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Why Skills Mapping is a Must-Have in Uncertain Times

Feb 24, 2023| Reading time: 12min

BY ChartHop

“Uncertain times.” Reading that often-used phrase a few years ago can now cause some unpleasant knee-jerk reactions. Sure, the phrase was overused, but here’s the thing: when it comes to business, most times are uncertain.

And so while we’ve lived through a few reactionary years recently (hello, remote work), most organizations are seeking to be proactive when it comes to people decisions. 

Yet, for many, that means accomplishing the same level of output, productivity, or service with fewer resources, particularly in regard to their workforces. Having a contingency plan in place helps you weather these unexpected events, as can leveraging your people’s agile skills to better understand current resourcing. It’s therefore time to say hello to your new best friend: the skills map.

What is Skills Mapping?

Skills mapping is the process of creating a skill map to identify the current and future skills that your organization needs. It involves assessing the strengths, weaknesses, and gaps of an organization’s (and its people’s) skills in order to be prepared for potential business changes. 

Skills mapping has become increasingly important as organizations need to remain agile and anticipate potential disruptions. According to recent reports, 66% of organizations are turning to skills mapping as a way to ensure their team has the right skills to navigate uncertain times. 

Ultimately, creating a skill map is a way to gain visibility into your team’s skills, talents, and capabilities, allowing you to identify where further development is needed. By understanding the existing skills and skill gaps of your employees, you can determine the best resources and strategies for upskilling in order to stay ahead of competitors. 

Furthermore, skills maps help managers understand how to best support their people, enabling them to make informed decisions on which roles should be filled, who should be promoted or reassigned, and who should receive additional training. Thus, skills mapping can help organizations create a more agile workforce and build resilient teams with the right skills for the future.

Keeping Your Company Agile: 4 Benefits of Skills Mapping

If you’re not sold on creating a skills map yet, here’s four ways skills mapping gives your team the upper hand in the face of uncertainty.

1. Skills Mapping Helps You Visualize Competencies 

In order to confidently face any challenge or unexpected change, you need to know what resources you have at hand. Think beyond company finances and consider an often-overlooked resource: the breadth of skills embedded in your workforce.

Unfortunately, most companies haven’t invested in the processes or tools necessary to gain an accurate view of skills within their organization. Likewise, smaller companies struggle to conduct skills analyses because they lack the resources – both time and people – needed to complete the task. 

Luckily, optimizing technology simplifies and streamlines your skills assessment process, no matter the size of your company. Here are a few ideas to get you started:

  • Conduct skills assessments. If assessments help you choose the right candidates to hire, doesn’t it make sense to also use them to measure current skills distribution across your company? Capture hard skills (like software development or technical skills) and soft skills (like communication, leadership, and adaptability) using employee survey and feedback tools
  • Capture the depth of skills mastery. Building a skills matrix allows you to better visualize the degree of competency an employee has with a certain skill. While a more complex approach is necessary for skills management, a skills matrix can at least give you an indication of where your workforce stands in regard to particular skills.
  • Centralize skills data. Take advantage of the integrations your tools offer to compile important skills data from your various systems into a single, central platform. This ensures that you’re making decisions based on all available information company-wide.

What is a skills matrix?

A skills matrix can help you visualize the breadth and depth of employees’ skills. 

Fortunately, knowing where your workforce is stable and competent can serve as an anchor in times of crises and change, and you can lean on these skill sets while you work to address the areas in which your workforce may be lacking.

2. Skills Mapping Reveals Gaps in Your Current Workforce

Identifying your team’s strengths is not all sunshine and rainbows, as the flip side of skills mapping is that it also shines a light on current gaps. Rest assured, skill gaps are quite common. In fact, 87% of leaders admit their companies currently face skill gaps or expect to in the coming years.

