‘Twas the month before Christmas, many challenges did persist.
Watch this short holiday video, to see how a culture of learning can exist!
‘Twas the month before Christmas, many challenges did persist.
Watch this short holiday video, to see how a culture of learning can exist!
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.
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.
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.
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.)
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.
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.
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?
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
There are so many places you can use competency models within the organization and throughout the employee lifecycle.
Want even more? Click here for all the detail in a white paper.
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:
Do you agree?
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.
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.
It’s all about making them available at the point of need. This is the future of learning.
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.
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
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.
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.
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
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.
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.