Ultimately, a business is the people who work there. Whether you look at the employees on a manufacturing line, people sitting in accounting, or upper management, a company is limited by the business skills of those working day in and day out.

In many areas, companies are facing a growing skills gap, and middle market businesses can be hit particularly hard by what they don't have. The good news is that they can develop talent and skills, hire for additional skills, and reap great rewards, both in competitive positioning and in opportunities.

A lack of necessary skills is a critical problem to companies, especially those in the middle market. They are large enough to have sophisticated needs in a number of areas, even as vacancies in so-called middle skills jobs have left companies wanting for qualified employees, even during periods of relatively high unemployment. And yet, they haven't the resources of much larger companies that can often hire away help.

One of the most obvious areas of missing skills is in advanced manufacturing techniques. According to a report by the National Center for the Middle Market and the National Association of Manufacturers, manufacturers that employ advanced techniques such as custom manufacturing, advanced robotics, automation, high precision, and emerging areas like 3D printing reported an average 20 percent profit increase.

But middle market manufacturers face a business skills gap. A "lack of production workers with the necessary skills to utilize advanced manufacturing techniques" is a "major obstacle" to adopting these techniques that can improve profits and competitiveness.

The skills gap, however, isn't something that can be ignored by companies not in the manufacturing industry:

  • Middle skill positions in nursing, computer technology, and electronics often require post-secondary training and, sometimes, college-level courses or degrees, according to researchers at MIT and Rutgers. About 48 percent of the nation's workers are employed in middle-skill jobs.
  • Increasingly, companies must address and integrate social networks into their businesses, whether to communicate with customers, address complaints, or expand marketing campaigns. And yet, beyond simply posting on Twitter or Facebook, the subtleties of using social networks is beyond many of the people a company might depend upon to put them to work.
  • Look at some important trends in information technology, like Big Data or geographic information systems (GIS). These require skills that are not broadly available, meaning that even if a company could effectively use the available tools and techniques, they might not have the people they need to use them.
  • Or consider the company's future management. Many people coming out of MBA programs miss the people skills to help lead employees or necessary levels of judgment and critical thinking.

In short, there are many types of skills that middle market companies need and cannot expect to readily find. Corporate leaders will have to take hand in training and recruitment. Such approaches as internships, mentoring, in-house training, partnerships with local educational institutions, boot camps, and study grants can make a difference.

The important thing is to start today:

  • Talk with department heads, undertake a skills inventory, and find out where the company comes short.
  • Prioritize skills with their potential impact on strategy and profitability.
  • Design a combination of hiring and training that can make the most important skills available as soon as possible.
  • Implement the plan to get the right people up to speed.

Your will have a growing bottom line and shrinking levels of frustration to look forward to.