Posts tagged Skill inventory
4 reasons using competency models to build a skills inventory will make you a hero

Ask yourself the question, what are the capabilities of our organization?  Do you know?  If you’re in Talent, Learning & Development, you should.  And that probably means you should have a skills inventory.  Let’s use a simple technique called the 5 Why’s to find out why it is important to have one.


You should have a skills inventory.

Why is that important?

Because it will identify what my target audience is capable of doing.

Why is that important?

Because if I know what we’re NOT capable of doing, I know what development is required.

Why is that important?

Because my job is to develop people so they ARE capable of executing their part of corporate strategy, in their particular role in the company.

Why is that important?

Because if each person can execute their part of corporate strategy, then the company’s strategy will be achieved, and we’ll all be wildly successful.  (That is, I’ll be a hero!)


So now that we know why it is important to have a skills inventory, how do you create one?  Like the story goes, you need to know what each person needs to do to execute their part of corporate strategy.  And what is that?  That’s a competency model (or capability model).

Once you have a competency model (and you can learn how to build one here), you need people to perform a skills assessment against that model.  A self-assessment combined with a manager (or expert) assessment against the competency model, complete with behavioral examples to guide your assessment, works best.  A good competency assessment tool then manages your skills inventory.  It should include analytics to help you look at skills from various viewpoints: regionally, by product line, by role, or other relevant characteristics.  And you want to be sure that everyone who needs access to those analytics will have it. 

You probably don’t want to do this assessment using your Talent Management System because you are risking the accuracy and the integrity of the results. Expecting someone to assess themselves accurately when compensation and promotions may be at stake is noble, but not likely to occur. It is human nature to overestimate your capabilities if you know the results of your input can have an immediate impact on your pay and your chances of a promotion.  By utilizing Talent Management Systems to build your skills inventory, you risk having an inventory that does not accurately reflect the capabilities and limitations of your audience.  

Once it’s created, here’s what you can do with a skills inventory:

  • Identify who to put on what projects
  • Assess the readiness of the group to meet customer requirements based on strengths/weaknesses
  • Identify realistic targets for each person or the team
  • Optimally segment sales teams or channel partners
  • Identify who can serve as task-based mentors to others (more on mentoring)
  • Highlight who can lead workshops or present at conferences/industry events

Having a skills inventory is especially critical for:

  • People in industries faced with technological innovations that require new and emerging skill sets to sell and support these innovations in increasingly competitive markets
  • People in technology companies where managers are not always aware of their employee’s breadth of skills
  • Professional services organizations where assigning the best person to an assignment is critical to success

In summary, if you use a competency model for each role to let people self-assess in a safe, unbiased environment, you will have the best opportunity for a true skills inventory

1)      It will identify what your target audience is capable of doing

2)      You’ll know what development they need to close gaps

3)      You can develop them individually to be able to execute their part of corporate strategy, in their specific role

4)      The company’s strategy can be achieved, and the company can be wildly successful

 You’ll be a hero!


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What Is a Competency?

When talking about competency models, I’m often asked the same series of questions: “What is a competency? How do I explain it to others?”  

Defining Competency 

An easy definition of competency is that it is something you need to be able to do well in a specific job role.

The term "competence" came into vogue following R.W. White’s 1959 Psychological Review article, “Motivation Reconsidered: The Concept of Competence.” White explains that because people are intrinsically motivated to achieve competence, having competency models enables organizations to tap into our own desire to achieve proficiency.



In order to demonstrate competence, workers must be able to perform certain tasks or skills with a required level of proficiency.  A competency is broken down into specific skills or tasks.


Next, each skill or task can be described in terms of what it looks like—specific behaviors at different levels of proficiency.  To achieve competence in a particular job, a person should be able to perform various tasks or skills at a target proficiency level.



Sample task examples/behavioral examples of a task at a target level of proficiency

Sample task examples/behavioral examples of a task at a target level of proficiency

A competency model encompasses all the competencies, tasks and skills, behavioral examples, and proficiency requirements for a particular job. It focuses on factors the organization has marked “critical” to achieving the corporate strategy.  

While all of this seems obvious to Talent Development and L&D professionals, it is often difficult to explain to those outside of our field. In other words, when I ask a group of salespeople or supply chain managers about the required competencies for their roles, I typically get a bunch of blank stares. 

A Different Approach: Categories 

Let’s consider a different way to describe “competency.”  I ask people to describe the “categories” of things that employees need to be able to do. Suddenly, the intangible seems tangible, and everyone can articulate what they need to do. 

For example, if you ask a sales person about the categories of things they do, they will probably say account management, opportunity management, and administrative tasks. Or, if you ask a supply chain manager to outline their categories of tasks or behaviors, they will probably say supply chain management, people management, and coordination with other functions. 

Once you have these categories, you can have a conversation with high performers, asking them: “Tell me everything you do in your job that is related to people management.” This is where you can start to nail down the requisite skills for that role to succeed.  

If one of those skills is related to career development, you can ask, “If you must facilitate career development discussions, what do you think it should look like? How often do you do it? How do you integrate it into your processes?” This is where you begin extracting best practices, which are simply examples of how to demonstrate proficiency in a particular skill. 

Putting Competencies to Work for You 

If you want to dialogue with leaders or line employees about competencies or generate support for building competency models in your organization, use language that everyone understands. Ask people about the “categories” or big buckets of things they need to do in their job. I believe you’ll find that you can generate a lot more support for your competency initiatives. You can use the table below to help you get started. 

For more insight, check out my archived ATD webcast, "Develop an Actionable Competency Model in Weeks!"


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