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Competencies Retention + Mobility

Retain And Develop Talent With Competencies

By Kelly Craig on March, 4 2016
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Kelly Craig

Regardless of the industry you operate in or what parts of the world you do business in, it’s likely that attracting talent is an ongoing challenge. 

While the ability to attract new talent is important, retaining and developing the talent you already have can yield far greater returns.

The supply of available talent is a major and ongoing issue. In “The Talent Challenge,” PwC’s 17th annual global survey of CEOs, 63 percent of respondents said the availability of skills was a serious concern, and a staggering 93 percent said they recognized the need to change their talent strategies.

Workforce on the move

A big part of the problem is an increasingly restless and mobile workforce. A 2014 survey of 7,350 LinkedIn members revealed that 85% of the workforce is either looking for a job, or open to discussing new opportunities despite being ‘satisfied’ at work. Those who recently changed employers cited “greater opportunities for advancement” as the main reason they left their previous position.

And as Millennials become the dominant force in the global workforce, the issue is only becoming more acute. Less loyal, less risk averse, and more ambitious than previous generations, Millennials are creating new challenges for organizations that want to stabilize their workforce and maximize returns on their investment in talent. For example, a 2015 survey from Mercer indicated that 44% of employees ages 18 to 34 are considering leaving their current job, despite experiencing high levels of satisfaction.

Communication breakdown

But there’s more to the issue than employees’ growing ambitions. HR may be compounding the problem by failing to communicate the opportunities that are available within the organization. The LinkedIn study showed that HR and talent acquisition professionals vastly overestimate the effectiveness of their efforts to publicize internal mobility programs, assuming employee awareness was more than two times higher than it actually was. As a result, employees who could have been connected to new challenges within the organization end up looking—and moving—elsewhere.

Focusing on career mobility within the organization can help companies win the talent wars, but only if development programs and opportunities are accessible, well defined, and flexible enough to align with a range of career goals and learning modalities.

Here are two best practices for employee development that can be achieved through a competency-based approach.

Clearly signpost internal opportunities.

As the LinkedIn study made clear, HR professionals have some work to do in making career development accessible to employees. Even when the opportunities are there, employees aren’t seeing them.

This lack of visibility can be the result of a poorly organized program, or a well-organized program that’s not available in an approachable, user-friendly format. Both of these issues can be addressed by a competency-based development program supported by the cloud, an intranet, or other centralized database.

Competencies can help to keep your development program organized because every learning resource is mapped to the competency it helps to develop and support. Instead of being confronted with an intimidating array of options, employees can focus on the competencies they wish to develop and see the learning resources that support that objective. These may be competencies required to excel in their existing job, to earn a promotion, or to make a lateral movement into a different department or job family. Regardless of the objective, aligning development activities with job requirements makes it easier for employees to visualize and follow a development path that leads to a specific opportunity within the organization.

Storing these learning resources in a centralized database such as CompetencyCore or another cloud-based organization system—or even, in a pinch, a spreadsheet—encourages employees to access the information regularly. If development materials are kept offline in hard copies, or only made available upon request, it puts up significant barriers that diminish awareness and limit employees’ ability to take the initiative and explore their options at their own pace.

Link development to measurable outcomes.

While learning for the sake of learning can be a rewarding activity during leisure hours, it can be frustrating in a workplace setting. Employees want to know that their hard work will pay off—whether the rewards are measured in terms of salary, upward mobility, increased responsibility, or valuable new skills and experience.

Competency-based development programs can help your organization ensure that development activities stay on target and result in outcomes that support employee and organizational goals. Competencies help your organization link development activities—including on-the-job training, workshops, massive open online courses (MOOCs), certification, and mentorships—to specific jobs within the organization. This enables any employee to look up the competencies required for any job within the organization, compare those competencies against his or her current competency profile, and see the development activities needed to take them to the required competency levels. This development approach supports both upward (laddering) and lateral (latticing) career movements for every employee in the organization.

Talent acquisition is—and should be—an area of focus for HR professionals in the coming years. But as rates of attrition climb and the competition for available talent grows fiercer, wise organizations will redouble their efforts to retain and develop the talent that’s already on board.


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

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Post last updated: June 27, 2019.

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