skills inventory

Taking Inventory

One of the lessons learned by organizations during the pandemic was the need to have a robust inventory of the skills and capabilities of their workforces.  Last October, among other findings, the Sapient Insights 2020–2021 HR Systems Survey, found that “the need to quickly redeploy workforces and identify critical roles created a perfect storm for Enterprise Workforce Planning. The report found a 38% increase in the percentage of organizations conducting Enterprise Workforce Planning this year from last year.”

When faced with the need to make staffing changes, including furloughs, lay-offs and the closing of offices, HR teams in 2020 needed to work alongside organizational leaders to identify “who” could do “what” by “when.” (In 2020 we collectively learned that “where” is not quite as critical).

Of course these sorts of discussions happen regularly in organizations large and small; in a company with 100 employees these conversations tend to occur when the leadership team sits around a conference table. In large enterprise organizations there is an increasing reliance on systems and analytics to track, update and maintain the “library” of their employees’ skills, experiences and career goals.

In all cases however that understanding of employees’ skills and abilities “(who can do what?”) can no longer merely reside in the knowledge domain of individual managers, to be commented upon at annual performance review time … as has often been the case.

I recently had a conversation with someone who works at a large global firm in the IT security industry; thousands upon thousands of employees. Each employee, shortly after being hired, creates their personal skill library within the HR system; choosing from listed items ranging from Excel to SQL to Public Speaking. They then “self-rate” themselves on a scale from 1 to 5 with “5” being a-super-proficient-could-teach-others-superstar. (Any self-rating of a 4 or 5 goes to their manager who has the ability to edit or have a conversation if there is disagreement).

Employees have the ability to add and update their skills inventory at any time (as well as map it over to career development strategies and training plans) and then, twice per year, there is a company-wide initiative to ensure everyone (once again) reviews and updates their personal skill library.

Why is this important?

  1. It enables the company to gain insight into where skills are strong company-wide as well as where there are gaps. Then, obviously, they can determine what sort of training and development opportunities should be planned and deployed.
  2. It informs their workforce planning and strategy – for 2 or 3 or even 5 years into the future.
  3. It allows them to quickly and rapidly tap into their existing employee base for projects as well as critical urgent needs – such as the type of need many companies experienced in spring of 2020 when layoffs and furloughs occurred.
  4. It provides additional insight for the talent acquisition team as they focus on internal mobility. Why search for external candidates when the skills (and career aspirations) that are needed reside down the hall in the person of Susie in Cubicle 42B? (or Susie working remotely from home as is more than likely the case).

Whether you’re maintaining this critical employee information on an Excel spreadsheet or within your HCM system…it’s time to take inventory.


Robin Schooling, Principal HR + People Strategy Consultant with Peridus Group, has worked the HR and Recruiting beat in various leadership roles since the days of the fax machine and rolodex. She’s a global speaker, has been blogging for a decade, and is co-host of Drive Thru HR. Find her on Twitter and you might get to see pictures of her three (yes, 3) dogs. 

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