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How does knowledge fit into a competency model?

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A competency model focuses on what tasks/skills are critical to success in the role, what it looks like to be great at those tasks/skills, and what people should be able to DO with the required knowledge.  While a skill could be “Demonstrate knowledge of [something]”, it’s even better to describe the purpose of demonstrating that knowledge.

Here are some examples:

You don’t have knowledge of export control. Rather, the skill is "Apply proper export control procedures to shipments", which requires knowledge of expert control procedures, regulations and documentation.

You don’t have knowledge of solution components.  Rather, the skill is "Serve as a customer’s solution consultant in order to maximize solution impact", which requires you demonstrate knowledge of the solution components.  Your level of proficiency is determined by your level of knowledge, along with other behaviors, such as the ability to communicate at the appropriate level.

You don’t have knowledge of a technology.  Rather, you “Write software code with [that technology]”, which requires you apply knowledge of that technology.  And the level of proficiency with which you write code depends on that knowledge – coding simple functions, writing complex functions, or troubleshooting the code of others.

You don’t have product knowledge.  Rather, you have “Knowledge of Product XYZ such that I can perform the appropriate sales activities”.  You can do that by properly articulating product configuration options, detailed business case development, proper competitive positioning, and explaining how the product will help customers adjust to future trends.

So in summary, knowledge is an enabler of skill in a competency model.  It’s not the knowledge itself that is important, it’s what you can do DO with that knowledge that counts.

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How do you store created skill practices for informal learning?

Thank you to everyone who attended the ATD webinar "Create Informal, Competency-Based Learning in Only 1 Day".  (Link to the recorded webinar)

Once you start creating skill practices...is there advice on how to store them for reference?That is, how do you operationalize them? 

The reality is that you can store them in any shared location (networked file server, intranet, SharePoint, Box, etc.).  What’s important is connecting users to them.

Method #1: If people are self-assessing against the competency model and identifying skill gaps for the job they have or the job they want next, this is the perfect time to connect people to skill practices, embedded within their Personalized Learning Plan, so they can download and start using them in one click.  What’s great about this is that you’re leveraging all the intrinsic motivation that someone has when they identify a skill gap.  Now they WANT to get better and they themselves know they need to take action.  You’re giving them an action plan that doesn’t require taking time away from their job – they get to do their work AND build that skill.  In this way, you both communicate availability and operationalize their use.

Method #2: Embed them into the activity to be performed. 

  • Skill practice for building a dashboard in your ERP application – put the link to the skill practice right into the application’s help page, or if you can customize the instructions, embed a link there
  • Skill practice for preparing for a sales presentation – put a link to it on the appropriate page of your Salesforce.com or other Customer Relationship Management application or portal
  • Skill practice for how to perform some process most effectively – if there’s a checklist or set of work instructions on how to do it, embed a link to the skill practice right in the instructions

It’s all about making them available at the point of need.  This is the future of learning.

News / Events / Blog Posts | SkillDirector

How do we help product managers/owners identify competency models for their users?

A product manager should understand 2 things:  the need that their product is trying to fulfill, and the requirements it must include.  From those 2, ask the product manager what need achievement looks like at various proficiency levels, and what requirements each level can take advantage of.

Here’s a simple example.  Yesterday I spoke to a friend whose company just switched them from Lotus Notes to Outlook.  Needless to say, it was a pretty big change.  If I were the Outlook rollout manager for this company, I would say that the need the product must fulfill is the ability to easily communicate and share availability.  The requirements have to do with being able to use it for emails, calendars, tasks, and managing groups.

Prior to the rollout, the Outlook rollout manager should have identified a list of things they want someone to be ABLE TO DO at various levels of proficiency.

(1) Limited – Send emails, accept calendar invites

(2) Basic – Create calendar invites, check availability, create and file emails, manage tasks

(3) Skilled – Create and use email lists to ensure consistent recipients, schedule recurring tasks and meetings, use shared folders, automatically extract junk email

(4) Advanced – Auto format email and tasks so they stand out, customize layout to optimize productivity, create email rules to highlight visibility, assign tasks to others

(5) Expert – Modify templates, make it easy to create consistent folder structures (projects, customers), automate email organization, automate replies, maximize productivity

Now, a product manager can (1) share this model with users, so users become aware of capabilities, and drive themselves to higher level of proficiency (“I want to be able to do that!”), and (2) they can identify what activities or tools they can create to help users move from level to level.

News / Events / Blog Posts | SkillDirector

How to create competency-based learning in only 1 day

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The question continues to arise, “I know that application on the job is the best, most effective way to learn, but how can I create those types of opportunities?”  Enter skill practices - one of the most useful ways of accelerating learning transfer via workflow learning.  That is, a skill practice enables people to learn in the context of the activity they need to do as part of their job.  While traditional "on the job training" makes use of this practice, it has not historically provided sufficient structure to provide best practices.

