Caltex has improved job satisfaction among its IT staff by adopting the skills framework for the information age (SFIA), according to Caltex project manager Lisa Brady.

The framework, developed in the UK after its government sought out a model for describing skills and competency levels in the IT industry, was adopted a few years ago by the Australian Computer Society (ACS).

The Australian petroleum company has historically had a "very stable workforce" in the IT department, with low turnover and most staff staying for five or more years, Brady said. However, a worryingly large number of the staff voiced dissatisfaction in an employee survey last year, she said.

"No one felt they had a career," Brady said at the itSMF LEADit conference in Canberra. "[At the time] everyone's feeling like they've got nowhere to go. They're not moving. They're just in a box."

Caltex had already been considering SFIA, but the survey results spurred them to action, Brady said. The business partnered with the ACS and consulting firm Adaps to implement the skills model, with the process going from December 2012 to the end of April this year, she said.

SFIA concepts do not take long to learn, but implementing them can be challenging, said Brady. "It's really easy to learn, but the hard bit was going through six months of grappling with it."

Caltex had employees self-assess what skills under SFIA they believed they possess and compare that to an independent assessment by Adaps. Management discussed the results with employees, which was sometimes a difficult conversation when employees rated themselves higher than the independent audit and management agreed, she said.

In one case, an employee "thought he was a level higher than he was", said Brady. "We went through the whole generic level description ... and found there was just one thing that this guy didn't do that he had to do [to qualify for the next level]."

Being able to point to a particular area of improvement made the conversation more productive for both sides, she said. "It's such a specific conversation, which is so much better than [saying], 'I just don't think you're there, yet.'"

Brady said the honesty of the conversation illustrated one of the major benefits of SFIA.

"All those conversations where bad news was delivered...they all just built really open, honest relationships," she said. "If it's well handled, it actually drives more honest engagement with your peoples, because you've told them something they really needed to know."

Among other benefits, Caltex has gained a deeper understanding of its IT capabilities, while staff have gained a clearer picture of how their performances are rated and what skills they need to develop in order to move forward in their careers, Brady said.

SFIA is "now embedded in the performance management process," Brady said. "We've got a way to review skills every year." In addition, Caltex now uses SFIA terminology in position descriptions and recruitment language, she said.

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