Skills aren't Trivial

Everyone struggles with ramping up new consultants, getting them billable is often a frustratingly long process. I’m sharing a simple mental model I’ve using to speed up the process, help project teams with critical milestones and keep my new hires sane. It’s a model that’s easy and works especially well for early stage or fast growing situations and can also be applied to non-consulting roles.

Think about games you’ve played – games that make you collect tokens or points to win – Trivial Pursuit, for example. In Trivial Pursuit you collect six little pie pieces representing six different knowledge areas to win. As you go, you store them in a pie shaped playing piece. Now, imagine that’s your new hire and those six items are the six skills they need for their job.

Now that you have the visual image, work with your team to figure out the six skills – probably a combination of tools, processes and knowledge. For example: documentation, product configuration, training clients, UAT support, process design and a project management tool.
After you and your team figure out the six key skills, build out a simple scoring system on a one to five scale. Level one means the person doesn’t have the skill (or is an untested new hire) while level five indicates ninja warrior mastery. Now, plug in objective criteria for meeting levels two through five. For example, level two documentation might equal the ability to take good notes and create a rough draft for a more experienced person to complete while someone with level four documentation skills can take notes made by a level two and turn them into an accurate client-facing document.

Now that you have your skills and rankings its time for the last step: getting your new people billable. As you look at your six skills you’ll find some that don’t require as much training or experience – skills you new consultant can quickly learn and bill. Emphasize those skills in their initial training then put them on projects to fill those project roles.

For example, imagine UAT support includes validating problems found by the client and reporting them to the Project Manager. Train your new hire to document issues and give them enough product knowledge to re-test the issues the client reports. They can bill that role on a project and as they re-test client issues they’ll learn your product, start to learn processes and probably do some simple client training. This task becomes their gateway to improving their scores in other skill areas.
As an added bonus, they’ll help their project team through the testing milestone – freeing more experienced people to fix problems and get your client live on time.

For an added bonus, starting projects by identifying the skills and proficiency levels needed (that project's "pie") will help you create high-performance teams who skills complement each other and accelerate the project.

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