The Benefits of Having More Discoverable Employee Skills and Experience

November 24, 202312 min read

Enabling Operational Staff to Find Colleagues' Expertise

The simple fact is, we rarely know even half of what our colleagues know - their skills, experience and expertise. Discovering the often hidden talents of people in organisations has been a common objective for so many teams over the years, and for many reasons. Improved operational efficiency and customer satisfaction seem like obvious benefits. There can be also be more subtle but nevertheless, still very worthwhile benefits that are discussed below.

In trying to address this common objective, there are probably as many different solutions out there as there are organisations. While there is no single approach or ‘one size fits all’ solution, there are a number of approaches that in differing combinations will prove effective for different organisations.

If you think making your team’s hidden skills discoverable would be useful, understanding some the challenges and potential approaches for resolving these may help you map out your ideal solution for making better use of the talent you already have.

As Lew Platt, the former CEO of Hewlett Packard once famously said:

“If HP knew what HP knows, we’d be three times more productive.”

Overall, taking a proactive approach to identifying the skills and experience of employees can help companies to make the most of their workforce, value the skills their people have and ensure that they reward the right people with the right roles.

Understanding the Importance of Skill Discovery

In today's fast-paced business environment, it is essential to identify and leverage the existing skills and experience of your employees. The way work is undertaken in organisations is also changing, with many project based workforces operating something similar to a ‘gig economy’, with more tactical project engagements sometimes being referred to as an ‘internal gig’. For organisations with this internal gig ethos, being able to quickly and easily identify people with specific skills and availability is even more important.

The Costs of Undiscovered & Underutilised Talent

There is significant expense involved with recruiting and on-boarding new team members, both in terms of time and money. The time cost can be particularly damaging if projects are delayed due to unexpected or unavoidable delays due to lack of specific skills. The process can also be disruptive, triggering unexpected issues with the delivery of ‘in flight’ projects.

In many of these situations, it is possible that there are already people with the required skills in the wider organisation; you just need to be able to find them. This is one of the key reasons why understanding the team’s existing skills, experience and expertise is so important. The other key component to this is making sure all operational staff can actually find their colleagues who have the required skills.

Operational Benefits of Skills Discovery

When an organisation has this capability, there will be an immediate improvement in delivering key project objectives in a timely manner. The value to employees themselves should also not be underestimated in having their previously unrecognised skills and expertise valued on successful projects. This can be especially rewarding for all if the person’s contribution gets the project over a hurdle sooner than expected by the project team. So there can be immediate benefits to the people and projects that make up the core business of the organisation - but there are also more strategic benefits to be had.

When these previously unknown capabilities are brought together into comprehensive employee skills profiles, organisations are given valuable new insights into the collective capabilities of the team. Different service or product opportunities may be identified for delivery to different markets, be they different industry sectors or different regions of the world.

Helping HR to Help Front Line Staff

By identifying skills gaps, organisations can develop training and development programmes to upskill their employees. As mentioned already, skill discovery crucially helps organisations to identify employees who have skills that are not being utilised. Enabling employee agility so their expertise is used more effectively, is hugely beneficial to both the organisation and the employee themselves.

Proper skill discovery helps organisations to recognise the potential future contributions from employees. In addition to the potential to take on leadership roles in the future, organisations who better understand people’s existing skills and aspirations will by this very fact, be seen to create a collaborative and growth centric culture for employees as well as the organisation.

There are several approaches that organisations can use for skill discovery. One approach is to conduct skills assessments. This approach involves assessing the skills and experience of employees through tests, interviews, and other assessments. Another approach is to conduct performance reviews. Performance reviews provide an opportunity for managers to review the performance of employees and identify their strengths and weaknesses.

Organisations can also use self-assessment tools for skill discovery. These tools allow employees to assess their own skills and experience. This approach can be useful in identifying employees who have skills that are not being utilised.

The Skills Discovery Process

Skill discovery is the process of identifying and recording the existing skills and experience of employees that are, or could be relevant to the organisation’s core business activities. It is a crucial step in talent management that helps organisations to identify the strengths and weaknesses of their workforce. By understanding the skills and experience of employees, operational staff can find expertise they need to complete tasks quickly and efficiently.

Employee Self-Assessment Approach

Part of an effective approach for discovering the existing skills and experience of employees is through the use of employee self-assessment. This process requires employees to assess their own performance in the workplace, allowing employers to gain insight into the strengths and weaknesses of their workforce. During a self-assessment, employees can describe their achievements and share their professional progress over a specific period of time, such as a year or a quarter.

While employers should encourage employees to be honest and objective in their assessments, and to provide specific examples to support their evaluations, in reality employers can expect employees to be honest. Unlike publicly accessible profile networks like LinkedIn or specific industry membership associations, self-assessment for internal skills is always more accurate and comprehensive.

