How to Staff Your Skills Program for Success

We talk a lot about the drastic impacts technology is making in the business landscape, both in operational functions and back-office processes. But the truth is organizations still heavily rely on people to make the business run. Running a successful skills management program is no different. The quality of people that you put into place to design, set up, run, and sustain your skills program will absolutely make or break its effectiveness.

Throughout this post, we’ll emphasize the importance of designing your skills program with the right team, supported by the organization, and working to make the project’s goals a reality. 

Resources for building a sustainable skills program

Skills Program Roles & Responsibilities

Our Roles & Responsibilities Template guides you in staffing your skills management program with the right people to sustain your skills project for the long term. 

Frequently asked questions about staffing your skills management program

When allocating individuals to spearhead your skills management program, consider the full scope of responsibilities that exist and how to distribute them to the necessary roles. Be considerate of how these individuals will work with leaders throughout the organization in various departments and how they communicate and execute on the vision for the skills management program.

Consider dedicating specific resources within your organization to focus fully on the skills management program, or adjusting their other responsibilities to make the skills program a priority. If your resources are over-allocated, your entire project is at risk.

Most skills management programs require involving resources outside of the project’s core team to help with the initial program launch and ongoing support. For example, the IT department may be needed for technology integrations and set-up, or your operations SMEs may be needed for building out the competency library. 

To ensure long-term sustainability for your skills management program, plan ahead for the project’s staffing needs once the initial implementation is complete. You’ll of course need resources to perform tactical maintenance, but you’ll also need resources dedicated to keeping the project calibrated to business needs.

If those responsible for leading the skills management program are reallocated to new teams or leave the organization, the skills project is placed at high risk of failure. For this reason, it’s critical to consider a backfilling strategy for the project’s critical roles to fill gaps as quickly as possible.

A Roles and Responsibilities Template is a matrix view of job roles and responsibilities to consider when identifying who will run and manage the skills management program.

Deploying the right resources for your skills management program

When staffing your skills program, who are the right people? How does the organization set them up for success? Organizations prepared to address these questions can avoid most of the common pitfalls that plague businesses struggling to get value from their skills initiatives.

Who is and should be involved in the program?

Before identifying individuals to spearhead your skills management program, you have to understand the responsibilities that exist and how to distribute them to the necessary roles. Check out this Roles & Responsibilities Template for a detailed breakdown of common functions, roles, and responsibilities involved in operating a skills program throughout its lifecycle. Depending on the size and scope of the project, the organizational structure of the business, and the underlying culture, the optimal definition of responsibilities and specific roles may vary. However, this template serves as a robust starting point for the majority of organizations.

When determining who within your organization to match with each role, consider the following:

  • The owner of the skills content (skills framework and roles) must be capable of establishing a tight relationship with, and a thorough understanding of, your business operations. As operations change, so will the necessary workforce skills, skill definitions, and proficiency requirements. This individual must be able to identify these operational changes, work with the right SMEs, and make adjustments to the skills content as needed.
  • The direct owner of the program needs to excel at constructing and communicating a vision for the initiative to the entire organization. A skills program lacking a leader directly involved on a regular basis will have trouble sustaining the program’s relevance and usefulness to the business as it evolves over the long term.

How do you set them up for success? Here’s what NOT to do.

With the main players on the team identified, let’s talk about what to do and what to avoid to set the skills program up for success. Here are some common mistakes organizations make when staffing their skills initiatives:

1. Misunderstand available versus required bandwidth for key positions. The responsibilities you define for the roles in your program are important and need to be treated as such. Assigning entire roles to individuals who are already over-allocated in their day job is a recipe for disaster. It’s important to consider dedicating specific resources to their role in the skills program or adjusting their other responsibilities to make the skills program their top priority. If your resources are over-allocated, resist the temptation to push program responsibilities to the backburner. This will either delay your skills project’s success or worse, put the entire skills investment at risk.

2. Fail to be proactive in coordinating support resources before you need them. Most skills management program efforts require involving resources outside the program’s core team. For example, for integration set-up, you’ll most likely connect with your IT teams. For skills content development, you’ll most likely connect with your operations SMEs. These support resources need to be aware of and be able to plan for their support contributions ahead of time. Otherwise, they may not be prepared to perform their responsibilities when needed. This can affect the project’s ability to hit specific milestones or the general effectiveness and sustainability of the skills initiative.

3. Front-load the deployment of a new program with the right resources without accounting or planning for all of what’s needed for long-term sustainability. Some organizations do an excellent job of staffing the skills program during the initial development phase from design to deployment, but they heavily underestimate the bandwidth needed to effectively sustain the project. In many cases, the initial project team is dissolved and the majority of responsibilities are handed off to one or more administrators to focus on tactical maintenance. While this is an important function during the sustainment phase, the program often needs additional individuals to help make sure the initiative remains calibrated to business needs.

4. Allow for a high turnover of key players without accounting for the impacts it will have on the program. Similar to the above situation, many organizations make the mistake of promoting or re-allocating key players within the skills program elsewhere in the business. Naturally, this should be expected to occur with high performers. But remember to evaluate the risk this can pose to the project’s success. In the same way that a top-performing team greatly evaluates the likelihood of success when implementing the program, the loss of high-performing team members is likely to negatively impact the ability to sustain the program. If members of the team are reallocated or leave the organization, be sure to carefully consider a backfilling strategy for the program’s critical roles.


Carefully develop, maintain, and execute your resource allocation strategy

To ensure your organization’s skills management program can function as intended, you have to carefully consider who you staff on the project, as well as their roles and responsibilities. The theoretical problem scenarios above seem manageable on their own, but in practice, many organizations struggle to get the resourcing equation just right. Why? 

From the business perspective, staffing at this level of detail is viewed as costly. But this view fails to truly understand the consequences of getting it wrong – the program’s success or failure and the return or lack thereof, of all the investments made. This all depends on the quality of resources running and maintaining the project. 

For an effective program to be created and maintained, the business should view proper staffing as a foundational imperative to achieve its goals. This is where a disciplined approach to measuring and communicating the value of the project will help ensure robust support from the business, and make sure the right people are available to sustain the skills program. 

Have questions about digitizing your skills program? Reach out to one of our skill advisors.

Skills Program Roles & Responsibilities

Our Roles & Responsibilities Template guides you in staffing your skills management program with the right people to sustain your skills project for the long term.