The 3 Key Metrics for Successful Skills Measurement

In today’s highly competitive market, companies are always looking for ways to stay ahead of the curve. One way to achieve this is by keeping track of your employees’ skills and investing in their professional development. Part of the skills measurement process, which we’ve previously explored more deeply, is selecting the right metrics. Metrics are measurable indicators that allow you to track your employees’ progress and make data-driven decisions.

There are a huge number of possible metrics that could be used to measure your workforce’s skills. However, try to measure too many and you risk grinding to an inevitable halt when the complexity and effort become too much. On the other hand, narrowing your list using suboptimal metrics can make your data unreliable or incomplete.

We’ve refined the range of possibilities to create the Skills Base Skill Measurement Model which includes the three most important metrics for measuring a workforce’s skills — ability, desire, and knowledge. Let’s explore how they can be used to define, measure, and track employee competency to support your company’s growth and success

Ability or Skill Level

The ‘ability’ metric refers to how well someone can apply a skill in a real-life situation. Ability should be both demonstrated and observed — demonstrated by the person being assessed in day-to-day operations, and observed by an authoritative third party who can witness and assess the skill being applied.

The key to accurately using ability as a metric is in the observation element. It’s tempting to measure it in other ways, but you’ll find they often can’t accurately determine someone’s ability to implement a given skill. For example, a 2022 study by Sackett et. al. suggests traditional signals like ‘years of experience’ are flawed predictors of someone’s actual ability. A phenomenon you’ve likely come across already. Other types of signals confuse knowledge with ability (something we talk through more below).

You should also make sure you assign a sub-metric to ability — ‘skill level’. Consider a highly trained employee versus a trainee, they might both be able to accomplish a task but one will have a vastly different skill level than the other. Without that sub-metric, there’d be no way of distinguishing between the two.

We should note here, that using a purely observational approach to skills measurement can lead to biases in your data. But, there’s a way you can counteract that. You can learn more about our Structured-Subjective approach here.

Desire or Interest Level

‘Desire’ is centered around an individual’s passion or interest for a given skill — how much they want to use that skill. When desire is high, employees are more likely to get satisfaction and enjoyment out of using their ability in a given skill. The Japanese principle of Ikigai refers to this as a feeling of accomplishment and fulfillment that follows when people pursue their passions. On the contrary, someone with a low level of desire will be more reluctant to use their ability and may actually feel dissatisfied when using it.

Desire is a leading indicator of the sustainability of skills within an organization. There’s a risk of burnout when people aren’t passionate about their work and are tired of completing tasks they don’t enjoy. There’s also a risk of “quiet quitting” — a recently named trend where disillusioned employees clock in simply to do the bare minimum they need to do to get paid. Both of these risks will ultimately lead to low productivity and high employee turnover.

We apply the sub-metric ‘interest level’ to measure an employee’s desire to use their skills. When combined with ability, it’s possible to create a workforce that enables people to work on things they both love and are good at.

Knowledge or Qualifications

Don’t fall into the trap — knowledge isn’t ability.

‘Knowledge’ specifically relates to someone’s theoretical understanding of something rather than their experience in implementing it. For example, a flying enthusiast may have extensively studied the subject of how to fly an airplane, and may even be incredibly knowledgeable about it, but, if they’ve never actually flown a plane before, would you want to be their first passenger?

In saying that, knowledge does still play an important part in assessing an employee’s skills. It provides the theory, understanding, tools and techniques needed to effectively apply a skill in a real-world situation.

To measure someone’s knowledge, look at their qualifications and certifications, including any evidence of the completion of training, mentoring, or coaching. These artifacts are an objective measure of the knowledge someone has gained and are binary — either you have them or you don’t. This is unlike both ability and desire which are measured on a scale.

Using these metrics in conjunction with each other will help you effectively and efficiently measure your employee’s competencies. If you’d like skills assessment software to help manage and track these competencies then get in touch today.

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