Knowledge is the main requirement for any skill. In a world that changes faster and faster, knowledge gets obsolete in shorter and shorter times. All companies require knowledge to operate, but some of them even their operations is knowledge. Areas like consulting and computer development their value has a direct relation with their employees knowledge.
If you are a company that is dependent on knowledge, I have to ask you, do you have the skills that you need? This looks like an simple question with a simple answer, of course every company have skills, if they wouldn’t, they wouldn’t be in the market. But the reality is that most companies have only an approximate idea about the skills they have and need. And they know even less about the skills they want for the future.
Ask your company if they have a list of all the skills required for operation, the answer is most of the time, no! And whats worst is that most of them think that is not necessary.
Let me explain why this is so important for any company to manage their own knowledge.
When we talk about human resources, the first and most important piece is the person, that I in a company context is referred as employee, co-worker or collaborator, I will call it collaborator.
This is You (it is his name :)) and he represents the collaborator.
Note: All the knowledge of the collaborators in a company need to be managed by the human resources in conjunction with their area manager.
Roles, activities and Skills
Every person have one or more roles in a company, and each role have one or more activities that they must execute.
It doesn’t look very important to have all the roles or all the activities well managed, but without this you will not be able to know what are the Skills you need to operate your company. If you are one of the companies that have none or partial data, I am going to show you how lost you might be without noticing.
Note: I did not even started to write the article and I am most sure that you already can recall one or more companies that don’t have all the roles defined and/or the activities that each collaborator must perform. Even the most organized companies forget one of the most basic roles that every collaborator have that is “Colaborator” or “Employee” that has the basic activities like fill time-sheets, private information management, etc…. continuing! :)
Each role has one or more activities and each activity need specific skills to be executed. Some skills might be optional, but others are mandatory, and without them it is impossible to perform the associated activity.
This role-activity-skill list is essential for the company to know exactly what it needs for their own operations.
With the complete list of roles, activities and skills, we are going to associate them to each collaborator. To do that we need to have to test the knowledge and gradate the skills for each collaborator.
Now we know who each collaborator is, where he fits in the company, what are the tasks that he has to perform, with which skills and what is his level of competence. We also know if the collaborator have the right skills level and where we have to work to update his knowledge. This is essential to improve efficiency and reduce risk.
Projects are dynamic composed activities. When we are designing a project, we need to define the activities, skills and skill level necessary for a successful delivery. Because we have the correct assessment made to our collaborators, we can easily assign the correct elements. If we don’t have them, we can choose to upgrade them, contract or subcontract, but we have the knowledge to decide.
Until here, we discussed the basic needs of a company to be able to recruit, execute daily activities and to be able to create and execute projects reliably.
Although knowing the current knowledge level and being able to correct it, it does not tells us the value of the collaborator to the company. To get to that value, we need to have to valuate each skill level, the skills that are the most important to your company will have higher value and the skills that we are stopping needing will have a lower value. And of course, the skills that you don’t need will have no value.
You might argue that this value is completely relative and tells us nothing about how this collaborator is relative to all the others in the company. Well… you are partially right, because this value is indeed objective when you compare others in the same role, that is where you normally want to compare the performance and value between collaborators. You can unify the value by creating an uniformization of the value using a percentage (or permilage) to the max possible for the role.
OK, it is nice to be able to give a score to the collaborators, based on the company needs, but why is that so important? To know why, keep reading! :)
Skills in time
Imagine this scenario, we just hired the perfect new guy, full of skills, updated, interested about all the topics that we need. But with the passing of time, the updated is outdated, the needs are others and the skills that he had are no longer required.
This is a big problem to any company, because it is very expensive to substitute, recruit and train new elements. We need to keep our collaborators updated, motivated and aligned with the company’s strategy.
So we introduce to the collaborators a career, giving them a visible career so that they can easily visualize themselves moving forward. Because with a visible path they get motivated to learn more and maintain myself updated.
Well, all companies have careers. True, but although they have careers, most of the collaborators feel that they have no control over their progression. That happens because most companies have their promotion decision methods hidden under subjective and corruptible methods.
