While role atomisation isn’t necessarily a new term, it has been used fairly sparingly in the infancy of the digital age. If you’ve not come across it yet, atomisation is all about breaking down a specific role, allowing you to determine what tasks can be automated or outsourced. The idea is that your team can utilise their core skills as much as possible and not become bogged down in tasks that could be done more effectively elsewhere.

The desired result is a more streamlined workflow and a more satisfied workforce, both of which have commercial benefits that will no doubt please the Boardroom.

However, atomising has another ancillary purpose. As well as defining roles, it allows you to break down a digital team’s capabilities so you can understand specific strengths and potential skill gaps. It makes planning resourcing much easier. 

The set up

Setting up a skills atomisation project is fairly simple and can be done within a spreadsheet. However, it does require a collaboration between HR and digital leaders. Some HR software tools may provide the function to carry out these projects, but  a spreadsheet is more universal.

The next step is to list out all the skills required by the team on a daily basis.  Be as broad or as granular as you like, wider digital teams may prefer to generalise skills such as ‘design’, ‘development’ or ‘SEO’;. Some teams may opt to go more specific and list software or languages such as ‘Adobe Photoshop’, ‘PHP’ or ‘SEMRush’. Once the list is finalised, consult with your digital team individually and ask them to rank their own skills within each category.

When you have a comprehensive overview of your teams’ capabilities, this matrix can then be used to highlight your digital team’s strengths and potential skill gaps.

Actions after atomising

Your skills matrix can inform structured learning and development plans for your digital team. If you identify large gaps within the capabilities, you can invest in the relevant training courses to address this and build this area of the team. Or if you’ve identified a specialist within your team, you could encourage a HR-facilitated collaborative learning scheme. The experts can lead sessions with their colleagues to share their knowledge and experience in the particular subject.

Additionally, if you cross-reference with workload capacity data – probably easier if your team works with an agile methodology – you’ll also be able to make informed hiring decisions too, both for permanent employees and temporary workers.

Future-proofing

When building your matrix, another area to consider is future skills. Technologies such as machine learning, AI or voice search are likely to be a large part of any digital team in the coming years, so planning ahead will be a worthwhile investment.

The final benefit of skills atomisation is future-proofing. Atomisation could play a large part in how digital teams are formed in the coming years. Through using a matrix of the current core skills and competencies your team possess, the areas of the business that may need extra support become clear. It could even be used to determine the future direction of your organisation. With the digital talent crunch and skills gap set to deepen, developing your own future superstars will be invaluable.