Posted 30th October 2019

A skill is the ability to carry out a task with determined results. It’s what you do, and can do, again and again. We’re all familiar with the skills that you generally see listed on job adverts, such as time management, teamwork, and leadership. These are important, but if you dig a little deeper, you find there is actually a hierarchy to skills, and this hierarchy has multiple levels.


A hierarchy to skills

Let’s look at receptionist skills, for example. That high-level description encompasses many tasks, such as welcoming people, answering a telephone, writing an email, using a word processor, and recording information.

As an individual doing the job, you know which tasks you undertake on a day-to-day basis and feel a sense of achievement if you do them well. If someone asks you about a specific task, you can tell them what you do, how well you think you do it, and if you enjoy it. However, if someone asks you if you have good receptionist skills, that is a little harder to answer, as there are so many tasks that make up that high-level skill. But this is precisely the level we tend to plan and recruit to.

This is a simple example, but there are many other roles out there that have multiple layers and degrees of complexity. Business development is an example where there are deep and refined subskills that combine to make this overarching skill; some of which you’ll know you have nailed and some you feel less sure about. We need to explore these subskills to truly understand someone’s abilities and where they have gaps in their knowledge and experience.


Mind the skills gap

For someone doing a job, understanding their skills at the lower levels means they are far more able to relate, achieve and develop. These subskills are eminently trainable and identifying a gap at this level means that training can be targeted, highly effective, and less daunting.

Also, this enables transferable skills, widening the pool of potentially relevant candidates for positions. Organisations can focus on filling gaps with knowledge, rather than trying to recruit at a higher skill level that feels impossible to find.

Say you have a business development vacancy, and you have an internal candidate who is looking for a new challenge and has most of the skills you need. Being able to identify that person and fill their gaps in knowledge will save you time and money on an expensive external recruitment process. You’ll also gain a more committed and engaged employee.

The problem is that when we recruit, we tend to use these high-level terms for skills. We talk about not being able to find good receptionists or business development managers, when in reality, the skills we need are buried in the detail of the CVs and LinkedIn profiles that are in front of us.


Bridging the gap

Advancements in HR tecchnology and the progressive use of AI are a step towards finding a better way to think about skills, but it is also about the candidate and the employer having an open dialogue, and absolute control over how skills are articulated and considered.

Optunli is a new matching platform that has been developed with this in mind. It empowers people to describe themselves in detail, including their skills, aspirations, and preferences. Individuals are given the tools they need to manage their own careers, and organisations are given an unprecedented level of insight into their workforce and beyond, to identify where there are gaps, and find people who would be a great fit for their opportunities.

Teresa Fox
Post author:Teresa Fox

Teresa Fox is a Co-CEO and Founder of Optunli.

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