When it comes to assessment of staff, particularly in terms of technical skills, I have always felt that, as an IT manager, we have one hand tied behind our backs. Sure, there are certifications for competence in many different products. Having such certifications is very valuable and gives you a sense of the skillset of an individual. But how do you assess someone as a journeyman programmer, tester, or systems engineer, or perhaps as a master in one’s chosen discipline?
It has always struck me that this evaluation is overly subjective and places too much emphasis on “book knowledge” rather than practical application of that knowledge to develop new, innovative solutions or approaches that the organization truly needs. In other words, how do we assess the knowledge, skills, and abilities (KSAs) of a person to perform their job role?
TOOL 1: Skills Framework for the Information Age (SFIA)
Defining competencies on our own within an organization is time consuming, expensive, frustrating, and very likely to be full of inaccuracies. However, in 2003, a non-profit organization was founded called the Skills Framework for the Information Age (SFIA) that has established a comprehensive framework of skills in IT technologies and disciplines based on a broad industry “body of knowledge”.
Key facts about the SFIA Framework:
Although the framework helps define your needed competencies, it doesn’t tell you if your workers have the skills that match them. We need to assess our staff members against the framework and determine what level of attainment they have reached in the specific disciplines in which they work. Then we are in a good position to help the staff members develop personal plans to reach higher levels of attainment. A number of companies are certified to train and coach in the use the SFIA framework (in the United States, it is only Learning Tree International and one other company). To learn more about how Learning Tree works with the SFIA Framework, CLICK HERE>>
TOOL 2: Online Knowledge & Role-Based Skills Assessments – mapped to SFIA
Through the use of SFIA and leveraging its extensive inventory of IT training courses, Learning Tree International, where I recently joined as CEO, has developed an automated online library of more than 100 different skills assessments mapped to SFIA, where appropriate. These assessments go beyond just asking questions to measure knowledge of a topic area but also assess practical KSAs by assessing the staff member’s ability to perform IT tasks similar to what you would expect them to be able to do on the job.
Through SFIA and the use of skills assessments, IT managers are in a much better position to understand the actual knowledge, skills, and abilities of their current staff and to work with staff members to address skills gaps and develop individual professional development plans. Further, by leveraging this framework and use of assessments throughout one’s organization, an IT manager is finally in a good position to understand and then work to fill organizational skills gaps that are hindering overall organizational performance.