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 on 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 or 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 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 it is a task that should ideally be owned by functional managers. They understand best what skills their teams need in order to 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)
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 are useful as precursors to face-to-face meetings. It is at everyone's PDR that specific learning plans are agreed.
Benefits of proactively managing skills:
Proactively managing skills as described above will:
Ensure skills are developed that 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.
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.