes declines in customer satisfaction, damage to brand reputation, and loss of competitive edge.

When customers interact with under skilled employees, it directly damages brand experience. Poorly trained salespeople provide inaccurate information. Support personnel can't address issues efficiently. These negative touchpoints erode customer loyalty and satisfaction significantly over time.

Delays in adopting new technologies and practices requiring scarce skills puts organizations behind the competition. If workforces lack skills to leverage assets like big data, automation, digital channels, etc. it inhibits bringing innovations to market in a timely manner.

Insufficient agility and adaptability within workforces unable to learn new skills at the pace of change causes disconnects with market demands. Skills gaps make pivoting to meet evolving customer needs and economic shifts nearly impossible.

Employees limited by skills gaps feel frustrated, stalled, and disengaged. Turnover increases as workers leave to find opportunities for growth elsewhere. Skills deficits directly hurt employee performance, morale, and retention.

Finally, organizations cannot take advantage of emerging technologies like AI, automation, and robotics without internal talent to deploy, maintain, and optimize these systems. Skills gaps around leading-edge tools prevent digital transformation.

Clearly, skills gaps left unaddressed can significantly impede performance on nearly all fronts.

Strategic Workforce Planning To mitigate this, organizations need to take a more strategic, forward-looking approach to workforce planning and skills development. 

This means:

  • Continually assessing existing workforce skills and proficiency levels
  • Forecasting future skills and talent needs based on business plans and market trends
  • Modeling workforce supply vs. demand gaps
  • Prioritizing greatest skill deficits and most critical capability needs
  • Implementing learning programs to rapidly develop future-ready talent

With strong skills forecasting and talent analytics, companies can vastly reduce reactionary talent scrambles.

III. The Strategic Benefits of Custom eLearning Development Solutions for Capability Building

As discussed above, strategic skills development through learning and training is imperative for closing workforce skills gaps. But many organizations still rely heavily on traditional instructor-led, training methods and models that lack scalability and agility.

eLearning – the delivery of asynchronous digital learning experiences to employees online – has emerged as one of the most powerful, efficient ways to develop workforce capabilities.

Let’s explore some of the core benefits that make eLearning so well-suited for rapid upskilling and reskilling of today’s distributed, on-demand workforces.

Key Advantages of Custom eLearning Development:

  • Accessibility - Available 24/7 on any device, removing location and schedule barriers to learning participation.
  • Self-paced - Learners can move at their own pace, repeat content, and customize their learning journey based on needs.
  • Personalization - Adaptive learning technology can tailor training to individuals.
  • Engagement - Interactive elements like video, gamification, social features boost engagement and motivation.
  • Rapid development - Digital learning is faster and cheaper to develop, update, and distribute than traditional learning.
  • Measurable - Sophisticated LMS platforms provide detailed analytics on participation, knowledge gains, and application.
  • Scalability - Automation allows eLearning to expand to large, distributed audiences far more cost-efficiently than live training.

According to LinkedIn’s 2020 Workplace Learning Report (1), the vast majority of L&D professionals (87%) now view eLearning as an essential way to develop workforce capabilities at scale. And research shows eLearning drives 25-60% higher retention of information compared to traditional classroom instruction.

As skills needs evolve rapidly, eLearning solutions offer the agility, personalization, and measurability needed for capability building in fluid business environments. But while off-the-shelf eLearning has some benefits, truly transformative results require customized design.

IV. Custom eLearning Solutions – Harnessing the Power of Tailored Learning Experiences

Generic eLearning offers a more scalable way for organizations to deliver basic skills training on common topics like leadership, communication, project management, etc. But this cookie-cutter learning fails to equip employees with knowledge specifically relevant to their day-to-day roles.

This is where custom eLearning solutions come in – corporate training designed from the ground up tailored to an organization’s unique culture, systems, processes, terminology, tools, workforce, and strategic learning needs rather than repurposed from templates.

Let’s look closer at what sets custom eLearning apart:

Hyper-Targeted Relevance 

Custom eLearning focuses directly on developing the specialized skills and knowledge your people need to drive productivity and growth based on your organization’s specific workflows, activities, pain points, and goals. For example, sales training tailored to your products, systems, and selling scenarios versus generic sales concepts. This precise targeting accelerates competency development.