If you’re looking to create competency-based learning to close a particular skill gap, check out the free recorded ATD webcast.  http://webcasts.td.org/webinar/2642

News / Events / Blog Posts | SkillDirector

How can competency models be used to drive innovation?

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So the CEO says that the next 2 years are all about innovation.  Great!  How can you get the organization to change?  You add a skill to every role’s competency model that demonstrates what innovation looks like to them.  That is, you need to identify, specifically, what someone should do to be innovative in their role – whether they are in product development, engineering, marketing, or finance.  You might also update other skills in their competency model with behaviors that demonstrative innovation as one moves from good to great.

Translating strategy to every person in every level of the business so it can be executed is hard when it’s abstract.  But imagine how much more tangible it could be. 

  • Develop disruptive technologies that meet unmet/unknown market needs (product development)
  • Develop financial models that support disruptive product ideas while minimizing risk (finance)
  • Identify new product applications/market opportunities for our existing solutions (marketing)

Remember that for each person, a competency model describes what it looks like to be great in their role.  For the organization, a competency model describes what each person in their role needs to do to execute their part of corporate strategy.  Therefore, to get the employee to embrace innovation as corporate strategy, show them specifically what it looks like to them.  Let them assess themselves against it, and develop toward it.  Give managers the ability to easily assess and coach their team members against it.  And the organization will change.

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How do you communicate the link between a competency model and employee development (competency-based learning)?

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To communicate the link between a competency model and development, you need to first communicate what a competency model is and does. 

A competency model defines what each person in their role needs to be able to do, specifically, in order to perform their part of corporate strategy.  It also defines what it looks like to be great in that role. 

It seems almost too natural and too obvious that once you know what people need to be able to do, if they can’t do what they need to be able to do (a skill gap), you need to have a way of teaching them.  This is employee development… and when directly mapped to the competency model, it’s competency-based learning.

For example, if one task in a competency model is “Engage the appropriate company and customer resources (systems, people, processes) to get things done better and faster”, then you want to have an activity, for example a skill practice for workflow learning, where they learn to build a project action plan that engages the required internal and external resources.

If you can talk someone through this connection at a high level, and provide them with an example, then you should be to communicate the link (and the need) between a competency model, a skill gap, and competency-based learning.

For more on how to develop competency-based learning, watch this webinar:  http://webcasts.td.org/webinar/1791

News / Events / Blog Posts | SkillDirector

How can you design a competency model to be open to frequent change?

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A competency model describes what someone in their role needs to be able to do to achieve their part of corporate strategy.  Often the “what” people have to be able to do in the job doesn’t change much, but the “how” people do it successfully does. 

In our competency model process, we identify the big buckets of things people need to be able to do, we unpack what they need to be able to do within them (the “what”), then we get to “how” they do it, and what separates good from great (see http://webcasts.td.org/webinar/2235).

Let’s use a product manager as an example.  Part of their job is identifying products to build/enhance.  That category or competency is the highest level.  It’s unlikely to change very often. 

Within that category, they need to be able to do various tasks or skills, such as identifying customer problems to solve, and then identifying products to create or enhance that solve those problems.  This might change more often than the category, but still not that often.

Now you get down to the “how” people do it at various levels of proficiency.  We call these task examples or behavioral examples.  It is required to show people how to get from good to great, and helps people objectively and consistently see where they are.  The “how”, and the target level of proficiency someone should have in their role to be able to achieve their part of corporate strategy, are the most likely components to change. 

We recommend that at least once a year, or after any major event such as a merger/acquisition, product or system launch, you bring together a group of 4-6 high performers to review the model and the details independently, submit feedback in advance which is aggregated for discussion, then come together for an hour session to discuss proposed changes.  Most likely, the behaviors and the target levels will change.  But it is this competency model design and this process that makes them easy to change over time.

News / Events / Blog Posts | SkillDirector

How can I pursue an employee-driven development approach and track completion? Is it important to track self-directed learning?

Tracking is always an interesting question.  In the LMS, we track completions.  But what does that really tell you?  Not much.  Do you think business leaders care much about completions?  Plus, you’re mostly tracking formal learning, which leaves out 90% of how people really learn (workflow/informal learning & collaborative).

What you really want to track is the combination of: what did a person choose to pursue for professional development, did they follow through with it, and most importantly, did their skills and results change as a result?  That’s the language of business leaders.

You want to create a continuous improvement loop where you (and they) can examine these things and make regular adjustments. 

