Employee Skills: Metrics That Matter

Employee skills — metrics that matter — or do they matter? All industries have experienced change over the last year and a half. Leaders have narrowed their focus on the survival and stability of their organizations. Looking to the future, they’ll need to concentrate on steps to safely emerge into the “new normal” of post-pandemic work and society. Will the data points, dashboards, metrics, and measures of the past be right for decision-making, risk management, and investment planning moving forward? What matters from here?

You Need The Right Data

Most students of business have come across hackneyed phrases such as, “You get what you measure,” from Dr. H. Thomas Johnson, or “The most important figures that one needs for management are unknown or unknowable, but successful management must nevertheless take account of them,” from W. Edwards Deming. An example from World War II amplifies these messages.

When Data Gives the Wrong Results
Fig. 1: When Data Gives the Wrong Results

When large numbers of Allied bombers failed to return from missions, the US Center for Naval Analysis needed to determine why and what to do about it. In essence, they gathered damage data (fig. 1) from returning planes. They plotted that data and concluded that the wings and fuselage needed reinforcing.

However, statistician Abraham Wald pointed out that these planes were returning home. Perhaps the planes not returning were damaged in different areas. They added armor to the engines, cockpits, and tails. This reduced the number of planes and crew members lost.

What does your organization know today that it wishes it had known last year? Will that be what matters in the future?

Employee Skills: The “Missing In Action” Data Sets

Often, the “missing in action” datasets are validated employee skills. Many business metrics used for decision-making depend on the output of people and their ability to execute. In the changing economy, organizations are facing the people questions: who to keep, who to furlough, and who can pivot to fill new jobs. Connecting people to the execution of business makes skills data imperative for operations across sales, customer service, inventory management, and risk mitigation or compliance.

Risk mitigation or compliance may be measured in life or death metrics. These range from patient outcomes, field safety incidents, and cybersecurity attacks to staff deployment and continuing business certifications. For example, in healthcare, staff deployment throughout COVID-19 has been challenging. Employee skills data improves the operational quality of staffing decisions. Organizations can connect patient staff certification currency or expiry to continue services. It also helps in upskilling and reskilling to understand who can deliver care at higher licensure or within a different resource pool.

Connecting The Data Points for Optimal Business Impact

People outcomes and metrics rarely seem to be a “house on fire” issue. In fact, they’re rarely connected to the sales pipeline, cyber blackmail risk, inventory management, or stock price. But they should be. Tools like Kahuna capture, quantify, and enhance operational decision-making with employee skills data. Kahuna brings workforce data from your existing tech stack into one system. It captures data you commonly analyze, as well as unfamiliar data. This provides a full view of workforce skills and capabilities. It helps you develop the connection between purpose, outcome, and impact.

Examining the metrics that matter requires continuous review to:

  • Test whether your organization is meeting its organizational goals
  • Understand how your people are performing and contributing
  • Question whether the right things are being measured


Jesuthasan and Chan said, “There is a lack of adequate metrics available to companies for measuring the value of talent and return on investment in employees.” Skills and competency management adds a crucial metric of measure. It correlates the value of employees and their impact on business outcomes.

In our accompanying eBook, Connecting Skills to the Balance Sheet, we’ll talk about the impact of employee skills on the business balance sheet. You’ll learn how to use a shared business and talent vocabulary to develop new metrics that matter when moving forward in this new normal. As leaders, using validated employee skills data can keep the planes flying and make all the difference in completing the mission.

Employee Skills: Metrics That Matter

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