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Competency Assessment

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

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

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

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

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

Review your Personalized Learning Plan →

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

Execute the plan →

Re-assess (and repeat)

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

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

News / Events / Blog Posts | SkillDirector

TD Magazine: Know the Gap

 Copyright ATD

Copyright ATD

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

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

Or download the podcast.

 

News / Events / Blog Posts | SkillDirector

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

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

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

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

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What process and tools are most effective at keeping competency-based learning sustainable?

For competency-based learning to be sustainable, the competency model must be agile.  Competency models describe what someone in a particular role should be able to do to perform their part of corporate strategy.  If your strategy is changing regularly (and I believe that for your organization to continue to survive, it will), then your competency model has to change/adapt as well.

Have a rhythm for periodically re-examining the model for changes.  Maybe 2x/year, or after a transformation, merger or acquisition, or product launch.  We recommend sending out the tasks and behavioral examples and targets 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.

Once you know that your competency model is current, look at the mapped learning opportunities for a particular task or competency that was updated and identify if changes are required.  The behavioral examples for a task map to the learning objectives of an activity.  If the former changes, there’s a good change that the latter will also need to change.  The good news is that if you have a tool where this mapping lives, and all the data is in one place, you can probably do this in one quick report.  Run it, selecting only the tasks that were updated, and compare the behaviors in the target proficiency level for each task with the learning objectives of those activities.  Any mismatch in learning objectives will tell you exactly what changes need to be made. 

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What is the right number of competencies for roles?

This is one of the questions I’m asked most often.  The answer is there is no “right” number.  What I can say is that it depends on the nature of the role.  First, it is important to describe that a competency model is designed to identify what is most critical to success in a role.  If your model describes the technical and soft skills required to do that job, you want to be sure you cover it.  But as you can imagine, there are probably a hundred soft skills that could be appropriate.  So it’s important to pick the most important ones.

You also need to keep in mind the typical personality type of the person in that role.  Sales people typically have a shorter attention span than technical people.  So you’d want to have closer to 20 competencies in the Sales model and you could have 35 for a technical role. 

When we create a custom competency model, we right-size the number by ensuring that we capture the key things that a person in the role does to be successful.  And we generally use the soft skills to differentiate levels of proficiency.  For example, instead of having 3 skills on analyzing and reporting out data, tailoring communication, and influencing, we have one skill on analyzing and reporting out data, where level 4 might be the ability to tailor communication to the needs of the individual and level 5 might be making a recommendation and influencing others to it.  For more on how to do this, see the ATD webinar (http://webcasts.td.org/webinar/2235).

News / Events / Blog Posts | SkillDirector

How would you assess compliance with a competency model?

(Question posted by participants in recent webinars)

You assess compliance by providing behavioral examples that help people to identify lack of compliance or lack of knowledge and be motivated to do something about it.  It’s not that different than assessing someone’s product knowledge.

Let’s take personal protective equipment as an example.  If I assess myself against a skill such as “Use personal protective equipment whenever required for my personal safety”, and I see a list of situations in the behavioral examples, I’d be able to select which set of examples best describes my use of PPE.  Not only would I potentially see what I’m not doing (that I should be doing), but I should become intrinsically motivated to close compliance gaps. 

woman with safety goggles 1.jpg
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How do you create real buy-in for development from people managers?

Question: “Managers will often ask for training then become one of the road blocks to ensuring it happens and that training is followed up on. What advice do you have for creating an attitude of real buy-in from managers of people?”

There’s actually a great article from Tim Riesterer called “A skills deficiency of our own making” (http://ow.ly/HfAR306FitX) where he talks about managers becoming the road block.  “Faced with the contradictory pressures to drive the business or take time to hone their team’s skills, the majority of managers are opting to take a pass on the training, according to 56 percent of respondents.”

So you need to help them understand the impact. 

We have a customer toolkit just for managers to help them understand what’s in it for them – if employees are more proficient, then you’ll get greater results… but YOU must help them close those gaps.  They need both an education and tools to help them to change, quickly and easily.  Managers also need to understand that NOT developing people is a risk. If they aren’t given the opportunity to grow, they’ll go somewhere they can. 

Through active participation in their team’s competency assessment, managers will see exactly what gaps each person has.  This makes their job SO much easier.  No guesswork!  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 manager 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.”

News / Events / Blog Posts | SkillDirector

You don't know TRACK!

What’s that you say?  You don’t know TRACKs?

The Career Navigator, now known as Skill Tracker, has been an ATD staple for many years.  Not familiar with it?  It’s a tool designed to enable you to assess your skills for the Talent Development role you have now, or for the one you want next.  Simply put, Skill Tracker makes the ATD Competency Model actionable for you personally. 

The reason for the name change was simple:  Skill Tracker is designed to help you track your skills… and grow them.

