“How do we know we have the right people working on that? Do we have the capability to do this?”
Those are the kinds of questions to which anyone accountable for results in their team or organisation should know the answer. But how many are even asking the questions?
It seems many organisations get along by recruiting people into positions based on what the role requires and how well a candidate matches those requirements. That seems like a perfectly logical approach, but the operating environment is probably changing faster now than at any time ever before and so what was the ‘right’ match before may not be now. As operations change, the requirements for the right capability changes and so organisations need to know what capability it has now, what it will need and how to close that gap. It may become obvious that people don’t have the skills required but that is too reactive. To be more effective the mechanism typically employed to identify the gap is a training needs analysis.
“Do we just need to provide more training?”
However the need is identified, organisations provide training to try to stay ahead of the game by equipping people with the skills they need. The problem with trying to train your way through the challenge of a changing environment is that you are often just playing catch-up. Taking a competency-based approach is a key element in anticipating need and equipping the organisation to grow. This is supported by findings from an Institute of Employment Studies research which indicate that competences are a valuable way to improve the relevance of training courses to target individual needs.
“We already have a competences in place, so I can relax – there’s no problem!”
Not so fast. A competence-driven approach to managing capability can be a lot more than the driver to provide training more effectively. Using it for this end alone is limiting it to retrospective recording and reaction. Competence-driven capability management is just as useful, if not essential, for forward planning. It provides a framework for identifying the standards of good performance, which is useful for recruitment and selection. It is useful for organisational change management by identifying the knowledge and behaviours required for improvement and establishing a mechanism for driving change. It is essential to answer the questions that we started with: ‘how do we know we have the right people working on that’ and ‘do we have the capability to do this’?
“So we need more than just a set of competences?”
Being in a position to answer those two key questions above needs an understanding of what ‘good’ looks like and what the organisation needs to improve performance and deliver growth.
“How do I know my competences are the right ones?”
The definition of the right competences is clearly the starting point. That could be done internally but it’s also where professionally-based competence frameworks come into their own. Internally-developed competences are specific to what the organisation wants, but their disadvantage can be that they can be limited to what the organisation knows. Professionally-based competence frameworks are built on best practice and industry-wide standards. Two areas where we have found them particularly helpful are IT and project management.
The world of IT is fast-paced and constantly evolving. Having an industry standard set of competences, such as those defined with the SFIA (Skills for the Information Age) Framework can help an organisation to keep up.
Every projects has elements of uniqueness. By their very nature each project requires different levels of capability on the part of the team to meet its individual unique challenges and level of complexity. The Association for Project Management (APM) has defined a competence framework relevant to project, programme and portfolio management at all levels from ‘Entry’ to ‘Master’.
“That’s the competence side. What about what the organisation needs?”
This is addressed in two parts:
Defining the competences required for each job role using professionally-based job roles to satisfy current or future operational needs
Determining the needs of project work according to the level of project complexity
QA has worked with clients to develop tailored versions of industry standard job roles to ensure the specific needs of the organisation are reflected in the definition of relevant roles. We have then deployed our web-based competency management tool to measure current levels of individual competency and compared them to the required levels to identify individual and organisation gaps. In the case of project management, that can be supplemented by comparing the competence levels to the complexity levels of projects to map the ‘right’ project people to the ‘right’ projects.
“So how do I answer those questions?”
To be confident that you have right people assigned to work and the capability to meet future needs and growth, the organisation needs to:
Have clearly defined competences for each role
Capture the results of a competence assessment at individual, team and organisation level
Compare current competence levels to those required by role and function
For project work, define the areas and levels of complexity
Compare current competence levels to project complexity
Enable matching of individuals to future projects according to competence and complexity
Building on a successful career in project delivery Tom has been a professional learning and development consultant for over a decade. The projects he has successfully managed include culture change, people development, business process improvement, marketing strategy and web-based services, in a variety of business environments and often with high degrees of stakeholder complexity. Tom leads clients in the design, development and delivery of innovative project, management services across the entire spectrum of QA’s customer base, linked to business and individual performance improvement. Tom is experienced across the disciplines of project, programme and portfolio management including method development, competency assessments, learning programme design and development, tailored training, coaching, workshop facilitation, and senior management engagements.
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