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How do you create a competency model that balances technical and leadership competency development?

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In our experience, competence in a role, no matter how technical, is often characterized by leadership and soft skills.  That is, achieving the minimum level of proficiency may be mostly technical, but higher levels of proficiency require “more”. 

Here’s an example.  The role is an engineer.  One of the skills in which an engineer needs to have proficiency is troubleshooting product issues. 

  • At the target level of proficiency, that requires defining the problem, using problem solving tools, and fixing the issue. 

  • At higher levels of proficiency, the engineer is frequently engaged by others for support.  They are enlisted to participate in teams for systemic issues.  They capture and share best practices and lessons learned, monitor the industry/their field for new approaches, and find innovative ways to troubleshoot more quickly.  They utilize systems thinking – understanding the impact of the issue on the organization and enlisting the support of those affected when needed to create more holistic and innovative solutions. 

Often, increase in proficiency manifests itself in the scope. 

  • At the target level of proficiency, the focus is on the team. 

  • At higher levels of proficiency, the focus moves to the department, then to the organization. 

Importantly, it is the 4th Industrial Revolution skills such as collaboration, influencing, critical thinking, data analysis, and learning agility, that separate good from great. 

  • For example, at the target level of proficiency, you need to collaborate with and influence your team.  You apply critical thinking to understand interrelationships between what you and team members are working on.  You perform data analysis at a micro level, on a team data set.

  • At higher levels of proficiency, you need to collaborate with and influence your department and the organization.  You apply critical thinking to understand interrelationships between what your team or department is working on and the organization’s objectives, considering broader industry trends and how they will impact them.  You analyze data from a macro level, comparing your data with other teams’ data, the organization, the industry.

We favor incorporating leadership and soft skills into the behavioral examples of technical skills because it helps those in the role to understand the connection.  You may also have a few leadership or other or soft skills independently as part of your model as well, such as learning agility.

If you develop your competencies with the use of high performers, include the question, “What separates how you do this from how others do it?” and you will naturally identify the blend of behaviors into each technical skill. 

News / Events / Blog Posts | SkillDirector

Build a culture of learning at the speed of business (webcast)

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Want to convince leaders that a culture of learning solves the skill gap problem? Want to learn how to create a business case for influencing leaders to embrace a culture of learning? Join us for a free ATD Webcast, “Create A Culture Of Learning That Supports The Speed Of Business” on August 21, at 1pm US ET.

A culture of learning, powered by role-based competency models, can fix skill gaps and the negative impacts that result.

You’ll need to create a business case that shows leaders that the cost of doing nothing, (e.g., the cost of replacing people, the impact on creativity and innovation, and what turnover does to competitive advantage), far outweighs the costs of trying something different. We'll do this together in the ATD webcast, “Create A Culture Of Learning That Supports The Speed Of Business”.

News / Events / Blog Posts | SkillDirector

How to create a competency model that links individual needs to business goals

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I get asked this question, about how to create a competency model that links individual needs to business goals quite often.

Imagine you’re a CEO of a company who has decided the business goal is to develop a flying car.

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Everyone in the company would have an intermediary goal that if accomplished, would lead to the accomplishment of the business goal.  As the goals get translated lower and lower, they become more specialized, until they get to a specific person performing a specific role, for example, an R&D engineer.  To ensure that each R&D engineer can help the company, the company has to define what tasks and skills this person must be able to do really well.  And this is the competency model for this job. 

I like to use the description that a competency model describes what it looks like to be great in a role.

Not everything a person does in a role should be part of the competency model.  For example, any engineer must be able to perform engineering design functions, but a great engineer can work with other R&D engineers to troubleshoot design issues before they reach manufacturing.  What gets included in the competency model should change with strategy.  For the flying car, knowledge of aerodynamics and new propulsion systems may take precedence over other competencies previously in the model.

Now, an R&D engineer assessing their own skills may identify skill gaps relative to the current business goals, so their personalized learning plan focuses on development that helps them achieve their part of the business goal.

That is what the competency model does for you.The competency model identifies what someone in a role needs to do to accomplish organizational strategy.So, if you follow this approach, each individual’s self-directed learning will be perfectly aligned with organizational goals.

News / Events / Blog Posts | SkillDirector

How to create a competency model people actually use

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A critical success factor in competency model/capability model development is the ability to have the model written in the language of those who will be using it.  It should NOT be in HR/Learning terms. 

