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How competency models can support a new system rollout

Change. Fear. Uncertainty. Doubt. These are the things that surround a new enterprise system rollout (e.g., ERP, CRM, HCM).  But what if you could help people in each role understand exactly what was expected of them, both during the rollout, and thereafter as processes change? That’s exactly what role-based competency models can do. 

If you don’t already have one task in your competency model dedicated to the new system, create one.  It could be as simple as “Demonstrate the ability to use the [XYZ] system.”  Then, it is the behavioral examples that differentiate the task from one role to another.  And the levels of proficiency identify exactly what functions people in that job need to be able to perform (with support, or independently).  This will provide you with an easy way to communicate the expectations. 

For example, let’s say you’re rolling out a new Customer Relationship Management system.

 

The task you add to a Sales Rep may be “Document accounts and opportunity pipeline activities sufficiently in the CRM system”.  The task you add for a Sales Manager/Director may be “Perform sales forecasting and manage the opportunity pipeline with our CRM system”.

And the Sales Director behaviors at each level of proficiency (low to high) might look like this:

1 – Locate opportunity details in the CRM

2 – Perform sales forecasting via a standard CRM report

3 – Effectively use a CRM dashboard for viewing and communicating the sales funnel

4 – Create a dashboard for easy access to opportunity intelligence

5 – Create a complex CRM dashboard to handle scenario planning/”what if” analyses

 

If you have your competency model in a competency assessment tool, have people assess themselves against it (and the newly added/revised task), to identify their baseline.  Be sure you have competency-based learning mapped to each role, so that as the gaps are identified, they will point to role-specific learning opportunities that provide each person with the ability to take action.  Your best strategy is to point to informal learning because (1) you probably have some mandatory formal learning already provided to everyone, and (2) the way to best develop proficiency is to support them WHILE they work… with workflow learning.  That means system-specific job aids/performance support tutorials, informal skill practices like step by step how to create a dashboard that they can follow and complete their work, and links to communities of practice and FAQs for rapid answers.

Periodically, maybe every couple of months, and as the resulting assessment data communicates the current level of proficiency, tweak the model to incorporate any process changes or your expectations for proficiency.  For example, in my role, the target proficiency may have been 2 at the start of the rollout, but 3 months later, the target is a 3.  Four months later, I’m expected to be a 4. 

Now you have an easy way to communicate expectations, by role, as well as provide the appropriate competency-based learning to support the changes.  And you will motivate each person to close their own skill gaps.

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3 Steps to simplify an existing Competency Model / Capability Framework

If you have a competency model or capability framework, and you’re ready to make it actionable, use these 3 steps to see if it needs to be simplified.  

  1. Is it easy to consume?  Do you have to read then re-read each statement to know what it means?  Or is it easy to read in the language of the people using it?  Too often, competency models are too academic.  It looks impressive, but the model itself cannot easily be consumed by the end user.  It should read as they speak. 

  2. Is it too much?  The most successful capability models have between 15 – 30 tasks, a reasonable number to assess against.  A competency model should describe what “great” looks like focused on what is most critical to success – not be a complete list of everything they do. 

  3. Are they really tasks?  Once you remove those not critical to success, see if you have some tasks that are really behavioral examples of other tasks.  If you can’t come up with behavioral examples (what it looks like to do that task at various levels of proficiency), then it’s a behavioral example of something else. (E.g., you don’t attend meetings well, rather actively participating in meetings might be an example of “Collaborate within and across functional teams”).  That is, tasks should list WHAT you do, and the examples describe HOW you do it.

Follow these simplification steps and you’ll maximum use and adoption of your competency model.

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What’s the difference between a Competency Model and Competency-Based Learning for a job role and job family?

If you create a model for a job family, or several similar roles, including entry level individual contributor (IC) to director, they might share tasks but require different levels of proficiency.   

  • As an example, if you built a sales model, an Account Executive might have to develop winning proposals at a level 3 – do it well and independently. 

  • A Pre-Sales person may have to be a level 2, as they are in a supporting role and participate in the process but don’t need to do it independently.

