Knowledge, Skills, and Abilities
Knowledge, Skills, and Abilities (KSAs) are categories of qualifications and personal attributes that an individual needs in order to effectively perform the duties of a specific job. Usually, the hiring organization will create a list of KSAs as a guideline to help identify the ideal candidates for a position.
Knowledge: factual and procedural information a person has accumulated
Skills: proficient and effective use of a person’s knowledge and abilities in performance
Abilities: innate traits or talents that a person possesses
About Knowledge, Skills, and Abilities
Knowledge refers to the factual and procedural information a person acquired through education or experience. It can be obtained from reading reference material, attending a training class, or direct experience.
Knowledge is the theoretical or practical understanding of a concept or subject. It can be measured with written or oral exams where a person documents or explains what they know about the topic.
A person can gain additional knowledge or understanding by applying what they know and learning from that experience. However, having knowledge of how to do something does not necessarily mean that a person can do it. A person may have an understanding of a topic and all the steps involved in the process, but have no experience applying it.
Examples of knowledge:
- workplace safety regulations
- steps involved in a process
- what to do in an emergency
Skills refer to the proficient and effective use a person’s knowledge and abilities in performance that can be measured in time and precision. They are the capabilities or proficiencies a person acquires through deliberate, systematic, and sustained effort in order to effectively carryout activities or job functions involving ideas, things, and/or people. It can be further developed through training and/or hands-on experience.
Skills can be measured and observed. A test can be used to measure quantity and quality of performance.
Examples of skills:
- operating a vehicle or machine
- programming software
Abilities are the qualities or attributes of being able to perform an observable activity. Abilities tend to be innate traits that a person possesses or acquired without formal instructions. These include areas such as talent and emotional intelligence.
Abilities are much harder to teach, test, or measure then skills or knowledge.
- planning and organizing
- show empathy
- thinking fast
Difference between Skill and Ability
Abilities are often confused with skills, yet there is a significant difference. Abilities are natural or intrinsic, while skills are learned behaviors.
Additionally, a skill can be taught, tested, and measured. However, abilities are a broad term for human capacity that are harder to teach, test, or measure.
Skill – operate a vehicle
Abilities – process information quickly and to react to other drivers
Skill – Cut hair
Ability – keep hand steady
Interrelationship of KSAs
Skills are a composite of abilities and knowledge. Basically, ability and knowledge combine to create skills that can be applied.
Ability + Knowledge = Skill
Skills can be developed and improved over time. However, the underlying abilities and knowledge are needed in order for the skills to be further developed.
Skill – shoot a basketball
Knowledge – shooting techniques
Ability – hand eye coordination and ability to jump
Skill – make a cake
Knowledge – ingredients and recipe steps
Ability – to measure and mix ingredients
The K.A.S.H. Box
KASH is an acronym for Knowledge, Abilities, Skills and Habits
Knowledge: cognitive or mental abilities used to retain and process information
Attitudes: feelings or emotions about someone or something
Skills: physical ability used to perform tasks
Habits: repeated and consistent behaviors
About the K.A.S.H. Box
The K.A.S.H. Box is a performance coaching tool introduced by David Herdlinger to illustrate that poor performance is not just a lack of knowledge and skills, but also poor attitudes and bad habits.
The K.A.S.H. box divides performance characteristics into four distinct categories. These four categories are further segmented into two groups;
- Knowledge and Skills
- Attitudes and Habits
The left side of the box is Knowledge and Skills, while the right side is Attitudes and Habits.
The configuration of the K.A.S.H. Box helps delineate between a training issue and a performance issue. Knowledge and skills are generally considered the learning and training component of an individual, while attitude and habits are the performance attributes of a person.
Purpose of the K.A.S.H. Box
The purpose of this K.A.S.H. Box is to illustrate that there are four characteristics of individual and organizational performance. All four directly impact performance. However, many organization just focus on the development of knowledge and skills, while not addressing employee’s attitudes or habits at an organizational level. This can be very detrimental to the organization’s performance and overall success.
Applying the K.A.S.H. Box
The left side (Knowledge and Skills) of the box is about the acquisition of knowledge and the development of skills. These are best addressed by training programs and/or hands-on experience. Training programs can close the gaps in knowledge or skills. After a needs analysis is completed to identify the gaps, a training program can be designed with activities to address those gaps.
The right side (Attitudes and Habits) of the box is about having the correct mindset and behaviors to effectively apply the knowledge and perform the skills. This is when a person knows how to and is able to complete a task, but does not complete the task for some reason. This is best addressed by coaching and mentoring programs.
Knowledge or Skill deficiency = Knowledge or Skill Gap = Training solution
Attitude or Habit Issues = Performance Gap = Coaching and Mentoring solution
Problems with Organizational Performance
Each employee brings these four distinct characteristics to an organization. Successful performance depends on all four of these characteristics. All four affect performance of an individual as well as the success of the organization.
Most organizations hire people based on their skills and knowledge. However, the success of an organization depends not only on the knowledge and skills their employees possess, but also on their attitudes and habits. Actually, most people are fired for their attitude and habits (performance issue) rather than their lack of knowledge and skills (training issue).
