What Is a Skills Inventory?

Let’s skip the fancy marketing-speak and make it simple: Each member of an organization has certain skills, also known as a skills profile. If you write down everybody's skills profile in a spreadsheet, you get a skills matrix, or in other terms: A skills inventory.

A skills inventory in a spreadsheet.

A skills inventory is a dataset that provides an overview of who knows what within your organization.

If you add functionality to conveniently support your use cases, you get from a skills inventory to a full-fledged Skills Management System.

What Is a Skills Inventory Useful For?

A skills inventory is comparable to your community's water supply system. It’s a part of the basic infrastructure. Whether you want to wash the dishes, take a shower or cook pasta, you need water. It’s the same with a skills inventory. Whether you want to staff your project teams, assign tasks or find experts on a certain topic, you somehow need to know who knows what.

A skills inventory is like your community's water supply system. It’s a part of the basic infrastructure.

In particular the following use cases require or can benefit from a skills inventory:

  • Staffing teams: Understanding the details of who knows what can help to staff projects with the right candidates.
  • Task assignment: Many support organizations work with tickets. Automatically assigning tickets to the person with the right skills can significantly decrease time to resolution.
  • Collaboration & Innovation: Enabling coworkers to discover each other based on their skills can boost collaboration and innovation and break up knowledge silos.
  • Mergers & Acquisitions: Understanding who knows what helps to integrate the members of an acquired organization into yours.
  • Learning & Development: Knowing what someone knows and is interested in can help to set development goals.
  • Skills gap analysis: An overview of the skills of the entire workforce helps to identify gaps and recruiting needs before it's too late.
  • Marketing & Public Relations: Providing an overview of the skills of your organization based on actual data can help to gain the trust and interest of prospects and job candidates.
  • Recruiting: Understanding what skills someone has can help to replace a leaving employee.

Many organizations implement several of these use cases without having a formal skills inventory.

In small to medium-sized organizations, there is often a senior person who has been with the company for a long time who takes on the role of a skill inventory. This person knows almost all employees and their skills. And for the rare cases where he or she doesn’t know, an email is sent out to the entire company.

Working with an individual taking the role of a skills inventory works perfectly well up to a certain point. But once an organization exceeds a certain size, relies on a remote workforce or is distributed across several locations, this doesn’t scale anymore.

One common indication that this might be the case in an organization are frequent messages like “Urgent help required: Who is an expert on Kubernetes?” popping up in inboxes or chat messages all across the organization.

Frequent messages such as “Urgent help required: Who is an expert on Kubernetes?” are an indication that you can benefit from a skills inventory.

Indications you might benefit from a skills inventory.

If your organization has reached a point where relying on an all-knowing person doesn’t scale anymore, you should consider to build up a formal skills inventory. But what options are there and what should you consider when building up a skills inventory?

What Sort of Skill Inventories are There?

Skill inventories come in multiple variants and can be classified as follows:

  • Ad-hoc solutions: Solutions like the all-knowing person, email and chat messages.
  • Semi-formal: Structured documents, spreadsheets or a database that collects the skill profiles of the employees.
  • Point solutions: Solutions that focus on one single use case. They use information about their user’s skills to propose online courses (learning & development), staff project teams (staffing solutions) or similar. The skills inventory is a necessity for them, but not at the core of their value proposition.
  • Skills Management System: An application that supports multiple popular use cases out of the box. It may enable users to discover coworkers by skills, support project managers in efficiently staffing their teams or enable senior management to conduct a skill gap analysis.

Overview of skills inventory types.

If you consider to introduce a Skills Management System to build up a skills inventory but are not yet sure what to look out for, don’t hesitate to get in touch with us. We will listen to your needs and find out together if the Kwykli Skills Management Solution is a good match to cover your use cases.