The effectiveness of IT leaders is dependent on their investment of time to assess the current skills, abilities and career aspirations of their staff and help them put in place the plans that can support their development.

Part 1 of this two-part series introduced the Skills Framework for the Information Age (SFIA), a comprehensive framework by which to understand the types of skills and knowledge that should exist at each level – from novice to expert.

This article introduces a way to accurately assess the current ability level of your technical staff members to create the baseline from which you can develop their skills to higher levels of proficiency. This assessment not only helps employees create realistic and achievable individual development plans but also gives you insight into where you have significant skills gaps in your organization.

To develop an accurate understanding of an individual’s and an organization’s skills, employ a two-part process.

Self-Appraisal Survey: First, staff members complete a self-appraisal survey that is designed to capture the spectrum of each individual’s skills, the organization’s overall skills and the level of those skills. The survey should include questions that elicit both the current state and the desired state of skills. It should also include questions that determine the skills needs in technical, management and professional development areas. This survey is an ideal first step in improving team performance, since it helps team members understand what skills they need and what skills they have.

A post-survey analysis builds a profile of the organization’s IT skills. This profile captures a baseline of the current staff skills, preliminary estimates of skills gaps and overall organizational effectiveness (e.g. in communication and leadership). By combining team members’ survey results, you can develop team and, ultimately, organization profiles that are very useful for quickly establishing an understanding of the organization’s strengths and weaknesses. The profile provides insight into overall team effectiveness as well as the jobs, roles and skills that need to be developed.

The downside to self-appraisals is that at times, employees may have unrealistic views of the skills at either an individual or a team level. It’s helpful to confirm the self-appraisal results using either validation interviews or knowledge validation with an online skills assessment. Interviews by external, independent experts can enable an organization to quickly assess the validity of results and adjust them accordingly. The aim here is not to find fault but rather to obtain an accurate assessment of real skills gaps.

ONLINE SKILLS ASSESSMENTS: Online skills assessment tools validate an individual’s subject matter understanding through objective questions that test knowledge in a given speciality area. Use the self-appraisal to quickly determine which skills assessment to conduct. For example, if a participant self-appraises that she is an expert database administrator (DBA), an advanced DBA online skills assessment can validate that she actually has the knowledge to do advanced DBA work.

The use of a skills framework together with self-appraisals and skills assessments has many benefits to the organization, including:

  • Identification of team skills gaps so that members can obtain the right training
  • Course recommendations and optimized training planning to ensure that individuals are actually taking the courses they need
  • Training effectiveness and training return on investment analysis through before and after skills assessments
  • Development of more accurate staff hiring requirements

IT and training professionals must balance the need to support the overall near-term objectives of the organization and the need for professional development with the day-to-day operational needs of the organization. These workforce development tools can help in that balancing act.