June 23, 2018

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When In Doubt, Side With Skill

We humans are creatures of habit. That is why 90% of all businesses are not growing or improving. The obvious conclusion is that if we get out of our habits we also get out of the 90% and get into the 10%. Skill is one of the ways we can accomplish this.

I am prejudiced, biased and narrow-minded when it comes to skill. Nothing can replace it. Drive, ambition, experience, motivation, and all the other positive attributes cannot replace skill. These positive human traits can help reduce the effects of no skills but they cannot resolve those effects.

I like a little broader definition of skill -- skill is the set of knowledge and abilities that produce a desired result. The results are the critical point. Skill is useless unless it brings results.

Here are some key points when considering the skill level in your company:

  1. Sort out the differences between skill and work ethic. Work ethic is the desire. Skill is the result.
  2. Skill might be cheaper. Supervision and management costs may offset any perceived labor savings. Look first to production and performance levels and work backward to estimate actual costs.
  3. Skill produces higher quality. This means fewer rejects, comebacks and dissatisfied customers.
  4. When the skilled supervise the unskilled, the skilled production level drops. This can sometimes make a substantial difference.
  5. The skilled often prefer not to work with the unskilled. The skilled prefer to work with peers so they can stay sharp and continually learn.
  6. Skill allows for the possibilities of providing different or improved value to your customers or clients. Skill promotes diversification and diversification can bring additional revenue streams.
  7. The skilled feel they often are wasting their potential. This can make them very unhappy. They are most unhappy when feeling they are in a dead end position and that management does not care. No one cares. Except for the competitor that sees this type of employee as a breakthrough employee and strives to create opportunities to attract and keep such an employee.
  8. Skilled employees project a more competent and positive image in the marketplace.
  9. Skilled employees create fewer internal disruptions. The skilled find disruptions both annoying, distracting and costly. Continual disruptions eventually drive away the skilled.
  10. Skill allows increased capacity without corresponding overhead. Skill should usually be viewed as a variable cost(See Article on Capacity Utilization)
  11. The skilled are the only employees that will realistically reach high levels of performance.
  12. Assessing skill level should be a weekly process. Each employee should be tracked and the business' needs assessed. The best question I have found is "What does the company really need?"
  13. Reward skill with compensation, benefits and status. I find it very easy to look skill in the eye and say 'thank you.' And mean it from the heart.
  14. Skilled employees love to be appreciated. Yes you have to do all the compensation/benefits things to stay competitive. Skilled employees appreciate and admire those that acknowledge their value.
  15. Skilled employees did not get that way by chance. They search out ways to learn and improve. In today's business environment skilled employees are demanding learning opportunities. Companies that ignore this point will attract less skilled employees and become less competitive. Companies that understand the learning/skill relationship will be the profitable companies of the next century.
  16. The value of skill in the workplace is increasing. Skill and knowledge have all but replaced bulk, strength and volume. Very few industries will be able to ignore skill in the workplace. Skill as a business dynamic will continue to be an increasingly competitive dynamic, a major competitive distinction and more pervasive throughout the organization.

Value follows skill and revenue streams follow value. Skill is the critical component in the value formula. If all things are equal, side with skill.

-Jack Deal

Jack D. Deal is the owner of Deal Consulting. He can be reached at or 831-457-8806.