A new tool for productivity
By Prof. Wali Khan Durrani
May 21 - Jun 03, 2001
*Consider buying a pen. You do not buy a pen because
you want a pen; you buy a pen because you want to write. The same goes
for the people. You do not hire people because you just want them. You
hire them for what they can do, for their skills and for their
*But is not it odd that hiring or placement decisions
are still made largely on gut feelings, recommendations or on
humanitarian grounds even though Human Resource costs usually undersize
all other costs. You become Humanitarian and treat Inhumans as Humans
and vice versa. In the hiring process, mostly you ignore organizational
requirements. You ignore competency, hire and place square pegs in
Human Resources are strategic assets
*Each organization in public or private sector
requires that individuals possess very specific competencies, but we do
little to formally map those competencies to our work advantage. Nor do
we view Human Resource competencies as strategic assets, to be molded
and developed to meet the future needs of the organizational plan. Of
course people are important, but their competencies are the real
substance of success.
*Let us view, how do we typically manage in our
environments? Out of 100 per cent employees, we just pile more and more
work onto the 30 per cent employees that we consider as the top
performers while shuffling he other 70 per cent employees among various
projects. In most cases, particularly in our politically infected
environments, these 70 per cent employees do not perform. Rather they
retain and become a cancerous liability.
*These other 70 per cent may or may not contribute,
but we seldom give them anything that is really mission-critical. Is
this because they can not do it? In some cases: yes, may be they are
incompetents. Or else we do not really know what they can do. Let us
have four suppositions here:
a. Most people are capable of far more than we
ask of them.
b. When motivated, most will willingly provide far more.
c. Most people are time passers, having dung tapaoo approach.
d. Most people are gamers having totally individual selfish
approach and that is the hallmark of any negatively politicized society
and environments. Most people in our society suffer from psychological
hedonism and are champions of gaming, talking and sycophancy.
*If we believe these suppositions to be largely true,
the question next becomes, "How can we ensure that our people
willingly give us more? Skills-based management may offer that mechanism
through a designed, disciplined and tailor-made program where skills are
measured tracked and combined into job descriptions. It should be a
program where project requirements can be run against the organizational
or business unit's skill set and the best teams chosen. It should be a
program where employees' skill gaps can be identified as areas of
A new sense of accountability
* Skills-based Management (SBM) is a concept about
instilling change and real change into the organizational mind-set and
value-set. SBM should be a conscious strategy, designed and endorsed
from the highest management levels. It should be about skills, Human
Resource competence in those skills and how skills relate to the
organizational plan. The SBM organizational objectives could be to:
a. Instill greater responsibility into the
individual for the development of valued skills by providing the
informational resources to define, measure and achieve that development.
b. Implant greater accountability in managers and supervisors for
their subordinates' aggregate skill-set.
c. Provide top management with consistent, strategic
decision-support criteria for Human Resource development, deployment,
outsourcing and hiring tactics.
d. In short, it should be creating an environment where
individuals' competence in vital skills can be measured, feed back,
valued, acted upon, nurtured and molded.
A Line Initiative
*The benefit of SBM concept discussed above falls to
the particular Line Information System (IS) Organization that could
realize or knows, uses and implements Information Systems through
Information Technology with the best-developed tarilor-made software.
*But the Human Resources and Training departments,
often the vanquisher of such new ideas, benefit by being viewed as
taking a "bottom line" approach. In its barest essence, SBM
methods would and should identify each employee's competencies and
his/her skill gaps and points each employee to pertinent development
solutions to overcome those skill gaps.
*When competencies are openly cataloged, people set
out to upgrade their abilities, resulting in a more talented, more
productive staff. What if you could raise organization-wide productivity
by 5 per cent? Consider an organization of 200. At an average fully
burdened cost of Rs. 600,000.00 per employee, annual payroll cost is Rs.
120 million. Extracting 5 per cent more from that expense yields a Rs.
6000,000 per year payback. That is the equivalent of 10 "free"
people year in and year out!.
