Real-life competency stories: How innovative organizations are using and implementing competencies.

January 9, 2017 Andrea Butler

As a Competency Consultant with HRSG, I have the pleasure of working with a number of our clients to help them launch their competency initiatives. Reflecting back on 2016, there were three examples that stood out that I wanted to share today.

  1. Using competencies to build capacity at individual and organizational levels.

One of my clients this past year, a technology company in the tax industry, is a leader in the competency-based learning and development space. Although learning and development is one of the most common applications of competencies, this organization is a far ahead of many others in terms of their philosophy of using competencies to identify learning opportunities for employees on a project basis.

What this organization is trying to achieve is to build work teams that have the specific competencies and skills needed to get the special project done, regardless of what department or job function an individual is from. There are a number of benefits to this approach. First-off, the organization is really giving their employees the opportunity to stretch and grow across the organization and learn from diverse perspectives that they wouldn’t get within their own team. And secondly, creating amazing cross-collaboration across the organization that contributes to the overall growth of the business.

  1. Using competencies to address the evolving security concerns in today’s world.

One very interesting trend that I have seen this past year is the increased emphasis on having competencies that address security risks facing the employees in whatever sector they work in. For example, we have been working with the Canadian Agriculture HR Council, and one of the elements that we needed to tackle as part of the competencies was making sure employees have the knowledge, skills, and abilities required to deal with a number of security concerns, like contamination of supplies or equipment, food tampering (e.g., in 2016, there were a number of reported incidents of metal objects being inserted into potatoes) or biosecurity (e.g. how to protect livestock against the introduction and spread of diseases and pests).

From an IT perspective, we have developed competencies that address the security of data from threats like loss of data, hackers, or ransomware. And of course, there is the element of personal security. One of my clients who delivers their services internationally, often in volatile areas of the world, wanted to make sure that their competency profiles emphasized the importance of personal security. In order to do this, we reflected things like being aware of potential security issues or personal vulnerabilities; and from a manager’s point of view, planning for the safety and security of their staff.

  1. Supporting a competency initiative with multi-pronged communication approach.

Introducing competencies to an organization, just like any initiative that touches employees’ day-to-day lives, requires a solid communication plan in order to be successful. A long time HRSG client most recently launched a learning and development initiative requiring their employees to conduct competency-based assessments to identify gaps, and then build learning plans to address the gaps for development purposes.

Even though this is a low-stakes application of competencies, not directly impacting things like compensation or promotion, the communication program that this client put in place was very extensive and has contributed to its successful launch. They have used a multi-pronged, multi-staged approached which included the use of email, message boards, videos, manuals and in-person training. All the messaging was targeted to the particular audience – both employees and managers – and included instructions on how to take the assessments and build the development plans, as well as explanations of what the results will mean. This was followed up with training to the managers on how to help their employees get the most out of the program.

To learn more about this example, check out the case study on this client (OPSEU) or watch the archived webinar featuring them.

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About the Author

Andrea Butler

Andrea is a dynamic and forward thinking consultant whose areas of expertise include conducting job analyses, developing competency models, designing and developing selection systems, leadership development, program evaluation and survey design and development. She is the author of several analytic reports and has presented a variety of papers on topics in leadership effectiveness, competencies, and employee engagement.

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