How to Build a Skills Framework for Your Organization

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How to Build a Skills Framework for Your Organization

A skills framework comprises a matrix, mapping skill to roles and tasks inside your organization. Depending on your needs, the skills framework can be a standalone framework or part of a larger, competency framework. In either case, it represents a valuable asset that can guide your organization’s hiring, recruitment, and internal development strategy.

Building one is well worth the investment for most organizations, but if you’re going to do it, it’s important to take the time to do it well. Finally, any skills framework must map to the organization it’s for. While you can purchase a skills framework, you’d want to customize it to your organization’s needs and specific roles.

Defining skills needed across your organization allows you to hire and train for those skills, measure those skills, and determine which other competencies contribute to success in a role.

Start with a Standardized Framework

Most organizations will require the same basic skills or competencies as other organizations. Even if you require fairly heavy customization, buying a standardized framework will likely considerably reduce strain on budget. Most competency frameworks include skills frameworks and role mapping as a matter of course. You can also choose a skills-only framework that simply maps skills to roles, giving HR a good idea of what they need and what hiring managers across their industry are looking for.

Once you have a framework, it’s important to customize it, to make adjustments to your organization’s specific roles, and to ensure that the framework is integrated into performance management, hiring, and training. Popular frameworks include SFIA, OECD, IAEA, and others. In most cases, it’s a good idea to go over options with your talent or assessment provider to ensure you have a good fit.

Measure Work and What is Performed

Chances are, your organization already conducts yearly or even quarterly performance reviews. In this case, you already collect the data you need to see who is doing work and where. Here, it’s important to look at actual production and output, as well as total team performance in terms of creativity, collaboration, etc.

If you don’t have performance review in place or only collect limited data, you likely have to start out by talking to team leads and managers to collect this data.

  • Identify key performers in each role
  • Identify the lowest performers

This step is more important if you’re working towards a competency framework but is valuable for skills as well. A simple DiSC performance analysis can help you fill gaps if you don’t have work data on hand.

Conduct Interviews Across Your Organization

The easiest way to see what people need to perform work is to ask them. For most organizations, this means:

  1. Grouping roles into types
  2. Identifying specific roles across the organization
  3. Prioritizing roles (where do you start, why) (some roles will serve as bases for others, some should be finished sooner for hiring purposes, etc.)

In most cases, the more people you interview for each role, the better your eventual framework will be. Different people see their roles in different lights, use different words to explain their role, and may even take on more aspects of a role than another person.

  • What skills does the person use in their daily work?
  • Which do they use occasionally?
  • How do they rank those skills?
  • How do managers and team leads rank those skills

You can also sit down with a team to discuss roles, including what they see as the most important aspects and skills for that role. Group perspectives can be just as valuable as input from the person actually doing the role, because you learn what others rely on that person to do and why.

You also want to look at:

  • What skills (if any) do people in roles think are missing?
  • What skills do people in leadership think are missing?
  • Are skills in place to meet changing role requirements? Even if those haven’t happened yet?
  • Are roles changing and if so, how much? What input do the people in those roles have?

Eventually you’ll end up with a general list of skills for the role, which you can prioritize based on importance. Prioritization allows you to improve using skills for hiring, because you know what’s necessary and what’s nice to have.

Map Skills to Productivity and Performance

It’s important to pay attention to people who perform well in performance reviews. It’s also important to interview people who perform badly. Why? It allows you to map out skills based on performance so you can see if skills gaps contribute towards performance gaps. In many cases, performance gaps will relate to stress, mental health, and competencies. It’s important to take all these factors into account.

  • What skills, or soft skills, are present in high performers that aren’t present in low performers?
  • What skills gaps exist in the company? Does this relate to performance?

Mapping skills to productivity and performance will help you to determine which skills are important, which aren’t important for the role, and which actively impede performance when they aren’t there.

Here, it’s very helpful to look at people who have been with the organization for a long time who might be in roles that have evolved over time and who might not have the skills needed for the role. You also want to look at people who might have been hired on without necessary skills who either learned (or didn’t) those skills while on the job.

This kind of research will give you a very clear picture of what is impactful on hiring, what needs to be taught to improve performance, and what your strategy should be.

Create Processes to Maintain Your Framework

Once you’ve created your framework, it’s important to establish processes to ensure ongoing maintenance and validation. Chances are, you’re hiring an external team to come in, handle interviews, create a framework, and customize results to your organization. It’s largely not feasible to do so internally, unless HR suddenly has a large amount of free time or you’re willing to bring in freelancers.

In either case, you’ll have to either establish an ongoing relationship with those teams to update work as your organization and technology changes or implement internal processes to ensure that work maintenance is ongoing.

  • Who is responsible for maintaining and updating roles and skills?
  • How does HR find out when technology used in teams changes? E.g., if the organization moves from Ruby on Rails to Python, job descriptions have to change with it.
  • How does HR validate skills? Can skills be mapped to performance during reviews? Can progress be mapped to validate teaching new recruits and existing employees’ skills?
  • Are programs in place to close skills gaps?

If you don’t have internal processes to maintain and validate your skills framework, it will quickly lose value. Most organizations change fairly rapidly with new tools, new roles, and new teams regularly introducing change. HR must be able to keep track, update the skills framework as needs change, and continue to hire for and train for the skills actually needed by the organization.


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