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How Skill Sets Work

What Is a Skill Set?

A skill set is the combination of knowledge, personal qualities, and abilities that you’ve developed through your life and work. It typically combines two types of skills: soft skills and hard skills.

Soft skills are interpersonal or people skills. They are somewhat difficult to quantify and relate to someone’s personality and ability to work with others. This in-demand skill set includes good communication, listening, attention to detail, critical thinking, empathy, and conflict resolution abilities, among other skills.

Hard skills are quantifiable and teachable. They include the specific technical knowledge and abilities required for a job. Examples of hard skills include computer programming, accounting, mathematics, and data analysis.

How Skill Sets Work

In the workplace, you typically use a range of skills on a given day. Some of these skills are job-specific. For example, hairstylists will use their knowledge of hair-coloring techniques and payroll clerks will use their accounting software skills. You might learn these skills by going to school or through training with an experienced mentor.

You might also use hard skills that aren’t job-specific. For example, you might use your written communication skills to craft an email to follow-up on an important project. You might use your verbal communication skills to present a project idea to a manager.

You might also use soft skills you’ve developed through your work experience, school, and volunteer roles. They might include problem-solving or resolving a conflict with a customer.

A skill is the learned ability to perform an action with determined results with good execution often within a given amount of time, energy, or both. Skills can often be divided into domain-general and domain-specific skills. For example, in the domain of work, some general skills would include time management, teamwork and leadership, self-motivation and others, whereas domain-specific skills would be used only for a certain job. Skill usually requires certain environmental stimuli and situations to assess the level of skill being shown and used.

A skill may be called an art when it represents a body of knowledge or branch of learning, as in the art of medicine or the art of war.[1] Although the arts are also skills, there are many skills that form an art but have no connection to the fine arts. A practice is when the learned skill is put into practice. An art or skill may be the basis for a profession, trade, or craft.

Examples of Skills

Skills are the expertise or talent needed in order to do a job or task. Job skills allow you to do a particular job and life skills help you through everyday tasks. There are many different types of skills that can help you succeed at all aspects of your life whether it’s school, work, or even a sport or hobby.

Skills are what makes you confident and independent in life and are essential for success. It might take determination and practice, but almost any skill can be learned or improved. Set yourself realistic expectations and goals, get organized and get learning.

Skill is a term that encompasses the knowledge, competencies and abilities to perform operational tasks. Skills are developed through life and work experiences and they can also be learned through study. There are different types of skills and some may be easier to access for some people than others, based on things like dexterity, physical abilities and intelligence.

Skills can also be measured, and levels determined by skill tests. Most jobs require multiple skills, and likewise, some skills will be more useful for certain professions than others.

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How can you evaluate external training providers?

How can you evaluate external training providers?

It’s reckoned that over 25% of the external training that companies provide for their staff fall far short of meeting their needs. So how can directors ensure it will work effectively and that it’s money well spent?

Not a cheap option

In a recent survey by Knowledgepool, more than 25% of employees questioned felt that the external training courses they had attended via work had little or no relevance to their job role. Many claimed to be none the wiser after sitting through them, meaning that the company’s cash was well and truly wasted.

Before you pay?

Many training courses aren’t cheap, and so you won’t want one of your employees to be amongst this worrying statistic. But you’ve a one in four chance that they will be. So is there any way to evaluate the effectiveness of a training provider both before and after you book places on one of their courses?

Ask your own staff

It sounds obvious, but don’t just send a member of staff on a course (unless you have to for, e.g., manual handling). Before you do, ask them about what they feel they need and show them any you have selected. If they feel the course is pitched too high, or low, for their level, request more detailed course content from the provider.

Tip 1. Following most training courses, attendees are invited to fill in feedback, or evaluation forms. There’s no reason why you can’t ask the provider to see a range of these comments – good and bad.

Tip 2. If they’re reluctant to release any (they can easily block out the names, address etc. to protect confidentiality) or provide you with a sample of recent reviews, there’s a reason for it and it’s unlikely to be a good one.

Business is booming

Following training, you should be able to measure its success using tangible indicators. For example, if the training was for Customer Service, you should be able to see for yourself how an employee is now interacting with customers. If it was on technical skills, e.g. IT, ask them to demonstrate something new that they learned about on their course.

