Writing for the HR Zone, Jo Ayoubi, Managing Director of Track Surveys, Ltd. wades into the tumultuous waters of the competency debate. While some declare competencies a relic of management past, Ayoubi takes a more nuanced stance.
What I learned from reading this article
Competencies aren’t dead, and there’s no need to pull the plug on them. But like so many other good ideas that haven’t panned out, they need a serious makeover.
Companies still need competencies or something very similar.
Ayoubi points out that companies still need an assessment of the skills that make them successful and contribute to their unique value in the marketplace. Without a well-communicated list of capabilities, human resources cannot recruit and hire the best people. And promotions and employee development will proceed erratically if at all.
So competencies came into fashion as a way to get a handle on their skills gaps. But instead of using them as a pro-active planning tool, companies employed them as assessment tools, which leads to her next point.
Make competencies part of a learning focus.
Ayoubi suggests that a clear set of key capabilities can form the foundation of a learning mindset and give employees a “direct line of sight to their own performance and development.”
Rather than hauling out the competency list at annual review time, managers can incorporate competency development into regular workday activites. And the set of key skills may flex with changing business needs or for the specific needs of each department.
In this context, Ayoubi suggest calling them “skills we’re good at,” which injects some reality into the concept. It’s not hard to imagine a team who knows exactly what they’re good at and what they’re known for in the company.
But if you want to keep people focused on these capabilities daily, you need a good way to interact with them – which brings me to her last point.
Use technology to keep competencies top of mind.
Ayoubi points out that with simple web technology, we can give people a list of the skills they need to do their jobs. We can add specifics for each team or individual, and we can easily update them as needed.
Technology can help set goals, track them, and provide feedback as well, which turns the comatose annual-review competency list into a living partner in a business’s development and success.
Don’t forget what learning is all about.
I love reading articles that propose a solution to a problem, and I thank Jo Ayoubi for this one. She gives us a great example of turning an ineffective process into an effective one.
I’d like to add that if you try to use competencies as a learning tool, you have to help employees translate those into specific actions on the job. What do strong communication skills mean to a sales person, a project manager, or an engineer? What are the specific criteria that establish skills as “strong.” This is where L&D professionals and managers can team up to make competencies concrete and effect real change in their company skill set.
At Pract.us, we’re dedicated to helping you develop a learning culture by incorporating skill development into everyday work.