Skills Audits and Inventories

What Are Skills Audits and Skills Inventories?

A skills audit is a method of systematically determining and measuring skills. There are two main types of skills audits: a personal skills audit and a group skills audit. A personal skills audit is also called a self-audit. It is performed by an individual in order to evaluate his or her own skills. A group skills audit is a skills audit of employees within a company or an organization, typically performed by management. An important component of the skills audit is creating a skills inventory, a list of skills that the individual possesses.

Skills Audits and Inventories

In broad terms, a skill is the ability to competently perform a task. People are not born with skills. Skills are learned and can also be increased through training, education, and practice. An audit is a comprehensive, methodical, and careful review. A personal skills audit can be thought of as being like a tax audit of your skills and abilities. It involves a careful and comprehensive review of your abilities, with the aim of identifying both strengths and areas that could use improvement. Likewise, a group skills audit has the same aim of discovering strengths and weaknesses, but it is a company overview undertaken by employers.

How Long Have Skills Audits Been in Use?

Throughout history informal methods of evaluating other people have been used in ways that resemble modern skills audits. One early example of a more formal skills audit occurred in 1709. Two English pastors, George Ruperti and John Tribbeko, volunteered to help a group of war refugees from the Palatinate region of Germany. To facilitate the refugees’ voyage to North America, the pastors created a list that contained each refugee's name, occupation, and skill. By doing so, they were able to persuade the British government that the cost of relocating the refugees would be worthwhile.

With the growth in the importance of knowledge and the development of large corporations and human resources departments beginning in the twentieth century, group skills audits have become increasingly popular. Skills audits have proven to be so successful that even governments and international organizations have begun to use them in order to attract investment and increase economic strength. The European Union, an organization working toward the political, social, and economic unity of Europe, adopted a skills auditing campaign as part of its efforts to reduce the school dropout rate and to increase rates of higher education.

Skills Audits and Inventories

Human resources: The department in a company that is responsible for hiring and managing employees.

How Do Organizations Perform Group Skills Audits?

Companies benefit from performing group skills audits because managers gain a greater awareness of the knowledge base within the organization, the abilities of their employees, and the areas in which both their employees and the company need to improve. Companies can use the results of skills audits to recruit candidates with particular skills who are able to meet the company's needs, and they can avoid hiring people who possess redundant or irrelevant skills. Organizations are able to make better promotion and reorganization choices as well. In addition, companies using and analyzing skills audits can better identify the resources they need to train employees with skill deficiencies and can reduce costs as training proceeds more efficiently.

Some large companies require their different divisions to conduct group skills audits on a regular basis in order to identify skill gaps, or areas in which employees’ skills are lacking, that need to be filled. Skills audits are especially useful when the company decides to hire new workers. Sometimes nonprofit groups and government agencies will perform skills audits as a required component of receiving a grant .

Skills Audits and Inventories

Grant: Sum of money given for a specific purpose with no requirement that it be repaid.

Companies will often prepare for skills audits by first outlining their company strategy and evaluating the state of the company so that the objectives of the skills audit and the methods of carrying it out become clear. Many companies will form panels to implement skills audits, using a combination of business consultants who are experienced auditors, experts in the workplace subject matter, and managers with personal experience and relationships with employees. The panel approach allows companies to develop a rounded view of their employees’ abilities and weaknesses.

Why Should I Perform a Personal Skills Audit?

If you are unsure of the career field you want to enter, you can benefit greatly from taking a personal skills audit. By performing a skills audit, you will get a better understanding of your strengths and weaknesses as well as identify the skills you possess that could be of value to potential employers. This knowledge will give you a better sense of what kind of career path you should choose as well. Performing a skills audit will give you an ability to plot out your career development plan.

Personality traits can influence skills.

Personality traits can influence skills. ILUISTRATOR/SHUTTERSTOCK.COM.

You will also do a much better job of packaging yourself and making yourself attractive to employers if you have a sense of your relevant skills, professional knowledge, and special qualifications. Performing a detailed personal skills audit will give you the ability to know this information and convey it to interviewers.

If you do not complete a skills audit before you enter the job market, you might go to an interview unprepared, miss out on potential job opportunities, or find yourself in a position that does not make full use of your skills. In addition, taking a skills audit will help you become familiar with the format of the process in case you find a job at a company that conducts regular skills audits or requests a skills audit as a condition of giving an employee a raise or a promotion.

How Do I Perform a Personal Skills Audit?

Skills Audits and Inventories

It is possible to perform a personal skills audit on your own, and the only materials needed are a pen and some paper. The simplest way is to first brainstorm and create a skills inventory, or a list of skills that you have acquired. This list can include technical skills, job-specific skills, self-management skills, and interpersonal skills. You can include skills learned at home, on the job, in school, and through hobbies and sports. Do not discriminate when making this list. Try to come up with the most complete list possible. Make sure you go through your previous work experience and mark down any skills that you gained at work and any accomplishments that may have resulted.