Since gaps are to be expected, you should not only have a strategy to proactively reduce them, but also combat them once they surface. Make sure you:

  • Identify required skills for open roles. Focusing on an applicant’s ideal skills – rather than ideal persona – is crucial as you build out and fulfill your headcount plans. Bonus:  Being up front about required skills will not only attract qualified candidates, but also help create a fair and objective hiring process
  • Create contingency plans. Many companies experienced major financial hits or unexpected turnover over the past few years. Knowing ahead of time what skills are necessary to navigate and survive any expected or unexpected changes can help your team prioritize hiring or training opportunities.
  • Align strategy with current and future goals. Think about your needs as they currently exist and how those needs might change based on future goals or unplanned scenarios. This practice helps you prioritize specific skills gaps so you can continue hitting your goals without huge disruptions. 
  • Look at your people data often. You don’t want to just make decisions – you want them to be informed and data-driven. By looking at your people data often, you’ll understand your people’s skill sets, employee sentiment, and professional goals to help you plan for the future.

ChartHop ENPS Data Reports example

Consider looking at people data that relates to skills mapping, such as eNPs scores or employee engagement. Visualizing these metrics helps you determine who’s feeling connected to their work and team – and who’s not.

3. Skills Mapping Leads to Creativity in Roles and Responsibilities 

When you know your people’s skill sets, you can get creative when times are tough — and see higher returns in the process.

We often forget what secret skills or talents our colleagues have when we see them, day in and day out, use only those skills relevant to the job at hand. Fortunately, assessing and visualizing skills in your workforce highlights opportunities to creatively reallocate those skills so you can close gaps in teams and potentially avoid unwanted layoffs.

This idea – coined “quiet hiring” – provides benefits to organizations and individuals alike, as Ian White explains. White, ChartHop’s founder and CEO, believes that companies open to quiet hiring will retain top talent and see an increase in organizational alignment. 

He says: “Generally speaking, organizations don’t do enough strong work on internal mobility. Some may think that it’s harder to determine someone’s skills – or help them develop – and it’s therefore easier to hire someone externally. But in a lot of cases, internal mobility can be positive. It brings new perspectives to teams, and you can invest in your people’s career journeys and watch them grow over time.” 

In short, skills mapping creates nimbleness in uncertain times by helping companies identify, visualize, and redistribute talent in order to quickly adapt to any challenge. 

ChartHop headcount planning scenarios

With a dynamic platform, you can quickly adjust where your people sit in your organization – no spreadsheets needed.

4. Skills Mapping Helps Improve Retention Rates

Skills mapping helps you retain employees…and it’s not just because you can confidently reallocate your people. When you help employees upskill, you signal to them that they matter, which in turn increases employee satisfaction, productivity, psychological safety, and yes, retention rates

In fact, studies show that a culture of continuous learning is the biggest incentive for employees to stay at their companies. And fortunately, because of your skills map, you’ll know exactly where your gaps are so you can prioritize training programs and professional development opportunities for your people. 

Likewise, 56% of leaders believe that skill building offers the most direct route to closing skills gaps. And that prioritization pays off in the long run. Linda Cai, vice president of talent development at LinkedIn, says, “Companies that excel at internal mobility are able to retain employees for an average of 5.4 years — nearly 2x as long as companies that struggle with it, where the average retention span is only 2.9 years.”

And if your budget is tight, you can still invest in professional development for your people without breaking the bank. Look to peer mentoring or free tools to help employees develop the necessary skills. The State of Internal Recruiting 2021 determined that people will appreciate the change in responsibilities; it was found that transitioning roles – even without upgrading pay or title –  increases retention over three years by 20%.

Build an Agile and Skilled Workforce – For Now and in the Future

Skills mapping is an invaluable resource for any organization looking to remain agile and competitive in uncertain times. By investing in the development of your people and taking proactive steps to identify and map out existing skills, you can ensure your organization is well-prepared for future changes. 

This process should not be a one-time effort – instead, it should be regularly reviewed and updated to confirm that the skills map is always up-to-date and accurately reflects the current capabilities of the company. With an agile skills foundation in place, you will be better equipped to navigate future changes and come out stronger on the other side.

You want to be ready to respond when crises – such as data breaches and sudden staff loss –  arise. In order to shift quickly, you need to create a business contingency plan.

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