Assess the skills you have versus the skills you need

skills you have vs skills you need

Assess the skills you have versus the skills you need

When conducting skills analysis for a workforce or a job candidate, what a difference a few words can make. Here’s a discussion we often get involved with:

What’s the difference between these two questions…

“Can you do this?”


“What can you do?”

On the surface there appears to be little difference. But in the environments that we work with, there is a world of difference. And this is why….

In a corporate environment, it seems perfectly natural to:

  1. Firstly, define the skills that are needed to fulfill the various jobs or roles
  2. Secondly, to assess the workforce based on the skills required to fulfill the roles in order to determine critical skill gaps and understand the current situation and risks to the business.

This is a typical “Can you do this?” scenario, and to be honest it seems to be a perfectly reasonable starting premise. However, consider the following:

  • It is highly likely that the skill requirements for the organisation will evolve and change
  • It is highly likely the workforce will not remain static

By limiting the skills assessed only to the skill requirements at a point in time there is the real risk of missing out on capturing LOTS of skills that are already present across the workforce. While those missed skills might not be critical in an immediate sense, they could well be in the future. There is a risk of missing the opportunity for mobility within workforce. Consider that people have a history, and that history incorporates both their usual workplace, as well as outside of their day jobs.

If you instead focus on “What can you do”, you will get a more comprehensive understanding of all the skills embedded in the workforce, and then being able to leverage on the benefits of true mobility with some other, often unexpected, positive outcomes:

  • People will have greater opportunities to grow based on their complete skill set, not just those they apply in their current job or role
  • Greater opportunity leads to improved staff retention
  • Broader internal skill sourcing capabilities and a reduction in the need for recruitment
  • Reduction in business risk through knowing precisely the true skill gaps

The following anecdote is based on a real event:

Story One: “Can you do this?” scenario

Jane joins Acme Corp to work on the Service Desk. A great entry point into IT with her ideal employer. Sometime later Acme Corp use SFIA to perform a skill mapping exercise to identify skill gaps and understand business risk. They define the requirements for a Service Desk Officer and check that Jane has these skills. She performs well and only has a couple of areas she needs to address.

Acme Corp then decide to run the Service Desk as a branded business service and, so they go out to the market and buy-in Digital Marketing and Selling skills. Not a cheap exercise…

BUT what if they did this……

Story Two: “What can you do?” scenario

They would have uncovered that Jane studied Digital Marketing at university, had helped numerous organisations as a freelancer and therefore definitely had the required marketing skills. But alas Acme Corp ONLY asked, “Can you do this?” and as a result spent a great deal of time and money externally, resulting in a very unhappy and unfulfilled Service Desk Officer.

And then there is John the software developer who used to be a teacher with excellent training skills, or Rakesh the production manager with quality assurance skills from his time in the construction sector. And not forgetting Angela who was an account manager for a large software company with great relationship and product skills before she moved into project management. Not to mention she is the CFO for a large charitable organisation in her spare time with the required financial skills. Hopefully you’re getting the idea.

We often hear the argument or objection to a Story 2 scenario, that it would take far too much effort.

“Surely it will take much longer to assess a person’s skills rather than just check they have the ones they need now?”

This is very true if a manual or interview style approach is taken but not true if the assessment process is efficient and starts with self-assessment. And, mapping all the skills a person possesses still allows for proper gap analysis and risk assessment, while providing greater insights for future decision making. A person is always so much more than the skills their ‘current’ job demands and to miss this fact is a disservice to the people and the organisation.

The story two scenario is a major factor in why and how we designed SkillsTx. We truly understand that an organisation’s most valuable resource is their human capital and therefore we ensure that you see the full picture, not just a narrow job based view, while at the same time providing the mechanisms for maintaining a truly real-time dynamic skills matrix.


Get the BIG picture, don’t limit yourselves to just the skills you need.


Scenario 2 makes it easier to find mentors

FINALLY, don’t just take our word, here’s a quote from a recent (Jan 18) Harvard Business Review article:

“If you want to keep your people — especially your stars — it’s time to pay more attention to how you design their work. Most companies design jobs and then slot people into them. Our best managers sometimes do the opposite: When they find talented people, they’re open to creating jobs around them.”

Show me How
Paul Collins