In the rapidly evolving business landscape, having the right skills is crucial for any organization, trying to achieve its strategic objectives and stay competitive. It's not just about having skills, it’s about having the right ones, in the right roles and the right people using them. To do that, the skills data needs to be transparent and used efficiently. As Jack Stack puts it in The Great Game of Business:
“A business should be run like an aquarium, where everybody can see what’s going on.”
In this blog post, we explore the importance of up-to-date skills data, conducting a skills assessment, defining the skills needed to meet strategic objectives, visualizing data and skill gaps, and creating and running a process to close those gaps.
The Significance of Up-to-Date Skills View
“I have to say, we are in complete darkness when it comes to our skill landscape, and I fear it’s slowing us down!” – a recent comment from an HR leader in a large organization.
This didn’t come as a great surprise as many still rely on team leads’ memories when it comes to the skills and knowledge people have. It is still quite common to ask around, chat in Slack or Teams for people with certain skills and to name the same people as resources in new projects and work assignments. Not only is this inefficient and actually quite dangerous, it is also far from inclusive.
The business environment we all are in – it’s dynamic, with technology, trends, and market demands constantly changing and shifting. To keep up with the change, it is essential to have an up-to-date view of your people’s and organization's skills. The more you know about your skills and skill gaps, the better you are equipped to shift when the business environment shifts.
Stagnant skills data can hinder your progress. Therefore, having a reliable view of your organization’s skills involves regular evaluation and checking of your skill sets against the evolving requirements of your industry and business goals. The most successful companies have built automated processes to keep the data clean and fresh.
Conducting a Comprehensive Skills Assessment
A skills assessment is the cornerstone of understanding where you stand and where you need to go. It involves a systematic evaluation of your current skills, identifying strengths and weaknesses, and re-evaluating the data systematically.
Don't even try to complete the work at one stand. It can be iterative and you should start by defining the core competencies and skills your organization needs to meet its key performance indicators (KPIs). Think of those skills as the absolute must, to do business in sales, marketing, design, development, leadership, and so on. Interview people, talk to leaders, team leads and people and figure out a handful of most essential skills. Communicate those skills to all your people and you have a good head start to your skill assessment.
Conduct a comprehensive inventory of those skills in your organization to get the first view of the most critical skills. Use a common scale either from 1-3 or 1-5 to get a rough idea of your current landscape. The point is to understand, do you have more Basic, Intermediate or Advanced levels in those skills.
Whichever scale you decide to use, make sure you communicate the levels and expectations to everyone. Use skill sassessment tools such as Talbit to get a quick snapshot of your current landscape. Other options are using surveys, or interviews to get the data but they can be more time-consuming and might not provide the visuality, you want to gain.
Once you have your first view of your skills landscape, study the data in smaller groups and teams to evaluate any gaps or mismatches between the current skills and skill levels. This step provides a baseline for understanding the organization's skill landscape.
When you are comfortable with the first step, you can start adding new, required skills to people’s roles and having the next round of evaluations, to broaden your current skills landscape. The benefit of using tools such as Talbit is that it gives you a quick way from adding new skills to getting them evaluated.
Defining Skills Needed to Meet Strategic Objectives
Skill gaps act as an obstacle to success.
Once you have a clear understanding of your current skill set, the next step is to define the skills required to meet your strategic objectives and business goals. These objectives could include expanding market share, adopting new technologies, or improving customer satisfaction.
This exercise should be an iterative one, where you start by defining 10 to 15 core strategic and future skills necessary for your business. Please keep in mind that they can also be certificates that will help you raise the bar and elevate you to the next level in partnerships, for example.
Ask yourself: what are the skills we need to succeed in our strategy and meet our next business objectives, and how many people should have those skills? The timing is also an important factor – when do you need to meet those business targets and when do we have projects starting in those areas?
Visualizing Data and Skill Gaps
Data visualization has many benefits from creating clarity to driving better decision-making, to name a few. Visualization simplifies complex data sets and makes information more accessible and easily understandable for a wide audience. It serves as a powerful tool, enhancing communication and enabling teams to convey data-driven messages more effectively. When data is presented in a visual format, it allows decision-makers to quickly grasp trends and patterns, facilitating faster and more informed decision-making. The same can be applied to people's skills.
When we look at most businesses, data visualization is already used to present financial data, sales statistics, and marketing insights. But when it comes to skills, so many organizations are lagging, amidst the above-mentioned benefits.
Skills data visualization has the same power in decision-making as it does in any other business process. It is key to effectively bridging the gaps between your current skills and the skills needed for strategic success. Utilize data visualization tools to create clear and concise representations of your identified skill gaps and start using the data to drive better decision-making within your organization. With the help of cutting-edge visualization tools, such as Talbit, this entire process becomes simpler and more streamlined, allowing businesses to effortlessly track progress and make informed decisions along the way.With the help of cutting-edge visualization tools, such as Talbit, this entire process becomes simpler and more streamlined, allowing businesses to effortlessly track progress and make informed decisions along the way.With the help of cutting-edge visualization tools, such as Talbit, this entire process becomes simpler and more streamlined, allowing businesses to effortlessly track progress and make informed decisions along the way.
Creating a Process to Close Skill Gaps
Identifying skill gaps is only half the job; the real impact comes from closing those gaps. What measures need to be taken, to close them on time? Can they be closed internally or are external resources needed?
By establishing a systematic process for skill development, you are creating the foundation for a culture of continuous learning and development and a resilient organization that adapts quickly to industry trends and the ever-changing business landscape.
Your skill development process should include training programs, mentorship initiatives, knowledge sharing, and continuous learning opportunities linked with gigs, work assignments, and projects. Once you know your skill gaps, you can make more focused and targeted training plans to address them. Forget the one-size-fits-all programs, full Udemy or Coursera licenses, and focus on allocating resources more strategically, addressing specific skill needs promptly. Sometimes, you may need to hire an outside consultant or recruit the missing skills, and that's ok! The most important thing is that you use data to drive your decision-making.
Closing Skill Gaps Systematically
Once the skill gaps have been identified and a process to close them established, it is time to roll up the sleeves and start bridging them. There are a few essential steps that need to be considered, to be successful.
1. Team Leads and Managers should be trained on the process and incentivized to closing skill gaps efficiently. They need to understand the importance of skill development and the connection between learning, applying, and reflecting.
2. Prioritize skills that are essential to the business's success, and those which can be linked to gigs, tasks, work assignments, or projects now or in the near fiuture. This is the most effective and motivating way to drive skills development for both the individual and the whole organization.
3. Have your people build personalized plans with skill development, application those skills along with regular check-ins, knowledge sharing and progress monitoring. Use feedback mechanisms, peer reviews, and self-assessment tools to measure growth and identify any additional areas for improvement.
With an agile process, not only are you planning to close the skills but implementing the steps needed to close them.
In the ever-changing business landscape, having the right skills is a strategic imperative. Regularly assess your skills, define what is needed to meet your business objectives, visualize the data, and most importantly, create and implement a robust process to bridge skill gaps. This proactive approach not only ensures that your people are equipped for success today but also lays the foundation for adapting to the challenges of tomorrow. Embrace a culture of continuous learning, and watch your organization thrive in the face of change.