Skills taxonomy: Everyone’s talking about it, but what really is it?

Skills taxonomy is the measurement of workforce skills. An important task because skills are what make up the...

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what is skills taxonomy

Skills taxonomy is the measurement of workforce skills. An important task because skills are what make up the fundamental DNA of any employee, any employer, and even any business, for that matter. Skills are not attributes, they’re also not characteristics. They are quantifiable, tangible, and traceable; they are a person’s granular ability to perform a task. Skills then are where we place value, and we do this at both a staff and business level. We need to understand how well something can be done, and who can do it the best.

As businesses and recruiters, we must analyze whether someone has the necessary expertise for a given task or role. The better equipped we are to analyze a person’s skill set, the better we can determine their value for the job. This maximizes capabilities in every aspect of the workplace. Having a thorough understanding of someone’s skills and knowing precisely where they excel is vital for decision making. It can help determine whether someone should be hired, promoted, given a project, or even let go. For optimum business efficiency then, being able to determine and measure skill sets is crucial.


How can we measure workforce skills? Copied

One method is through implementing a skills taxonomy. Which, very simply, is the science of naming, describing, and organising skills into a database. How this is done varies from method to method, however, the end goal always remains the same: formulate an easy to comprehend infrastructure of skills.

In the modern business world, we have access to plenty of data on both existing and prospective staff. Running this data through a well-curated skills taxonomy is a quick and effective way to ensure that every position is filled by the perfect candidate. An efficient skills taxonomy will offer a database that is succinct, clear, and easy to visualize. It will show the hierarchies of skills needed for every role. The result: optimized decision making and maximized human capital.

There are of course other approaches to measure skills. More classical ones, for instance, such as performance reviews, tests, and human analysis. All these methods have stood the test of time and proved themselves invaluable for measuring skills. The problem with them, though, is that they are time-consuming and not as diligent as a well-built skills taxonomy. By centralizing the mass of skills data, businesses and recruiters can speed up processes and remain confident about the results.


How does it work in the workplace? Copied

There are many ways to identify high performers in your organization. Implementing key performance indicators or holding frequent performance reviews are two methods. However, many businesses are looking more frequently to harbour innovative technologies such as digital skill matrices for the task. Constructing a digital skill matrix has never been easier. AG5 Skills Management Software, for instance, provides a simple, detailed, and up-to-date overview of all your staff’s skills and qualifications.

Check out this video to see how AG5 Skills Maagement Software can help your organization.

A strong understanding of your staff’s skills will not only optimize and streamline your business. It will also support structural decisions, giving you the tools to base promotions on an individual’s merits and capabilities. What’s more, by having all of your employees’ skills in a centralized hub, you’ll create stellar teams, every time.

The benefits of a skills taxonomy, then, are twofold:

  • it helps create a fairer and more egalitarian workplace.
  • it guarantees the best candidate for every task.

skill sets

Skills taxonomy & HR? Copied

Under the same logic, skills taxonomy is a vital tool for the recruitment process. It makes it easy to separate the wheat from the chaff – the strong candidates who have the key attributes and skill sets for a position from those who don’t. Having a clear understanding of the exact skills needed for a role before posting the job ad is a sure way to bag the perfect candidate. Do this for every new position and you can guarantee that every recruiting decision will positively impact your organization.

A strong skills taxonomy also helps HR to manage all internal mobility. With a lot more organizations leaning towards development rather than recruitment, understanding where skills are and where they’re not can save time and effort for all learning and development.


Workforce skills, competencies & certifications: what exactly are they?

A potential risk when categorizing your employees’ attributes is not knowing how to spot the difference between skills and competencies. It’s easy to confuse the two and mistakes are commonly made with skills being logged as competencies, or vice-versa. One way to tell if someone is competent for a task is to check for qualifications. This is normally a good marker. It’s not always the case though, so watch out!

The best way to spot the difference between skills and competencies is by identifying whether a learned activity is specific or general. If it’s specific then it’s a skill. Whereas, if it’s general then it’s a competency. In other words, a skill is always contained within a specific task – brewing coffee, flying a plane, typing, fixing a car are all skills. What converts a skill into a competency is when an individual is also knowledgeable and able.


Two easy ways to remember the difference:

  • think: Skill = Specific / Competency = Complete
  • follow the formula: Skills + Knowledge + Ability = Competencies


Working from your skills taxonomy:

So, you’ve set up a skills taxonomy and now know where all of your skills and competencies lie.  You have also identified all of your skill gaps. The next step is to focus on upskilling to close these gaps. Luckily, there are plenty of companies to help you achieve this. Companies that can be integrated with AG5 software.


AG5’s Integrations Copied

Whether that’s your digital instructions, your shift planning, or even your e-learning, AG5 can likely work with your current provider.


Digital instructions

Regardless of how well managed your skills are: if your shop floor instructions are inefficient you’ll have an efficient workforce that encounters many production errors. This is why AG5 has teamed up with SwipeGuide to make sure that your skilled teams are guided by strong instructions.


Shift planning

Organizing shifts through either Dualtask DPS, Quinyx, or Shiftbase makes planning a breeze. However, none safeguard you from accidentally scheduling employees underqualified or not competent for a role. An easy mistake, especially when running a large task force that spans multiple sites. This is where AG5 steps in to filter out the staff not suitable for the task.



As workforce learning is job-specific, AG5 has partnered up with many e-learning providers, ranging from Moodle to Drillster. Any module or course completed through an integrated site will automatically be logged in the AG5 qualification library. To add further protection from skill gaps, you can set up notifications that inform you when a qualification is up for renewal.

Schedule an online demo to see how a skills taxonomy can help your business today.



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Original version | July 1, 2021

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