What is a skills audit?
A skills audit is simply an audit (measure) of what skills you committee members have, often done using a twenty questions tick box format.
Should we do a skills audit?
Before doing a skills audit you should consider the implications carefully. There is a modern trend to see committee members as in some way just unpaid staff and therefore to apply staff personnel practices to committee members, often with very mixed results. This mainly focuses on recruitment where the staff analogy of the job that you recruit to is used. In this analogy it therefore stands to reason that if you define what you want the new committee member to do you should then recruit someone to specifically do that. The next leap of logic is that if you don’t know what you want them to do you look for ‘gaps’ in skills amongst the existing committee members, identify the ‘gaps’ and recruit to fill these gaps. This approach to recruitment is logical for staff but has severe limitations in the context of a governing body where complex roles may involve the ability to reach decisions collectively, think strategically and take a mature perspective. In membership organisations the committee and staff may have little say in who is elected and members may value quite different qualities such as local knowledge, integrity, a belief that members will be put first and so on. Poorly carried out skills audits can cause resentment and disillusionment if committee members are presented with a checklist of professional areas of expertise that they do not have (i.e. law, accounting, property management, surveying, personnel, IT, etc). Also, skills audits simply look at individuals. It has been argued that as a committee is a collective body it would be much more relevant to look at the collective abilities of the committee as a whole, for instance its ability to make collective decisions (click here to see an example of a group competencies approach). Before carrying out a skills audit you should carefully consider the purpose of doing it. List all abilities that are desirable (such collective decision making). Then consider whether you will get meaningful results from this process and how effectively you would be able to recruit to any ‘gaps’ you identify. Click here for a sample skills audit.
How can we assess suitable committee members rather than use a skills audit?
Assessing committee members is harder than it seems. Remember that a committee is a collective activity. Its how a group of people work together that counts – not how individuals perform alone. Governance researchers have developed a list of 6 competencies that are desirable for a committee as a whole to posses. Click to view the ‘6 competencies’ list.