This is where the collaborator scoring system starts to show its value. A promotion happens most of the time in a direct competition between you and your siblings, where the one with the best score should win.
So, how does it work when the company defines its careers? Each role has the required skills level. So when a collaborator is proposing himself to a promotion, he already knows if he has the required skills levels.
Because all the scores in a company are public data, all the collaborators know their relative position to the other contenders, that motivates the collaborator to improve his skills so that he will be the one selected to the new position.
Note: It is important to create a formula that promotes the best behavior for the company, so the equation to get the promotion score cannot simply be the calculated score for the next role, it must also use the current role score and the score value through time. The score value through time is used to prevent the collaborators that are career sprinters, updating their knowledge only when they need a promotion, this way they know that maintaining a constant high score will get them benefits.
Note: Of course the company can change the formula to include year of service and other values, but it is important that that equation promotes the behavior that we are searching for.
Predetermined careers are only a set of preset paths that the collaborators can follow, but nothing forces them to follow that path, every person has the possibility to change their path if they wish so. It is common to see technical collaborators to change to a consulting or even commercial path. When the collaborator shows this wish it is in fact beneficial for the company to allow it to happen.
Every role is at a measurable distance from you based on your current skills and the required skills to all the others.
(add to the data estimated time to learn a skill)
Imagine that you started with a technical role, and after some years in your career, you want to change to a more commercial role. You can go to your career management app and calculate the distance and the list of skills that you need to be able to apply to that position. Knowing your position and the distance between other possibilities will help you to decide, you can select the shorter path that will have a faster return or a longer path that will make you happier on the long run but requires more investment.
This flexibility is very important to the collaborator, since he has complete freedom do define his own career.
Having a career defined by yourself, with the steps necessary to achieve your goals well visible, motivates you to work harder, be more focused and motivated. It gives you a glimpse of you future, and each time that you wake up earlier or stay working late, you know exactly why you are doing it.
Now it is time to introduce the concept of a sponsor or a mentor. A mentor is an element in the company that knows about the position that you want to be in the future and will help you to get there. See it like your personal trainer in the gym, that person that does motivates you and helps you to do more, be more and teaches you how to get to the next level.
Note: the mentor concepts helps to create a sense of unity in the company, because you will have more people that are thankful and proud from each other.
One of the variables in the promotion equation can be the skill ability to mentor, that has increasing importance as you go up in the hierarchy.
Until here, we have focused on the collaborator, and how important it is for the person to be able to set their path. But the reality is that the company has its own path, static companies are something from the past, in the present, companies need to adapt very rapidly to be able to compete and survive, for that reason it is necessary that all the company members move to the direction that the company needs to be able to win the next challenge.
The skills that you need next year will probably be different than the ones that you currently have, and knowing what you are going to need next period is very important so that every element gets prepared before the battle.
When scoring the skills per role, the company gives two values to each skill, one for the current period and another to the next.
The current score is essential for a company to know its own skill rate, being the 100 when all the collaborators have all the required skills in the best level, or a lower value when some collaborators don’t have the required skills for the current needs or for the next period needs (can be an year, semester, etc.).
The next period skills values are very important to define because it makes adjustments to the value of the skills as the future needs or bets of the company. This change in the value of a skill in time, makes the collaborators wanting to keep updated and aligned with the company strategy.
This solution corrects the problem that I call death by obsoletion.
Death by Obsoletion happens when the value of a collaborator decreases so much that it does not justifies his salary anymore.
See this example: an older version of a technology starts to loose value, as a new version starts to get more value. This way, the company steer the ship, ensuring that all the members are moving to the same direction. Without this tool, the company is just a heavy machine that cannot adapt, is not efficient and it will loose its value and/or quality level.
Note: Nobody wants to loose, if they have a good score today, they will want to keep it tomorrow, for social, economical reasons etc.. Several studies show that people hate more to loose something than getting something new.
People are willing to learn and change, if they feel that that change benefits them and that they control it.
Every collaborator wants and can grow with the company, learning does not stop at the universities nor when you got your job, that was the past, knowledge management is essential to any company that wants to have success in a fast, highly dynamic, highly competitive world.