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As if hurricanes, wildfires, and school shootings weren’t bad enough, recent flooding in Maryland and the Kilauea volcano eruption continue to plague our nation with disaster – sending organizations scrambling and wondering if they are sufficiently prepared for emergencies. A vital component for preparedness is an up-to-date workforce skills inventory.

Successfully operating a business in the midst of a crisis is dependent upon successfully understanding and utilizing the skills and talents of employees at all levels. Knowing which employees might be capable of specific tasks is important information, and is best summarized in a Business Continuity Plan. There are four steps to prepare a workforce skills inventory for inclusion in a Business Continuity Plan. These include:

Step 1.  Documenting Core Business Functions

Most businesses have a variety of employee roles, some of which are more critical than others. A workforce skills inventory starts with recording the core functions of the business and assigning their level of importance related to on-going operations. Tasks to define and rank the core functions include:

  • Define essential products and services and rank them in order of priority or importance on the overall business
  • Identify the relative impact of each process, and location dependencies for each, using a most/least analysis
  • Classify processes according to:
    • Those that are essential for delivery of key products and services
    • The support that the key products and services require
    • Which products and services can be temporarily suspended in a crisis scenario

Step 2.  Determining Key Roles

Next, the determination of key roles within the organization should be defined. The criticality of roles should be considered from various perspectives, for example, product fulfillment, daily business operations, and disaster recovery. Product fulfillment could be critical during a virus outbreak to ensure that product is supplied to medical centers in need. Business operations functions such as training professionals or marketing would be in less demand during these times. In the aftermath of a natural disaster, specific roles may be diverted to assist with physical plant repairs to get operations up and running again.

These steps should be taken to determine key roles and categorize them:

  • Identify strategic job roles and the skills required for each process defined in Step 1
  • Identify and define the key resources to carry out each strategic job role
  • Prioritize the job roles that must be executed
  • Identify the job roles that can be temporarily suspended, and define for how long they can be deferred

The identification of key resources is especially important, since employees who are not familiar with the role may be asked to step in on demand and perform. Completing a Competency Management Plan facilitates this step, since it defines and summarizes the competencies required for each role in the organization. As part of the Competency Management Plan, the workforce skills inventory is created, and when kept up-to-date can become a crucial resource for identifying the employees best-suited to assist by stepping into vital roles.

Step 3.  Capturing Critical Employee Information

In the case of a crisis, immediate access to each employee’s personal information will be needed. While considered highly proprietary, the compilation of and accessibility to home address and phone information could be life-saving in an emergency. To safeguard both the process of collecting this data and its use, the organization’s legal counsel should be consulted prior to taking this step.


  • Employee’s home address, home and mobile telephone numbers, and map location, as well as their work address, associated phone numbers, and map location
  • Spouse’s or partner’s mobile telephone number, employer and address, and employer’s phone number
  • Each employee’s ability to work from home
  • Specific access that each employee has to business computers, sensitive information, and business resources, from their home
  • At-risk family members living in the employee’s home, and any other information about health and well-being that could be relevant

The detailed employee information document should be provided to employees in the higher-level roles as outlined in Step 2.

Step 4.  Defining Competencies

While competence is the ability of a person to do their job, a competency is a set of defined and structured behaviors – encompassing skills, knowledge, abilities, and personal attributes – that, taken together, are necessary to successfully perform a specific role, and which are critical to successful work completion.


  • affects a major part of an employee’s role or responsibility
  • correlates with and drives successful job performance
  • is measureable against established and well-accepted standards
  • can be improved via training and development

There are several key components for identifying and defining a competency; one of the most critical is that it must be observable and measurable. Competencies become the vehicle by which the organization’s strategy is implemented through the numerous job roles held by its employees, and which ensures that goals are attained.

In Conclusion:

Competency management is at the heart of workforce optimization and is beneficial in many areas but can be especially valuable when applied to Crisis Management Planning. Despite all the uncertainty in today’s world, it’s possible that your organization may never need one; but it’s possible that it might. Forward-thinking organizations will take the necessary steps to use competency management to their advantage and have all of the needed information compiled and ready at a moment’s notice.

We never know when an emergency will occur. If you need any assistance with your business continuity plan, workforce skills inventory, or competency management, Avilar is here for you – contact us.