Category Archives: March 2018

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Developing Targeted Employee Training with a Competency Framework

Training employees can deliver value by building internal resources and capabilities, increasing the value and productivity of the workforce while improving employee loyalty to reduce turnover. Training programs can also work to cover gaps, prepare existing employees for changing roles, and ready candidates for succession.

Competency frameworks refine this process by identifying goal and target behavior– as well as which learnable behaviors and skills actually impact roles. This process is known as capability building, where you manage and learn employee development as part of workforce planning.

Changing Focus from Activity to Effectiveness

Traditional employee training and retraining modes rely on activity. These models often fail to evaluate learning and development, simply because they lack performance targets and data.

A competency framework identifies the behaviors and actions that contribute to success in a role. By identifying skill and behavior competencies, and tracking them to direct success, you know not only what to work on teaching but also how to see when training has succeeded and when training is contributing to positive business outcomes.

Targeting Learning Where It Matters

Competency frameworks also allow you to target learning, by meeting specific learning and development needs, rather than introducing a single broad course. For example, you can target specific employee roles to deliver valuable training while leaving others to study something more valuable to their role. Common competency framework-based training includes:

  • Employee development
  • Skills development with systematic exposure to work experiences
  • Orientation activities and training
  • Continuous learning for employees to ensure skills remain relevant
  • Using experienced workers in the role of mentor or coach
  • Offering lifestyle management and development such as stress and time management to improve productivity and behavior
  • Aligning new initiatives with organizational planning to ensure employees are ready for changes
  • Breaking down cultural barriers to improve cross-organizational communication
  • Building training around business applications rather than the classroom

Targeting individual training based on the competencies desired in that role now and in the future, such as training an IT team in a new software the company is integrating before it is integrated, or training customer service in customer relationship management, benefits both the organization and the employee. Their skills become more relevant and they are therefore more valued and more employable, and the organization improves total output and productivity.

Creating an Environment in Which Employees are Encouraged to Learn

A competency framework creates a system which you can use to accurately gauge what employees have to learn and why. It also creates a framework which you can use to measure the success of training and learning, not with employees passing tests, but with changes in measurable behavior that actively contributes to the organization.

This means that learning should encompass not just hard skills, but also leadership (personal and leading others), values, attitudes, behaviors, being in the workforce, hard skills, and internal systems and processes.

Basing training on a competency framework makes it possible to target goals and specific desired outcomes for individual roles – enabling you to bring individual groups of people where they most need to be to meet the company’s needs, including to deliver specific skills in a short period of time and to slowly develop candidates for larger roles over longer periods of time.


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Competency Frameworks for Succession Planning and Career Paths – Part 2: Creating a Talent Pool

This is part 2 of our blog resource on Competency Frameworks for Succession Planning and Career Paths. Take a look at part 1 here.

Creating a Talent Pool

Once you’ve identified behaviors and competencies which contribute to success inside of critical roles, you can begin to develop a talent pool. This means identifying high-potential employees, reviewing their strengths and weaknesses and working to create strategies so that they and others can close those gaps and prepare for their potential new role.

This involves creating a small pool of employees who can receive leadership development, training, and even organization sponsored education to prepare them to step into a higher role.

Most consider:

  • Behaviors that contribute to success
  • Education level/qualifications
  • Years within the organization
  • Willingness to learn and develop themselves

Many companies also benefit from offering a broader employee development program open to each individual in the company, which allows self-motivated individuals to pursue learning and new roles. This removes some of the need for advanced evaluation and interviewing to qualify candidates for development programs – but may cost more in total to the organization.

Once a talent pool is identified, you can score their competencies based on what is needed for potential future roles. Mentoring programs, developmental assignments, stretch assignments, formal training, and action learning are each extremely valuable in development planning.

A competency framework gives HR the behaviors and competencies needed in candidates, allowing you to put together comprehensive training to develop those with desired qualifications and behaviors so that they are highly qualified for a role when it becomes available. In this way, organizations can ensure employee loyalty, reduce total costs, and reduce downtime because of gaps in crucial roles.