Personalized Learning 

Custom eLearning solutions assess individual learners to determine current proficiency levels, past performance, motivations, and goals. Based on this, personalized learning pathways are designed to address each person's unique strengths and development needs for maximum efficiency and impact.

Immersive Experiences 

Your people learn best when fully engaged. So custom eLearning solutions employ interactive elements like gamification, scenarios, role-playing, social features, and multimedia to bring concepts to life and prompt real-world application of skills on the job.

Agile and Iterative

Because it is built uniquely for you, custom eLearning content can be continually refined and updated to keep custom elearning content fresh, relevant, and aligned with your changing workflows and business objectives. Rapid iteration and learner feedback fosters continuous optimization.

Helps Identify Skills Gaps

Through quizzes, simulations, and other assessment tools, eLearning platforms can pinpoint areas where a learner might need further training or other additional resources. This allows for targeted and effective upskilling, ensuring learners are equipped with the necessary competencies.

Measurable Business Impact 

Custom eLearning solutions deliver data and insights to correlate learning initiatives with tangible workforce and organizational performance gains – from productivity to profits. This proves and validates the ROI of your L&D programs.

V. Case Study: Global Bank Transforms New Manager Training with Custom eLearning Development

Let’s look at a real-world example of the power of customized learning solutions.

ICBC Case Study: Transforming Branch Manager Skills with Targeted eLearning

ICBC is one of the world's largest financial institutions, with retail bank branches across the globe. For years, ICBC relied on generic compliance-focused classroom training programs to develop new branch managers. While important for regulatory knowledge, these compliance training courses failed to prepare leaders with real-world expertise in sales, customer service, coaching, and other core competencies.

As a result, new branch managers were often underprepared for the nuanced complexities of overseeing high-performing bank locations. This skills gap led to inconsistent customer experiences, missed sales opportunities, and high manager turnover.

To address this critical skills deficit, ICBC partnered with our company. Together, we created the Branch Manager Excellence program, tailored specifically to ICBC's operations, proprietary systems, unique culture, common branch challenges, and required manager capabilities.

Key elements of the interactive eLearning program included:

  • Immersive scenarios bringing concepts to life. For instance, role-playing calls with disgruntled customers to practice empathy and conflict resolution.
  • Simulated coaching conversations with tellers underperforming in sales or referrals. Learners practiced coaching skills using ICBC's proprietary feedback model.
  • Personalized adaptive learning paths based on pre-assessments of each manager's strengths and weaknesses. This enabled targeted skill development.
  • Social collaboration via forums and networking opportunities with peer cohorts across regions. This developed connections between managers.

Within the first year after rollout, branch manager competencies increased over 25% in evaluated areas like customer experience, sales capabilities, team leadership, and performance management.

Given this dramatic impact on readiness, ICBC has now expanded the program enterprise-wide as core training for all new branch managers. This has strengthened bench strength even as the retail bank continues expanding.

The targeted design of ICBC's Branch Manager Excellence program enabled contextual learning unavailable from generic off-the-shelf management courses. When crafted to an organization's unique training needs, custom eLearning development solutions can uplift workforce capabilities exponentially.

VI. A Framework for Developing Impactful Custom eLearning Development

Based on proven success drivers from top eLearning organizations, here is a framework any business can use to develop a custom learning solution that powers capability building:

Phase 1 – Strategic Alignment

  • Conduct skills gap analysis to identify priority workforce deficits to address
  • Align custom learning goals with key business objectives and KPIs
  • Partner with leadership and subject matter experts to set expectations

Phase 2 – Learner Analysis

  • Build learner personas based on role, experience, strengths, needs, motivations
  • Survey and assess proficiency levels of each target audience
  • Determine optimal learning pathways for each persona

Phase 3 – Design & Development

  • Create compelling learning objectives based on skill priorities
  • Develop interactive, scenario-based content leveraging a variety of formats
  • Personalize content with adaptive learning technology and feedback loops
  • Continually iterate based on learner, SME, and stakeholder feedback

Phase 4 – Delivery & Measurement

  • Launch across targeted learner groups and motivate participation
  • Monitor and assess adoption, engagement, comprehension rates
  • Relate skill gains to business KPIs like productivity, satisfaction, quality
  • Refresh and enhance content continuously based on data insights

Taking this phased, metrics-driven approach ensures your custom eLearning solution delivers maximum business impact through strategic alignment, relevant design, and continual optimization.

