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8 Tips For Awesome Skills Management

There was a time when a skills management system was simply a nice tool to have around; that time has passed.

As early as 2003, HR professionals at IBM realized that the rapidly changing business landscape meant that companies had to inventorize the skills of their workforce if they wanted to stay ahead of the competition and drive productivity.

Since then, many companies have caught on, and skills inventories have become quite common and – as many businesses state – quite essential to success.

But this kind of management is still relatively new, and you may find it hard to get information about skills management. In fact, if you Google the phrase “Skills Management”, you’d most likely get results about “Management Skills.”

And so beyond helping new clients understand how to use our system, we often also have to help them understand how to implement it in their company (to the best of our knowledge of course), as well as some best practices they should observe for better results.

For our blog this week, I’d be highlighting these practices that can help you successfully implement and use your skills management system.

Skills Management Best Practices

1. Ensure It Is Supported By Senior Management
Before you implement a skills management system, you should secure the commitment of top management. They have to be fully convinced of the business and financial benefits the system will yield.

These benefits usually come from better utilization of employee skills, better staffing for projects, more effective succession planning, and most importantly, a clear awareness of the talents needed for the success of the business, and a defined method for developing such talents.

Using these and other valid points, you have to get top management to buy into the idea of a skills inventory.

2. Allow Employees To Define The Skills Needed For Their Job Roles
If HR decides to create the skills inventory without consulting employees, you may end up with a system that is understood by HR, but foreign to employees. It is only natural that those who do the job everyday will have better knowledge about the skills needed for their day to day activities. And if you ignore their opinions when creating the system, you will have a hard time convincing them to use it.

“HR [needs] to get out of the business of defining the work. After all, those doing the work and those overseeing the work [are] the legitimate experts.” – SHRM Study Of IBM

Of course, HR has to set the guidelines and structures for collecting skills, but an advisory team made up of employees from the different parts of the company should suggest what goes into the skills list.

3. Avoid Complexity
When implementing the system, start with only those skills that are critical to the success of the business and allow your skills list to grow over time. There’s no need to try to capture every possible skill that may be related to the business all at once.

You can also avoid complexity by using a step by step approach when setting up your skills management system. These systems usually come packed with many features that may require time and effort to setup, and if you try to implement them all at once, you may get lost in the huge amount of work involved. It is best to start from one feature and expand from there.

For example, we usually tell new clients who plan to use the competency management part of our system to start by setting up the skills management part and making it good. After this is done, they can go on to setup competency management.

4. Present The System As An Employee Development Initiative
On a recent online conference, a client asked us how they can present the system to their employees without putting people on edge. This was a good question because, employees are usually skeptical when any kind of change takes place. As simple as remove the coffee maker from an office and you’d raise some eyebrows.

So don’t wait for employees to conceive flawed notions about the system and then try to convince them otherwise. It is better to communicate to them that the system will be used for developing employee skills and careers so as to put everyone at ease, and make them ready to use the system.

5. Organize Proper Training Sessions
Everyone needs to understand how the system functions and how they fit into it. It will expectedly take some time for your people to become familiar with the system, but you can help them get started with proper training.

A good model to follow is to train managers first and get them settled into the system, after which you should organize one or more training sessions for employees.

6. Make Employees Use The System
No, I’m not saying “force it on them.” Rather, you can make the system central to their day to day activities in such a way that they will want to use it.

For example, if you decide to select employees for projects, training, and promotions based on the skills they have entered in the system (which is indeed one of the best ways to select people), employees will want to use the system as those who do not will essentially be left behind.

7. Use It To Analyze Training Needs
The very nature of skills inventories means that they can provide the best insights into the training needs of your organization.

A skills inventory can help you identify skills that are critical to your organizational goals, but are currently in short supply, and you can, and should use this data to ensure all your training efforts are positioned to help your people acquire these business critical skills.

8. Learn To Use The Various Reporting Functions
Skills management systems usually offer quite a few reporting functions. Each one serves a different purpose and provides a different view of the strengths and weaknesses of your workforce.

But it is all too easy to find one or two reporting functions that serve your purpose, and stick to using them without exploring others.

If this sounds like you, you may be missing out on other powerful reports that can help you wrap your head around your workforce skills.

Basic Considerations For Best Practices

There are a ton of other factors that influence the decisions you make regarding your skills management initiative, and it will be impossible to cover them all.

However, before you take any action on your skills management system, ensure it is one that will –

1. Make the system easy to set up and manage,
2. Make employees use and value the system, and
3. Earn you the continued support of top management.

By: Mesheal Fegor
Sales & Support