With the hectic day-to-day running of a business, it can be hard to keep track of new hires, existing staff, development programs and, well, everything!
But when it comes to checking the health of your business and planning for the future, finding out what skills you have in-house is crucial. About to start hiring for a new project? The person you’re looking for might already be sitting in the office. Or perhaps you’re hoping to take the business in a different direction, but you’re not really sure how to get started? You need to take a look at what skills you have and what you’re missing. In other words, you need a skills inventory.
A skills inventory sounds… complicated
Okay, so we know inventories don’t have the best image. But a skills inventory isn’t some stuffy spreadsheet that you’ll never look at again. It’s an incredibly useful tool for the management team, and can help to make sure you’re making the right decisions for the business.
A skills inventory outlines the skills, education and qualifications of your current employees. The larger a business gets, the more difficult it is to keep track of where your different employees’ strengths and weaknesses lie. And even in a small business, there’s no guarantee you’ll know the ins and outs of each employee – someone who works in sales might actually have a flair for copywriting. A skills inventory will help you to get a better understanding of the people in your business, regardless of your size or industry.
Taking an inventory doesn’t have to be all complicated software either. For a small business, a paper worksheet could work just fine. For a bigger business, you’d have to consider how many people would find it useful – you might decide that a digital database would be more efficient.
Why do I need a skills inventory?
A skills inventory brings a tonne of benefits to businesses. With an inventory, the management team can compare the skills the company currently has to the experience and knowledge the business needs to succeed. Everything you learn from a skills inventory can be used to:
- Hire staff with particular skills that your business is lacking.
- Source talent internally. There might be someone who’s a great fit for a new role or project, but they’re not confident in speaking up. A skills inventory will help you get the best from your current employees, and internal hiring is cheaper, quicker and better for morale.
- Run targeted training and development sessions. Convinced you need to run a particular workshop? It might turn out that something else would benefit your employees more.
- Identify employees early on to develop for the future needs of the business
Without a good understanding of the skills already in your business, you risk making management and hiring decisions that don’t really reflect your business objectives or future goals.
How do I figure out what skills to include?
Think about where your business is right now and where you hope to be in the next few years. Your employees’ baking talents or ability to pull off the entire ‘Macarena’ routine at the Christmas party might make them popular hires – but they won’t help you shape your future business goals.
If you need inspiration, take a look at some of the most sought-after skills in the modern workplace. While skills in writing, presentations or basic computing are always important, more and more businesses are on the lookout for things like data analysis or brand marketing. Even if you don’t think something applies to your employees’ skillsets, don’t write it off – the best part of a skills inventory is discovering hidden talents!
Isn’t taking an inventory time-consuming?
Nope! If it’s designed properly, a skills inventory can be done in no time at all. The biggest stumbling block you’ll face with a skills inventory is how to account for different levels of skill. Or, in other words, how to create a measuring system that gives you good results.
If you ask your employees to rate themselves on a scale of 1-10 for each skill, a lot of your results will come in at a listless 5 or 6. No one wants to claim that they’re an expert, but equally no one wants to seem like they’re clueless. Using such a vague system for your skills inventory will only give you a list of your company’s ‘sort-of’ skills.
Instead, get your employees to rank themselves on their proficiency at a certain skill. Cut the options down to just a handful – say, 4 or 5 options. Then provide some specifics for your employees to measure themselves against. The National Institutes of Health have a good proficiency scale, which ranks competencies across 5 options.
1 – Fundamental awareness or basic knowledge of the area
2 – Novice or limited experience
3 – Intermediate or experience of practical application
4 – Advanced, with ability to perform the task without assistance
5 – Expert or recognised authority in the area
This simplifies things for your employees (rather than guessing where they might stand on a scale of 1-10) and you’ll be more likely to get honest answers.
Shape your questionnaires to follow this pattern and get your managers to email questionnaires to employees. Then, it’s as simple as inputting the information you receive into a database – and enjoying a better understanding of the skills in your company.
Get advice on your skills inventory with Infinity Loop
At Infinity Loop, we’re a team of experienced entrepreneurs and leaders, so we know exactly what you’re going through and what it takes to succeed. Whether it’s measuring your employees’ skills, sorting out tax paperwork or strategy planning for the future, we’ve all been there!
We’re dedicated to helping our clients strengthen their businesses, in ways that actually work. By utilising the resources and skills of an organisation, our team of highly experienced consultants can deliver concrete results – not just recommendations.
To find out more about how Infinity Loop can benefit your business, get in touch today.