VII. Deploying Custom eLearning to Fill Your Organization’s Skills Gaps

For organizations seeking to implement custom eLearning as part of a skills gap strategy, here are key steps to drive success:

  1. Complete Skills Gap Analysis

 Solicit input from managers, learning leaders, and human resources to pinpoint precise skills gaps across roles tied to business objectives. 

Completing a skills gap analysis is crucial for determining where custom eLearning can make the biggest impact. I'd suggest holding candid focus groups and interviews with managers across departments to pinpoint where workers are struggling. Ask lots of open-ended questions and really dig into the root causes behind performance gaps. Surveys can provide quantitative data to identify skills gaps and business needs, but have conversations too. Maintain a centralized skills framework that's updated based on assessments so you have visibility into role-specific competencies company-wide. Ultimately, you want to identify high-risk gaps where upskilling could really move the needle for the business.

  1. Define Target Learner Populations 

Determine which workforce segments and roles to focus initial custom eLearning content development efforts on based on urgency of skills deficits and alignment to goals.

When it comes to defining target learner groups, take a strategic approach. For instance, new hires might need the most training to get up to speed. Or maybe it's your sales team who needs to sharpen their product knowledge to boost deals. Analyze who will give you the most bang for your buck based on priorities. Group similar roles together into cohorts for scale. And don't forget about cross-training - teaching Customer Support reps some Sales basics and vice versa promotes big picture thinking.

Here's an example: A manufacturing client of ours needed major upskilling on new IoT technologies. But rather than only training engineers, we created a pilot program for Operations Manager cross-training. This specific training helped break down silos while scaling critical knowledge.

  1. Diagnose Root Causes of Gaps 

Look beyond surface-level symptoms to underlying causes of skills gaps like ineffective hiring practices, inadequate learning technology, lack of data-driven development, etc. eLearning solutions will address symptoms while you tackle root causes.

Diagnosing why skills gaps exist in the first place takes some deeper analysis. It's easy to blame lack of training. But often issues like inadequate hiring practices or ineffective LMS platforms are at fault. Maybe leadership isn't making L&D programs a priority. Survey employees and really listen to their challenges. For instance, at one company, we found a culture of internal competition was inhibiting knowledge sharing. Uncovering and addressing those root causes is key.

  1. Partner with Subject Matter Experts

 Leverage insights from your top talent and subject matter experts in design and review of custom courses to ensure relevance to real-world needs.

Partnering with subject matter experts who excel in their roles is huge for creating relevant, credible training content. Make sure to compensate them for their time and expertise! Have them and content providers review storyboards and provide feedback at multiple stages. The insights SMEs bring can make or break the learner experience. At our company, top performers often teach courses since they have insider knowledge of the skills and mindsets that drive performance.

  1. Implement Ongoing Assessments 

Continuous skills assessments before and after learning implementation allows you to quantify impact and fine-tune programs to address evolving gaps. don't let skills assessments be one-and-done. Continuously evaluate skill levels before and after training to see tangible results. Relate competency gains directly to metrics like quality scores, sales numbers, customer satisfaction. And frequently refresh needs analyses to uncover new gaps. Making assessments an ongoing practice embeds continuous skills improvement into company culture.

  1. Make Learning Social 

Discussion forums, mentor matching, and team assignments drive collaboration and relationship building and provide support channels. Social and collaborative elements are immensely powerful when incorporated into custom eLearning experiences. They not only promote deeper engagement with training content, but also provide human connection, knowledge sharing, and support mechanisms for learners.

Discussion forums related to training concepts allow learners to have conversations, ask questions, and learn from peers going through the same modules. This human interaction and peer wisdom enriches the whole learning experience.

Features like mentor matching provide newer employees with access to experienced team members who can provide guidance, feedback, and motivation as they develop skills. Building relationships across company tenure fosters collaboration.