1)      Take a step back and look at the model from a holistic approach.  Is it easy to consume?  By that I mean, do you have to read it, then re-read it to know what it means?  Or is it in “easy to read” language – the language of the people using it so they can know what great looks like?  Often we see a good capability model written in a way that is very academic.  The person who is writing it looks very smart, but the capability model itself cannot easily be consumed by the end user.  It should read as people in that role speak.  It should state clearly what someone should be able to do. 

2)      Look at the model from a volume check.  We used to see models between 25 and 40 skills.  Now they trend toward 15-25. 

  • That translates into about 15-25 minutes to perform an assessment. 

  • Keep in mind a manager’s participation when considering volume – if they average 10 direct reports and they are assessing team members, do the math. 

  • A competency model should describe what “great” looks like – what is critical to success in the role – not be a complete task analysis of everything they do. 

3)      Look at the model as a professional in that role.  Are there things in it that are extraneous?  For example, do they include tasks that people may do, but are not critical to success in that role or may not be done by some at all?  Sales Transformation and Enablement guru @Mike_Kunkle recommends focusing on what the top 20% do.  Ignore the things they don’t do, which is part of what sets them apart.

News / Events / Blog Posts | SkillDirector

How do you create a competency model that people buy into?

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The answer is that you have to include people in that role in the process of building the competency model.  In this way, it is their model – by them, for their peers.

We actually had this situation recently, where the leaders of a role where a competency model was going to be developed were really pushing back.  They felt like they already had a great job description, detailed procedures, and a rich qualification program that everyone grasped and bought into. 

After a little influencing, high performers were selected for inclusion in the Rapid Job Analysis Workshop (the first step in our competency model development process).  And while you could see from some of the participants’ body language that initially there was some resistance, in less than an hour, the resistance was gone. Participants understood why this process was needed.  This continued through their engagement in refining the required behavioral examples of each task and skill.

The client partner who was leading this process summed it up best – while the technical and functional requirements of the job were known to an extent, they had never been documented to level of granularity.  The new competency model focused on what could be performed with the knowledge acquired, rather than the knowledge itself.  What’s more, while the roles were quite sophisticated technically, what separated good from great were the soft skills/core skills.  

In summary, by including high performers in the process of developing the competency model, and communicating how it was created during the process of making it actionable, you can ensure that those who are in the role will buy in.   You don’t build the model – they do.

News / Events / Blog Posts | SkillDirector

How do we make competency model development less scary?

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How do we make competency model development less scary? By applying an agile methodology to do it.  If you make competency model a 6 month or year-long process, with the speed of change, the model could be outdated before you even release it.  Plus, you’ll have wasted months when you could be using it. 

So here’s a synopsis of how we streamline the process. 

1) We start with a one day workshop (in person or virtual) with 4 - 6 high performers in a particular role.  This is a brainstorming process.  Together we identify those skills and tasks high performers do that are important and critical to success. This step provides us with input for the remaining steps in the process.

2) Next, for each task, we create draft task/behavioral examples, provide them to the high performers for review/editing (about 2 hrs of pre-work), and conduct a virtual workshop (3 hours) to consolidate edits.

These examples provide each person in that role with a road map for how to be great and what "great" looks like. Each example identifies the behaviors that would be exhibited by someone performing that skill or task at various proficiency levels.  Where the task is the “what”, the example is the “how”.  The examples communicate and iterate best practices.  And they ensure consistent and objective assessment and self-awareness can occur. It is through self-awareness that a person becomes intrinsically motivated to change.

3) We define the minimum proficiency required for each skill or task. This is usually performed independently of the high performers, though you may get their validation through a one hour meeting.

Total stakeholder time:  Approximately 10-11 hrs

Total duration of model creation:  Approximately 3 weeks

Can you see how that feels less scary, and really achievable to stakeholders?

Learn more:  https://skilldirector.com/how-to-build-competency-models and https://webcasts.td.org/webinar/2644

News / Events / Blog Posts | SkillDirector

How can I make a long competency model manageable?

Photo by  Matt Artz  on  Unsplash

Photo by Matt Artz on Unsplash

Once you’ve built your competency model, perhaps by using the method we describe in this ATD webinar with these resources, you may discover there are simply too many tasks and competencies for a reasonable competency assessment.  An assessment typically a person 1 minute per task and keeping it less than 30 minutes is a best practice. Too long and you’ll lose the intrinsic motivation you’re trying to create.  There is no hard or fast rule, but most of our customers have between 15 – 30 tasks against which people assess. 