This is primarily because public networks tend to exist for employees to share their experience in the form of a CV or Resume. These public networks exist primarily for people showcasing their skills for potential recruitment by other organisations! Internal skills profile hubs are there for employees to showcase their skills or expertise to their colleagues so they can provide today on a project task. This creates a very different dynamic in that people only showcase skills in which they are 100% confident of successfully providing for delivery of immediate project objectives; their current employment relies on them being honest with themselves as well as with their colleagues. You could say it’s the difference between ‘talking the talk’ on public networks and ‘walking the walk’ on internal skills networks.

To ensure the success of this approach, it is important for employees to have clear guidelines for the self-assessment process. This can include specific criteria for evaluation, such as job performance, communication skills and teamwork abilities. Providing employees with pick-lists of terms that constitute the types of skills the organisation expects will help in this guidance. Similarly, pre-defined scales of proficiency will not only help guide employees in their self assessment, they will also help ensure consistency in skills and expertise data across the organisation.

Overall, the employee self-assessment approach is a valuable tool for discovering the existing skills and experience of employees. By providing an opportunity for employees to reflect on their own performance, employers can gain valuable insights into the strengths and weaknesses of their workforce, and identify areas for improvement and development.

Performance Review Analysis

A traditional approach to discovering the existing skills and experience of employees is through performance review analysis. Performance reviews, also known as appraisals, are an opportunity for managers to assess the performance of their employees and provide feedback on areas for improvement.

During these reviews and by using a variety of methods to evaluate employee performance, managers can gain an understanding of employees' strengths and weaknesses, as well as any areas where they may need additional training or support.

While this approach will also help to identify hidden talents and skills that employees may not have had the opportunity to showcase in their current roles, it doesn’t necessarily make these hidden talents easily accessible to the wider organisation. Combining the proven HR processes with new approaches for transparently gathering and sharing information about what people have to offer from their experience, is the most effective way of attaining the objectives laid out at the beginning of this article.

Combining Skills Data Sources & Analytics

In the same way organisations should build on existing HR processes, combining existing Human Resource system data with complementary sources of information will help in gaining further insights into employees skills and experience. By analysing collated employee data, i.e. existing data combined from different systems as well as additional information provided directly from the employees themselves, HR professionals can improve their insights in executing their key roles in the organisation.

There are however some challenges with using HR systems when it comes to making any skills information maintained in these systems available beyond the HR department:

  • HR systems are often complex and expensive to implement and maintain;
  • HR systems tend to have very poor mechanisms for recording the breadth of skills, experience and expertise in ways that create comprehensive profile data;
  • This often results in HR systems data related to skills being very high level in nature, not so useful for detailed project assignments or day-to-day operational objectives;
  • HR systems can be expensive and difficult to use for non-HR professionals;
  • There are often a lot of additional skills related data already existing in non-HR systems.

When you also try to take advantage of the many different sources of existing employee skills data, the challenges tend to be with collating data from different systems and processes in ways that provide appropriate information for a variety of different roles. There are skills directory or even skills hub type systems designed specifically for this purpose and the better ones tend to have the following characteristics:

  • The ability to make use of existing data from existing systems and processes and by doing so, not disrupting the existing systems, processes and data governance;
  • Ease of use for people creating, maintaining and/or validating their own skills profiles
  • An ability to standardise how different people will refer to the same skill using different words, or describing different skills with the same words
  • Automation of profile creation and/or maintenance;
  • Provision of secure, transparent but easy to use skills search;
  • Delivery of these capabilities in familiar tools that people are already using on a day to day basis like collaboration web sites, messaging platforms and email;
  • Flexibility to access the data pool created by these skills hub systems for creating specific reports, controls and workflows that are unique to the way you work.

For almost every organisation, it will be a combination of existing systems and processes combined with complementary systems and processes that will provide the most cost-effective solutions for better utilising your people’s talent.

In Summary

In summary, there are many benefits to be gained from making employee skills and experience more easily discoverable across the organisation. The benefits to employees themselves and the organisation are clear. The benefits to HR professionals are also clear, but there are also more strategic benefits to be had.

When operational staff are able to quickly and more easily find expertise for the delivery of the organisations core business activities on a day-to-day basis, there will be an immediate improvement in delivering key project objectives in a timely manner. The value to employees themselves should also not be underestimated.

There are also more strategic benefits to be had for the organisation as a whole, opening up potential new markets in different industry sectors or different regions of the world.

There are several approaches that organisations can use to identify the skills and experience of their employees. So far we have looked at some of the more traditional approaches that can be combined with new ways of creating ‘Employee Skills Hubs’. To see some more ways you might approach the development of such a system in your organisation, take a look at this article on creating an effective employee skills inventory or feel free to Contact Us to start a conversation.