A Necessity for Navigating Changing Business Environments
Articles » The Importance of Updating Competencies
Post originally published by
Mian, Ph.D. on Feb 2, 2016
Last year our consulting firm worked on several projects to build better
talent infrastructure for organizations (employee development systems, talent
identification tools, etc.). This involved collecting information on how people
performed their jobs and listening to senior executives describe their
challenges and strategies for remaining competitive. It's evident from these
conversations that the pace of organizational change has increased
rapidly over the past few years, but the updating of employee competency
requirements for some companies is a step behind. In some cases, employees are
performing their jobs in ways that do not fully link to the organization's
future. There are certainly other factors that contribute to this -
insufficient investment in feedback, coaching, training and development, but a
basic reason is that the competency frameworks that describe the behaviors and
skills for job success are either poorly constructed or are no longer aligned
with the company's changing direction.
The impact extends to the hiring process where newly selected employees may
not have the right capabilities to move the organization in its intended
direction. You could say that competency requirements act like a GPS for
how employees perform their jobs and develop in their careers. Frequently
updating them can significantly help employees and the organization arrive at
their projected destination.
We get it… from a practical perspective, updating competencies isn't very
sexy and consumes resources that could be used for possibly more high profile
endeavors. Logic and research however, indicates that giving this aspect of
talent management proper focus is critical. Loew and Garr (2011) found that
updating competencies has a positive business impact. The study looked at high
performing companies on several criteria - high levels of leader retention,
employee engagement, talent bench strength, accelerated change, and improved
business results and found that 62% - 70% of high-performing
organizations revamp their competencies every 2 - 3 years. Research by
Korn Ferry indicates that being proficient in the right competencies
explains a significant portion of total job performance. This finding
is most salient for less senior employees… the individual contributors that are
in most cases responsible for "carrying" out the work.
As you think about updating the competency requirements in your organization,
here's a short list of ideas and best practices:
Ensure that competencies link to the vision, values, and
strategies of the organization - get input from executive leaders
and key employees, review vision, values, and strategy documents to really
understand where the company is headed.
Build competencies with the future in mind , not just
focusing on the behaviors and skills your business needs today. Some
competencies will therefore be aspirational.
Ensure that you have a strategy for implementation .
Some organizations spend lots of time in the development phase, but then do
little with the final product. Consider the following:
Develop a communication/marketing plan for rolling out
the new competencies that involves building awareness and getting buy-in
from different levels of leadership and employees.
Strategically think about how you might initially use new
competencies (e.g. on-boarding curriculum, assessing leader
competence, leadership development programs). Impactful activities involving
the new competencies will help people quickly internalize and become
familiar with the new requirements.
Given the rapid pace of change, your competency requirements should
include elements that reflect the ability to operate in a global (if
applicable) and complex business environment. In some shape or
form, competencies related to "Learning Agility," "Innovation," "Managing
Complexity and Ambiguity," "Leading Virtual Teams," and "Leveraging
Networks" are common in today's competency frameworks.