What standards should I use to conduct a best practice skills audit? 5

Conducting a best practice skills audit requires the HR practitioner to develop and implement a skills audit plan that meets the needs of both the organisation and the workforce while complying with legislation and best practice standards.

A skills audit is often perceived as a threat, especially by the workforce, and this might jeopardise not only the skills audit project but also prompt labour action issues in other spheres of the organisation. This means that it is critical to subscribe to best practice standards when you embark on a skills audit.

Local and international standards for best assessment practice

The aim of complying with best practice standards is to ensure that:

1.    Both parties involved (workforce and employer) are fairly treated,
2.    The results you get are relevant and reliable, and
3.    The process and procedures conducted are upheld when challenged by a court of law.

There is no current formal legislation directly relating to conducting a skills audit

 There are, however, very good case studies about assessment cases that were tested in different labour courts internationally.

One such case study is reported by Kreitner & Kinicki (1995) and refers to 51 assessment discrimination cases. From this case study, we can see the critical elements for ensuring a fair and reliable skills audit are*:

1.    A job analysis must be used as a basis for the skills audit,
2.    Definitive performance standards must be developed, written, and provided to all stakeholders, regardless of the type of rating,
3.    Raters are trained to use the rating instrument properly,
4.    Formal appeal mechanisms must be in place and assessment results need to be reviewed to ensure fairness and reliability,
5.    Ratings are supported with documented examples of behaviour,
6.    Employees are given a chance to improve their skills through development opportunities,
7.    Special provision must be made to accommodate illiterate staff members, and
8.    Transparency and providing feedback to all participants on the outcome of the skills audit.

Subscribing to the standards for best assessment practice provides the HR practitioner with a sound and defendable basis for conducting a skills audit and ensuring that all stakeholders support, and participate in, it.

How do you ensure productivity, sustainability and organisational relevance?

The time, cost and effort involved in conducting a best practice skills audit should be weighed up carefully.

What are the benefits of conducting a skills audit?

In essence, the benefit of conducting a skills audit for the organisation should not only be in obtaining a once-off result but  also in establishing a system and structure that will form the basis for Human Capital Management.

You can achieve a further benefit from a skills audit by developing good competency profiles for the audit and then using these for other purposes. Developing competency profiles that meet the best practice standards will:

  • Provide the basis for a competency-based recruitment strategy,
  • Focus your attention on areas in the induction programme, and
  • Form the blue print for career and succession planning.

Make sure your skills audit yields annual returns

As a lot of effort, time and money go into conducting a skills audit, you should conduct this in a sustainable manner so ensuring that it can be repeated annually with minimum effort. I strongly advise you to implement a progressive system, preferably electronic, that is conducted on a strong database to ensure that it is effective and sustainable.

What is the benefit and relevance of skills development to the workforce?

The best practice standards also provide good direction here: “Employees are given a chance to improve their competence through development opportunities.”

It is imperative that employees experience the benefit of the skills audit conducted and the most tangible way that this can happen is to provide training and development opportunities for identified needs.

* Specific additions have been made for the South African context.

This article first appeared on HR Pulse.

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5 thoughts on “What standards should I use to conduct a best practice skills audit?

  • Dr Wynand Goosen

    The skills audit should start with an overview of the strategic plan – objectives, tasks and job descriptions. Once this is clear, the required human capital for the strategic plan in play. Testing of actual performance and skills gaps ought to take place against these job descriptions. A clever way to measure is in educational standards as well as organisational requirements. This way gap closing is also building RPL evidence.   

  • Des Squire

    Hi Lia

    OFO stands for Organising Framework for Occupations which it has been advocated all companies should be using in order to establish a common profile for. If you search on this sit you should find previous information in this regard. Career path and progression pathways for employees are on and the same thing. Absolutely nothing wrong with what Naomi proposes – I was responding to your question and offering an opinion only  

  • Lia Marus Post author

    Hi Des,

    Thank you for the feedback. Just a couple of questions:

    • What are OFOs
    • Whar are progression pathways
    • Would you not be able to achieve your benefits with the method Naomi outlined?

    Just for my own clarification!

    Many thanks and kind regards


  • Des Squire

    Hi Lia

     I would be inclined to develop something aligned to OFO’s. If the job profile or specifications are clearly set out then the OFO’s can be used to great effect.

    In addition the OFO’s and job profile can then be aligned to specific SAQA Qualifications which will assist in terms of competency based recruiting and selection. Competencies will be directly aligned to the unit standards contained in the qualifications and will therefore be job and industry specific.

    An additional advantage is that a company can then address skills gaps in the education of individual employees and develop training plans accordingly. This in turn will assist in the development of progression pathways for all employees. Hope this makes sense?