 During the model development process, we recommend that you ask the high performers to identify which of those things they do really separate good from great.  That’s the easiest way to identify the critical few.  However, there is another aspect that goes beyond what the high performers provide.  This has to do with strategic workforce planning and identifying those skills that the organization believes will differentiate it in the future, or those skills which are changing or becoming more critical.   

  • For example, there may be a particular technology that will drive competitive advantage, and you want to be sure to call out that technology separately, so you can easily identify organizational experts. 

  • Or you know that many people with a particular expertise are retiring, and you need to know which experts remain, so you can leverage them to create new experts (“nexperts”). 

  • Then there are the fourth industrial revolution (future of work) skills which are proving so important today.  Things like data analysis, critical thinking, dealing with ambiguity and change, learning agility, influencing, and collaboration.  You want to be sure that these are considered when creating the model, and that those identified as relevant remain a focus.

  • Consider that if there are things in the model that would have precluded them from getting them hired for this role, if they didn’t have that capability, perhaps they could be excluded.  Or frame what remains together with future of work skills.

 A hybrid approach works best.

 Then you iterate.  Launch the competency assessment, but remember, it’s always in beta.  Your competency models are not fixed in stone.  You put it out there, you get feedback, you get data, and you continue to iterate it (typically annually or biannually) to capture changes in strategy, in tools, in technology, and in the environment in which you operate, so you can always focus on the critical competencies for that point in time.

News / Events / Blog Posts | SkillDirector

How do I quickly create competency models using rapid job analysis for roles that exist across multiple business units?

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When the roles you are defining are similar across business units, (e.g., sales, engineers, finance, risk analysts), there are 2 ways you can choose to build the model. You could include people across business units in the workshops where you create the competency models. Or you could create the model with one business unit, and then validate it with the other business units, providing them with the opportunity to customize the tasks and/or behavioral examples. We’ve done it both ways.

If time is of the essence, the build and validate approach may be faster and easier. If the company culture has business units at odds, then being more inclusive at the front end is the way to go.  A middle ground is to have the other business units validate the output of the Rapid Job Analysis workshop, and then participate in the Task Example editing and workshop.

 

News / Events / Blog Posts | SkillDirector

Access ATD Conference 2019 session downloads

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Thank you for coming to the ATD Conference sessions: "How to Accelerate Learning Transfer Through Competency-Based Learning" and “No Time For Learning? Use Informal Learning Instead”.

If you missed the slide with the downloads, go to this URL for Competency-Based Learning materials:  https://skilldirector.com/how-to-create-competency-based-learning

or go to this URL for informal learning materials:  https://skilldirector.com/how-to-create-informal-learning

News / Events / Blog Posts | SkillDirector

How associations can use a competency model to drive professional development

Photo by  rawpixel  on  Unsplash

Photo by rawpixel on Unsplash

Is it possible for an association to use a competency model to drive professional development for members?  Yes!

A competency model describes what it looks like to be great in your role. Isn't that part of the value proposition of industry associations, to help people get to great? When it comes to innovation, helping people be more strategic about where to upskill is often the place to innovate.

 In addition to having in depth knowledge about what people need to be able to do in that industry now, associations also have significant insight about how the industry is changing and the skills that will be required in the future.  This puts associations in the perfect position to develop competency models to help members themselves innovate.

When building a competency model for an association, because members span different companies with different job titles, you need to describe job roles more generally.  For example, the Association for Talent Development (ATD) has different tracks, such as Learning Management or Instructional Design.  Other associations, like the National Association of Community Health Centers (NACHC) use years of experience in the role to delineate between different models and target levels of proficiency. So it’s important to identify how many different roles you need to support, and if they need multiple models or only one model with different target levels of proficiency.

In addition to having unique insight, associations typically provide development resources, which enable members to close identified gaps with competency-based learning.Having a competency model enables the association to better organize and direct members to the best resources, generate even MORE member value, and make their competency model actionable.

News / Events / Blog Posts | SkillDirector

How to create a competency model rapidly when there are no high performers

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What if the organization does not have high performers to use in our rapid competency model creation process, where you can build a model in a few weeks by creating a blueprint from your high performers.

It can happen when it’s a relatively new company, or a new role. 

What you want to find are high performers who do similar things.  If you’re taking an existing role, and splitting it into more specialized roles, might you have people who are high performers in those other roles that can focus on only the nuances of the new role. 

Or you may want to consider standard competency models.  These are industry standard roles that define what the role looks like at a typical organization.  And you can then customize the model based on what this role must do or not do in your organization.  It’s a rapid “quick start” to a role-based competency model.

