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What is the biggest obstacle to overcoming workforce skills gaps? According to Christopher DeVany, president and founder of Pinnacle Performance Improvement Worldwide, it’s lack of support from senior management.
DeVany presented a workforce assessment seminar March 26, 2008, as part of a week-long program on human capital management at The Performance Institute in Arlington, Va. The Performance Institute, a private, nonpartisan think tank, works to help government agencies improve results.
What often happens with workforce assessment, DeVany said, is that “you’ve been given this assignment [by senior management] and told “just get this done. Don’t bother me.”
DeVany and the seminar participants, mainly from government agencies, discussed ways to persuade senior management of the urgency of identifying and analyzing skills gaps and of developing an action plan to close those gaps. He recommended showing senior leaders how overcoming certain skills gaps will meet specific needs that are related to the agency’s mission.
Government HR managers also have the support of the Chief Human Capital Officer’s Act of 2002, DeVany noted. The act requires agencies to:
Check Supply, Demand—Then Act To Fill Gaps
To develop a plan of action, start by assessing the current workforce, DeVany said, to determine the difference between the resources available (supply) and the resources needed (demand) to meet the agency’s mission. Doing this helps the agency set priorities so it can focus on areas of greatest need.
Supply analysis identifies current organization skills or competencies and analyzes staff and employment trends. This helps agencies evaluate their resources, identify needs and project their workforce strategy, according to DeVany.
Demand analysis deals with the development of measures for future workloads and activities. DeVany suggested that agencies use modeling, forecasting and other statistical techniques to estimate their staffing needs quantitatively.
Gap analysis is the process of comparing information from the agency’s supply and demand analyses to determine the shortages in competencies needed for the agency’s future workforce.
DeVany called on the participants to develop a plan of action, or “a living, breathing plan that is constantly updated,” once needs are identified.
The key words in planning, he said, are “build,” “acquire,” “optimize” and “share.”
1. Build functional, technical and core competence in the workplace.
2. Acquire and secure resources, while striving for diversity.
3. Optimize infrastructure to support workforce effectiveness and efficiency.
4. Share knowledge, to inform and to ensure continuity.
A plan of action can succeed only if “everyone understands the purpose for doing it” and “it is viewed as meaningful yet manageable,” DeVany said. And, of course, if “it is accepted and supported by the leadership in the workforce.”
Stephenie Overman is a freelance writer based in Arlington, Va., and editor of Staffing Management magazine.
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