As the economy picks up and organizations shift from survival to growth, learning and development is becoming a key area of focus for HR.
According to Bersin’s 2016 Corporate Learning Factbook, US spending on corporate training grew by 15 percent last year—the highest growth rate in seven years. In total, US companies spent $70 billion on learning and development for employees.
The Factbook indicates that many industries are challenged by skill shortages, and with research suggesting that training is a more effective solution than hiring, organizations are stepping up and taking responsibility for developing the talent they need. More than 70% of organizations cite “capability gaps” as one of their top five challenges, but they also acknowledge that closing these gaps requires 3-5 years of training, even when a seasoned professional is hired.
For organizations that need to see more value from their learning and development activities, competencies can provide a helpful framework to guide a more intentional, results-focused training program.
Too often, learning and development activities are not connected to the skills and behaviors proven to result in job success. They are too general, too broad-brush, and are often added to the list of acceptable training resources through an ad hoc process.
When learning and development opportunities are connected to specific competencies, it ensures that employees receive training that directly supports behaviors proven to result in on-the-job success.
The explosion in new learning modalities has created a heavier administrative burden. From massive open online courses (MOOCs) such as coursera.org and Udacity.com, peer-generated multimedia learning content, mobile-friendly training options, and other Internet/intranet resources, HR professionals have a much bigger and more complicated set of resources to manage.
Competencies provide a way to keep resources organized and help employees find those that are relevant to them. By maintaining a competency profile for every job in the organization and linking learning opportunities to specific competencies and competency levels, employees can clearly see which resources can help them reach the skill level required for their current job or acquire different skills for a lateral or upward career move.
Software solutions such as HRSG’s CompetencyCore Development Module, which automate the process of linking competencies with appropriate training options, can make the job of managing today’s diverse training resources even easier.
Identifying skill gaps
Remediating skill gaps is a key requirement of any learning and development program, and competencies are invaluable in helping HR professionals identify gaps for individual employees and for the organization as a whole. They provide the standards of performance excellence against which employee development needs can be assessed and priorities can be set against the business needs of the organization.
The ability to evaluate skill gaps holistically can be invaluable in reducing costs, increasing efficiencies, and approaching learning and development activities more strategically. For example, employee data can be consolidated into group reports that enable you to develop more cost-effective group training instead of one-off individual options. Individual training decisions can also be aligned more directly with the organization’s most pressing skill needs, with internal talent being groomed to assume key positions.
Having a clear set of metrics in place for every investment in learning and development is essential. A piecemeal or scattershot approach is no longer viable when ROI is increasingly demanded of HR activities.
Because competencies are workplace-validated and designed to identify the behaviors of high-value performers, they offer built-in learning outcomes and an evaluation framework. Whatever the learning solution—internal, external, web-delivered, peer-driven, classroom-based, and so on—the impact can be measured and linked to both employee effectiveness and organizational goals.
Competency profiles are the foundation on which all competency-based activities are built, because they identify the specific competencies and proficiency levels that define success. This makes competencies concrete and tangible in the workplace, and gives a common language for describing successful performance, whether in the context of hiring, performance management, career progression, or any other HR activity.
But if you are new to competencies, jumping in to select the specific competencies for each job in your organization can seem like a daunting task. If this is the case for you, you might want to look at role profiles as an alternative to job-specific ones.
Want to learn more about using competencies? Download our Competency Info Sheet.
About the Author
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.More Content by Lorraine McKay