  • A Sales Manager needs to be able to coach and mentor those building it, so they need to be a level 4.

  • And the Sales VP needs to be able to innovate the proposal process or define the proposal strategy, so they need to be at a level 5.

Some tasks may be unique, for example, only those who manage others will have people mgmt tasks.  And because a competency model shouldn’t contain everything someone should do, but rather focus on “what is critical to success in that role”, the people management tasks may displace some IC tasks for managers/directors.

Whether a role has its own model or is part of a shared model varies by organization.  If you have multiple levels that do the same thing but with different scope (e.g., one role manages a site, one a region, one a country), it is likely a job family, or even one role (with behavioral examples written to accommodate variations in scope). 

When it comes to competency-based learning, you will likely recommend learning that will get someone to their target level (meaning the learning objectives help them perform the behaviors in that level).  Using the previous example, you’d recommend an activity that would get a Pre-Sales person to a level 2 or even a level 3.  But for the Sales VP, you’d recommend a different activity to get them to a level 5.

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What sequence of activities occur during the creation of a competency model?

During the competency model development process, you start by identifying the categories or big buckets of things that someone in a job role does, and then you unpack each category to identify the tasks within it.   This is “WHAT” someone in that role needs to do.  Once you have the tasks, you identify what it looks like to perform that task at various levels of proficiency.  This is “HOW” someone would do it.  Writing the behavioral examples is the longest part of the process.

Lastly, you identify the target level of proficiency, which is how you know whether a skill gap exists.  

If you are performing the process for a job family, you may have some jobs that don't perform a particular task at all, and others that overlap with varying levels of proficiency.

For example, a senior software developer and an entry level developer may share the need to “program in some language”.  However, the entry level person needs to be a Level 3 and the senior person needs to be a Level 4. Additionally, the senior software developer may have some team management responsibilities that an entry level person wouldn't have.

Here's a link to a free ATD webinar next month (October 18) with all the detail on that process.

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How can we use competency models to develop a competency-based training program for supervisors?

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This question has 2 parts.  First relates to how to develop supervisor’s own skills, and the other is how to coach more effectively.  I’m breaking this into 2 parts.

1) How To Develop Supervisor’s Own Skills

Like any other role, a competency model for supervisors will focus on those tasks they need to perform to achieve their part of corporate strategy.  This likely includes a combination of people management and technical/functional tasks/skills.  Competency-based learning is where you map learning activities to the entire competency model.  You want to do this including activities across the 70-20-10 model (experiential-collaborative-formal).  Your Training Program will contain elements of these activities, but should enable people to consume ONLY the activities they need to close their skill gaps.  For example, if you build a traditional training program, maybe a 1-2 week formal course, and someone is capable in 80% of the tasks/skills being taught, that’s a huge waste of time and money, not to mention the supervisor’s own frustration of being stuck.  But if you create a training program across the 70-20-10 model that is sufficiently granular, so that people can do only the activities they NEED (to close their skill gaps), you will create not only the best training program, but you’ll make it very MANAGEABLE – you can update any element more easily over time without re-doing the entire program.

2) How To Coach More Effectively

If you are using competency models with the people that the supervisors are supervising, then through active participation in their team’s competency assessment, supervisors will see exactly what skill gaps each team member has.  This makes their job SO much easier.  No guesswork!  They know exactly where (the skill gap) and how to coach (the behaviors in the model).  Plus, they can identify task-based mentors so team members can work together to build bench strength.  If a Personalized Learning Plan for closing any gaps is automatically generated, it will be hard for a supervisor to say, “listen, I know you have gaps, and here’s a list of activities you can do to close them, but I’m not going to give you time to do that.”  Rather, it reinforces a culture of learning, and creates an environment that makes it easy to execute.

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How do we keep the competency models current and in use by the organization?

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To keep competency models current, 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.