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Competency Frameworks for Succession Planning and Career Paths – Part 1: Identifying Behaviors and Competencies

Creating a succession pipeline is one of the most difficult tasks given to HR. In most cases, filling roles internally and promoting existing employees up is more affordable and more effective than bringing an outsider into a crucial role – but without competency frameworks, most succession planning models are based on output in roles that may not relate to leadership positions.

Competency frameworks identify key behaviors crucial to individual roles, allowing you to identify who can succeed in new roles, and who is better suited to moving up inside of their own role (I.E. into a senior role) rather than into leadership.

Identifying Future Gaps

Whether through retirement, moving on to new roles, or even promotion, companies often lose highly qualified talent and often frequently. Unfortunately, with no ready pool of qualified replacements, many of these roles remain vacant for months before being filled by a new employee, who must first learn the company and its culture before she can be effective.

Gap analysis helps you to reveal where gaps will appear based on projected departure, retirement, and internal promotion.

  • Expected retirees
  • Retirement eligible
  • Internal promotions
  • Unexpected losses

Once you’ve identified where you will face gaps, you can move on to filling them. This also means identifying critical roles inside your organization, which cannot be left empty and are therefore prime candidates for succession planning.

Behaviors that Contribute to Success in the New Role

With a competency framework in place, you can identify the factors and behaviors which contribute to success inside of a role that will soon be left empty. This will then allow you to target unlearnable behaviors or difficult to learn behaviors (such as honesty, creativity, flexibility, strong problem solving, people skills, etc.), and work to identify candidates inside of your company that already meet those needs. But, unlike with traditional hand selection and grooming, a competency model allows you to publicly share what success looks like inside that role, so each individual knows what they have to do and to learn in order to be promoted.

Take a look at part 2 of this resource, creating a talent pool, here.


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How Competency Frameworks Relate to Performance Management

Competency frameworks allow you to define expected behaviors and skills, at an individual level for roles and at an organizational level for the entire company. This model is obviously invaluable for the hiring process, allowing you to vet candidates based on hard skills as well as behavior and responses to determine if they are capable of filling the role well – but also increasingly valuable for performance management and end of year review. By determining what makes a role successful, you can more easily judge when and why an existing employee performs well in their role, when they outperform, and how to improve their performance.

Managing Performance as a Culture

Many organizations manage performance at one or two points throughout the year, but not on a daily basis. Integrating competency frameworks allows you to judge if individual behavior contributes to a role. For example, if a person in customer service is routinely short, rude, or non-communicative, they’re obviously not fit for the role and will likely be moved or fired. But, we rarely apply those same behavioral considerations to other roles. A manager must be open, willing to invest in the success of her team over herself, a teacher, and a leader. If she doesn’t demonstrate those behaviors, is she performing well in her role?

A well-designed competency framework will clearly define organizational values, focus job and career development, assist employees in managing job and career satisfaction, and work to organize individuals towards personal development.

Competency is Not Performance

Recognizing that someone has competencies and seeing them perform are separate things. A person may have all the required competencies, and still not perform well in a role. So, performance management must be separated from competency frameworks. Competency correlates with performance in that you can see how people are working. At the same time, motivation, drive, and commitment play a big part, so that a person who is highly competent may be demotivated and underperforming and a less competent person may be overperforming. You can gauge how employees are performing using competency frameworks, but you still have to gauge what they are doing separately.

Competency-based performance management is a good solution when combined with traditional performance management. Competencies give you more tools to measure how employees are working and how they are contributing. If you know what success in a role looks like, you can look for it, and measure accordingly. But, it’s not the only factor. Physical output and production still matter a great deal. You need both, and each is complementary to the other.


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Outsourcing vs. Creating Your Own Competency Framework

Competency frameworks give you the tools to gauge an employee’s ability to perform well in a role based on behavior, personality, and hard skills – allowing to go beyond using what’s on paper to determine how people actually perform. But, while undeniably valuable, many companies struggle with determining what’s needed and why. Creating a competency framework can require months or even years of research – leading many to outsource

However, with many pros and cons to each outsourcing and creating your own competency framework, it’s important that you consider more than simply costs.

