What is Skills Management?

Employee skills and competencies are top of mind for every CEO, organizational leader, analyst, and thought leader. The landscape of work is changing for many industries because of fast-paced technological advancements, evolving work environments, and shifting business goals. Top leaders are leveraging skills and competency management software and verified skills data to drive strategic decisions.

In this post, we’ll define skills management and explain the benefits of skills and competency management software. Paired with a standardized skills framework and a thoughtful business strategy, skills management connects HR and Operations to create a more skilled, competitive workforce.

What is skills management? Why does it matter?

Skills management is the business process of identifying critical skills, assessing organizational capability, and developing your workforce. Modifications to business strategies and operating conditions make skills management a continuous cycle. At a high level, Kahuna defines this process in 4 steps: Curate, Assign, Assess, and Develop.

Why is skills management important?

Skills management is important to ensure your workforce skills align with your business strategy. It also helps you execute organizational goals, grow to meet future demands, and thrive in the “future of work,” which is being shaped by three driving forces: Work, Workforce, and Workplace.

deloitte future of work

Reskilling, upskilling, and cross-skilling to meet evolving demands

There’s no doubt these changes introduce complexities to skills in different work environments. In operations-focused industries, such as healthcare, energy, manufacturing, or field services, these skills changes drive up demand for reskilling and upskilling. Forrester reported that CEO concern for upskilling has grown tremendously, increasing from 53% in 2012 to 79% in 2019.

Related Reading: Reskilling, Upskilling, & Cross-skilling To Build Workforce Capability

With the events of the last couple of years, we predict this concern to continue rising. A McKinsey report states that nearly nine out of ten executives face current skills gaps, or expect them in the next five years. Additionally, 69% of organizations are doing more skill-building now than they did before COVID-19.

Organizations executing skills management with the right software can face these challenges head-on. Skills and competency management help you build a sustainable strategy to promote agility in the face of emerging industry challenges. It moves skills from being an HR function to an organizational business function. It cultivates a conglomerate culture of learning, development, safety, quality, and execution. This is where the enduring effects of skills management occur and how organizational transformation begins at every level. For more information on bridging the gap in HR and Operations, check out this report by Josh Bersin.

Why do I need skills management?

The future of work is changing, and the changes are happening fast. When they impact your organization, how will you respond? Will your workforce be able to adopt new technologies, learn new systems, deploy to new locations, or transition to new roles?  

Equipping your company with skills management is the proactive approach to facing the future of work. It enables quick and confident responses to change. It informs upskilling, reskilling, hiring, and managing your people in line with business needs.

A skills strategy implemented with skills and competency management software enables employees, managers, and executives to view skills data from disparate systems (i.e., HRIS, LMS, Training, Scheduling, etc.) in one place. Validated data leads to informed business decisions about talent and business capability. It does this all while meeting and exceeding business goals no matter the industry circumstance.

Following Kahuna’s skills management process, you’ll use trusted skills data to inform:

  • Talent Identification: Finding the right person for the right job at the right time.
  • Capability Planning: Aligning your workforce to meet future skills demand.

“[Skills management] provides a more rigorous way to manage, measure, certify, and validate operational skills.”

Benefits of skills management

For organizations in highly-regulated industries, skills management keeps your organization running. It ensures the operational skills, or those considered essential to operate the business, are up to date with industry trends and regulatory standards. From operating machinery on an oil rig to caring for a patient at the ICU bedside, operational skills are critical and must be rigorously validated. Most notably, skills management benefits include:

Find the right person for the right job at the right time

Efficiently plan, schedule teams, and assign employees to job sites knowing they’re equipped with the right skills, certifications, and experiences.

Identify skills gaps

Know skills gaps at both an individual and workforce level. Plan specific training and development initiatives to upskill, reskill, and cross-skill employees to close their skills gaps. Quickly fill gaps in your team line-up if there’s employee attrition or unexpected absences.

Be competitive in the marketplace

Align your workforce and their skills ahead of what the market or your customers will demand to maintain a competitive advantage. Keeping abreast of industry changes minimizes future disruptions within your business and ensures you produce quality products and services for your customers no matter what.

Retain talent and critical knowledge

Invest in your employees and their skills with development plans targeted towards their skills gaps or career journeys.  And in the case of unplanned absences or attrition, make quick, strategic changes informed by skills data to fill in the critical knowledge gaps.

Train more efficiently

Understand where gaps exist in your workforce to develop more targeted onboarding and training programs. In doing so, you’ll reduce your training spend and cost of poor quality, while quickening the time it takes for employees to be productive. 

Meet regulatory compliance and improve workforce safety

Weave industry-standard safety and compliance into your competency framework so that the compliance process naturally becomes part of your standard operating procedures. Execute cost-efficient and zero-findings audits, reduce the impacts of safety incidents, and mitigate non-compliance risks.

Webinar with Josh Bersin: Operational Skills Management is a Business  Imperative

Finding the right skills management platform for your business needs

When searching for a skills management platform for your business, there are multiple factors that you should consider.

Platform Capability

Your skills management platform should meet the operational needs of your business. Think about the levels of proficiencies your competencies require, the assessment methods your employees go through to be deemed competent, and if your competencies are tied to one or more job roles.

User Experience

Platform usability is critical to ensure users at all levels can navigate the data they need for their day-to-day jobs. Is there mobile functionality? Can data be accessed when offline in the field, or in the flow of work on location? Does the platform produce skills data that will be valuable to your operations and HR business leaders?

Integration Functionality

Does the platform integrate with your existing tech stack? To bring true value to your business, integration with your core HRIS system is a must so that your company structures and user data can be consistently organized and automated across platforms. Also consider integrations with your LMS, scheduling, dispatch, training, finance, and analytics software.


Is the platform’s data model flexible enough to work with the way your organization structures your competency library, role profiles, or assessment methods?

Customer Support

Can the platform truly support the rigor associated with verifying operationally-focused skills? Can the support team properly onboard your people or implement the system in a way that makes sense for your organization? Do they offer long-term customer support and take time to understand your business needs so you can maximize the use of the platform?

Building a skilled, competitive workforce

In conclusion, your workforce skills are critical to organizational success. Kahuna’s process of curating, assigning, assessing, and developing your workforce skills, combined with our skills management software, produces trusted skills data to guide your workforce decisions today, and as you plan for the future. 

Building a sound foundation for skills management ensures you have the right person in the right job and are capable of meeting current and future industry demands. Both of these are key to executing your business strategy and being successful as an organization. 

Ready to build a more skilled workforce? Talk with one of our experts!

kahuna skills matrix guide skills matrix template