To keep competency models in use by the organization, you must make your models actionable.  That means getting each model off the PowerPoint, out of the spreadsheets and into people’s hands.  A competency model that isn’t easily accessible by those during the development process, and isn’t assessable such that one can measure their capabilities against it to identify and close gaps with competency-based learning is pretty worthless.  One of my customers calls this “operationalizing the blueprint”.  Further, ensure whatever competency assessment and competency-based learning tool you choose supports making changes easily.  If it’s too difficult, it won’t happen, and then your competency model will be out of sync with strategy.

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Flip The Script On Uncertainty – Take Control!

One of the most difficult circumstances for an individual is uncertainty.  Over the past few years, I’ve had several customers working for companies being divested, merged, or acquiring another.  It’s stressful, it’s confusing, it’s frustrating, and most people in this environment, at all levels of the organization, feel helpless.  What most people do is NOTHING.  They wait.  They watch. 

Rather than being bootstrapped by organizational uncertainty, there is a different message that we as Talent and Learning professionals are in a unique position to convey that can flip the script. 

In uncertain times, the best thing to do is take control. What can we control?  Our own personal development.  What you want to promote is that they have the opportunity, right here and now, to develop their skills – whether that is in their current role or to prepare them for their next role, wherever that may be.  

Even if classroom opportunities are unavailable, there are usually tremendous resources including online learning, learning assets such as tools, templates, and job aids, as well as collaborative learning by working with mentors and managers.

Here’s the message and plan you can share:

  1. Inventory your skills for your current role or the role you want next. If you have access to a competency assessment, do it. Know your strengths and any skill gaps.

    • If your own organization doesn't offer one, and you're in HR, Talent, or Learning roles, use the ATD Skill Tracker. Other associations provide competency assessments for other roles, such as IRI (innovation leaders), NACHC (healthcare), NAIFA (insurance agents and financial advisors), OD Network (organization development professionals), and PEAK Grantmaking (grant writers/managers).

  2. Build a manageable plan to grow your strengths (be a mentor) and close any gaps. One activity each month. Just one. Document it and put it on your calendar, so you can hold yourself accountable and use it, should you need it, as part of your interviews.

  3. Work your plan by completing each activity and adding/scheduling one more for next month.

Not only does this plan best prepare you for whatever may come, but it puts control back in your hands.

Eric Hoffer says, “In times of change, learners inherit the earth; while the learned find themselves beautifully equipped to deal with a world that no longer exists,” a beautiful testament to life-long learning.

News / Events / Blog Posts | SkillDirector

How can I use competency models to transfer skills/knowledge/institutional memory when people move up or out?

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At this point it’s clear.  Those people in your organizations, the ones you go to for all your questions about how to get things done, they’re starting to retire.  And while you try to get them to train those who will take their place, you know most of that information will disappear forever.  You’ve known it was coming, but a solution just hasn’t been easy.  Even if the person being replaced is still at the company when their successor starts, unless they are a high performer who is able to easily articulate all their best practices, the new person will have to start at the basics.  Additionally, the knowledge drain that accompanies attrition can hurt you in unimaginable ways, especially if they are high performers.

How can competency models help?

Let’s start with the basic question – how do we capture what the best people, and those who know how to get things done, know and do?  And then, once we know what that is, how can we share it with those who need to know?

The answer is simple.  You use your high performers, and those with valuable expertise, to create a competency model. 

 Very simply, a competency model describes what it looks like to be great in each role.  It defines the skills and the knowledge (how to apply it) required to execute their part of corporate strategy.  If you want to learn how to build a competency model easily in just weeks, watch this ATD webcast.

In this way, you capture all the critical nuances of what people do to be successful.  This may include with whom they build relationships, what process steps they take, and what tools they’ve created to ensure repeatable success. 

Now you know what they know and do to get things done.  And you probably have a list of informal activities and informal resources you’ve collected during the process that can serve as competency-based learning for others.  How do you share it with those who need to know?

 You make that competency model actionable in a competency assessment tool.  And you also want to connect that competency model to competency-based learning and automate that connection.  In this way, you can provide personalized learning to empower people to close their own gaps. 

  • This gives everyone in that role the ability to see what great looks like, from their first day in the job (onboarding). 