Originally, the Career Navigator included 3 broad roles (Specialist, Manager and Executive) to enable you to assess your skills across the breadth of the talent development field.  With the evolution to Skill Tracker, ATD created five specialized tracks to allow you to assess your skills against a more focused set of competencies.  The new tracks include:

  • Instructional Designer
  • Training Specialist
  • Learning Manager
  • HR/OD Professional
  • Performance Consultant

The Advanced Practitioner track still allows you to assess your readiness across all areas of expertise.

Each of these TRACKs enables you to self-assess on a very focused set of skills.  Behavioral examples make it easy for you to assess consistently and accurately – this is just for you.

Once you’ve finished your assessment, you can see your skill gaps and strengths.  Most importantly, for each of your gaps, you’ll be presented with a personalized learning plan of targeted ATD learning opportunities to help you close them.  Now you know exactly what you can do to improve your proficiency in your current role.

But don’t stop there!  Hold yourself accountable for your own professional development.  Select which activity or activities you want to pursue first and add them to your Development Plan.  Add other activities across the 70-20-10 spectrum, including those offered by your organization, or others in the public domain.  Then work your plan and re-assess to see what gaps remain – your own continuous improvement process.  Skills are currency – and ATD is helping you get them.  The creation and execution of your Development Plan is actually the most important part.

You can also leverage TRACKs to prepare for your next role.  Use Career Planning to pick the TRACK or TRACKs you might want to pursue next, get a personalized learning plan for that TRACK, and add those activities to your Development Plan.  Now you’ve got a great story to tell if you’re interviewing for that job.

Over time, your Development Plan will be your professional development learning snapshot.  And you’ll have more skills… and more professional currency.

If you want to learn more about Skill Tracker, come to the ATD ICE session on Tuesday, May 23 at 10 am in the Career Center.

But don’t wait!  Check out new ATD Skill Tracker (td.org/skilltracker) because now, you know TRACKs!

 

News / Events / Blog Posts | SkillDirector

How do you get people bought into the idea that training is beneficial?

One person in a recent webinar asked, “How do you get people bought into the idea that training is beneficial? Our employees hate training and would rather not participate. “

THIS is exactly what competency-based, self-directed learning is designed to overcome.  Why do you think your employees hate training?  Most likely, it’s because they are told to do it – they are not identifying the need for training themselves.  This is adult learning theory, right?  If it’s not relevant to my job and relevant to my needs, I’m going to tune out. 

How do we make it relevant?  Have them self-assess against the competency model for their job, and recommend activities that are targeted to skill gaps, or areas in which they want to improve aspirationally.  Then, they buy into it.  Then, they will embrace training because they own it.

 

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Beyond the frequency of a post training event follow up, what are tips to make learning stick?

(Question posted by participants in recent webinars)

If you are mapping the skills in your competency model across the 70-20-10 spectrum, and you conduct a formal learning event in the “10”, then at the end of that activity, you can recommend items in the “70” to help them practice on the job. 

If their manager was involved in assessing them against the competency model, and the learner elected to participate in this event because of a skill gap, then the manager has details – the behaviors of the mapped skill – to discuss and help ensure the learning is being applied.  Manager involvement is a key contributor to learning transfer.  The manager can also identify a task-based mentor to work with (“20”) – perhaps to review the activities.

Remember also that the motivation is significantly different if this method is followed.  If I identify my own skill gap, and I participate in a formal learning activity to close that gap, I will be far more likely to try to apply it because I said I needed it.

Here’s an example.  I do my self-assessment and find that I have a skill gap in Negotiating Skills.  I talk to my manager and we agree I should take a 2 day class on it.  I’m engaged and look forward to practicing what I learned.  At the class end, we were provided with activities using templates that I can use on the job.  One of them is a negotiation planner and the activity is to use it to prepare for my next contract negotiation, then review it with a peer mentor.  I fill out the planner with the details.  Then my manager finds a task-based mentor, a high performer in my role, who reviews and challenges me on how I completed it and makes suggestions.  I update the planner.  Then I share it with my manager and we role-play how I’ll use it.  Can you see how that works to make learning “stick” more effectively?

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What is the best way to train managers on how to interpret competency rating scales and minimize the halo effect?

The best way to do this is by using behavioral examples.  There can be no halo effect if the manager has to look at a list of behaviors by proficiency level and identify which one BEST describes the behavior of the individual.  Behavioral examples in a competency model are what drive consistency, accuracy, and objectivity.

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What are some simple hacks to enable employees to be in charge of their learning from day 1?

(Question posted by participants in recent webinars)

Imagine if you provided someone with the ability to self-assess against the competency model for their new job on the first day of work.  They would know exactly the org’s expectations for their job, they would know what gaps they have, and they would be able to create their first learning plan on day one.  Plus, they would help their new manager know exactly how to help them.

