The Risk of Mismanaging Skills Management

Establishing a strategy for managing and maintaining your skills management program is a vital step in the process of deploying a skills management function in your business. It’s often the difference between organizations that experience a wasted investment and those that achieve a future-proofed program. In this blog, we’ll talk through the risks of mismanaging your skills management program and how to avoid it.

The pace of technology-enabled transformations in the business world has radically changed how we — both the worker and the organization — experience disruption. Previously, significant shifts in operations were an anomaly that only had to be confronted once or twice within a professional career. Now, organizations across all industries regularly brace themselves for game-changing innovations and are forced to accept these disruptions as a normal part of doing business.

Forward-looking businesses tend to understand that this increased frequency of disruption has significant impacts on mission-critical operations and the skills required for their workforce. Questions arise, such as:

  • Do my teams have the skills needed to adapt to their new working environments? 
  • What new skills are required for them to execute effectively in those environments? 
  • Which skills are no longer needed or relevant? 
  • Are there gaps in skills, knowledge, or proficiency levels? 
  • Can these gaps be closed for those skills? How?

Addressing these questions with a thoughtful strategy in an effective and timely manner is imperative for organizations to remain competitive. While this concept may seem basic, it’s often where organizations go wrong. Failing to consider how to adapt your skills management program to meet the needs of a changing business is a recipe for disaster.

Resources for building a sustainable skills program

Success depends upon the relevance of the skills tracked

At the most fundamental level, the success of a skills management program depends on the relevance of the skills being tracked for the business. If the business changes, the skills must change too. If businesses are changing more often than ever before, it’s reasonable to expect that the skills management program needs to evolve at a relatively faster pace to keep up. 

In our skills matrix template, we reviewed the importance of developing a skills framework and library that meets the needs of the business. This development is a continuous and intentional process, calibrating relevant workforce skills with evolving operational needs and intended business outcomes. So, how do organizations make the idea of an evolving skills management program a reality?

Adaptability is essential in a skills management program

Businesses put forth a substantial investment in developing their skills framework and programs initially. It’s clear that rinsing and repeating those same processes is not cost-effective, or sustainable. Instead, adaptability must be built into the program by design with the construction of a fit-for-purpose governance strategy. Right-sizing this strategy is key, as it can easily become burdensome to manage or worse, become a roadblock to maintaining program relevance. The most successful governance strategies focus on two primary goals: 

Usefulness of output

Ensure the program (inclusive of the skills framework, content, and all skills management processes) is calibrated to deliver useful skills data to the internal customer, often Operations, to achieve the target business outcomes. 

Timeliness of updates

Ensure the organization can efficiently determine when the program needs to be updated, what updates need to be made, and who is responsible for making them.

Creating a fit-for-purpose governing strategy

There is no one-size-fits-all governing strategy that will work for every organization. Rather, each business has to develop a model, striking a balance between creating well-defined processes that eliminate ambiguity and creating burdensome processes that are difficult to maintain. Consider the following when developing your governance model:

Who is accountable for the program’s success?

Who within the organization owns the responsibility of defining and overseeing the skills management program? Often, primary ownership falls to HR, but it’s also important to understand who within Operations shares ownership of certain parts of the program, such as technical skills content.

How is the program’s success ensured?

How does the skills management program sustain relevance and add value to the business over time? 

  • What capabilities are enabled? What information or outcomes does the program need to deliver to the business, often operations, and why are those capabilities important to the business?
  • What does success look like? What key business drivers does the program influence? How are those business drivers calibrated to the needs of the organization’s operational teams?
  • How is success measured? What is the target impact of the program on key value drivers? How and when are those measured? How does that insight drive action? Communicating the value of the program to executives is critical to ensure continuous support.

Who is involved?

What roles are necessary to maintain the skills management program and ensure it’s delivering value to the business?

  • What needs to occur and who is responsible? For each of these roles, what are the specific responsibilities? What is the expected time commitment to perform these responsibilities?
  • When should it occur? Set clear expectations for the cadence of these responsibilities, as well as any major triggers that may occur (i.e., M&A, the roll-out of a new service offering, changes to HR infrastructure, etc.). This is crucial to ensuring the governance ball does not get dropped.

Future proof your skills management program

Establishing a fit-for-purpose governance strategy is critical to maintaining a successful skills management program. It’s often the difference between organizations that experience wasted investments and stalled adoption and organizations that achieve a future-proofed skills management program capable of withstanding change. Don’t put your skills management program, your people, or your organization at risk of failure. Invest time upfront to create a thoughtful, manageable, and well-defined governing process to ensure your skills management strategies add value to your business now and in the future.

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