Shedding Light on Skills Inventory


Many leaders are caught up in the day-to-day operations of their department and are not really aware of the various skills of their employees. They know generally what is happening in their department and that the work is getting done, but rarely do leaders have the time to focus on verifying the skills of their team.

Why should they verify the skills of their employees? These individuals had the skills when they were hired. But how long ago was that? Has their job or tasks changed?

As a leader, have you ever wondered?

  • Are my employees doing the work as described in their job descriptions?
  • What skills do my employees have?
  • What resources do I have in my team to help adapt to change?
  • What do I need to do to keep my department trained and current?

The Situation

We determined that our first step would be to conduct a thorough skills inventory on all employee work groups. The process was:

  • Develop the skills inventory questions
  • Conducted the skills inventory
  • Develop the report and recommendations
  • Implement the recommendations

Once the skills inventory was developed, we could begin the process of determining the skills and knowledge of the employees in each work group. We decided to conduct the skills inventory in small employee focus groups. This allowed the employees to speak freely and confidentially to someone who was unbiased and from outside the organization. There were 18 questions to answer and discuss in a 3-hour period. The intent of these questions was to find out what the employees did and to ensure that they were doing the right things and have all the tools and training needed to bring about success. The questions were not intended to evaluate how effective the employees were at doing their job.

These questions included:

  • What are your position titles?
  • What do you do?
  • Does what you do match your job description?
  • Who do you report to?
  • What should your job position title be?
  • Why do you do what you do?
  • How is your success measured?
  • What do you “ideally” think you should do in your job?
  • What would you like to do better?
  • What stops you from doing what you’re supposed to be doing?
  • What stops you from doing what you “ideally” think you should be doing?
  • What is needed to overcome these blockages & barriers?
  • What is your reporting structure and your reporting relationships?
  • If you were to create a reporting structure and reporting relationships for your area, how would you organize it and how would you describe it?
  • What kind of training do you think you need for your continued development?
  • How would this training be managed?
  • What kind of training do you think other members of your department need?
  • What can you do that you’re not currently doing?
  • Are you interested in more senior positions and/or other positions within the division? What would these be? What training, etc. would you need in order to be able to respond to a job posting for these?
  • What are some other points regarding your department to ensure that you have the opportunity to grow within your new position?

During these focus groups, everyone had the opportunity to answer these questions truthfully. They also voiced their dissatisfaction with the situation of the department and shared their desire for positive change.

With the results collected, the next step in the process was to look at all staff positions and identify current skills and future skills required for each. This would allow us to recognize the gap in skills identified and skills required. Once the gap was clearly defined, the report and recommendations were presented to a training committee who would ensure that both management and staff job descriptions would be reviewed in light of the report, that training needed would be provided and to ensure the implementation of any other recommendations stemming from the report.

The Results

After completing all of the focus groups, five reports were created:

  1. The full responses to each question by group, including the names of those that participated in the group.
  2. A comparison of job duties against the employee group job descriptions identifying where the matches and differences exist.
  3. A list of skills required for each group compared to the skills they suggest are required.
  4. Identification of career goals and the training, coaching, etc. desired to reach these.
  5. The issues, concerns, challenges, etc. that need to be addressed.

In summary, the results indicated:

  • There were a number of departmental issues, weaknesses and barriers that had to be addressed. For example, staff work and job descriptions were similar. The reason for the extra time required to complete their jobs on a daily and weekly basis were more the result of poor work processes than the result of poor employees. This led to a recommendation to analyze all key business processes for improvement.
  • Employees have the basic skills to do their jobs and * they like what they do.
  • Employees need to receive continual training to keep current and develop themselves for future potential career opportunities.
  • To be more productive, employee processes needed to change and improve.
  • Employees want more challenges.
  • Employees want more recognition and appreciation for their work.

As a result of the skills inventory, the organization decided that some training programs could be developed and presented in-house and for more specific smaller groups they would be offered public courses. They were also able to begin the process of identifying individuals interested in career opportunities and to provide them with specific training required to ensure their success.

The organization also determined that the current skill level of the employees matched their job description. It was just that they tended to provide more information and detailed job information during the focus groups. A job description is generally a high-level view of their overall job and not inclusive of the detail. However, what became apparent through this skills inventory was that their work processes needed improvement. This was started immediately after and resulted in tremendous success in the area of customer and staff satisfaction.


Although a skills inventory may take a bit of time, it does uncover many issues and gaps. Learning about the real issues and gaps from a skills inventory makes it easier for a leader to address them, rather than wasting time guessing or assuming what the issues could be.