*Although the Information Systems Department
(Globally this term is also known as Information Technology) is often
the first to undertake a SBM initiative, any organizational unit can
benefit. Information System (IS) Skills, often technical in nature, are
perceived as a little easier to quantify, and for this reason IS is
often the test case. Furthermore, IS is often under pressure to prove a
consistent return-on-investment, and there only a skilled-based approach
The software component
*A successful skills-based management initiative
requires an enabling skill inventory and decision-support software
application. A common mistake is to over-emphasize the importance of
software selection and skimp on the organizational strategic planning
aspects of the initiative.
*Every manager has access to the skill-based
information needed to achieve goals.
*Managers can see their skill-based risks and can
plan to develop talent where it is most needed.
*Today's organizations, business units or work places
(public or private) are under a number of challenges. A department run
under SBM tenets has the following advantages:
a. Quicker adaptation to technology change:
The usefulness of the latest technologies can be assessed immediately by
analyzing position definitions. If these new skills are found to be
crucial to the organizational objectives, the skills can be added to the
repository, competencies measured, skill gaps identified and immediate
b. Attraction and retention of top producers: Good people want to
work where there is an institutionalized system of competency rating.
They want to work on project teams chosen through objective skill
analysis, and not racial, ethnic, linguistic, sect based factional and
political favouritism. They want to work where they are given the tools
to improve in the right areas.
c. More for the rupee: The training rupee is spent on focused
areas of greatest need, the recruiting rupee is spent just on skills
that are most needed and the labour rupee is maximized over time because
employees develop only those skills that fit the corporate business
d. The business unit or the business function: This serves the
business objective and can quantify exactly where new budget is needed
to fulfil that objective, or where current budget has been correctly
expended to achieve that objective.
*Skills-Based Management goes to the very core of the
organization, instilling competence and contribution as the culture's
value-set: Top line management views the organization in terms of its
total skill-set, allowing them to truly "engineer" the Human
Resource to meet the Organizational mission. Employees feel
accountability and responsibility for their own personal growth and
development. They know exactly where they stand, and exactly what to do
to enhance their worth.
*Supervisors become more accountable for their
people's abilities and foster their subordinates' development
accordingly. For those willing to invest modest time and money to
achieve fundamental culture shifts and big payback productivity
benefits, skills-based management warrants closer consideration.
*A successful skills-based management initiative is
far more about effecting cultural and value changes to yield big
productivity gains than it is about putting in a skill software package.
Software is the easy part. In fact, skills-based management's software
requirements call for little more than an up-to-date, easy-to-use skill
*The basic components of the application are skills,
competency ratings, position profiles, employee profiles and learning
events. All these are combined in a repository (an underlying
database-like structure) that, when fully populated, yields decision
support of the highest order.
*Skills should represent those skill-or-knowledge
items deemed vital to organizational success. There are four general
types of skills:
a. Technical: Relating to specific concepts,
methods and tools specific to that business unit, business function or
b. Supervisory: Enabling a person to supervise others
c. Interpersonal: Enabling employees to communicate and interact
d. Administrative: General business, line-of-business and support
*Many organizations prefer to implement only
technical skills in their skills-based management initiatives. Technical
skills are observable, demonstrable and testable. The other skill types
are softer, more subjective, and less easy in which to confidently
*Once the repository is populated, each employee
skill profile can be compared to his or her position skill profile and
skill gaps can be identified. These skill gaps are management's business
risks, but at the same time are also the opportunity presented by the
We can model the competencies we require for success
with new technologies and then determine how current talents of Human
Resource match up with those modelled needs. Individual Development
Plans will quickly put us ahead of competitors still counting on gut
True Decision Support
*With a skills-based management repository populated,
vital decision-support and strategic planning information becomes
available using consistent, quantified data such as:
a. Employee skill gap reports and employee
b. Inform each employee where he or she needs development, and
what to do a about it.
c. Compile skill gap analyses, competency distributions.
d. Where are we under-skilled? What is our bench strength? Where
are our risks?
e. Who needs what training? Why? What
non-training solutions are available?
f. Team-building queries and competency searches
Who meets a certain profile? Who does not?
g. Succession planning and career planning,
Job applicant and analyses; applicant searches.