Continuing his series of guest blog posts on talent management, Steve Curtis, EMEA Channel Director at NetDimensions talks about competencies, ratings, scales and pitfalls.
Another week gone; I can focus back on one of my areas of interest – competencies and use of competency frameworks.
Again – like most of the Talent Management space – the use of competencies by clients will vary, but generally competencies fall into two main categories – technical and functional/leadership.
Fundamental Building Blocks
Understanding competencies in a business means that first you need to understand where and how competencies might be used. They are the glue that joins learning to the other areas of Talent Management and they are a fundamental building block if a business is to have success in this area.
When I say a fundamental building block, if you compare a Talent Management strategy to a large house, then competencies are the foundation bricks that allow you to then construct the rest of the house. Think about it this way…if you assume that Learning is not there purely to put a tick in the box for compliance, and you think about the broader business drivers for a business wanting to deploy learning, then you have to start to think about the business being able to quickly get it’s people well trained at the jobs they do. People in the business who are already well trained (and competent) will want to use training as one of the components to enable them to move upwards in the business. The business will want to use training to fill any gaps in knowledge where they are possibly considering a person for a senior and critical position for the business (this is part of succession planning).
All of these situations first of all require the business to have a defined set of competencies, and without them none of these activities will work.
Gartner’s View of Talent Management
At this point it’s probably worth going back to my blog last week – I said then that there was a fairly simple diagram that I liked about Talent Management – and this is it:
This is Gartner’s view of Talent Management – and the reason why it’s good to bring it out now is that you can see two things from this: Competencies go across the entire strategy & learning is only one of 7 pillars.
So moving from Learning into Talent is a big step.
The next questions to think through are:
1. How long does it take to define a competency framework?
2. Who needs to be involved?
3. Do companies sell frameworks?
Unfortunately the answers to the first two are not easy….I spent a full day at Disney in Orlando a couple of years ago sitting in a room in one of their hotels defining and mapping the competencies for 2 fictional jobs that we used for an exercise with about 10 clients. Defining
competencies can take a long time, and you typically need to involve the business leads – the people who know what is needed to do the job well. Therefore there is time and cost involved in defining the framework.
One interesting aspect to question 3 – you will tend to find that a lot of companies sell leadership based frameworks as Leadership is fairly well understood and the competencies of a leader therefore tend to be fairly well defined. However technical competencies are often specific to the business, and often therefore take more time to define – as the business needs to do this from scratch normally.
Paralysis through analysis
HR Directors can be quite critical of competency frameworks – some of them have already gone through one round of trying to implement them and if you’re not careful implementing a framework too deeply can cause paralysis through analysis – the business takes so long defining, and then measuring scores for individuals relative to their job/role that it costs the business too much money and things grind slowly to a halt.
Focus on strengths
Not many systems out there allow businesses to focus on strengths – most systems look at competency gaps – and this tends to make businesses focus on weaknesses and not strengths – I got a lot of feedback in my time from HR Directors who when selecting key Talent wanted to focus on strengths – often the most Talented people can actually be quite annoying people, and they often have some real weaknesses – but this is outweighed by their strengths. So don’t think that competencies and using them is the panacea for everything Talent related….
Competency rating scales
To be most effective each competency has to have an associated rating scale. This then let’s a business rate their people on that scale. Person A might have a rating of 1 out of 5, and person B has a rating of 4 out of 5. Training requirements will differ for person A than person B.
Next week I’ll talk about ratings for competencies and how these can be done. This will bring us onto 360 degree assessments and performance appraisals.