The Importance of Matching Skill Sets of Execs to Their Assignments


Mon, December 05, 2005

CIO

The stress many businesspeople feel today might be caused by something much more significant than economic, industry or business conditions. Some people probably are just in the wrong job.

This has nothing to do with whether the person has performed well in the past or whether the person is intelligent or talented. It could be that the specific tasks associated with the job do not match the specific skills that the person is particularly good at.

In a nationwide survey, NFI Research found that more than two-thirds of senior executives and managers say that the requirements for specific jobs do not extremely well match the people currently in those jobs. More than three-quarters of managers said that the jobs and the people in their organizations are not extremely well matched.

“One of the most important aspects of senior leadership’s role in the organization is to match the skill sets of the management team and their assignments to meet the corporate goals and objectives,” said one survey respondent.

“In many cases, it’s more about political match than people match,” said another respondent.

The reality is that the inherent skills of the person may not be a match for the skills needed for a particular job. Every person has certain inherent skills, such as the ability to stay focused, flexibility, self-restraint and time management. Some of those skills in a person are stronger and some are weaker. The unique combination of the strengths and weaknesses in a person’s skills are what I have coined as skill identity. Every person has a skill identity.

When the skill identity of a person is a total mismatch for those skills needed for a particular job or task, the person is set up for failure. This is why an absolutely great salesperson might fail when promoted to a management position, which might require a totally different skill identity. Once you become an adult, your skill identity is fixed and cannot be changed.

“Personally, I prefer to build an organization based on people skills and strengths,” said one survey respondent. “My current company has chosen to do the reverse: Build an organization chart and then try to fit people in the boxes. So far, I consider that the results are not so great.”

“Titles get in the way,” said another respondent. “I wish we could sort by skill set.”

When it comes to how their immediate superior matches with the job he or she has, about half of senior executives and managers said they were not extremely well matched.

Some organizations have taken seriously the issue of matching people to jobs, primarily due to the high cost of replacing employees.

“We have changed the way we select staff in the past two years,” said one respondent. “We have adopted behavioral interviewing techniques to make sure we are getting the right people on the bus, in the right seats on the bus and getting the misfits off the bus. We have seen a noticeable change in the attitudes, work product and morale among staff since moving in this direction.”

Said another: “Talent management is one of the biggest issues facing organizations today. Job descriptions are typically stale and dated and don’t reflect the reality of what the companies need today in the way of top talent. As a result, we recruit or allow people to stay in jobs with skills based on what the job required years ago. This reality does not cause us to find or train the type of employee we need to survive in today’s competitive world.”

Business should be more focused on determining each person’s skill identity and then making sure that the strengths are matched with the appropriate tasks.

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