Group assignments and projects as part of training courses require learners to come together and practice applying their new competencies as a team. This social learning reinforces skills while building relationships and interdepartmental bonds.

Microlearning content paired with collaborative chat features lets employees discuss quick lessons and share perspectives. This blend of social and bite-sized learning content keeps engagement high.

And using features like badges and leaderboards gamifies the learning experience and taps into our innate social drive for status and recognition. Competing on teams and earning rewards drives participation.

The bottom line is that integrating social elements in online training courses strategically creates a learning ecosystem rather than just isolated training. It allows organizations to leverage knowledge across their workforces while keeping employees engaged, supported, and connected to a broader purpose.

Following these steps will help ensure your eLearning initiatives align tightly with priority skill needs across the workforce for maximum development impact.

VIII. The Growing Importance of Custom eLearning in Capability Building

Looking ahead, customized eLearning will become even more critical as organizations scramble to keep pace with change, digital transformation, automation, and other seismic talent shifts.

Here are two key ways custom eLearning will continue evolving as a strategic capability building lever:

  1. Mainstream Adoption: eLearning will increasingly move from one-off programs to core pillars of workforce development strategies. Leadership buy-in and investment will ramp up dramatically.
  2. Enterprise eLearning Teams: Top companies will build dedicated in-house eLearning teams to create and update customized learning aligned with rapidly evolving skill needs. Learning engineering roles will boom.

Organizations that embrace these shifts stand to gain tremendous agility, productivity, and competitive advantages from tailored, data-driven learning.

IX. Conclusion: Closing the Skills Gap Through Strategic Capability Building

As accelerating change widens skills deficits, organizations require new workforce development strategies centered on agility, personalization, and intelligence. Custom eLearning solutions offer a uniquely scalable and effective way to build the specialized expertise and capabilities needed for both today’s complex roles and tomorrow’s unseen challenges.

But generic, untargeted eLearning courses can only deliver shallow results. To truly transform workforce readiness, businesses need customized learning experiences tailored to their unique culture, systems, pain points, workers, and strategic goals.

When grounded in rigorous skills gap analysis and continually optimized based on performance data, custom eLearning development services can successfully bridge skills deficits, improve talent mobility, and develop future-fit workforces that drive innovation and results. Learners gain the specific skills they need in engaging, efficient ways while leadership gains a competitive advantage.

Forward-looking companies realize developing tomorrow’s talent today is the number one capability that will separate market leaders from laggards in the coming years. Strategic investment in tailored learning experiences is how you empower your people to become capable drivers of change.

The widening skills gap presents daunting talent challenges. But with the right vision and custom eLearning partner, your organization can turn this gap into an opportunity to build an agile, energized workforce ready to propel your business into the future. The time to start is now.


1. What is custom eLearning development?

Custom eLearning development refers to corporate training courses and materials that are designed and created specifically for an organization based on their unique goals, culture, processes, resources, tools, systems, and audience. It is learning content tailor-made for a company rather than repurposed from off-the-shelf course templates.

2. How does custom eLearning development help bridge the skills gap?

Custom eLearning helps bridge skills gaps by targeting the specific knowledge and competencies employees need to improve at their jobs. The hyper-relevant content and scenarios quickly impart in-demand skills aligned to workforce deficits and strategic priorities. Adaptive learning personalizes training to individual skill levels.

3. What are the benefits of implementing a custom eLearning program in a business?

Key benefits include increased workforce capability and productivity, improved employee motivation and retention, faster onboarding, greater operational efficiency, cost savings over classroom training, and the ability to rapidly reskill for emerging needs. Custom eLearning engages learners while optimizing their development time.

4. Can custom eLearning development services address the needs of different industries?

Absolutely. Custom eLearning courses can be tailored to the unique workflows, systems, regulations, tools, and knowledge requirements of any industry or role. The personalized approach ensures learning is adapted to any business context.

5. How does custom eLearning promote a culture of continuous learning?

By making development engaging, convenient, and mobile, custom eLearning integrates learning into employees' daily routines. It provides agency over skill building while delivering data to inform personalized growth. This embeds L&D into the cultural fabric.

How Custom E-Learning Development Bridges the Skills Gap