Recently, an HR Bartender reader talked about their frustration with the new changes to the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA). In their note, they mentioned working toward getting promoted so they would have a salary over the minimum threshold. While getting paid as a salaried employee isn’t always the main goal when seeking a promotion, I thought it would be good to talk about what it takes to get promoted.
Bottom-line: There are 4 qualities that organizations look for when it comes to promoting employees. The first three are called KSAs (knowledge, skills, and abilities.) Sometimes, we have a tendency to use these terms interchangeably. Confession: I’m guilty of it as well. Knowledge, skills, and abilities are three different things and we shouldn’t confuse them. It’s important to know the difference – even if the differences are subtle.
Knowledge is the theoretical or practical understanding of a subject. For example, an employee might have knowledge of the ADDIE model used in instructional design. This doesn’t mean the employee knows how to be an instructional designer. It means they know the model.
Skills are the proficiencies developed through training or experience. Using the ADDIE example, the employee has demonstrated skills in applying the ADDIE model when designing training programs. Skills are usually something that has been learned. So, we can develop our skills through the transfer of knowledge.
Abilities are the qualities of being able to do something. There is a fine line between skills and abilities. Most people would say the differentiator is whether the thing in question was learned or innate. I think of organization and prioritization as abilities that can help an employee develop their instructional design skills.
The reason we sometimes use these terms interchangeably is because they are all “must-haves” in our career. Recruiters look for knowledge, skills, and abilities during the hiring process. Managers use KSAs when they are considering employees for transfers and promotions. KSAs are used as the company creates and updates their replacement and succession plans.
As we talk more about the skills gap, it will be important to understand the difference because the way we obtain knowledge, skills, and abilities can vary. And if we’re an organization trying to figure out how to solve the skills gap that exists within our workforce, then we have to link the right solutions.
For instance, if the issue is knowledge, then maybe we can create an in-house library where employees can check out books on the topics. But if the challenge is skills, the answer might be training. And if abilities need to be improved, it may be possible to develop personal action plans that give employees the opportunity to refine their abilities.
The fourth quality you ask? An HR Bartender reader sent me a note recently about what they thought the final quality. “I was ‘taught’ that there were 4 factors: ability, knowledge, skill, and aptitude. Ability is the potential that can be developed to do something. Knowledge is the information required to do it. Skill is competence in doing it. And aptitude is having the capacity to apply the knowledge to the ability in order to develop the skill.” To me, aptitude implies a natural ability to do something so I’m reluctant to say aptitude.
I thought a better quality is Attitude. It’s the way we think or feel about something. In this case, it’s the way we think or feel about the organization and the work. This doesn’t mean we have to always agree with the organization nor does it mean we can’t have a bad day. It does mean we have to find constructive ways to share our thoughts and feedback. Hopefully, if we have the right attitude, we will want to develop our abilities.
Getting promoted is exciting. It’s the result of hard work. If you’re looking to get promoted, consider making a career goal of enthusiastically focusing on developing your knowledge, skills, and abilities.
Image taken by Sharlyn Lauby in Chicago, IL – the destination for amazing opportunities