Assess your skills (how can I get to great?) →  

Review your Personalized Learning Plan →

Create a short-term Development Plan (what can I do this month or this quarter?) →

Execute the plan →

Re-assess (and repeat)

Today, if you have a lot of one-size-fits-all learning where people are assigned to participate, they may not have a lot of motivation.  With self-directed learning, people select development activities on a Personalized Learning Plan tied to skill gaps because it’s relevant to both their job and their needs.  Therefore, it has the best chance for accelerating learning transfer, assuming the activity is good. 

So track what people select (from the Personalized Learning Plan), track activity completion, and track change in skill (and results) over time.  That is the kind of tracking that will make you VALUABLE to business leaders.

News / Events / Blog Posts | SkillDirector

7 Steps To Measure The Impact Of Learning With Competency Models Summary

Thank you to everyone who attended the ATD Conference session: 7 Steps To Measure The Impact Of Learning With Competency Models.  

Here is the link to download the materials.

News / Events / Blog Posts | SkillDirector

How can I use a competency model to evaluate learning programs?

Competency models provide you with a very straightforward method for evaluating learning programs.  I teamed with Jennifer Naughton, formerly the Senior Director of Competencies and Credentialing from ATD, and Dr. Bill Rothwell from Penn State, to discuss this very question in a ATD Conference session.  We call it “The Holy Grail” – to be able to measure the impact of learning.

We developed a very simple blueprint you can use:

1.      Create or acquire a competency model

2.      Have people perform a baseline assessment (make it actionable)

3.      Use a personalized learning plan to provide people with cafeteria options from which they can create a development plan that is relevant and meets their learning preferences

4.      Ensure they actively execute the development plan (supported by manager coaching)

5.      Re-assess against the competency model

6.      Measure change in skills (and results, if possible)

7.      Return to step 3 for iterative continuous improvement

 

Feel free to download the template we created and try it for yourself. 

News / Events / Blog Posts | SkillDirector

How do you use competency models to identify personal strengths?

The value of a competency model is that it enables you to assess yourself against the expectations your organization has for someone in your role.  When you complete your assessment, you will likely find a few skill gaps – areas where your level of proficiency, defined by specific behaviors, are below the target.  However, it is also likely that you will find skills where you are both at and above the target requirement.  Where you are above the requirement are your personal strengths.

Seek out opportunities to leverage your strengths (as well as closing skill gaps), which can be things such as leading a project on that area, working to identify a solution to a complex related issue, developing innovations for that area, and serving as a task-based mentor to others on that topic.

 

 

News / Events / Blog Posts | SkillDirector

How many competency models can be completed within a 3 week period?

In the webinar on How To Create A Competency Model In Weeks, we talk about the fact that you can build a competency model in 3 weeks.  Someone asked, "How many positions can be completed within a 3 week period?  Only one?"

While the whole process takes 3 weeks, it is not linear.  If you look at the summary of events, you’ll see that there are days when you’re waiting for feedback that you could be doing other things.  It depends on how long it takes you to do each step, and your preference for work/life balance.  When we need to (and are willing to live with no work/life balance), we’ve done 8 models in 3 weeks.  I wouldn’t recommend anyone just starting with this process to do any more than 1.  Then as you get experience and you know what it will take, you can take on 3 in 3 weeks.

News / Events / Blog Posts | SkillDirector

TD Magazine: Know the Gap

 Copyright ATD

Copyright ATD

Check out the new issue of @ATD's TD Magazine.

Read how to use competency models and assessments to know what skill gaps exist by Cheryl Lasse.  Learn how to get started, why it works, and do's and don'ts of skills assessments.

Or download the podcast.

 

News / Events / Blog Posts | SkillDirector

How Personalized Learning Drives Performance Improvement/Engagement @ ISPI

Please join us for a "How Personalized Learning Drives Performance Improvement/Engagement” at the ISPI 2018 Annual Conference on April 8 at 9:45 in Seattle with Dr. David Livingston, the Executive Director of the Health Plan Institute of Kaiser Permanente, and Jacqueline Warner, Director of Learning & Performance.

 

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News / Events / Blog Posts | SkillDirector

Restructuring and new expectations relative to the timing of competency model development

Question from recent ATD webinar: If an organization has just gone through a restructure and client delivery expectations are being discovered, what would you recommend in terms of timing for conducting a JTA Workshop and building of a Competency Model?

There is no better time to develop a competency model so you can re-set the expectation of each person in their new role relative to client delivery requirements.  What’s unique is that you need to ensure everyone has foresight into new responsibilities, and you may need a leader of the new area to “oversee” the meeting to ensure the new strategy (for which the restructure took place) is being properly cascaded/interpreted. 

We’ve actually done this several times for customers for this exact purpose.  It’s definitely more often felt as pain by large companies than small.

 

News / Events / Blog Posts | SkillDirector

How often should competency models be reviewed and updated?

In a recent webinar, I was asked, “How often should competency models be reviewed and updated?”