  • It gives people in that role the ability to compare their skills against “great” and identify what gaps they have, and be recommended formal, and most importantly informal activities, to help close them (individual skill development).

  • It gives people in that role the ability to see how they compare to changing skill requirements, (critical right now, with things like automation, digitization, and AI), identify gaps and close them (upskilling).

  • It gives people who are not yet in that role the ability to compare their skills and identify what gaps they have so they can prepare/close gaps in advance of being in that role (career planning).

  • It gives hiring managers the ability to fine tune who they hire (recruiting).

What’s more, providing this kind of empowerment to your employee population will make it more likely that your high performers will stay.  According to Work Institute's 2017 Retention Report, career development was the number one reason employees stayed.  

Now you know how to use competency models to transfer knowledge/institutional memory when people move up or out.

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How do you deal with “one-off” competency models?

Someone told me that they are about to begin competency modeling, but have a number of “one-off” roles – those with only one person in the role – and wanted to know how to handle them?

Well, people in those roles need competency models too.  There are 2 approaches we recommend.

If this role is fairly common, (e.g., an Accounts Receivable Specialist) it is easiest to use a standard competency model.  A good standard competency model will cover the tasks well, provide you with applicable behavioral examples, and a target level of proficiency.  While you may require a different level in your organization, or even slightly altered behaviors, it’s easy to make those small modifications.  We provide the model (tasks/skills, behavioral examples, target level) to customers in a template, and the individual and their manager spend about 1-2 hours reviewing and tailoring the model.  Their completed model then gets uploaded into the competency assessment system.  The cool part about this process is that if you have a bunch of one-off roles, all the reviewing and tailoring can be done concurrently without you.  So if you have 2 one-off roles or 20 one-off roles, it takes the same number of calendar days.

If this role is not common, then you need to determine if it’s worth building a model from scratch, using the process described in the ATD webinar and materials (here, participants include only that individual and their manager), OR you may find that there are tasks they do that are in other models, and you can piece together a new model from other models.  This is a similar approach that you’d do if it were a new role and there are no high performers.  That is, you determine what a role SHOULD be doing, and see if you have those tasks (with behaviors) in your competency inventory.  Then, similar to the standard model process, the individual and their manager would pick the target level of proficiency.

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‘Twas the month before Christmas for Learning & Sales Effectiveness Leaders

‘Twas the month before Christmas, many challenges did persist.

Watch this short holiday video, to see how a culture of learning can exist!

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How do you incorporate soft skills into a competency model that revolves around hard skills?

Remember that the competency model describes what people need to do in the job to execute their part of corporate strategy.  Usually that’s the hard skills.  But it’s the soft skills that determine how WELL you do the hard skills.

Therefore, we generally use the soft skills to differentiate levels of proficiency for a hard skill. 

For example, instead of having 3 skills in the model on analyzing and reporting out data, tailoring communication, and influencing, we have one skill “Analyze data and report findings”, where the behavioral examples are:

  • Level 3: Analyze data and generate a report

  • Level 4: Tailor communication of the analysis to the needs of the stakeholder to whom you’re presenting

  • Level 5: Make a recommendation based on the analysis and successfully influence leaders to adopt it

And these higher level examples might be reflected in many hard skills, perhaps without much change, since these are what separate good from great. 

A person could be able to influence others related to one hard skill, but struggle with influencing others related to a different hard skill.  This is not because they have a problem with influencing per se, (though it could) but rather because they don’t have the same credibility in that hard skill.

For more on how to do build these levels of behavior, see the free ATD webinar on creating a competency model in weeks.

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Say it loud, “Grow, Adapt or Die!”

Companies know that if you’re not growing or adapting in some way, they will die.  But that same philosophy applies to you, me, and the people we serve.  If we’re not growing or adapting, our careers will die. 

In a McKinsey & Company paper, “Getting Ready For The Future Of Work”, Bob Kegan of Harvard says that the time it takes for people’s skills to become irrelevant is shrinking. While people used to think that, ‘I got my skills in my 20s; I can hang on until 60.’ It’s not like that anymore. People will find their skills irrelevant at age 45, 40, 35.

