By Steve Trautman January 7, 2016

What Is a Skill Development Plan?

Knowledge Transfer Tools Defined

Posted by Steve Trautman on Jan 7, 2016 1:35:00 PM
Definition: a Skill Development Plan (SDP) is a custom, date-driven inventory and schedule of skills and knowledge that must be learned in a given role—and the resources available and test questions needed to confirm that the right knowledge has been transferred.

KT Tools Defined: Skill Development Plans

How It Works

The Skill Development Plan is a master plan for moving trapped knowledge and mitigating talent risks in a critical job role. First, we list the skills relevant to that role. (A skill is defined as something someone can say “go do” and can be learned by a qualified apprentice in about 1 - 2 hours.) We do this via a clear-cut interview process with your identified experts or “peer mentors” and their managers. We have found—after almost two decades of using this technique with job roles ranging from bank tellers to video game designers to army base commanders—that virtually all positions have 60 - 120 job skills.


We then prioritize which skills your “apprentice” employees need to learn right now and we sequence the skill list by order of importance. To create an assessment for each skill, we help your mentors choose five test questions from an established knowledge transfer set that we’ve developed over the years; these test questions are adept at checking for the wisdom and tacit knowledge behind any task and can reveal to the mentor if the apprentice has gained sufficient proficiency before using the skill.

We also include in the plan an inventory of existing resources available to support an apprentice’s learning (i.e. documentation, training, samples, templates, and who can mentor this skill), and we set a date by which the apprentice should be able to answer a skill’s test questions correctly—showing whether or not he or she is prepared to take on the work at hand.

Uses & Benefits:

  • Create a measurable path to reduce loss of knowledge and experience—ensuring sufficient bench strength in all critical functions
  • Help new or transferring workers drive their own on-boarding—reducing ramp-up time to productivity
  • Assess risks relative to a specific skill—defining which capabilities, if lacking, could cause the most quality, scheduling, or productivity problems
  • Call out the “standard bearers” for critical knowledge domains—so that more employees can work consistent with the best approach
  • Decide which processes are going to become the new standard within merged organizations—to reduce change management challenges and timelines
  • Spread the work of “mentoring” employees in a logical, sustainable way—to keep key experts from burning out
  • Reduce worker complacency and inertia—by clarifying expectations for their skill development
  • Establish master skill development plans—so they may be customized and reused for future employees
  • Measure and track results—to neutralize pockets of persistent risk
Steve Trautman

Steve Trautman

Steve Trautman is corporate America’s leading talent risk management and knowledge transfer expert. With two decades of application inside blue chips and Fortune 1000s, his pioneering work in the field of talent risk management and related knowledge transfer tools are now the nationally-recognized gold standard. His clients have included Boeing, Costco, Goodyear, Aetna, Farmers Life Insurance, Bank of America, Microsoft, and Qualcomm, among others.

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