Why You Need to Compare More Than Skills During Talent Selection
Every organization is made up of people who have skills and people who are responsible for utilizing these skills effectively. It can be challenging for managers to understand how to best align employees during talent selections to work productively towards greater business goals. When managers select employees to perform various projects and assignments, there are a few key things to keep in mind. Let’s say a manager in your organization is looking to find someone with the skill of scrum master for an upcoming project. They find two employees with the skill of scrum master listed in their talent profile, and both employees have completed the same scrum master certification. Common sense leads us to know that if the manager was able to have both Employee A and Employee B work on the same project at the same time, they would experience different outcomes, and levels of success from each. Since we can only select one employee for the project, we must infer these outcomes in advance through looking at our talent data. Some organizations only consider skills which leaves out critical info and can hinder their ability to accurately determine the best fit for the role. However, taking into account skills, proficiency levels and experience can help us better predict talent outcomes and make better informed business decisions.
What is lacking in the skills conversation
The current conversation in talent management has seen an extreme spike in the topic of skills. Future minded individuals in the HR world may lead you to infer that skills are all we need to measure and assess. While breaking your talent profiles and organizational talent data down into skills can be an extremely powerful tool, problems can arise when skills are the only focal point to connect employees to their work. Opportunity marketplaces can be helpful for insight into the talents of your workforce, but the same skills can present two very different capabilities. Before we move the world of work into a future that stands alone on skills, we should assess the validity and consequences of such radical changes. Organizations who will gain the most from the ongoing skills conversation are the ones that seek to understand the factors in and around their talent’s skill sets.
Looking at the bigger picture
If knowing which skills an individual possesses is not enough information, what can we look at to gain more information? Their level of ability for each individual skill should be quantified by proficiency levels. Many have put “Excel” on a resume as a skill, but does that mean that they can open the application, or can they create branded pivot tables and graphs? Breaking this down into beginner, intermediate and advanced for each skill immediately gives us more information. Adding a proficiency rating can help clear up confusion and show which employee will be most competent in a role. Skills truly become meaningful when you understand the abilities behind them. While experience isn’t everything, understanding how it ties into skills and proficiency levels can help create a full picture. If an employee has the skill of manager, diving into levels and length of time can tell us a lot. Say one person has 4 years of management experience, but only with a local team of 5 employees. Someone else may have only 2 years of management experience, but in that time they oversaw an international network of 200. Experiences help show a more complete view into how an individual acquired their skill and help us better see their proficiency level in action.
Finding the right fit
If we were able to rewrite the talent profiles of our two employees who have the skill of scrum master in a more holistic way, it should look something like this:
Skill: Scrum Master
Proficiency Level: Beginner
Experience: Less than one year, one project completed
Skill: Scrum Master
Proficiency Level: Intermediate
Experience: 3 years, 6 projects completed
With skills, proficiency levels, and experiences represented in a talent profile, we can more accurately predict placement outcomes. If the manager in our earlier scenario looked at only the desired skill and certification in their organization’s talent profile, they could easily miss critical information needed to inform their decision. This can lead to assigning an employee who is unprepared. Looking at skills, proficiency level, or experience individually will all lead you to have an inaccurate picture of how someone will perform for your company.
Additionally, we should consider employee preferences and career aspirations. Good managers should seek to communicate with their team on a regular basis to understand these preferences. Just because an employee has a skill, it doesn’t inherently mean that they are looking to build on it. We all collect various skills throughout our careers and utilizing all of them is unrealistic. Managers should have information to understand the ideal career trajectory of each employee to better understand how to make employee goals and business goals come into alignment. If Employee A is looking to build their skill of scrum master and take it to the next level with experience, their manager could evaluate if this current project is a good fit for them to work on and connect them with a learning opportunity. Businesses with a good development strategy will keep in mind that certain employees are looking to cultivate undeveloped skills to be able to better use them in the future.
Skills are extremely useful data points, but taking a holistic approach to your talent can help give you greater insights into their unique experiences, career aspirations and capabilities. Managers should take into account the goals of their organization and be talent connectors and champions to help not only fill project roles, but increase employee experience and success. While you can never fully predict the work outcomes of your talent, using this combination of data can help set your organization up for the best chances of success when connecting your talent to projects and learning opportunities.
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