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Updated 26 Feb 2020

Skills development defined

What does skills development mean to your organisation, and are you getting the most from your employees?

Deirdre Elphick-Moore, Entrepreneur, 28 December 2012  Share  0 comments  Print

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A working definition of ‘skills development’ in South Africa is somewhat elusive. There is much to be read about Acts, levies, rebates, frameworks, outcomes, strategies and more, all in relation to skills development. But what is ‘it’, what is skills development?

Dr. BE Nzimande, MP Minister of Higher Education and Training states that, “For our country to achieve high levels of economic growth and address our social challenges of poverty and inequality, we must work together to invest in education and training and skills development to achieve our vision of a skilled and capable workforce to support an inclusive growth path.”

Note that he makes a distinction between education, training and skills development and that he frames skills development within clear objectives:


Skills development is, then, the intended output of education and training efforts and it should be an enabler for growth. As an entrepreneur, the growth of your business and the establishment of a legacy are paramount.

James Moore, owner of Fleet Dynamics, captured this sentiment when I asked what the development meant to him; “Enhancing the capability of employees to (hopefully) improve the company’s efficiencies in the employee’s specific sphere of influence; and thus ultimately improving the bottom line revenue of the company.”

James has positioned employee capability as fundamental to the success of his business. Do you share the same view? The cliché remains valid: your people are your greatest asset.

Do you understand what skills development means to them? Do you recognise that their attitude to personal growth determines the success or failure of your skills development efforts?

Skills development, therefore, can be defined as what we do:

  • To improve productivity in the workplace and the competitiveness of our businesses and
  • To improve the quality of life of workers, their prospects of work and their mobility.

As an entrepreneur, you need to unpack each of these so that you can define what skills development means in your organisation. Here’s how:

1.Know your own business

  • Revisit your business plan; what do you want to achieve, over what period and how? What soft and hard skills do your employees need to know and apply?
  • Identify what impacts on productivity in your business, both positively and negatively. Look for tangibles like business processes and intangibles like interpersonal dynamics. What learning opportunities exist in this space?
  • Review your competitive position; identify what you do that differentiates you from your competitors. Do your staff apply that to all they do? How can you apply any competitive advantages to other areas of your business? Where do your competitors have the advantage and what skills need to be developed to mitigate risks this advantage may pose to your business?

2.Know your employees

  • Find out what is important to your employees, what motivates them and what their personal goals are. Your business will be most successful if these findings are aligned with those of your business. Use this information in the development, marketing and implementation of your skills development activities

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About the author

Deirdre Elphick-Moore, Entrepreneur

Deirdre Elphick-Moore, has an Honours Degree in Psychology and over ten years of international experience in human capital management at Goldman Sachs and Morgan Stanley. Co-founding The Office Coach in 2009, she now focuses on personal and workplace effectiveness training and development. Her relaxed, engaging style encourages people to learn more, remember more and apply more in their workplaces, as well as inspiring to consistently better themselves in the work place.

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