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Do not carry out a skills audit instead carry out a Staff Capacity Assessment

Editorial Team
06/05/2019 8:36 AM

Most organisations mistake a qualification audit as a skills audit. Instead of wasting your resources doing a qualification and experience audit which in most cases does not result in any improvement in your organisation’s performance even if the recommendations of such an audit are implemented, you are better doing a staff capacity assessment.

Staff capacity is a function of the individual’s general mental ability, skills, experience, knowledge, desire to do a job and the absence of any behavioural problems that may derail them.  General mental ability carries a higher weight, followed by job knowledge and skills. The assessment must reflect the weights each contribute to performance on the job.

The best way to go is for the business to do an assessment of each individual employee's current actual capability versus current level or role and also future roles. This gives an organisation a feel on how damaged the structure in operation is.  Most of the business failures and chaos we are witnessing in this market comes down to the mismatch between role levels and capacity of incumbents.

The model that is used to assess employee capacity versus the level of job complexity is Jaques‘ level of work model. This model groups jobs into levels of work based on job complexity. Most CEOs and other executives in the country would fall into Level 4 & 5. This is equivalent to band F in Patterson grading. Job grading places jobs into grades based on the content of the job. It does not look at the capacity of the individual to do the job. This is where the biggest challenge for companies is. You have placed people into roles based on job evaluation but not their capacity to handle the level of complexity required for the role.

When assessing an individual’s capability we first look at the individual's assigned or Current Operating Level (COL). This is the job level that the organisation decides the individual should operate at. It is determined through job evaluation or other assessments. The individual has no choice but to go into that assigned role. The next stage is to look at the individuals' Current Actual Capability (CAC).What is the individual’s capacity to function effectively in their Current Operating Level? This is a function of their capacity based on their level of cognitive power, personality, experience, skilled job knowledge, competencies, and motivation.   You can go a step further to assess Current Potential Capability(CPC)the maximum level at which a person could currently work, provided that optimum opportunities and conditions are there, even though the person did not have past opportunities to acquire necessary skilled knowledge. This sets the person’s current level of work ceiling for any or every type of work.

After the assessment, you may find that a person whose current operating level is a 4 may actually have their current actual capability at level 2. Such a mismatch is a disaster for the organisation in general and catastrophic for those being managed by such an individual. In some instances, you get an individual whose current operating level is level 4 but their current actual capacity is level 5 and current potential capability is a 6. This means the individual has the capacity way ahead of those managing them. Such individuals may or may not stay long as they are likely to feel they are being constrained in the way they operate.

The biggest challenge for having people operating beyond their current actual capability is that they tend to bring the job down to a level they are comfortable with. As an example, a Chief Executive whose assigned operating level maybe level 5, can bring down that job to level 3, if their actual current potential is level 3. This is where you find a Chief Executive instead of being strategic and focusing on the future of the business they become too operational. They will be busy with operational decisions that are not at their assigned level. Again such a scenario would be disastrous for your business.

When a staff capacity assessment is complete, you should be able to present a comprehensive report listing the staff capacity for the organisation: overall, by department and by role. The report will present, graphically, which areas are problematic (where there are gaps). If the gaps are on the cognitive side you have a much bigger problem because cognitive skills or general mental ability cannot be corrected once the person is inside your organisation. It could point out to a faulty selection system in your organisation which allows people who do not have the cognitive capacity for target roles to join the organisation. The same challenge will exist if the personality profiles do not match the roles people are in.  These two shortcomings cannot be corrected as they are partly genetics and early childhood experience. After childhood you would not be able to do anything regarding these two. If the gaps are in the competencies such as business acumen, presentation skills etc., qualifications and experience, these can be developed. The organisation must only focus on the development of people who have the cognitive ability/aptitude for the target role. If you find technical deficiencies (domain specific knowledge) in the technical areas these can be addressed though training.

The last thing you need to do in the report is to combine the output of his process with actual job performance records. You must end up with a quadrant which places people into the following categories: low potential – high performance (workhorse, you can keep in current role), low potential – low performance (manage out), high potential – low performance (develop) and high potential – high performance (retain).

The results of the staff capacity audit can also feed into your succession planning process easily as the same evidence gathered is crucial for succession planning.

Memory Nguwi is an Occupational Psychologist, Data Scientist, Speaker, & Managing Consultant - Industrial Psychology Consultants (Pvt) Ltd a management and human resources consulting firm. https://www.linkedin.com/in/memorynguwi/ Phone 481946-48/481950/2900276/2900966 or email: mnguwi@ipcconsultants.com or visit our website at www.ipcconsultants.com

Editorial Team

This article was written by one of the consultants at IPC

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