All corporate veterans have seen and worked with a multitude of labyrinthine skills frameworks that deliver questionable business value. I often cite a personal anecdote from my time at a well-known Fortune 500 company: the GM of our business unit was pulled up by the board because an eagle-eyed board member noticed that “Windows 10” was one of the popular skills listed in the framework. Quite embarrassing for a BU that housed all our technical architects and consultants!
Skills frameworks need to be relevant and provide executives a fair indication of where the organizations skills lie. Once the organization’s skill set has been baselined, Human Resources leaders and Business Unit heads can use the data from these frameworks to plan a learning budget that is tied to explicit training and up-skilling goals.
This article reviews some of the common reasons why skills frameworks fail, and provides suggestions on how to avoid such failures.
If a skills framework initiative is not aligned with the organization's overall strategy and goals, it will struggle to gain support and traction. Without clear alignment, it becomes difficult to justify the resources and effort required for implementation.
Skills frameworks should be integrated into existing job architectures and human resources processes such as performance management, learning and development, and talent acquisition. Neglecting this integration can create inconsistencies and disconnects within the organization. Align the skills framework with existing HR processes to ensure a holistic and coherent approach to employee development.
Skills frameworks often end up being overly complex and difficult to understand. This can be attributed to large, organization-engulfing projects that aim to cover multiple business units. The aim should be to keep the framework simple, clear, and accessible to ensure effective adoption.
We would advocate an iterative approach to framework development, with different departments or business units participating in a pilot program (followed by general availability) in accordance with a defined roadmap, akin to an agile software development process.
It's crucial to involve employees at different levels, seek their input, and incorporate their perspectives and expertise. This involvement enhances their sense of ownership and offers leadership bottom-up feedback that will be critical to adoption.
Introducing a skills framework will probably trigger changes in job roles, responsibilities, and reporting structures. Understandably, this can lead to resistance from employees who fear uncertainty or perceive the initiative as a threat to their status quo.
A comprehensive change management plan should be developed and published, so that goals and milestones are explicitly communicated and available to the entire organisation. The plan should contain explicit support from leaders, so that employees do not perceive the framework as being optional or of low business importance.
Lack of clear communication cuts both ways in this case. Employees can lose trust in the initiative if the rationale and benefits are not communicated clearly. The initiative can lose funding and support if the top management does not see frequent program updates, feedback and short-term wins.
In order to be successful, a coherent communication strategy should be developed, outlining the frequency of communication to all stakeholders, leveraging multiple communication channels. Develop a clear communication plan to inform employees about the purpose, benefits, and implementation of the skills framework. Emphasize how it will support their professional growth and enhance their career prospects within the organization. Create formal channels of feedback so that employees feel included.
Skills frameworks require training programs, tools, and resources to be effective. Insufficient investment in these areas can lead to a lack of clarity and understanding among employees, limiting their ability to develop the necessary skills.
Invest in training programs, tools, and resources that enable employees to understand and navigate the skills framework effectively. Ensure that these resources and tools are available to everyone, and communicate often about the availability and importance of these resources. Offer continuous learning opportunities and professional development programs to support their skill acquisition and growth.
Without monitoring and evaluation, it is not possible to assess the impact and effectiveness of the skills framework. This ties in to the challenges stated earlier about updating top stakeholders and project funding.
Set up mechanisms to track the adoption and utilization of the framework. It is essential to measure its impact on employee development and performance. Static frameworks gather moss, and a successful implementation requires a regular feedback cadence for continuous improvement and evolution.
By being aware of these pitfalls and actively avoiding them, organizations can enhance the chances of successful adoption and implementation of a skills framework, leading to improved employee development and organizational performance.