Have a rhythm for periodically re-examining the model for changes.  Maybe 2x/year, or after a merger or acquisition, or product launch.  Much like the process for customizing behaviors in your model, we recommend sending out the model in a Word document (track changes on) to 4 - 6 high performers, and a manager of people in that role.  Give them a few days to review and edit.  Consolidate edits and conduct a 1-2 hour virtual workshop to discuss and finalize updates.  Then make the updates within the competency assessment tool immediately.

 

News / Events / Blog Posts | SkillDirector

Can competency models drive organizational agility? YES!

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Organizational agility is one of the hottest topics today.  I’m talking about moving people regularly from team to team, moving people where the work is (as demand changes), and moving people among projects or business units.  Competency models make organizational agility possible. 

In fact, one of my customers is doing something really innovative in the area of organizational agility – they are taking their employees and having them assess their skills “early in their careers” against the competencies for multiple departmental areas so that they can help guide them into the next roles where they can best be successful, or assign them temporarily where they can easily and quickly support increased demand.  Another customer is taking a similar approach from a workforce planning perspective, and identifying how many people could be easily moved from one role to another where they are most needed, and what gaps would have to be closed to do so.

If organizational agility is taking center stage in your company, explore how competency models can support that effort.

News / Events / Blog Posts | SkillDirector

What’s the difference between a low performer and a good performer who is simply not in the right role?

How do you interpret the difference between a low performer and someone who is simply not in the right spot for them.  How many of you have seen a good person in the wrong role?

Imagine if that person, or the organization, could use competency models to identify what skills people have and where they do best fit?  So instead of losing potentially really good people, you simply move them to where their skills and the competencies required best align. 

This is the power of competency models and a competency assessment (because you have to have the honest skills data).  If you know what people have to do to be great in their roles, and you know what skills people have, then you can perform that alignment seamlessly as those openings become available.  Think about how many good people could be saved, the amount of turnover savings you could achieve, and how much more engagement would grow naturally when people are in the right role.

News / Events / Blog Posts | SkillDirector

The Holy Grail: Using competency models to establish learning program impact

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It’s long been the holy grail in learning to be able to measure its impact.  There are many variables that impact business results and the process often seems daunting.

What if you could break it down into components that would make this easier?  What would that look like?

First, you’d need to know what skills someone needs to be able to perform to be successful.  A competency model describes what each person in their role needs to be able to do, specifically, in order to perform their part of corporate strategy.  So let’s say you have a competency model.

Next, you need a baseline.  This is where employees in a role assess themselves against the competency model the first time. 

To each person, a competency model paints a picture for what it looks like to be great in their role, and provides a roadmap to get there. As a result, it drives intrinsic motivation to mastery, so long as that model is actionable.  That means that each person must be able to easily access and assess themselves against their own model, and be provided with targeted recommendations for action. 

Therefore, the results of the assessment need to drive people to competency-based learning.  Once someone knows they have a gap, they are motivated to close it.  When they are presented with learning options that are specifically targeted to closing that gap, you are creating the best environment for learning transfer and impact to take place.  Each person will embrace the learning opportunity, because they believe it is relevant to them, their role, and their needs.  Sounds like adult learning theory, right?

Once they participate in these development opportunities (which they buy into, because they selected them based on gaps they themselves identified), they will re-assess against the competency model.  In a perfect world, this is quarterly, so that they are always thinking about their own development.

When you look at the assessment data over time, and you correlate that data with business metrics, you can measure improvement in both skills and results over time.  What’s more, you’ll know which skills are drivers of business results.  That is, if skills improve, but results do not, you may want to alter your competency model to focus on other skills that are more important to success.

This blueprint for measuring learning program impact may sound simplistic, but simplicity is what we as learning professionals need.  This will make it easy to both justify the business value of what we do, and also identify what changes we should make to our programs that aren’t producing the results we expect.

Learn how 3 different organizations, including ATD, applied this blueprint to learning programs and the resulting learning impact they established.  Join us in San Diego at ATD ICE on Sunday, May 6, at 11:45am EDT for the session called “7 Steps to Measure the Impact of Learning With a Competency Model”. 

News / Events / Blog Posts | SkillDirector

How do you manage competency models for roles that cut across a variety of functions?

In a recent webinar, I was asked, “How do you manage roles that cut across a variety of functions where some skills should be reflective in models cutting across different functions?  (e.g., Analyst in Finance and Analyst in HR)”

We actually just did something really similar about 6 months ago – 3 analyst roles.  We did each of the 3 roles independently using the normal process.  When we polished output from the first Task Workshop, we realized we had some skills (e.g., Use data visualization tools), that would span all roles.  When we got to workshop 2 and 3, we could ask, “Do you do these things too?” and leverage the first group’s work, while asking group 2 and then group 3 for specifics and what they believe separates good from great.  Then we synthesized the examples into one shared task.

 

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