KSAs are the set of knowledge, skills and abilities that are required of an individual to execute an action contextually within a work setting. These three requirements for work, have distinct meanings, though they go together and it is important for an employer to know how to spot the difference.

Knowledge refers to the subjects, topics, and items of information that an employee should possess. Knowledge represents bodies of information that are applied directly to the performance of work functions. Owning the know-how of a task or activity does not directly translate into the ability to get the activity done. For this reason, knowledge is the ‘simplest’ to develop.

Skills are the technical or manual proficiencies, which are usually learned or acquired through training. Skills should be MEASURABLE and OBSERVABLE. Developing a skill becomes arduous if the ability to develop it is not there and having the ability to develop a skill requires knowledge.

Abilities present a demonstrable capacity to apply several layers of knowledge and skills simultaneously to achieve a set objective or perform an observable behaviour. Abilities may also relate to personal and social attributes which tend to be innate or gotten without formal instructions. Abilities are enabling and enduring talents that can go on to help an individual or employee do a job effectively. A stagnating ability is unlikely to become a usable skill.

Here’s a short case study to make this a little practical: Kwamina Simpson, an HR Generalist with Procter & Gamble has a depth of knowledge on Talent Pipeline Development and Diversity & Inclusion. Hiis abilities include mapping an effective Talent Pipeline Strategy against the business needs and harmonising employees from all backgrounds to get the best out of them. His exceptional skills of placing the right talent in the right job whilst taking cognisance of the fact that a blend of diverse cultures play a key role in the total efficiency of the company makes him an asset to his employer Procter & Gamble.

In the above scenario, Kwamina Simpson may not have this information clearly outlined in his CV. A CV in today’s corporate world is merely a documented portfolio of skills and aptitudes attained and put to use over a period of time. Beyond this document, an employer must seek to understand the difference between Knowledge, Skills and Abilities, to properly understand new and existing talent. Understanding new talent is what may make the difference between a good and a bad fit in the job. Further, understanding existing talent will help organisations support their development. Acquiring the best talent and ensuring their development should be on the priority list of every organisation. In the ever-evolving world of work, deciphering knowledge, skills and abilities is essential to both individual and organisational effectiveness and growth. Employers should make it a point to know the difference and develop the skill of churning talent’s abilities for positive impact.

By: Ahmed Habib Ibrahim

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