Outsourcing Competency Frameworks

Outsourcing a competency framework means connecting with an external company that already has a significant amount of benchmarked data, an established process, and “fill in the blanks” data which they can quickly and easily customize based on your specific company. Many have industry-specific solutions, which can be easily and cost-effectively updated for your company – giving you a competency framework you can establish quickly and at minimal cost.

Developing Your Own

Many organizations choose to develop competency frameworks internally, either using existing benchmarked data or starting from scratch. This involves considerable internal research to map competencies to roles, source objectives, source an organizational and management framework, and ensure ongoing improvement.

This means aligning business, sourcing and strategy to create a single list of objectives, identifying competencies, mapping existing competencies to success across teams and roles to ensure that they are effective and important, developing a framework for teams and relationships to develop collaboration and ensure that persons with competencies are available where needed, and establish a framework for monitoring performance and effectiveness.

You have to develop internal resources to:

  • Analyze existing job roles and what makes them productive
  • Interview leaders and workers and compile data
  • Structure how competencies contribute towards end-goals
  • Define how each competency contributes and why

Choosing the Best Solution for Your Organization

If you can successfully handle internal research and analysis, building your own competency model from the ground up may be beneficial. However, most organizations benefit considerably more by bringing in not only third-party research but also a third-party perspective. Outsourcing allows you to adopt research compiled across your industry – but have it customized and modified to meet your company’s specific needs. Because the bulk of the work is already finished, you can easily identify what applies to your company, create management and leadership frameworks around it, and develop accordingly, rather than starting with nothing.


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Loss of leadership? Here’s how to handle business reorganization

Any business reorganization presents a tough challenge for HR. Employees are left disgruntled and often bitter, new roles must be filled, old employees must work in new ways, and many suffer from demotivation and guilt or anger. These problems are exacerbated when leadership roles are emptied by reorganization, through either restructuring organization, changing teams, or removing old leaders. Employees may be left feeling confused, unproductive, and unmotivated, all of which can dramatically hurt the company.

In fact, one study showed that 74% of employees who maintained their roles through restructuring were demotivated afterwards. Managing a business reorganization and keeping everyone on track means recognizing these issues and working to correct them by reestablishing trust in leadership.

Recognize Problems

Employees who stay on after a reorganization feel sad and even guilty. They may have lost friends, leaders, and people they worked with for years. They may be anxious about their future role, changing roles in the company, and even the future of the company. Recognize this, and act accordingly.

As a result, many employees are left feeling unconfident and unmotivated. To balance, try offering resources to help employees deal with the transition and to boost their confidence, even when they’ve lost trusted leaders. Consider training, classes, seminars, or projects that will get employees excited about working there, offer opportunities, and help everyone understand the value they bring to the table so that they are self-motivated.

You’ll also likely have gaps. Take the time to assess missing skills, equipment, and resources before moving forward.

Offer Opportunities

Restructuring is about moving on. Use it to offer opportunities, like stretch assignments, training, and the ability to take on new and bigger tasks. Even if restructuring is part of a sale, it can be used as an opportunity to allow existing employees to move up or across so that they feel the restructure benefits them. This is especially important when changing how teams work because it gives workers something to grow into.

Empower Employees

Building personal leadership and helping employees to take initiative and lead themselves is often a big step for improving productivity and the quality of the workforce. Spend time helping individuals to adapt and to gain confidence in new roles. Reorganization needs to be about employees, and that means communicating upfront, treating people with respect and dignity, offering opportunities to help those being let go to find new job opportunities, and so on.

Getting Restructuring Right

A good reorganization should involve considerable planning, needs and gap analysis, and training for employees. Consolidating roles, removing teams, and changing how work is completed changes infrastructure and leadership completely – you need to know when and why it is happening so that you can communicate to the people it affects.

Modern companies restructure completely as they change direction, move to meet changing technologies, and adjust for targets. Your workforce should be driven, self-motivated, and capable of personal leadership to help you meet these challenges – so that your company remains productive and motivated throughout changes.


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