Workforce development managers, recruitment specialists and job applicants often face a similar challenge: it's not clear what skills are needed to fulfil a particular role. A vacancy ad or job description lists the duties, accountabilities and required behaviours but somehow an applicant can't see what the job actually involves!
A similar situation exists for staff who are looking to progress from their current role. Can individuals see opportunities for development? Can they see the skills required for a particular position? Are they ready to move into a management role?
Many organisations find that systematic skills management facilitates recruitment and provides opportunities for career development. A skills-focused approach to resource management also serves to demonstrate the adoption of professional standards to partners, customers and colleagues.
Skills management includes:
- Benchmarking roles or positions in terms of the skills required, creating "Skills Profiles";
- Ensuring that roles at all levels in a job-family have related and clearly incremental skills;
- Establishing a system for managers and team members to identify and agree aspects for development.
Specialist professional skills frameworks, such as those from the Association for Project Management and the Institute of Risk Management, are used to facilitate role definition, recruitment and to enable staff in those teams to set targets for development. Similar competency levels are reflected in technology vendors' certification paths, for example, for software development and technical support teams.
One skills framework – many disciplines
An overarching skills framework that can be used consistently by all functions/teams will provide optimal flexibility and potential for career development. The most popular reference source of industry standard skills descriptions is "Skills Framework for the Information Age" (SFIA). In SFIA, skills are described at defined levels of responsibility, so SFIA descriptions may be applied to team positions, as well as professional and management roles.
(Note: the SFIA framework is an independent framework, available free of charge to any business or organisation for internal purposes, such as selection, recruitment, development and deployment of staff. Registration is required at http://www.sfia-online.org).
Adoption of a broad skills framework such as SFIA ensures consistency in defining and assessing competencies across a variety of job-roles, while specialist frameworks provide the drill-down to more granular skills when required.
Skills profiles identify the skill-set required in each job-role and are at the heart of skills management. Building skills profiles should be driven by management and business considerations, so is a task that should ideally be owned by functional managers. They understand best what skills their teams need in order fulfil their responsibilities.
This 'top-down' approach ensures the business needs and priorities are incorporated into skills development plans.
A skills profile is created for each distinct job-role. (Agreeing what are distinct roles is sometimes a challenge in itself). Each skills profile identifies the combination of skills required to fulfil the role:
- Professional skills (from SFIA or relevant professional framework)
- Technology-specific skills
- Personal and management skills
Levels of skills capability, wherever possible, should be benchmarked against published learning outcomes or in line with recognised credentials. However, it's important to communicate that the purpose of referencing training/certification targets is to indicate levels of capability in specific skills, not a requirement to take specific training or pass an exam.
Assessment of development needs
Role-skills profiles provide a skills checklist for Personal Development Reviews (PDRs). Priorities and Online self-assessment is useful as a precursor to face-to-face meetings. It is at everyone's PDR that specific learning plans are agreed.
How QA can help
QA Organisational Consultancy team works collaboratively with clients, providing mentoring services to managers where skills framework expertise is needed and practical support when management bandwidth is limited. QA's general approach to skills management is collaborative and in-person. Automated assessment tools may be useful to assist skills measurement in large or dispersed organisations and QA can facilitate the set-up of these when required.
Proactively managing skills as described above will:
- Ensure skills are developed which will support and drive the business
- Align skills to relevant professional standards
- Facilitate individuals' career development and selection of staff for specific roles
- Provide better L&D budget control and streamline the learning procurement process
About QA Group
QA helps individuals and organisations achieve their potential through world-class Learning Strategy and Solutions. This includes: training and certification, innovative Talent Solutions that solve both business critical skills and capability gaps, Business Transformation solutions, enabling change and transformation through engagement and education of workforces, and Managed Learning Services. In addition, QA provides consultancy, apprenticeships and post graduate degrees on a range of technical, business and leadership subjects. With over 22 UK training centres – including Apprenticeships, Consulting and Cyber Academies – and a range of online learning options, QA offers an unparalleled set of learning solutions to both private and public sector organisations.
Andy has worked in the computer industry for 40 years and, for over half of that, as a learning and development specialist. He wrote and delivered technical training for business analysts and developers before specialising in tailored competency-based assessment and development programmes. Andy's eclectic experience, working with staff in IT technical and non-technical roles, management and leaders, has given him a unique perspective for his role in the Organisational Consultancy team. Andy specialises in skills management practices, role-based skills profiles and competency-based solutions, particularly using SFIA, "Skills Framework for the Information Age". Andy is a SFIA Accredited Consultant and represents QA on the SFIA Council (the official SFIA advisory body), of which Andy is also Chairman. Andy’s recent client engagements have included universities, a major outsource services provider, an NHS commissioning support unit and a large insurance services provider.