If you think about it a competency model is a roadmap for success in the role.  Could you provide someone with a better playbook?

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3 Steps to ensure your competency model is flexible and adaptable

(Question posted by participants in recent webinars)

Your competency model should always be in beta.  Competency models describe what someone in a particular role should be able to do to perform their part of corporate strategy.  If your strategy is changing regularly (and I believe that for your organization to continue to survive, it will), then your competency model has to change/adapt as well.  You need to communicate to the organization that your competency models will be changing over time.  Be sure that it doesn’t take an act of Congress for these changes to be made – it has to be part of the cultural understanding that models will adapt and are never “done”.

There are 3 steps to ensure you can adapt your competency model easily. 

1) When you make the model accessible and assessable, your competency assessment tool must support making these changes easily.  If it’s too difficult, it won’t happen, and then your competency model will be out of sync with strategy.

2) Add a feedback mechanism within your competency assessment tool (and communicate actively that you want feedback) so that you put it out there, you get feedback, and you continue to iterate the model and the behaviors to capture changes in tools, in technology, and in the environment in which you operate.  Have a defined process to do something with the feedback in a timely manner.

3) Have a rhythm for periodically re-examining the model for changes.  Maybe 2x/year, or after a transformation, merger or acquisition, or product launch.  Much like the process for creating the competency model, we recommend sending out the tasks and behavioral examples and targets 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.

 

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How do I make competency models more practical?

(Question posted by participants in recent webinars)

There are 2 parts to this answer.

First, you need the model itself to contain behavioral examples that provide a roadmap to increasing proficiency.  By describing best practices, the details in the model itself provide a vision of what “great” looks like and how to get there.  So the model itself needs to be valuable.   You can do this by including your high performers in the development of the model, rather than HR and L&D developing the model independently.  You can find examples in the ATD webinar (Develop an actionable competency model in weeks) and associated materials you can download:  http://webcasts.td.org/webinar/1499

Second, you need to make the model actionable.  It has to be accessible and assessable. That means getting it off the PowerPoint, out of the spreadsheets and into your employees’ hands.  Quickly. Easily. Elegantly.  If you create a song and dance around 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, then to them, it’s worthless.  

 

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How to Use Standard Competency Models to Accelerate Learning Transfer

Don't just hope for learning transfer to occur... do something about it... QUICKLY!

HOW:  Join our ATD webinar live! Register now!  Even if you can't make it, you'll get a link to the recording.

WHEN:  Wednesday, September 21, 2016 at 1:00 p.m. Eastern Time during Career Week.

WHO:  Cheryl Lasse of SkillDirector, and Gordon Richie from IBM

WHY:  So you can use Standard Competency Models to accelerate learning transfer

The responsibility of the talent development function is to provide the best opportunity for learning transfer to occur, such that the required skills are acquired and business results follow. Competency models identify what the organization needs people in a particular role to do so the organization can succeed and create a competitive advantage. They motivate people by providing a road map for how to succeed in any position. There are three steps to accelerating learning transfer with competency-based learning:

  1. Create a competency model.
  2. Make your competency model actionable.
  3. Accelerate learning transfer through competency-based, personalized learning.

However, creating competency models is perceived as heavy lifting, particularly in large organizations. That’s where standard competency models come in. What if you could use a standard competency model instead of creating one? Then you could complete all three steps and accelerate learning transfer in just weeks.

In this webcast you will learn:

  • The components of a standard competency model
  • How to make it actionable in weeks
  • How to accelerate learning transfer, leveraging the 70-20-10 framework

You won't want to miss it!  Register now

 

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How can we focus on the critical competencies (as opposed to all of them)?

(Question posted by participant in Accelerating Learning Transfer webinar)

Once you’ve built your competency model, perhaps by using the method we describe in this ATD webinar, you may discover there are simply too many tasks and competencies for a reasonable competency assessment.  For example, if you’ve identified more than 40 or 50 tasks, that may be too many because it will simply take too long for the assessment to take place, 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 25 – 40 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.  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 in it.  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 competencies for that point in time.

 

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How can you use competency models to support a new system rollout?

(Question posted by participant in Accelerating Learning Transfer webinar)

Change. Fear. Uncertainty. Doubt. These are the things that surround a new enterprise system rollout (e.g., ERP, HER).  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-specific competency models can provide to you. 

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. 

If you have your competency model in a competency assessment tool, have people assess themselves against it (and the newly added/revised task), to find out where people are at a baseline.  Be sure you have competency-based learning that is mapped to each specific role, so that as the gaps are identified, they will point to role-specific learning opportunities (system-specific job aids, formal content) that provide each person with the ability to take action.

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, provide the appropriate competency-based learning to support the changes, and motivate each person to close their own skill gaps.

 

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