News / Events / Blog Posts | SkillDirector

How the competency model connects to the organization’s mission

Gayla asked, “You mentioned relating the competencies to the org mission. can you give examples of that?”  I want to start out by pointing you to a short ATD blog post that describes the answer more deeply.

https://www.td.org/insights/what-is-the-value-of-a-competency-model

In summary, in any organization, everyone has intermediate goals that, if accomplished (by everyone), would lead to the achievement of the organization goals and mission.  You might hear this referred to as cascading strategy.  The deeper in the organization you go from top to bottom, the more specialized the goals and the required skills, until you get to a specific person performing a specific role, such as an R&D engineer. 

That’s where you have a role-based competency model.  A person with competence in their role will achieve their part of corporate strategy. 

News / Events / Blog Posts | SkillDirector

How many competencies should be in a competency model?

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Well, there is no one answer.  It’s based on the role.  A competency describes what’s most critical to success in a role, not everything one must do. 

Once you’ve built your model, you may discover there are simply too many tasks for a reasonable assessment and resulting development focus.  E.g. if you’ve identified more than 40 tasks, the assessment will simply take too long, and you’ll lose the intrinsic motivation you’re trying to create.  While there is no hard rule, we recommend 20 – 25. 

Think about it logically.  If it takes about 1 minute to review behavioral examples and select a value (in a meaningful and thoughtful way), and you have 50 competencies, that’s 50 minutes.  Can you say “survey fatigue”?  On the other hand, if you select the 20-25 most critical, it should take ~20 minutes… a much more realistic request.  Plus, who can focus on that many skills and potential gaps?! 

Consider that you may not need assess technical and soft skills separately

Pick the most critical to success items now, and continue to iterate it to capture changes in strategy, in tools, in technology, and in the environment in which you operate, so you can always focus on the critical tasks and skills for that point in time.  It may be that your assessment includes 20 now, and next year, you remove 8 and add 10 new ones.

News / Events / Blog Posts | SkillDirector

Webcast: Use sales competencies to clone your top producers

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Want to learn to how use sales competencies to clone your top producers? Then join Cheryl Lasse and sales performance expert Mike Kunkle for a free Sales & Marketing Management webinar on April 17, 2019 from 2pm-3pm US ET.

Can’t make it? Register anyway and you’ll get a link to the recording after the event. Click here to register.

Here’s an overview:

 At a time in the sales profession when only 50-60% of reps make quota and over 20% of opportunities end in No Decision, there is massive room for performance improvement and growth in most sales forces.

What could it mean to your company if you could clone your top producers, fix those problems, and close these performance gaps?

Mike and Cheryl will share how you can use sales competencies to replicate the performance of your A Players and move your B and C Players up a notch.

  • Explore top-producer analysis techniques

  • Discuss the steps to develop an actionable sales competency model in weeks

  • Discover a competency development framework that produces personalized learning plans to close competency gaps

  • Foster a learning culture and create an environment that supports performance improvement

April 17, 2019 from 2pm-3pm US ET. Click here to register.

News / Events / Blog Posts | SkillDirector

How to create a competency model – should Directors and above participate?

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“Would it ever make sense to have someone above the manager position (such as a division head) participate in the job analysis workshop?” 

In our experience, this is not a good idea for several reasons. 

(1) When there is someone 2 levels higher or more in the workshop, it can be intimidating for some participants, which could mitigate their input.  

(2) The purpose of the workshop is to identify what the people doing the job need to be able to do to be good and great in their job.  A person who is 2 levels higher is not currently doing the job, and while they may have held that position at some time in the past, they will not have done so recently, and therefore be out of touch with the current realities of the position.

(3) The person who is 2 levels higher may know what kind of skills they want people to have in the future, which should be imparted to the person facilitating the workshop.  You can bring up those topics in line with the appropriate tasks and competencies (e.g., “how do you foresee data analysis impacting the role going forward?”).  This person, not being an expert in the process, could derail the workshop by bringing it up at the wrong time.

(4) One of the things that often presents itself in workshops is regional differences. A high performer describes how something is done in their region.Another person says, “that’s interesting because we do it differently in our region.”And you get these different perspectives that can be aggregated into the competency model appropriately.It will be less likely that someone tells a Director level person that what they said is not entirely true.The quality of your model may suffer.

News / Events / Blog Posts | SkillDirector

How to create a competency model for those who are not employees

What if the group you are developing competencies for are not employees but rather a large group of stakeholders? Are there any modifications needed to the competency development process?