You should then evaluate the career field in which you are interested. Research both entry-level and higher-level positions to gain an understanding of the skills that each position requires. Seek out job descriptions, using newspapers, job websites, and books related to various fields. Information about different jobs can be found in libraries, company job listings on websites, and human resources departments. Once you have this information, you should see if your target career or position requires any skills that you currently lack. This self-examination allows you to identify skill gaps and then develop a plan to acquire those skills. For example, if you want to work on cars but lack a particular sort of automotive knowledge, you should consider taking vocational classes to gain those skills.

When you perform a skills audit, you get a better understanding of your strengths and weaknesses as well as identify the skills you possess that could be of value to potential employers.

When you perform a skills audit, you get a better understanding of your strengths and weaknesses as well as identify the skills you possess that could be of value to potential employers. ILLUSTRATION BY LUMINA DATAMATICS LTD. © 2015 CENGAGE LEARNING®. U.S. Department of Education, Division of Academic and Technical Education/Office of Career, Technical, and Adult Education. “Employability Skills Framework.”

What Skills Should I Include in a Skills Inventory?

When brainstorming items to put in a skills inventory, you should investigate a number of different types of skills to showcase your various abilities. For example, having good communication skills, which are seen in processes such as writing and editing, making presentations, and networking with clients, shows your ability to understand people and situations. Displaying negotiation skills, such as persuading clients, selling products, and settling disputes, emphasizes your preparedness, patience, and resolve. Using teamwork skills, such as forming teams, leading a group, and achieving common goals, highlights your ability to create trust and respect. Tackling personal management skills, such as taking on responsibilities, completing large projects, and managing deadlines, stresses your organizational qualities.

When performing a self-audit, you must be careful to ensure that you actually possess the skills you write down. You must be prepared to provide enough evidence to convince an interviewer that you currently possess the skill and can perform it consistently. If you are unsure about your skills, it may be a good idea to seek feedback from colleagues and former employers.

Case Study: Charlie Performs a Skills Audit

Charlie has been working as a bank teller for three years. Although he enjoys his job and likes the company he works for, he wants to have additional responsibilities in his current position or receive a promotion. In particular, Charlie dreams of someday having a job as a bank manager. Before he speaks to his supervisors about these professional goals, Charlie decides to perform a personal skills audit in order to determine his strongest skills as well as areas where he could improve.

Charlie creates a skills inventory, or a list of all of his skills. What comes to mind first is his excellent customer service skills, followed by his attention to detail, knowledge of computers and banking software, and ability to work well in a team. He also lists other skills that he learned from previous jobs, such as basic accounting and personnel management. Charlie updates his résumé to list these diverse skills.

After brainstorming a list of skills, Charlie realizes that, while he is qualified in many respects, he lacks certain skills required to be a branch manager, such as a strong educational background and a larger understanding of economics, including economic history. Bank manager positions, he learns, tend to require a college degree, and he only has an associate's degree. He decides to take night classes for a year or two to earn his degree, while continuing to work at the bank so that he can gain more experience in the banking industry and continue to network with other banking professionals.

How Can I Use the Results of a Personal Skills Audit?

Personal skills audits can first be used as a self-help tool to give you an idea of your strengths and weaknesses and the skills you possess. The results will give you an idea of the types of jobs you can pursue and what skills you need to acquire. You can then use that information to chart out a plan to develop further skills so that you can make the strongest impression on recruiters in your chosen field.

Skills Audits and Inventories

Skills Audits and Inventories

It is a good idea to keep a skills audit and continue to add to it, treating it like a living document. Each time you acquire a new skill, you should add it to your skills audit.

Are There Predesigned Skills Audits I Can Use?

If you need more direction, you can look for formalized skills audit worksheets. Many employment firms, professional development companies, and colleges have prefabricated skills audit worksheets that can be purchased or downloaded. It is also possible for you to find worksheets that are geared toward your particular industry of interest. Certain organizations might also possess lists of industry-specific skills that you can use to compare with your own results. Visit the websites of employment firms that handle skills audits, search the Internet for terms such as skills audit worksheet, and call human resources representatives to see if they can provide any helpful documentation.

Skills audit worksheets might vary in form and display, but they all contain questions or statements to help you discover your various skill areas. Some worksheets might ask you to respond using scale ratings based on how strongly you agree or disagree with the statement. For example, you might be asked to respond to the question “I feel confident about my ability to use word processing software” with either (1) “agree,” (2) “somewhat agree,” (3) “somewhat disagree,” or (4) “disagree.” You might also be asked to rate your ability at a given skill on a scale of one to five, where one is very poor and five is very good. These worksheets might also include questions about various skills and then provide a blank area in which you can write your response. For example, the test might ask you to list the skills related to a given field or to list the areas in which you need to develop.