How Competent Is Your Workforce?

So where do you start? There are numerous models to identify core skills in the workforce, or should I say lack of, with the ultimate aim of producing a ‘Training Needs Analysis’ in order to develop staff.

Organizations within this region are at different stages of development with regards to the level of sophistication required to produce a meaningful training schedule. Some have taken a methodical approach to staff development and are reaping the rewards of staff retention and a motivated workforce, whilst others are floundering in the abyss of high staff turnover, absenteeism and poor employee attitudes.

Here are some questions you can ask to help you identify where you are:

• Do we have a strategic and operational plan?

• Do we have an appraisal system?

• Do all staff have up to date job descriptions?

• Do all staff have written objectives?

• Do we have a competency framework or use National Occupational Standards?

• Do we have a training strategy or statement of commitment supporting training and learning?

• Do we have effective formal and informal consultation processes across the organization?

Are you one of those companies who have had their department heads fill in a questionnaire for the staff they are responsible for and then developed a tick-list training schedule to fill the skills gap based on the results of the survey?

Yes? – Well done for being honest!

I have witnessed this occur many times in my career. Whilst we are able to gather valuable information about the level of skills our workforce possesses and possible shortfalls in certain areas, it is a perfidious short cut.

Firstly, we should already know our organizations core skills, otherwise how do we recruit correctly?

Secondly, these skills are a factor in strategic planning and decision making and a source for identifying competitive advantage and the back bone for future business growth.

Identifying core skills is an essential part of any business and should be an integral part of the start-up process, just as identifying office space, stock or what your market differentiation is. If you have not done it as part of your set-up process, do it now! It’s never too late.

One thing to bear in mind however is that a collection of skills needs to include knowledge and attributes as well. Then, we can transform these skills into competencies. To be clear: ‘A competence represents the skills, knowledge and behaviours required to perform effectively in a given job, role or situation’.

We often miss thinking about competencies, focusing on just pure skills. We use competences to help define what an individual should be doing and how they should go about doing it, to meet the needs of their role.

Organizations often say that their greatest asset is their staff. However, the real asset is the capability the organisation has in training, developing, motivating and managing the individual skills its staff has and to mould these abilities into a core competency, giving the company a huge advantage over its competitors and increased personal development, talent management plans and staff motivation.

This is when we truly can say staff are our biggest asset – and prove it!

So; how do we determine the competency of our staff? There are several techniques, including:

• Direct observation

• Questionnaires

• Consultation with persons in key positions, and/or with specific knowledge

• Review of relevant literature

• Interviews

• Focus groups

• Assessments/surveys

• Records & report studies

• Work samples

My preference is that the assessment should follow this process:

• Each team member carries out a self-assessment, using a standard assessment form.

• A peer-to-peer review takes place, which allows team members to validate their own assessment of their own competency level.

• The line manager reviews the self-assessment with the individual, and makes any adjustments that may be required.

• The final agreed assessment is submitted for consolidation, analysis and reporting.

To be able to analyse the results from the competency assessment, an ideal profile should be built for each of the major roles across the team. This is a profile of the skills and behaviours that the person should possess in order to perform at an optimum level in their role. Not their current level.

The results of the competency assessment are then matched against the ideal profile, and can be presented in a number of ways. A useful output is a role summary showing how the assessed competency levels match the ideal profile. They can be presented in a spider graph, as shown in the example opposite.

You can clearly see the competency gaps. (As demonstrated by Future Purchasing).

The assessment gives the employee a sense of what is necessary to increase performance, and specifically, what skills and competencies are necessary to develop for success.

The organization, in turn, gains a sense of the employee’s fit and potential within the company.

Knowing your core competencies is like having that one mammoth effort that reaps benefits for the rest of the organizations life. Invest your time and efforts wisely.

Paula Jane Cox is a partner for Lumina Learning in the Middle East. She has over 18 years experience in consulting with leaders and decision-makers to improve business effectiveness, the bottom line and engaging employees on a global scale. Currently residing in the UAE.

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