Questioning your staff

Although your staff will probably give feedback to a course provider, it’s a good idea to have your own evaluation forms too. We’ve produced an example evaluation template that you can use as a basis for this exercise (see The next step).

What can you ask? You could ask staff questions such as: “How relevant was the training to your job role?”“What were the most and least useful parts of the training?” and “Will you be able to utilise your new skills?”

Tip 1. Ask for feedback promptly. The longer you leave it, the less reliable the results will be.

Tip 2. If you get negative feedback, query it with the provider. Don’t assume your employee approached the course with enthusiasm!

And finally. The Business Link website includes detailed information on how to evaluate training and has a free guide that you can download.

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How to Find the Best Training Provider

How to Find the Best Training Provider

Develop a short list of providers

Remember, selecting a training provider is a formal procurement process just like any other, which means you should follow corporate buying best practice: research and compare the market and get quotes from a selection of providers, typically two to four.

2. Develop a detailed request for proposal

Clearly specify your training needs, e.g. how many trainees, what type of skills, location, preferred style of delivery, and also establish your training outcomes. You can then prepare a request for proposal (RFP) for each of your shortlisted providers. This will mean that the training provider’s proposal and quote will be much easier to evaluate and compare.

3. Make a checklist of questions to ask when evaluating your proposals

Having received your proposals for training services you can now evaluate them to see how well each one meets your requirements. Below, I have provided a checklist of questions you can ask of each proposal to help you assess its suitability:

  • How well has each training provider addressed your requirements and learning objectives? Have they covered all the required learning areas in appropriate depth or do they lack emphasis in key areas?
  • Have they addressed your desired learning outcomes? How do they assess the effectiveness of the training, or put differently, how do they actually quantify what learning has actually taken place?
  • Does your providers have sector specific training experience? Are they able to advise on and execute a style of delivery that is optimized to your workforce? The best way to ascertain this is to look at their existing clients to see if your company has affinity with their customer base.
  • Do they offer a training environment that is suited to your workforce?
  • Does the training provider have have an approach and style which is suited to your culture and workforce? Will they be able to gain the trust and respect of key stakeholders and trainees?
  • Have they provided detailed profiles of each of the trainers so you can properly assess the trainers suitability to your workforce?
  • Do they have a post-training, follow-up program with students? This helps to reinforce the learning so it is deeply embedded into their new behaviors and not simply forgotten.
  • Do they have good quality client testimonials, or better still, will they allow you to contact satisfied clients?
  • Do their trainers have the appropriate certifications?
  • Have they won any awards or are they industry recognized?
  • Does the training agency have a transparent complaints process or are they members of a professional or regulatory body? This ensures that you have a means of redress if they don’t come up to standard.
  • Last but not least; does the course offer good value for money? Are more expensive quotes justified, e.g. better qualified trainers, better services, and/or more flexibility.

How to Find the Best Training Provider

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How to Make an Evaluation Plan

How to Make an Evaluation Plan

1. Determine the evaluation purpose.

An evaluation purpose explains why you are conducting an evaluation. To help shape your evaluation purpose, consider who will use the findings, how they will use them, and what they need to know.

You might use training evaluation findings to:

  • Develop a new training
  • Improve an existing training
  • Provide instructor feedback
  • Determine if your training met the desired outcomes
  • Make decisions about resource allocation
2. Develop the evaluation questions.

Create evaluation questions that match your purpose. Evaluation questions are broad, overarching questions that support your evaluation purpose—they are not specific test or survey questions for learners to answer.
Evaluation questions are often focused in one of two categories: process or outcome.

Process evaluation questions focus on the training itself—things like the content, format, and delivery of the training.

3. Choose the data collection methods.

Choose data collection methods that will help you answer your evaluation questions. Common methods include tests or quizzes, surveys or questionnaires, observation, expert or peer review, and interviews and focus groups. Identify how long it will take to access this data and how often you will collect it. Develop a timeline for when to collect, analyze, and interpret data so that you will have the information ready when you need it.

Keep feasibility in mind when you select data collection methods. The resources, time and effort required in your evaluation plan should match the scope of the training, and should fit within your available resources.

How to Make an Evaluation Plan