Skills assessment aids staff development, deployment

While most manufacturers know the capacities of their equipment, software, and other facilities, many are unaware of the skills employees' possess or the training they need to become more productive. In an increasingly competitive environment, manufacturers must track staffers' abilities just as they assess equipment to operate with greater efficiency.

07/01/1999


While most manufacturers know the capacities of their equipment, software, and other facilities, many are unaware of the skills employees' possess or the training they need to become more productive. In an increasingly competitive environment, manufacturers must track staffers' abilities just as they assess equipment to operate with greater efficiency.

"Unfortunately, companies often hire people with the wrong skills for a job or assign them to the wrong functions. Within many organizations, misalignments of skills arise as business needs change and external markets evolve," says Mark Pecoraro, president and ceo of Success-Factors.com (San Francisco, Calif.), a provider of web-enabled skills management software. "As a result, companies frequently don't know who is in their workforce, what they can do, or where and when they're available. This also leads to a lot of unfocused training that usually isn't designed to meet specific needs."

Managing skills at Honeywell

To improve staffing decisions, employers and managers must take an inventory of employees' existing skills and capabilities; deliver training tailored to specific organizational needs; and deploy people in assignments where their skills will be most useful. Though these tasks can be completed manually, Mr. Pecoraro says using computers and the web can be especially helpful in conducting and revising skill assessments, tailoring training programs, and making new job assignments. They can even check when employees last used particular skills and what job-related training they recently received.

Honeywell Industrial Automation and Control (IAC, Phoenix, Ariz.) recently used SuccessFactors.com's skill assessment software to inventory abilities of more than 1,000 engineers at dozens of IAC locations across the U.S. IAC's managers began tracking the skills and job profiles of 100-200 subordinates with the system in April 1998. They found the better they understood the engineers' skills and profiles, the more efficiently they could match engineers with specific projects.

Each IAC engineer was able to complete a personal profile listing 100 separate skills in about 20 minutes using desktop PCs. Individual skills were then matched against existing criteria and given a percentage based on how well they fit.

Part of this process includes self-ratings by the engineers, with which the managers can then concur, or not. If and when disagreements occur, users usually can install a review process.

Knowing who can do what and where they're located helps make job and training assignments easier. Each IAC manager and engineer also discusses assessments and makes plans to fill training gaps. Several hundred engineers also developed personalized learning plans for themselves.

"Software and the web can help users integrate a skills management solution into their daily routines. This means managers can asses the skills of groups of staffers and use the data as a resource planning tool, while employees can input information to continually update themselves," says Mr. Pecoraro.

Similarly, some web-based skill assessment solutions even solicit input on managers' performance. These are similar to programs that compare managers' and staffers' judgements of an employee's particular skill. These solutions also compare percentages and seek to reach an agreement, such as settling on a specific training regimen.


Author Information
Jim Montague, news editor, jmontague@cahners.com


5 Tips for Skills Assessment

Seek to truly understand that employees are part of an organization's total capabilities, and that their skills need to be periodically checked and enhanced for optimum efficiency and productivity.

Inventory employees' skills, experience, and recent training. Incorporate ratings by managers and self-ratings by employees and seek to resolve disagreements.

Determine the current, specific, market-driven needs of your organization and focus new training on meeting these needs.

Interview and hire staff with skills that fulfill the organization's requirements and assign employees to jobs in which their skills will be most useful.

Revise and update assessments frequently to make sure employees' skills are keeping pace with the organization's needs.



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