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Navigating change with competencies

By Sarah Beckett on March, 27 2015
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Sarah Beckett

Businesses change and evolve – it’s a fact of life. 

It can be stressful for employees and managers alike, especially when there isn’t a clear plan for getting from where you are today, to where you need to be tomorrow.

Successful organizations need employees who can adapt to changing markets, new technologies and new ways of doing business, and most importantly, be equipped to participate in the change process.

But how do you equip your employees to do this? Competencies are a powerful tool to communicate a change in performance expectations, and here are some recommendations on how to do this.

As with any change initiative, it is important to start by figuring out where you are going. Once defined, you can use this vision to answer some key questions that will help paint the picture of what your “ideal” employee group looks like, and what competencies they need to have in order to be successful.

  • How many and what types of employees will be needed?
  • How adaptable must they be? Will they need generalist or highly specialized skill sets?
  • Will special educational, certification or licensing requirements have to be met?
  • Will they operate independently, or as part of a team?

Using this information, you can build future-oriented competency profiles that will provide a roadmap to success for each job in your organization. These job profiles form the basis for your planning and HR management activities.

The hard part comes next: determining how your employees measure up. To be successful, this should be done in a systematic way.

The required skills, competencies, knowledge and educational requirements need to be clearly defined, and your current group of employees will need to be evaluated against these requirements.

We recommend using a competency assessment or building personal employee inventories of competencies that can then be matched to the new job requirements.

Getting from here to there:

The results of the employee assessment can be used to create individual action plans for addressing any gaps in competencies identified. Options include:

  • Train/Develop: The employee has some of the skills to meet the goals of the organization, but there are gaps to be addressed through training, development or coaching.
  • Re-Assign: The employee may have many of the skills needed to meet the organizational goals but is in the wrong job, or the employee’s current job will no longer exist in a re-designed structure, yet the employee is valued and capable of contributing to the organization’s success.
  • Offer Support Tools: Some employees may require additional resources or new equipment to perform to their full potential.
  • Release: In some cases, the gap between current skills and future requirements may be so great that it cannot be resolved through the means identified above. While not the path most progressive organizations would prefer to take, having eliminated all other options it may be necessary as a last resort to help employees transition to opportunities that exist beyond the organization. In doing so, progressive organizations offer exit packages that allow employees to transition with dignity and, in many cases, support a new career path offering greater fulfillment and career satisfaction in the longer term.

>> Netflix, for example, takes a very strong stance on this. In a business environment where technology changes at an incredible pace, making sure all employees have the right skills and competencies to do their job is imperative to building a high performance workforce. Netflix chooses to offer generous severance packages to employees who no longer meet job requirements.

Throughout the entire process, it is important that employees be kept up to date about the change underway, and be treated with respect and dignity.

Always remember to present the change in a positive light and point out the benefits for both employees and the organization.

The aim is to come out of the process a better organization, prepared to meet the challenges of the future and to achieve the organization’s vision and goals.


Want to learn more about using competencies? Get started with our Competency Toolkit:

Download your Competency Toolkit using the form below.



Post last updated: June 26, 2019.

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