Developing Your Organizations Core Skills

Any organization that wishes to function effectively and maintain a sustainable growth must invest in its people. Regardless of what the product may be, it will always rely on the human factor to affect quality and productivity. To enable this approach to become functional, analysis of the core workforce skills required for the key task areas would be considered essential.

‘Core Skills’ is a well-used term to describe the competencies that are fundamental to the job needs or support the occupational standards to complete a key task. That known, it is assumed that an organization would consider investment into the analysis, design and development of core skills that best support the goals and objectives for future requirements.

So, what would the process be to ensure the organization establishes the correct skills and more importantly applicable level of competency? Organizational Development analysis will determine the structure of work functions, hierarchy of needs and commonality of performance areas. Once this has been established and validated, the next progression would be the development of a framework that captures both the core skills requirement and levels of competency. Ideally, this framework would include three main areas (domains) of functionality: Knowledge – Cognitive, Skills – Psychomotor and Attitude – Affective, which are measured against a scale of competency appropriate to the task.

It is expected that many of the readership of this article will already be familiar with the latter overview and have an understanding of what core skills are established within individual organizations. Commonly, skills such as communication, problem solving, making decisions and planning form the foundation of most frameworks. However, as a career develops, additional skills may be incorporated, which could include delegation, performance management, leading teams and self-management, to suggest a few. Mentioned earlier was a scale of measurement. This has no fixed metric and can be adapted to the job function, although the measurement must be consistent, valid and applicable. An example could be Basic – Intermediate – Advanced; Level 1, 2, 3 etc.; or key descriptors, Know, Apply and Evaluate, akin to Bloom’s Taxonomy. Whatever the applied measure, each level must have a defined performance requirement.

Whilst this may sound a little too ordered just to ensure the employee is meeting a core level of organizational expectation, there should be investment in the workforce in order to provide accurate feedback and development opportunities during standard personal appraisal. This will also become a goal/objective setter upon which an internal training and career pathway can be developed.

Once the organization establishes and clearly defines its core skill set matrix, the correct recruitment standards can be set and applicable training designed and/or developed. The options of training delivery will depend on a number of factors:

  • Size of the organization.
  • In-house training facilities/trainers.
  • Access to external trainers.
  • Ability to contextualize training to organizational needs.
  • Annual training budget.

Initial introduction to core skills and company ethos can be delivered through a well-developed induction programme which could also set out future expectations to maintain current standards and further continued professional development. A department skill sets matrix will assist a team leader to select the appropriate person for a task and highlight development opportunities to maintain the correct core skill levels. The matrix can also provide HR with justification to fund any future training requirements and therefore allow for both short term and long term planning.

The benefits of establishing the correct core skills within an organization by department are a structured work focus that provides incentive to employees. Knowing when individual training deficiencies exist, investment will be made through opportunity and development to support a structured career pathway. Having clear and achievable objectives, set within a realistic work capacity and ability, will provide individual encouragement, feedback and a sense of achievement. Developing organizational core skills sets the precedence for sustainable operational effectiveness, training and development efficiencies and staff retention.

Gerwyn Harkett is an internationally experienced Training Consultant. He has worked within the UK Armed Forces, UK Ministry of Defence, Emirati Government Authority and UAE Vocational Education Institute.

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