There is no doubt that the lifespan of a skill is shorter than ever before.  When you add the impact of automation and artificial intelligence, the reality becomes clear.  The status quo is not ok.  We must continue to grow and adapt. 

Your job is to promote that understanding to the people you serve so that it becomes ingrained and normal to them.  That is, we must create a culture of learning.

How?  Change how you think and talk about development.  Stop thinking about development as an event, or as formal learning only.  Development is something you should do every week.  To make it easy, start with a small change.  Encourage each person to do one development activity each month.  Just one.  Pick something, plan it, and do it. 

Think informally. 

  • I really need to learn how to create pivot tables – I’m going to watch a 5 min YouTube video on how to do it, then I’m going to try it on that spreadsheet I need, rather than asking someone to do it for me.

  • This upcoming legislation is going to affect us. I’m going to ask Maria, our resident expert, to take 15 minutes to explain it to me.

  • I’ve got an upcoming presentation to the department head. It’s technical stuff, but if I could just craft a story around the data with a little visualization, I know I could get the resources we need approved. I’m going to meet with one of our data analysts to pick his brain about what visualization would work best, watch a TED talk on storytelling, then practice in our weekly team meeting.

Most people don’t think about those things as development activities, but research shows that informal learning is powerful and sticks best because it’s relevant and often applied right away. 

If you can get the people you serve to plan just one development activity each month, document it and put it on their calendar so they will hold themselves accountable, then complete it and add an activity for next month, you will create a habit.  Then they will be growing and adapting each month.

That is how you create a culture of learning!

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How do you tie learning to competencies for different job roles?

Question from Competency-Based Learning webinar:  How do you tie learning to competencies within every level of your organization (e.g. Asst. PM, PM, Sr. PM, Program Mgr, Director, etc.)

Answer: Follow the procedure in the Competency-Based Learning webinar and materials for each job role. 

Remember that you are mapping the learning objective of an activity to the target level of proficiency for a task in the job role’s competency model.  If I need to do level 3 behaviors, give me an activity that enables me to be able to do them.  If I need to do level 4 behaviors, give me an activity that will get me there.

For shared tasks, the mapped content may be the same, or they may be different.  If a Project Manager needs to be a level 3 in some task, and a Program Manager needs to be a level 4 in that task, you may wish to only recommend learning that will get each to their target proficiency.  Or, it may be that one activity can get someone as high as a level 4, and therefore you can recommend that same competency-based learning to people in both roles. 

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How can we keep the number of tasks to assess in our competency assessment manageable?

Once you’ve built your model, you may discover there are simply too many tasks for a reasonable assessment.  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.  There is no hard or fast rule, 20 – 25 tasks is the max.

Think about it logically.  If it takes about 1 - 1.5 minutes to review behavioral examples and select a value (in a meaningful and thoughtful way), and you have 50 competencies, that’s 50-75 minutes.  Can you say “survey fatigue”?  On the other hand, if you select the 20-25 most critical, it should take ~30 minutes… a much more realistic request.  Plus, who can focus on that many skills and potential gaps?! 

During the model development process, we recommend the high performers identify which tasks are most critical to success to narrow the list.  But there’s also the aspect of strategic workforce planning – identifying skills the organization believes will differentiate it in the future… for example, some technology that will drive competitive advantage.  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”).  So a hybrid approach is 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 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.

For more on creating a competency model quickly, see the free ATD webinar.

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How to differentiate between a job description and a competency model

There seems to be accelerated activity around redefining job descriptions and aligning job families, which is great.  The reason for this accelerated activity is that jobs have changed.  A job defined in the HR system 10 years ago probably doesn’t describe the job very well today.  So this seems to be a good opportunity to differentiate between job descriptions and role-based competency models.

  • A typical job description lists responsibilities, educational and experience requirements, as well as a list of the knowledge they should have, and which important interpersonal and technical skills they need. In other words, it is more of a responsibility narrative and a skills list.

  • 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 knowledge acquired. In other words, it helps someone become self-aware and be able to DO their job.

