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How to Conduct a Skills Audit in Manufacturing Part 1: Mapping the skills your team needs

Skills Lab,

In a report by Deloitte, manufacturing executives reported that talent-driven innovation is the number-one determinant of competitive advantage.

The same report stated that manufacturing skills gaps, such as a lack of automation training, would impact the manufacturers’ ability to meet customer demand, implement new technologies, innovate and deliver new products, increase productivity, and provide effective customer service.

These findings clearly show that employees and their skills are assets that can have a considerable impact on growth and profitability. As such, they need to be as much of a business focus to managers as the budget or monthly KPIs.

A skills audit or skills evaluation will help provide the foundations for any workforce planning, and better prepare managers for delivering key business goals both now and in the future.

This blog post is the first part of a two-part series in which we explore the two steps of conducting a comprehensive skills audit:  

  1. Map the skills your team needs to deliver work today, in the near future, and long term
  2. Discover how to identify and fill the skills gaps in your team

Let’s get started.

Find out what skills your team needs: today, in the near future, and long term.

“Begin with the end in mind” – Steven Covey, author of The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. 

A skills audit begins with the end goal. What specifically do you want to achieve? Is it reaching a certain KPI? Is it meeting an industry benchmark? Is it preparing for a future project?

Once you know what it is you want to accomplish, you can then work backwards from there. What resources and skillsets do you need to deliver those objectives?

In our experience, production and maintenance managers have a strong grasp on operational requirements and a good feel for the skill level of each of their team members. Most recognise where there are opportunities for development, and how this would have a positive impact on job and business performance. However, sometimes the challenges of meeting current demands supersede that of meeting future requirements. As a result, training and development fall by the wayside. It is important that managers are able to communicate the value of training programs, such as PLC or SCADA courses, and show how this value outweighs the cost.

Begin with the end.

There are several ways to identify ‘desired’ and ‘non-negotiable’ skills, based on both short- and long-term goals and business objectives:


1. Do some desktop research: Review position descriptions and list the skills required for current key job roles within the company.

2. Conduct a skills questionnaire: Ask current staff what skills they think they need to perform their jobs.


Combine these results with:

3. Strategy-derived skills list: If the business has a one-year, five-year, or ‘sometime-in-the-future’ plan, use this to work backwards. Identify key areas your department will need to deliver on and list the job type and skills required to achieve it. Then push for a collaborative future skills session.

4. Collaborative future skills session: Work as a team of key stakeholders to come up with a set of ‘desired’, ‘non-negotiable’ skills and competency levels for short-term and long-term goals. Have customers, employees and management all in the same room at the same time, if possible, to give a holistic view. This can transform a discussion and highlight potential blind spots, whilst strengthening partnerships with customers.

Use the business’s short-term (1–4 years) and long-term (5+ year) strategies as a road map, as well as customer’s current needs and future plans, to help define the desired and non-negotiable skills needed.  You may need to group these skills into competency categories i.e. Managerial, Functional, Technical, Supportive, Administration, Operation, Implementation, Research & Development, and Core Competencies.

Often, getting an outsider in to facilitate the session will prompt different thinking and get more insightful results. In addition, this approach will encourage managers to think in terms of their stakeholders and ask different questions such as, ‘Do we have what the customer needs?’


5. Industry and market monitoring: In addition to conducting internal skills reviews, ensure you evaluate what’s happening in the market and connect this to skills sessions.  


6. Rank and prioritise skills: Once you have a comprehensive skills list, rank each skill for its priority to the business, and the skill competency level needed. For example, in a manufacturing context, this could be PLC programming or Industrial maintenance. Use this scale as a basis for rankings:




7. Complete a future skills session every 1–2 years, or in conjunction with any business strategy update. Simple desktop skills audits could be aligned with annual performance reviews or 6-month reviews to capture emerging skills from the team.


New perspective: ‘The 100-year plan’.

 One major company in Australia has a 100-year view of their business. This has changed the way they operate because they consider themselves to be custodians of the business and want to ‘hand it over’ to future generations in a better state than what they received it in.

This has created a view of the organisation that centres around the question: “How do we want the organisation to look when we hand it on?” Working backwards from there, they then asked: “what sectors do we want to work in?” and “what culture and people do we want/need to achieve this?”  Then they worked back to their 20- and 5-year strategies and workforce planning. 

This provides a completely different perspective on organisational strategy. Whether you are planning with this very forward-looking perspective or working on your 2–5 year plans, the critical question is: “If we want to be the first choice for our customers, if we want to be the leaders in our industry, what do we have to do now?" And, "do we have the skillsets in order to get there?”

Providing your team with the best training fills the skills gaps in your company. Find out why Coca-Cola Amatil used Skills Lab to upskill their staff in specialised control systems training.


Read about our specialised control system training for Coca-Cola