Purpose – The purpose of this paper is to examine the perception of skills shortages, namely, skills scarcity and skills deficiencies among managers, and its relationship with organizational characteristics. Design/methodology/approach – The study used a quantitative approach and data were collected from 243 managers working in China. Multivariate analysis of variance and box plots were employed for data analysis. Findings – The results revealed that organizational characteristics were found to have a significant positive impact on managers’ skill levels, and hard-to-fill vacancies caused by skills shortages were found in all types of organizations. Existing and deficient skills were also identified as affecting all organizations. Practical implications – The results suggest that organizations would benefit from the adoption of a system supporting internal retention, training and development and external recruitment to close the skills gaps. Originality/value – This is an empirical study that provides an insight into the skills shortages from a multi-organizational context. It highlights the effects of organizational characteristics in relation to skills shortages and provides a foundation to support the skills needed in the context of national and global organizations.