  • A job description helps you screen resumes. A competency model helps you hire the right person.

  • A job description provides new employees with a general guideline on the things they will do. A competency model shows them how to be GREAT at the things they will do, and where they are now.

  • A job description helps create salary ranges and compare roles across organizations. A competency model describes what each person in their role needs to be able to do, specifically, in order to perform their part of YOUR corporate strategy.

You can pretty easily create a job description from a competency model, but it’s quite difficult to create a competency model from most job descriptions because they lack the granularity required. 

While your organization needs both, if you don’t have a role-based competency model, how can you motivate them to be great at the things you need them to do and upskill them when they can’t do it?

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Why changes in performance management benefit competency models

If you haven’t noticed, there is a major shift away from traditional performance management (looking back) to new growth mindset approaches for looking forward.  And the elimination of the performance appraisal is the best thing that ever happened to competency models! Why? Because now they can be used for professional development without implication.

If you are assessing yourself against a competency model in a performance management system, like it or no, it can be "used against you" for keeping score. Therefore, it is human nature to inflate your assessment given that the data is co-mingled in a system used for pay and promotion, resulting in a development plan that is not representative of what you need, and won't help you close your gaps.

When performance appraisals are replaced with regular real-time coaching and feedback, competency models can be used in a safe environment, without bias, to accurately assess skills and identify competency-based learning for closing any gaps.  They make it easier for managers to coach.  They drive agility – change in strategy and priorities can be quickly communicated and supported.  The more regularly competency models are used, the greater the likelihood that there are clear expectations, and regular progress being made for skill development and career planning.

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What is the difference between a competency model, skills matrix and competency-based learning?

A competency model is a list of all the skills that someone in a particular role needs to do at a target level in order to be successful in that role.  And success means that they are achieving their part of corporate strategy – what the organization needs them to do, very specifically.  Some people call a competency model as a “capability framework” or “skills rubric”.

A skills matrix or skills inventory is the output of a competency assessment, where people assess themselves against the competency model.  So 100 field services technicians assess their skills in their role, and a skills matrix or inventory results – you know who meets or exceeds the requirements for specific skills.  And you can then leverage that information to put the right people on the right projects, and form the best and most successful teams.   

The competency assessment will also identify who does not meet the requirements for specific skills – that is, it identifies skill gaps.  It is extremely common for each person, no matter how tenured or how experienced, to have one or more skill gaps in their role. You want to be able to provide each person with a personalized learning plan to help them close their gap.  This requires that you identify which learning activities can close which skill gaps… that’s competency-based learning.

Essentially, you are mapping the behaviors of the target level of proficiency to the learning objectives of the activities.  And in many cases, you create a skill practice, job aid, or checklist that will help someone be able to learn the right skills while they are doing their work.  We call this embedded or workflow learning (the “70” in the 70-20-10 model).  It’s effective because it’s not separate from the work that needs to be done.

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3 Steps To Workforce Agility

Workforce agility refers to an organization’s ability to move people to support changes in the environment.  I think of it like supply and demand.  Workforce agility enables you can easily move people from one place, where demand is low to another place where demand is high.

For example, let’s look at how automation can impact your workforce needs.

  • If automation is being applied in some area, such that the people need is lower, I need to be able to move people who used to do that work to a place where they have the right skills and demand is higher

  • If automation is being applied in some area, such that the skills associated with that work change, I need to be able to upskill people to do the new work, or move people with the right skills to that area

I like to use an analogy of a sports team.  Every team has different positions people need to play regardless of the sport.  Usually, you try to have some “depth”, people who can play the position when the top player gets tired or hurt.  Other times, you don’t have sufficient depth, you need someone with different skills (shooting, blocking, running, passing) and you bring people up from the practice squad, trade, or draft these players.  Just like a company is always tweaking its corporate strategy, a sports team is finding a strategy that will help it win against the competition.  A run-first offense may become a pass-first offense and need different skills.

Not everyone can be a quarterback, pitcher, goalkeeper, or point guard.  But they can build transferable skills that give them the ability to be shifted to where they are needed most.  And they can be upskilled to play their new role.

