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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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