Many organizations are now connecting staff across the globe into one online system to manage their learning, job profiles, training records and levels of attainment. Adding competency management to these seems like a good solution — but is it?

The way hybrid workforces are now being managed encourages organizations to revisit competency management. Moreover, with modern advances in technology and data analytics, organizations can use competency definitions and frameworks to guide them through the challenges of change management and performance improvement.

Building a culture of compliance is a core part of any learning and development (L&D) strategy, but it’s important to agree on the terminology — and its meaning — that your organization will use. Many words — such as “attainment” or even “competence” and “competent” — have similar meanings, but they can be interpreted differently. Using different terms across systems, processes, teams and departments can cause confusion. Understanding what you deem to be the minimum level of evidence that your organization is willing to accept to have a person identified as competent is key to ensuring that your competency definitions and resulting framework will be successful.

When writing competency definitions, you should first determine the evidence that is required. Create a list of the evidence that will determine if a person meets the requirements that someone in their role needs to be successful.

Then, figure out how they will acquire this evidence by identifying tasks, activities and sets of knowledge in their day-to-day activities. To do this, ask questions like:

  • How would a person practice these activities to improve their performance?
  • What programs, policies or procedures are involved in generating evidence?
  • Are there any pre-determined standards or accreditation body, legal or government regulations that apply?

Understanding how to measure 21st-century skills performance has become a hot topic since we now understand how important psychological safety is for effective hybrid working and collaborating with others.

As technology takes on repetitive tasks, people are more likely to work in teams that require 21st-century skills such as cooperation, collaboration, communications and more. These are becoming known as transferable skills, because they can be used in most job roles.

It’s not unusual these days for people to work on projects in small teams. In these cases, individual measures are important to quantify, because each person makes a big difference in a project’s progress.

Evidence is required for two types of measures to get a full picture of the person’s contribution: functional skills and transferable skills. Functional skills are where knowledge and technical skills are assessed by collecting evidence of an individual’s level of capability. Transferable skills are where behaviors and attitudes are evident. This can be more complex — as people have good days and bad days — so using evidence from a single instance might be unfair. As with all competencies, working out what’s expected is key to understanding what type of evidence you’re willing to accept.

One way to assess these factors is by using the Talent Transformation Pyramid. This holistic model offers a shared vocabulary for discussing the 12 factors that support competencies. It provides a means of evaluating individuals, teams and organizations to assess their current performance, identify appropriate interventions and determine their readiness for the world of work. Working with this model offers clarity and direction for diagnosing skills gaps, harvesting actionable evidence, improving performance and optimizing organizational effectiveness.

When assessing a job role using this model, ask questions like:

  • What learning experiences are, or need to be made, available?
  • Have you expressed the set of values that you expect the person to meet?
  • Are your processes of review or feedback open and transparent?
  • Are individuals prepared to accept and understand expressed emotions?
  • Do your support structures underpin your workplace culture?
  • Do your support structures support psychological safety?
  • Do your reviews identify where complex ideas, planning, reasoning, problem solving and abstract thinking are taking place?

Answering these questions helps identify when and how evidence can be gathered. Focusing on the evidence to be collected can help you discard old practices that don’t provide value and will encourage new, simpler methods that focus on results.

Credentials — usually offered by an accrediting body — provide formal recognition of evidence for completing a set of tasks relating to knowledge, skills, abilities and/or behaviors. Informal and formal micro-credentials are becoming popular and can be taken as evidence that a person has met an agreed upon and approved standard. This might be recognized by a digital badge or in-house certificate for completing a course, or passing a test, signed off by a qualified individual.

During the process of tracking individuals’ competence, multiple pieces of evidence will be collected to establish and demonstrate performance. One piece of evidence may be mapped to many competency definitions or their associated individual tasks. Some examples of evidence are:

  • Observations.
  • Certifications.
  • Credentials.
  • Performance tests.
  • Reports.
  • Publications.
  • Feedback.
  • Self-generated notes or blog posts.
  • Customer and employee satisfaction surveys, 360 questionnaires.
  • Financial and production data.
  • Safety records.

In Conclusion

It’s important to create competency definitions and competency frameworks that provide reliable results every time. Your organization must be confident that using the framework is not just a “tick-box” exercise.

Once you have established a reliable process to gather evidence of competency, you can turn to the rest of the competency framework.