Workforce agility does not need to be a permanent condition.  It can be a temporary one driven by predictable (e.g., seasonal) or unpredictable changes in demand.  One of our customers often has a project that will take several weeks or months that requires additional resources – they simply need to know who can participate. 

If you now believe you need workforce agility, let’s get to the 3 steps to create it.

  1. Identify what each position/role needs to be able to do. That’s a role-based competency model, that includes what people NOW need to do in that role.

  2. Identify who has what skills. That’s a competency assessment. This is NOT so you can see who gets promoted… this is about workforce agility.

  3. Leverage technology to enable:

·  People to upskill within their existing role

·  You to explore who has sufficient skills to be moved temporarily or permanently, depending on the need.  We use a dashboard that lets you see who has fewer than 2 skill gaps for this other role, with sufficiently overlapping skills.

Lastly, make sure that you make workforce agility a benefit. 

  • Be transparent.

    • Share changing skill requirements for a role.

    • Share supply and demand trends.

  • Encourage people to develop skills for their own role, as well as roles in high demand so they can be used when needed. Inspire them and empower them to assess their skills against current and other roles and be provided with a personalized learning plan to close any skill gaps.

  • Offer, rather than demand, a move: “Would you like to work on this project for 2 months as a way to build experience outside your area?” or “Demand in this area is going down, but we could really use someone with your skills in this other department.” Promote these transfers as a reward.

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How can I use competency models/capability frameworks?

There are so many places you can use competency models within the organization and throughout the employee lifecycle.

For example:

  • Job descriptions
  • Recruiting/interviewing - ensure you’re recruiting the right skills
  • Onboarding (for setting expectations & communicating culture) - help each person on day one in a role know exactly what is expected of them, how they compare, and what they should begin focusing on; the behaviors in the model can communicate corporate culture, especially for those new to the company or business unit, highlighting what’s important
  • In-role development – closing skill gaps and developing toward both proficiency and mastery
  • Career planning - helping people prepare for the job they want next
  • Opportunities for development and growth is both one of the top 3 reasons people take a job, and it’s the also in the top 3 reasons why people leave… when they don’t exist.
  • Mentoring (creating task-based mentors) - build bench strength more quickly
  • Coaching - ensure that managers can coach without guesswork
  • Learning opportunity development – identify what you need that you don’t have
  • Strategic workforce planning – Compare the skills people have today with what you need tomorrow, and upskill or hire to close the gaps
  • Real needs assessment - develop the optimal L&D action plan

Here's an article that digs into more detail.

Want even more? Click here for all the detail in a white paper.

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The future of work is now, and we’re not ready!

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There is no doubt that we’ve reached an inflection point.  Anyone who attended the ATD 2018 conference had “skill gaps” burned into their heads.

Both keynotes President Obama and Tara Deakin (TD Bank) said that we are at the crossroads of an unprecedented change in required skills.  Artificial intelligence and automation are creating a new revolution. CEOs have finally recognized that talent skill gaps may render them unable to compete.  So, there’s never a better time to assess the skill gaps in your organization (know how big the problem is) and measure progress over time. 

Which is why it’s not surprising that I had over 500 people attend my 2 sessions on competency models.

In addition to posting answers to competency model questions, I thought I’d post a few quotes that were highlighted in the conference.

McKinsey & Company:

  • “Artificial intelligence is poised to disrupt the workplace.  For workers of the future, the ability to adapt their skills to the changing needs of the workplace will be critical.  Lifelong learning must become the norm – and at the moment, the reality falls far short of the necessity.” 
  • According to Bob Kegan, Harvard Research Professor in Adult Learning & Professional Development, “It used to be, “I got my skills in my 20s; I can hang on until 60.” It’s not going to be like that anymore.  We’re going to live in an era of people finding their skills irrelevant at age 45, 40, 35.” 
  • According to Maria Flynn of Jobs for the Future, “In a country with such imperfect career navigation and lifelong-learning systems, plus the growth of the gig economy, we could end up worse off if we don’t start to change now.”

Do you agree?

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