Human Resources

The case for employees creating their own skills profiles

July 26, 2023
3 minutes

As organizations aim to understand the skills of their employees, the best method is for employees to create their own skills profile. There are a number of approaches for collecting this skills data. 

  • Automation: Artificial intelligence and other software tools can scrape the organizations systems, like communication and project management platforms, to deduce an employees skills profile. 
  • Assign skills: Less sophisticated approaches look at the skills that an employee ought to have for their role, typically outlined in the job description, and that is their skills profile. 

But these approaches have shortcomings and as that skills data is operationalized in the organization, those shortcomings will become more pronounced, making the exercise futile.

The ideal approach to creating an organizational skills inventory is for every employee to create their skills profile. Here’s why:

  • Organizations know what they hired people to do. Managers may know what people do day to day. But they do not know the employee’s entire skill set
  • AI and software tools have a limited view into employees. Those systems can look at what the employees are working on day to day, but again, lack a greater insight into that employees larger skill set.

The value of employees writing their own skill profiles

The idea of people creating their own skills profiles is common practice. Candidates write their own resumes, people write their own LinkedIn profiles. There is trust in the collective to do that and methods for validating it. A skills profile for an organization is no different. An employee themselves knows their past job experiences, full education and training, volunteer experiences, and life experiences that make up their skills profile. 

These are some of the outcomes of employees creating their own skills profile:

  • Uncover and acknowledge hidden skills: When companies only focus on the specific skills they hired someone for, they risk overlooking the diverse skill set that employees possess. Individuals often have hidden talents acquired through various life experiences, education, volunteer work, and more. Encouraging employees to craft their own skills profiles helps to bring these hidden gems to the surface, enriching the organization in unexpected ways.
  • Identify skills gaps: Assigning skills based on job roles alone can be inaccurate. Just because a person should have a skill for a role doesn’t mean they have it. Further, it can be somewhat dangerous to assume they do. To truly identify skills gaps, the initial assumption should not be that a person has every role required for their role. And that’s ok because skills gaps can be addressed through learning and training. But only if they are properly identified. 
  • Avoiding predefined skills assignment: Every person brings a unique blend of competencies to their role, and this cannot be solely captured through rigidly predefined skill assignments. If two people are Digital Marketers at a company, it is not safe to assume that they have the same skill set. Allowing employees to articulate their own skill sets can lead to a more nuanced and comprehensive understanding of their capabilities.
  • Build a culture of trust, accountability, and ownership: At the end of the day, this is about understanding employees skills. There is tremendous value for the organization. There is also tremendous value in it for employees. Giving employees that sense of ownership and accountability over their skills, both in terms of declaring their skills and developing them, is profound. By giving employees the tools to craft their skills profile, they have the power and shared visibility into how they are perceived in the organization by Human Resources, their Manager and their colleagues. 

Helping people write their own skills profile

In an ideal world, every person is completely self aware and can write an accurate skills profile. This isn’t the reality of how the world works. Part of the human condition is that we are so close to ourselves that we cannot give accurate assessments of ourselves. Some people suffer from imposter syndrome while others have an inflated sense of self. Here is how to support people:

  • Incorporate 360-Degree Feedback where colleagues, managers, and subordinates can provide input on an employee's skills and performance.
  • Establish clear and objective criteria for evaluating skills and capabilities. Provide guidelines or a standardized format for employees to follow when writing their profiles. Avoid ambiguous proficiency scales, like 1 to 5, or implied judgment like beginner to expert.  This can help employees focus on concrete achievements and avoid exaggeration.

Employees creating their own skills profiles is a transformative practice that leads to a more comprehensive understanding of the workforce. By trusting individuals to define their own skills, organizations unlock hidden potential, close skills gaps, and foster a culture of accountability and growth. Embracing this approach, while offering support and feedback, ensures that the skills data powering organizational processes is accurate, relevant, and a driving force behind success.

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