New and emerging ways to use competencies

December 12, 2016 Lorraine McKay

Competency-based talent management is not a new trend—HR professionals have used competencies to manage talent for decades. But as the approach matures, practitioners are finding new and innovative ways to apply competencies to the challenge of identifying and developing talent more effectively.

In this week’s post, we’ll look at some of the emerging applications of competency-based management techniques, including their use in educational frameworks, governance structures, and mentoring relationships.

Competency-based education

1 - competency-based-education

Competency-based education (CBE) is a rising trend, and it’s changing the way educators and employers interact and collaborate. According to a Tech Crunch article, the number of colleges and universities that are preparing to launch new competency-based education programs has increased tenfold since last year, with over 500 colleges and universities currently planning a CBE initiative.

Integrating competencies into an educational framework offers a range of benefits to educators and employers alike. According to one recent environmental scan, CBE provides clearer learning outcomes, requires, students to demonstrate job-specific skills and knowledge, and aligns the educational experience more closely with the workplace realities.

For example, HRSG recently participated in a CBE initiative led by a Canadian college in which an advisory panel made up of employers, educators, and competency experts collaborated on learning objectives for a management program. In the future, the curriculum will provide a range of learning options for each required competency, giving students the option to build a modular, customized program that reflects their learning preferences (e-learning, video tutorials, co-ops and classroom study, for example) and addresses specific gaps in their competency profile.

Board creation and development

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After a series of board-related scandals in the business world, Sarbanes-Oxley tightened up corporate board requirements considerably. But not-for-profit associations have also started looking at ways to ensure a capable, defensible, and coordinated board of directors, and competencies can help to achieve those aims.

Recently, we helped a national industry association address dysfunction among their board members by identifying the competencies required to select and develop the leadership they needed. We developed a competency framework that included:

  • Competencies required by every board member (accountability and achievement orientation, for example)
  • Competencies required at the board level to create a balanced and capable team (finance- and operations-related competencies, for example)
  • Competencies required at the task force or committee level to ensure project success

The association now uses competencies to select and assign board members as well as to guide development activities that enhance the board’s capabilities even further. The selection process is now more transparent, defensible, and aligned with the association’s needs.

Competency-based mentoring

competency based mentoring

Mentoring has become a valued and effective means of developing talent. According to the American Society for Training and Development, nearly three-quarters (71 percent) of Fortune 500 companies supporting mentorship programs today. Mentoring is popular with Millennials, one of the fastest-growing workplace demographics, and it’s also effective, with 75 percent of executives crediting their success to mentorships.

Competencies can be used to create focused mentorship opportunities by connecting mentees to mentors who have demonstrated proficiency in the desired competency area. For example, if an employee wants to learn how to improve their networking skills, they can search the company database to find mentors who have been assessed at a high level for this competency. This approach increases the pool of available mentors, since a mentor doesn’t need to be more senior than the mentee. Instead, they just need to demonstrate advanced expertise in a specific competency.

Since competency-driven mentorship relationships are focused on a specific performance area, they enable mentees to get targeted support and guidance, and they also reduce the level of commitment required by the mentor. This can encourage more potential mentors to get involved in the program.

Are You Getting the Most Out of Competencies?

About the Author

Lorraine McKay

Lorraine has over 30 years of experience as an Industrial/Organizational Psychologist and HR Professional. She is well known for her experience developing competency-based programs and tools and has been instrumental in building HRSG’s competency management methodology, certification program, and tools.

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