Top 5 Digital Skills Management Misconceptions

skills inventory issues

Top 5 Digital Skills Management Misconceptions

My Top 5 Digital Skills Management ‘Misconceptions’

I find the following five misconceptions a cause of great frustration, mainly because they are so easily overcome, especially with the advent of automation in terms of skill capture and exploitation of the resultant data.

I personally find SFIA to be a wonderful framework, authored and refined over the years with input from across the industry to become a fantastic representation of information skills across the industry. Indeed it can now be considered the de-facto framework for documenting digital skills. However, I also find that all too often it is still being used as pure framework to measure conformance, similar to a process maturity framework for a one-off tick the box assessment. “Let’s assess our workforce’s skills”, but then what? If we consider the fact that we are dealing with people’s skills and their futures in an ever-changing landscape it becomes a whole different ball game to a pure assessment exercise.


#1. The best starting point is to define the jobs using SFIA and then measure/test the workforce against those definitions.

I find this one the most common and the most frustrating. This type of requirement suggests more of a recruitment and/or performance management issue, not really a reason to implement digital skills management and/or SFIA. To be honest, it is far too late to measure people against the job they are already doing. It entirely ignores all the other skills people have attained which may not be required for their current job. It is far more effective and useful to map ALL the skills of the PERSON to SFIA, NOT the very narrow subset defined by a job or position description.


#2. Managers should define or ‘sign-off’ the skills of their people because individuals could be over or under confident in what skills they have.

It makes perfect sense that an individual’s skill profile should be reviewed and discussed with leadership or accredited SFIA consultants. BUT, let’s be honest, the skills belong to the person, not the manager or employer. It is far more important to have a fully informed workforce on how their data is being used, provide graduated choices when they are selecting their skills and the ability to review and modify their own skills profile. When people understand the implications of their skill profile in relationship to say, upskilling opportunities or being exposed to work requests that may prove a challenge, it’s amazing how more accurate the self-assessed profiles become.



#3. Every certificate and/or technical specialism has to be cross-checked and signed off by someone else.

Well that’s one way of undermining trust, empowerment and accountability? Certainly, a degree of sampling and oversight is required, especially in sensitive environments. But if a person cannot be trusted to accurately record what they can and can’t do there is much larger issue to deal with. I for instance know exactly whether I received a certification following a training course. If the system of record is transparent, and the appropriate people able to ‘view’ relevant skills data then we believe cross-checking should be by exception rather than the norm.


#4. This is a one-off project. (Set and forget)

Many organisations embarked upon one-off skills assessment projects to highlight business risk or to support a new operating model or a restructure. So, ALL the data that highlighted “The skills they have” falls into disuse and quickly becomes out of date, as new skills were acquired, and old ones become redundant. In this crazy world of rapid rates of change it, to me, is a resounding waste of effort, time and money, to assess skills as a one-off. Skill profiles should be dynamic, easily maintained as well as reflected in career action plans. The traditional annual performance appraisal approach just does not cut it these days.


#5. It probably takes too long and/or too disruptive to the workforce to conduct a skill assessment so let’s try and shortcut.

Consider the time taken to assess/map your own skills to SFIA in the context of your career or even your current job. While the initial skills assessment may indeed be a one-off, it is then quite simple for the on-going management of skills profiles to become part of BAU. Just compare that to the hours of meetings you attend within any given month that were, let’s say, less than productive.

This should really be viewed as a great opportunity for you to reflect on a career so far and to become familiar with a globally recognised capability framework. It can be just as good as your next CBT course on subject X. You can try our SFIA FREE self-assessment HERE

However, we do strongly advise that the employer recognises the commitment and sets time aside based on the benefit that will accrue rather than just expecting the workforce to ‘fit it in’ around other demands.

If you would like to see ‘first hand’ how Digital Skills Management could benefit your organisation our FREE trial is for you:

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Paul Collins