The five biggest problems in skills management projects - and how to avoid them

Skills play a central role at Lyncronize - we have managed to make them visible and usable in companies based on incentives and technology. But until we got to where we are now, we were able to learn a lot from mistakes and collected some experiences and documented them for all interested parties.

These are the top 5 problems we have identified around skills management:

1. highly political

Skill management is not a new topic. Under the catchwords knowledge management, competence management, training concept, resource management, it has been a topic in companies for decades. Mostly, however, it did not get beyond good approaches - and thus countless potential users already have a firm viewpoint: "That just doesn't work, we've 88 tried all that before". Furthermore, for such a project, the works council must be involved at an early stage, as it is a matter of making the skills of the employees transparent (see also point 5). A skills management project must overcome this internal resistance in order to be successful.

2. yet another profile...

Honestly, when was the last time you updated your LinkedIn profile? Most of us do so when we are looking for a new job, otherwise these profiles often go stale quite quickly. But knowledge changes - and today it changes faster than ever. Therefore, the topic of skills documentation is a continuous task that the employee (of course during various deadlines, projects, tasks and other topics) is also supposed to fulfil, usually manually. It is not surprising that this topic is often the first to be neglected. However, this leads to a standstill of the skills platform and a creeping failure of the project.

3. unclear allocation within the company

The issue of skills management always affects several departments in the company:

  • Interested departments that want to manage their skills and make expertise easier to find
  • The HR that takes care of skill development, corporate learning and knowledge management issues
  • The IT that hosts the application and assists with the connection to other systems, if necessary.
  • The legal department evaluating the product from a data protection perspective

Problem: The beneficiaries are often not the ones who pay. This can intensify political conflicts, as departments that are perceived as cost centres anyway have no interest in further costs or fear a loss of competence. Skill management projects must therefore address precisely this grievance.

4. lack of incentives

Why should an employee who has deep domain or company knowledge acquired over years tell all employees that he has this knowledge. The consequence could be that he has to communicate this over and over again to all possible colleagues - in addition to his other tasks. Moreover, he runs the risk that his dominant knowledge will sooner or later be disseminated to the masses. It is therefore important to think about skill management projects from the perspective of the goal in order to achieve swarm intelligence and reduce knowledge silos.

5. fear

Transparency enables control, a concern that can be very pronounced, especially in corporate groups. What if I'm worse off at the next salary negotiation than the colleague who has 17 more skills and 12 more projects than I do? What if I have to leave in the next wave of redundancies because I don't come across as likeable because I never worked on the hobby section? Not all fears are rational, but they are definitely a major obstacle for some to create the skill profiles in the first place. A skill profile that is not maintained can still be justified with the great overload, a poorly maintained one then possibly with the lack of competence in general.

Based on these recurring problems, we have defined the following 5 approaches to solving them (without claiming completeness).

The top 5 measures for success in skills management projects:

1. precise requirements and change management

Skill management projects need a well-considered requirements and change management that involves stakeholders in a targeted way and always picks them up - from employees to management to the works council. And this is best done at an early stage, already in the first meetings - both internal and external with solution or technology providers. Our most important insight at this point: everyone likes to surround themselves with supporters who share their idea - but be sure to include those who have concerns and objections. This way, they can be addressed and discussed at an early stage and those affected become participants.

2. automated creation and updating

Passing an exam and acquiring new skills is a nice feeling. This should be extended through automated skill profile creation and updating. The process-linked creation and updating of the profile makes it as easy as possible for users to keep profiles up-to-date. This way, the user gets a direct reward for the previous learning / work effort while the documentation effort is reduced to a minimum.

3. standardised skill definition

Nowadays, we are surrounded by smart objects and programmes, so it is difficult to communicate if skills cannot be read out of the CV or LinkedIn profile in at least a partially automated way. There are now established technologies that analyse texts and understand requirements, even if they are not formulated by experts. This makes life much easier and saves frustrating duplication of work.

4. added value through skill-based matching

The entire success of skill management projects stands and falls with the answer to the individual question "What do I get out of it as a single user? If it is answered sufficiently, the user is also prepared to make the effort to develop and continuously adapt the skill profiles. Therefore, it is important that the added values are communicated to the employees at an early stage and that it is not simply a matter of giving the management an overview of the skills in the company. So in order to show employees what they get out of maintaining their skills, matching based on the skills they maintain is the perfect way to go. Based on this matching, employees can be made aware of topics that match their skills - or even their desired skills:

  • Projects
  • Trainings
  • Colleagues
  • Information such as articles, documents, posts, etc.

These added values help everyone in the end: Employees can be involved in projects in a targeted manner, can continue their training and development, exchange information with colleagues about current challenges and establish a network within the company. In the end, this leads to greater efficiency in projects and shorter processing times for enquiries and issues in the company and in dealing with customers.

5. protected profiles

Very important: Not everyone should have access to staff profiles. The exact degree of restriction must be clarified with the users and determined on the basis of the majority decision. A range of options is conceivable, from visibility on a departmental, organisational or national level to absolute invisibility and consent-based sharing based on the Tinder principle. The more restrictions are made, the less the users are potentially concerned that the data will be misused; of course, the exact design always depends heavily on the defined use cases (see solution approach 1).