Top 5 ways to make your competency initiative a success!

April 17, 2015 Sarah Beckett

Competency initiatives can fail to have the desired results for a number of reasons. Some of the major obstacles to success include lack of effective sponsorship, resistance to change, failure to involve key stakeholders, loss of momentum, lack of required training, and inadequate project management.

The biggest challenge we see in organizations is not managing the initiative as a “project” with a beginning, middle and end. Too frequently, organizations assume that the HR department can undertake an initiative like this “off the side of their desk”, without due consideration for the extra effort and time that it will take.

The best way to ensure a successful project is to set realistic goals, with appropriate resources assigned and clear time lines identified.

Follow these 5 tips to make sure your project is a success!

1. Communicate, communicate, communicate

Throughout every stage of your competency initiative, it is important to communicate the goals, benefits and expected outcomes for all stakeholders. This can be achieved through specifically designed communications, like newsletters, employee orientation sessions, or targeted emails, as well as by leveraging ongoing processes that are part of the overall project plan, for example, competency profiling focus groups.

If employees, managers and other stakeholders understand how the tools benefit them and feel they have contributed to the development process, there will be a higher chance for project success.

2. Set goals and evaluate

To determine whether your competency initiative is having the desired impact, set clearly defined goals and establish assessment and measurement criteria.

The key here is to define the goals early in the initiative and have those goals confirmed with senior management. Otherwise, projects can move into the delivery cycle before anyone begins thinking about measuring results, and by then it’s likely to be too late. To capture a pre- and post- comparison, you’ll need to take a first measurement before the competency application is implemented, followed by a second measurement after the application has had time to affect the workforce.

3. Involve your stakeholders

The strategy for development and implementation should involve employees and management at all levels of the organization. This creates buy-in and understanding for the profiles, tools and HR processes to be implemented. If employees, managers and other significant stakeholders feel that they have had a “say” in the tools and processes that will apply to them, and understand the benefits for both them and the organization, there will be a higher chance for project success.

This strategy of involvement must at the same time be tempered with the understanding that employees and managers may not be readily available to participate due to operational demands.

4. Minimize Resistance

Lessons learned from a variety of organizations indicate that to maximize the likelihood of successful implementation of competency-based management, organizations should start with HR processes that are least threatening and most supportive of employees and managers, like training/learning programs or career development, and move gradually to those that more directly impact employee performance reviews, compensation, promotion and advancement.

5. Demonstrate “Quick Wins”

Best practice has also shown that it is important to demonstrate how the implementation of new methods and processes can be of benefit to employees, managers and the organization. Very early in the project it will be necessary to identify high need areas and to develop and implement competency-based solutions to meet these needs. It is best to choose organizational areas where the leadership sees a compelling need and is willing to put the organizational resources into ensuring that the initiative will be successful.

Finally, it is important that the leadership or representatives for the demonstration projects are willing to champion these initiatives in other parts of the organization.


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Post last updated: June 26, 2019.

About the Author

Sarah Beckett

Sarah is an experienced marketer with over 12 years experience. She drives HRSG brand marketing strategy and the implementation of all related programs.

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