Planning and Building a Skills Tracking Process

Published: 20th February 2012
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Implementing effective Resource and Talent Management practices requires true skills-based tracking and staffing capabilities. In order to develop these capabilities, the PSO must build and maintain an easily accessible, searchable skills database, along with subsets of skills matrices and hierarchies that will ensure that the best available consultant can be identified and staffed to each and every project role. This same database can serve as a helpful talent management repository capturing employee career interests, personal and business goals, and skills development needs and progress. Using spreadsheets and other manual processes to manage RM and Talent Management is a thing of the past.

Effective skills tracking can provide the following (but not limited to) benefits:



- Enable better financial results via more effective resource planning
- Achieve improved employee morale and reduced employee attrition
- Facilitate a more nimble and responsive services operation
- Simplify operations and improve overall business throughout



BUILDING THE CASE FOR SKILLS TRACKING

The business of Professional and Consulting Services is a people business. The team with the best people wins. Of course! Were you aware that Services is also the fastest growing element of revenue and margin growth for most successful product companies today? If that is all true, therefore, one might logically conclude that Services is benefiting from the most attention and investment. Ask yourself the following questions:



- Is employee skills development a high priority in your C-level offices?
- Is training the last thing to get cut when budgets are tight?
- Do we have a comprehensive IT plan to capture, track and proactively manage employee skills?



The reasons for this disaggregated approach to skills management situations are many:



- Automation tools (until recently) have not provided the level of functionality and integration necessary to do this job properly, with skills tracking a key need for better integration



- Organisational roles have too long focused on HR being the center of the universe driving this key need when in fact it belongs with Resource Management, with cross-functional support from HR and the delivery organisation(s) directly responsible for managing resources.

- Resource management processes are not institutionalised in most organisations, so the default holder of the skills development machine continues to be HR. No offense intended to the HR profession they simply cannot possibly have the same appreciation for the skills needs of the people the delivery teams manage, and the projects the delivery teams are expected to manage. Better integration of the employee development effort is needed.

- And many more reasons that perhaps are self-evident at this point.



There are four overall key points to remember regarding the importance of skills tracking:



1.Resource Management effectiveness is essential to running your PSO.
2.Talent management, development and retention are essential to a vibrant PSO they are strategic.
3.A skills tracking / inventory infrastructure and processes are prerequisite building blocks for Resource Management and Talent Management.
4.Automation is an essential enabler of skills tracking chose a Professional Services Automation (PSA) solution with flexible configurability and capability. With interlinked skills tracking, spreadsheets are not up to the task.



PLANNING AND BUILDING A SKILLS TRACKING PROCESS



Architecting and building your skills inventory requirements and your skills tracking process involves, at a high level, the following:



- WHAT OUTCOMES DO WE WANT?
- THEREFORE WHAT INPUTS WILL WE NEED (AND INTEGRATION POINTS WITH OTHER SYSTEMS)?
- Who will provide this information (inputs)?
- Who will use this information? What type of reporting do we need?
- Draw a workflow diagram which captures the above four points.
- How will the information be managed or governed? (Hint: it helps to have a good PSA system)



Other than the first two questions the remainder of those questions are really more organisation specific / dependent and left to the reader to determine.



As you begin strategising the overall design for building your skills inventory, it is certainly a good idea to understand the flexibility / capability of the PSA solution you will use to enable your strategy. Understanding the data fields, reporting capabilities, integration points, and other system-related elements will provide both ideas, as well as an understanding of limitations (hopefully few) relative to your desired approach and workflow.



Regarding INPUTS, the type of outcomes you desire will likely drive most answers to this question. Some best practice applications to consider:



- DEFINING ROLES (TYPE OF JOB OR WORK TO BE DONE), SKILLS AND PROFICIENCIES WITH THE RIGHT LEVEL OF GRANULARITY within the roles is as much a science as it is an art. Most companies we see have far too many job titles, role definitions, and skills breakdowns. Too many roles / skills breakdowns and the system and data become too complex to build, use and maintain. Too few and you lose flexibility. This is a good place to talk to a consultant with experience in the area, or another company you know who does this well. Key to gaining organisational buy-in and cooperation for achieving the right level of granularity is educating those who will be using the data on the needs, implications and desired outcomes of the process. Getting this part right will have a substantial impact on your overall success. Done well, your organisation will gain a true understanding of your resource situation, thus enabling skills mobility between departments and geographies, and reducing workload associated with RM and Talent Management.



- ANTICIPATE THE NEED TO CALIBRATE THE INPUTS - in most cases companies will be moving from many to fewer job and skills categories. Calibrating in some manner the roles (definitions) and skills competencies (e.g. novice, medium, expert) is helpful to make the data more useful from the onset of the new process. This is certainly a place where the apples to apples comparisons of resources will quickly become obvious and refinement over time will hone the calibration results. HR departments are usually helpful with the process behind a typical skills calibration process, however, PS management needs active involvement as they are the ultimate users of the data.



- ENSURE YOUR ARCHITECTURE ADDRESSES EACH OF YOUR TARGET OUTCOMES look beyond the tactical delivery oriented needs of skills / competencies to your strategic needs. Do we have a certification plan to help create better predictability of capabilities? Therefore what would I need to capture and monitor for certification tracks? For Talent Management, where retention is a concern and / or a strategic goal, capturing skills development needs and desires of employees (personal and business goals) will need to be considered. And therefore, how will that information be used? What about skills paths and the process of tracking employee progress through the skills path?




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