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Part 4: Auditing current skills (Guideline 17)

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A skills audit is conducted in order to identify the gaps, if they exist, between the skills requirements of the organisation and the actual skills that exist in the organisation.

Overview of the skills audit

Definition
A skills audit involves identifying the skills and knowledge (both used and latent) held by existing staff.

Outcome/s

The outcomes of a skills audit are existing skill and knowledge profiles for particular individuals or groups within the organisation.[3]

Why conduct a skills audit?

A skills audit is conducted in order to identify the gaps, if they exist, between the skills requirements of the organisation and the actual skills that exist in the organisation. When skills audits have been completed, the results can be aggregated to obtain a statistical view of existing skills and knowledge. Section 5 of these guidelines examines how results can be used to identify skills gaps.

Stages in performing the skills audit

The following table describes the stages in performing a skills audit. These are not necessarily performed in an exact sequence:

Stage Description
1 Define the parameters of the skills audit
2 Research and choose methods for the skills audit
3 Establish benchmarks and tools required
4 Plan to reduce bias from methods
5 Conduct the skills audit
6 Document the skills audit

Stage 1: Define the parameters of the skills audit

Use project management

A skills audit may be undertaken as a separate project or as part of a wider project to improve skills. Either way, the staff involved should have appropriate skills and use suitable project management methodologies.

Individual audits compared to competency profiles or position descriptions

If the organisation chooses, individual assessments of records management staff can be performed. Assessments can be compared to:

  • competency profiles developed through skills analysis
  • projects, or
  • competency profiles developed as a basis for measurement in skills audits. See Establish benchmarks and tools required (below).

The results of such comparisons can then be used for career and personal development initiatives.

Aggregated audits compared to skills analysis

If all staff in the records management program are audited, the results can be aggregated and compared to the result of skills analysis in order to identify knowledge and skill gaps.

Recordkeeping and other skills

Audits may:

  • focus on only recordkeeping skills
  • cover recordkeeping skills and other skills required by the position holder
  • be applied to other program areas where records management or recordkeeping skills are required
  • be part of a wider audit of all staff.

Such decisions are dependent on the goals of the project.

Stage 2: Research and choose methods for the skills audit

Methods

When the scope of the audit has been determined, the project team will need to conduct some research and decide on the most suitable method of assessing staff skills and knowledge.

Methods could include:

  • checking existing records such as training records to identify what staff have been trained in
  • observing staff as they perform their roles and analysing the outcomes for quality
  • conducting interviews with staff. This might be part of a performance review, or undertaken as a separate exercise
  • running group activities eg. games that highlight skills like communication, teamwork, leadership and problem solving
  • using self-assessment surveys to find out what staff perceive are their skills, knowledge, weaknesses and needs
  • using surveys to find out what supervisors or peers perceive are the skills, knowledge, weaknesses and needs of staff
  • hiring an external assessor to perform a workplace assessment of skills against the Units of Competency: Knowledge Management. Workplace assessments have the added benefit of allowing records staff to have their experience in records management formally recognised
  • using a combination of methods to ensure an accurate assessment of the employee is made.

Sources of advice

The human resource management staff may be a useful source of advice on suitable methods. Alternatively, the Further reading section of these guidelines may be of assistance.

Considerations in the choice of methods

The project team should choose the method(s) most suitable to its needs. They might consider, for example:

  • corporate culture and attitudes toward such initiatives
  • any information already collected and analysed about skill needs or existing skills
  • resources available - including human and financial
  • the size of the audit
  • the programs being audited, and
  • the outcomes required.

Stage 3: Establish benchmarks and tools required

Prepare tools

Depending on the methods of skills audit chosen, the project team may need to prepare benchmarks and tools in advance to measure staff against.

Examples:
If the project team is using the observation method, they should have objective criteria to ensure all staff are observed and measured in the same way. If they are measuring by self-assessment questionnaire the project team will need to design the questionnaire form in advance.

Using the skills analysis as a benchmark

If the project team has conducted a skills analysis prior to the audit they may have considerable understanding of the current business climate and what skills are required to meet business needs, the tasks involved in project and operational work, who in the organisation is performing those tasks, and the skills and knowledge required for those tasks. They may have mapped skill needs to positions, effectively creating a competency profile for each position, which will help in the design of tools for skills audits, such as survey forms.

Using position descriptions as benchmarks

If skill audits are to be based on information documented in position descriptions, the project team should ensure these are up to date. See Designing or redesigning positions.

Limitations of using position descriptions as benchmarks

The disadvantage of using position descriptions as a basis for a skills audit are that they do not describe the position to the level of detail that you will find in competency profiles. In addition, they often only generically indicate the position’s relationship to corporate and program goals.

Using competency profiles as benchmarks

If a skills audit is not part of the project, there are other ways the project team may choose to develop a competency profile for the position. This might involve:

  • performing a job analysis of each relevant position
  • considering how the position might relate to corporate goals and program goals, and
  • mapping the position to tasks, skills and knowledge required at different levels in the Units of Competency: Knowledge Management. Such a profile would be valid for workplace assessment purposes using other competency standards within the Business Services Training Package for non-records duties, such as 'process payroll' if relevant to your scope. See www.ibsa.org.au for more information.

Example:
One position may perform a number of Level III recordkeeping competencies and a few Level IV recordkeeping competencies. A competency profile would isolate which competencies are part of the position and the related skill and knowledge base the person would be expected to possess. This could then be used as a basis for preparing assessment tools for the person occupying that position.

Example of a self assessment survey

An example of a self assessment survey form for a staff member, based on Level III competencies in the Units of Competency: Knowledge Management is provided in Appendix 4.

Workplace assessment

Recognition of past experience can be given to staff in the form of statements of competencies, statements of attainment or qualifications such as certificates or diplomas in records management awarded by Registered Training Organisations (RTOs) that have recordkeeping as part of their scope of registration.

A prospective TAFE student currently in employment who wishes to obtain credits via workplace assessment should enrol in the relevant TAFE course, and then seek workplace assessment through TAFE. For more information, contact the TAFE NSW Business Administration and Technology Program.

Stage 4: Plan to remove bias from methods

Whatever methods and benchmarks are chosen, the potential for bias should be recognised and reduced through improving the tools themselves or planning implementation strategies to counteract bias.

Example:
A staff member may over- or under- estimate their skills and knowledge in a self-assessment survey. To reduce the potential for such inaccurate results, the goals of the audit should be explained fully before the survey takes place. Additional surveys by supervisors or peers might be performed and compared to self-assessments to objectify results.

Stage 5: Conduct the skills audit

When the project team has decided on methods and has tools in place they can undertake the audit. It is important to remember the need for constant communication with staff to ensure they are not concerned about the consequences of the audit. See Managing the skills project for more information. It is also important to be discreet with findings about particular individuals, sharing information only within the project team.

Stage 6: Document the skills audit

What to document

Documentation should be kept of project management such as:

  • miletones, resources etc
  • the reasons behind the choice of audit methods
  • details of the methods themselves including criteria for assessment
  • the choice of personnel to audit, and
  • the results of individual audits.

Documentation can demonstrate compliance

Documentation of skills audits can be shown to auditors to demonstrate compliance with the Standard on Managing a Records Management Program, in particular the the principle 'Staffed by skilled people'.

Footnotes

[3] G Hayton and P Loveder, How to do a Skills Analysis and Skills Audit, National Centre for Vocational Education Research, Adelaide, 1992, p.13. These profiles can also be used by the individual in career planning or by the organisation in matching individuals to particular positions.