Typically, most organizations focus most of their resources and efforts on the development of knowledge and skills. They often neglect attitude and habit. This is because with most organizations, what gets measured, gets attention. Both Knowledge and skills can be easily measured through tests, assessments, and observations. Attitudes and habits, on the other hand, are often not addressed through training and development programs because they are difficult for people to develop, and are e hard to measure for results. It is not easy to measure a person’s attitude.
Training and Development Programs Solution
To be a successful, an organization’s training and professional development programs should focus on improving all the four aspects of their employees. Successful organizations realize that it is the negative attitudes and bad habits of individuals that are mostly the reasons behind the failures rather than lack of knowledge or skills. While knowledge and skills are important, the ability to apply them successfully is determined by the attitude of the employee. Positive attitude and good habits of the employees are the main reasons behind the performance of successful organization. Therefore, to be a successful organization, you must focus not only on the knowledge and skills of employees, but also on those the personality traits associated with attitude and good habits.
Knowledge, Attitudes, Skills, Habits
KASH is an acronym for Knowledge, Abilities, Skills, and Habits. All four directly affect the performance of an individual as well as an organization.
Knowledge: condition of being aware of something
Skills: physical ability to perform tasks
Attitudes: feelings or emotions about someone or something
Habits: repeated and consistent behaviors
About Knowledge, Attitudes, Skills, Habits
Knowledge is the condition of being aware of something. It encompasses the cognitive or mental abilities to retain and process information.
Knowledge is a foundation for the competence and successful performance of a person. It consists of facts, concepts, as well as the understanding and application of information.
“The beginning of knowledge is the discovery of something we do not understand.” – Frank Herbert
A person’s knowledge is the sum of his or her learning acquired over a period of time. It is acquired through education, training, and experience. By acquiring knowledge, a person’s level of intelligence and ability to understand various concepts improves. In other words, the more a person learns the more they know, and the more they can apply to future learning.
Knowledge of the facts and concepts form the foundation for the ability to apply the skills to perform a specific task. Essentially, a person gains the basic knowledge of how to do something before they attempt the task. For example, a person would need to learn the steps involved in sending an email (knowledge) before they actually perform the task of sending the email (skill).
“The great aim of education is not knowledge but action.” – Herbert Spencer
Attitude is a way of thinking or feeling about someone or something. It includes the manner in which a person may deal with things emotionally. It is often reflected in a person’s behavior.
A person’s attitude affects feelings, values, appreciation, and motivation towards something. Hence, a person’s attitude towards a given task influences their performance. A person’s thoughts drive their actions, and their actions impact performance. A positive attitude will help to motivate a person to give their best and try to maximize performance.
“Your living is determined not so much by what life brings to you as by the attitude you bring to life; not so much by what happens to you as by the way your mind looks at what happens.” Kahlil Gibran
Attitude is one of the most important factors of learning because while knowledge and skills give a person potential, attitude is what determines their level of performance. This is because attitude controls a person’s level of motivation. If a person has a positive attitude towards a subject or topic, he or she will likely be more motivated and put more effort into learning that topic or developing the skill. Contrary, if a person is not motivated, no matter how much knowledge or skill they possess, they will not perform well.
“The difference between a successful person and others is not a lack of strength, not a lack of knowledge, but rather a lack of will.” -Vince Lambardi
Development or adjustment of a person’s attitude may take a considerable amount of time and effort. It is often not easy to change a person’s attitude after it has been formed for a significant amount of time. Additionally, it is difficult to measure a person’s feeling towards and perception about something. It is even more difficult to measure how much change occurred in a person’s attitude as a result of training or educational activities.
Skills are a person’s ability to perform an activity or task. It includes physical movement, coordination, dexterity, and the application of knowledge. Skills are measured in terms of speed, precision, proficiency, and/or technique.
An individual’s skillsets are partly founded in his or her natural abilities. However, competency and proficiency in the execution of skills requires practice, experience, and training. The more a person correctly practices a specific skill, the better they become.
“Skill to do comes of doing.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson
Skills are competencies that have been learned through the transfer of knowledge, and made proficient through practice. Typically, a person acquires the knowledge of how to perform a task and then begins to physically perform the task. Skills are different from knowledge because knowledge is a prerequisite to skills. You must have the knowledge about how to perform the task before you attempt to perform the task. For example, a person would typically learn the steps involved in sending an email (knowledge), and then physically send the email (skill).
Skills can fall into various categories including technical skills, interpersonal skills, communication skills, organizational skills, analytical skills, and presentation skills. Effective execution of these skills will help individuals in their performance.
Habits are those aspects of a person’s behavior that are repeatedly and consistently done without effort or conscious thought. It is something that a person does often and becomes a dominant disposition or tendency. A habit is not something a person learns, but rather something they create. They learn an action or task then repeat that learned action until a habit is created.
“Motivation is what gets you started. Habit is what keeps you going.” ? Jim Ryun
Excellent performance is a result of doing the appropriate and most effective actions repeatedly. The skills repeatedly practiced correctly eventually develop into habits. And good habits drive good performance.
Habits take time to develop, but are usually difficult to break. Therefore, it is important to develop good habits from the beginning, because if a person develops a bad habit, it will be difficult to correct.
“Nothing is stronger than habit.” – Ovid
Good habits may include effective organization skills such are making checklists, checking email regularly, or using a calendar.