Let’s assume the stakeholders are business partners – perhaps channel partners or part of the supply chain.  The process to develop the competency model will be the same, but identifying who to participate (who is a high performer) could be more difficult.  The other complexity, which we also experience when building models for associations, is that not everyone does things the same way or uses the same system.  So while the tasks people need to be able to do to be competent are likely the same, when writing behavioral examples, you’ll want to take care to not be too specific to one stakeholder’s environment.  For example, use “ERP system” instead of the specific brand name of an ERP provider. 

 When letting people assess against that model, consider making the tasks all optional, so that those who don’t have to do that task in their organization can skip it or select N/A.

News / Events / Blog Posts | SkillDirector

How to create competency-based learning in only 1 day

Photo by  rawpixel  on  Unsplash

Photo by rawpixel on Unsplash

ATD Webcast – March 13 at 1pm US ET


You’ve just embarked on competency-based learning and, much to your dismay, you suddenly realize that you don’t have the right content to help people learn the required skills and close their skill gaps. Panic begins to set in. Do you suddenly start to plan the building of new courses or programs, something that could take months to build and deploy? Or do you follow the approach the modern learner desires—creating activities that people can use to learn while they work, and that you can build in less than a day?

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 while they do their job.

If you’re looking to learn a skill that creates currency for you personally, check out the free ATD webcast “Close Curriculum Gaps At Lightning Speed”, on March 13 at 1pm US ET. Register and you get a link to the recording. http://webcasts.td.org/webinar/2922

News / Events / Blog Posts | SkillDirector

How the neuroscience of self-directed learning ties to competency models

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This article in CLO Magazine describes why we build competency models the way we do - the science behind it. The idea is that you reverse engineer your best performers, so you can sort of, well, clone them.

During our Rapid Job Analysis Workshop, once we identify the skills that should part of the model, we ask top performers the important question, "what did you do to learn how to do this?" to identify their most valuable learning experiences. Once they are captured, our customers have the recipe to create similar experiences so non-top performers can try them.

Remember that "purpose" is how I contribute to the organization's strategy.

Thank you to Dave Conner, EdD, SPHR, ACC for sharing it with us!

News / Events / Blog Posts | SkillDirector

How do I create a few standard competencies or tasks that would address the needs of multiple business units?

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The most important thing to remember about competency models is that for them to be effective, they must be relevant. 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. If they are too generic, they will no longer be effective.

Additionally, if you want to use them for career planning, they must be differentiated.  You need to be able to try on other jobs for size and see how they fit.  If all roles have the same competencies, and nothing is role-based, this is not possible.

That being said, there are some competencies or tasks that can be shared across roles and business units, including those required for the future of work. Examples include: data analysis, dealing with ambiguity and change, learning agility, influencing, and collaboration.

News / Events / Blog Posts | SkillDirector

How to create a competency model when participants are global

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In a webinar we conducted, someone asked, “How can you create competency models with the rapid job analysis process when bringing people together isn’t an option, and multiple time zones are in play? Can you do multiple meetings and then merge the information?”

It’s possible, but not the best option. The best option is to try to find a time that works for all virtual participants, though depending on those locations, it may not be feasible. (I’ve often done 6am – 10am ET to accommodate global participants.) Doing separate workshops mitigates the creativity generated during the workshop across regions with culturally diverse participants and doesn’t immediately highlight regional differences.

If you have to do it, here’s what you need to expect. There are 2 basic alternatives.

  1. You can either do completely separate Rapid Job Analysis and Task Example Workshops with the 2 groups, and have to merge the 2 finished products

  2. Or you do separate Rapid Job Analysis workshops, 1 set of shared Task Examples, and separate Task Example Workshops to review

Alternative 1 Pros:

Will be easiest for the participants who will be familiar with all the tasks as they are written.

Alternative 1 Cons:

  • Will take the most time

  • You’ll be making the process much longer and more cumbersome for yourself

Alternative 2 Pros:

It will be less of an additional effort (writing the task examples is the hardest/longest part).

Alternative 2 Cons:

May not create the same level of buy in to the model or be as easy to review since they will have to get their arms around something they’ve not seen before. For example, if 3 groups came up with the same thing, and it’s all written in a slightly different way, you have to synthesize into one task statement that will not be “exactly” what they saw the first time. And if 1 group came up with something unique, it will take longer to digest. 

 In my opinion, if you have to do separate workshops, alternative 2 is the best option.

News / Events / Blog Posts | SkillDirector