Tag Archive | competencies

Talent Management & Competency Assessments

Continuing his series of guest blog posts on talent management, Steve Curtis, EMEA Channel Director at NetDimensions talks about competencies and assessments.

360 Assessment
Competencies and Assessments

Many of us think of assessments as things that are used in learning to assess a user’s understanding of a set of education. Assessments in the Talent Management world are a different beast altogether, and the purpose of this week’s blog is to review assessments in the world of Talent Management.

Last week I talked a bit about competencies – leadership and technical. The critical talent in a business can be the people who are identified as the future potential leaders of that business, but can also be the deep techies, who we can all love to hate, but who at the same time are sometimes the more critical talent of the business. People with the ability to lead effectively are in demand, but some technical abilities can be truly unique and therefore quite often it is the people with technical competencies that can be the critical talent for the business.

At some point each year (and for some businesses and roles at multiple points during the year), the business will want to have a person’s competencies assessed formally. Assessments of this kind normally are not something that you can do via a test – it is not an assessment that we, with our learning backgrounds think of – it is normally more of a subjective measure of the abilities of an individual, and this is where there can be a challenge for the business and for HR.

The 360 degree Assessment

Let’s give a real example of this in action. Fred is a call centre manager, and at a personal level his manager doesn’t really like him much. However he is good at the job, is liked by the people who report into him, and has a good reputation with the customers. In a normal organisation with a pyramid organisational structure, and in a pressured business environment, it might only be his manager that will formally score him against his competencies, and this might cause an issue since his manager doesn’t really like him. More and more businesses and HR are therefore trying to move to a 360 degree assessment model, where Fred is assessed by his manager, by the people who report into him, and by other people, including maybe even the customers who work with him, and the people who work alongside him.

This is called a 360 degree competency assessment, and there is software out there that will do this automatically. The benefit of this approach is that the ratings become more objective and less subjective if the business involves all the right people in the rating of his ability to do the job. Some software will allow the business to weight the scores, so that maybe the manager’s rating counts for 50% of the score, the subordinates total 30% etc….

There is always a negative to this and the gotcha here is that the more people you involve, the more time it takes, and the more admin it needs – paralysis by analysis again can easily rear its ugly head.

Things to think through with assessments

Competency assessments can be as complex an area as the business wants it to be – consider these questions:

1. Should a rater be named on the assessment, or be anonymous? If someone rates you with a poor score would the business want the person being rated to know who it was that gave him that low score. The ability to set a rater as anonymous is sometimes asked for, but both ways can have positives and negatives – anonymous ratings with comments are often constructively more useful as the rater feels more able to be honestly constructive about the rating. However anonymous ratings may not give the person being rated the ability to ask the rater why a rating was given or how they could improve. So there is not a right answer here.

2. How many people should be involved? – the more the better, but too many and you get paralysis through analysis.

3. Should you have different setups for different jobs? – for instance if you have a retail organisation with high turnover and you set the assessment so that everyone is assessed in a 360 degree way, is it right to have a shelf stacker rated in the same way as a senior manager – of course not – so you need to have a flexible approach where 360 degree assessments may only be used for areas of the business and people where it will benefit the organisation.

4. Do you want comments at all, or just ratings? – comments can help but again take longer to put into the system.

5. Should you even involve the extended enterprise? – customers and suppliers – should they be involved at all in rating your people? Their opinion will count for customer and supplier facing people, but do you want to expose them to your internal appraisal systems.

Trends and my thoughts

There are lots of considerations here, and there is no right answer, but to finish off this week with some high level trends and thoughts:

1. There is a movement away from subjectivity towards objectivity.

2. Some organisation wrap the competency assessment into the performance appraisal – but the 360 degree assessment can be done at any time of the year, and often businesses will isolate one from the other.

3. When linking competencies to learning the last thing most organisations want is to have the rating of a person move upwards automatically after the person involved has attended training related to a competency. Businesses are much more interested in seeing that the training has allowed the person to be more effective in that aspect of their job, and so while we often want to link competencies to training so that the business can allocate suitable training based on competency gaps, the business will want to have a period of time then after the training before the 360 assessment to see how the training has affected the competency of their workforce. Some systems allow the business to visualise the uplift in competencies and link this to delivered training and this is one of the “nirvanas” for the L&D department….

Enough for this week….next week I’ll move on to Performance Appraisals – a subject we should all know well.

Talent Management 2: Competencies, Ratings, Scales & Pitfalls

Continuing his series of guest blog posts on talent management, Steve Curtis, EMEA Channel Director at NetDimensions talks about competencies, ratings, scales and pitfalls. 

Another week gone; I can focus back on one of my areas of interest – competencies and use of competency frameworks.

Again – like most of the Talent Management space – the use of competencies by clients will vary, but generally competencies fall into two main categories – technical and functional/leadership.

Fundamental Building Blocks
Understanding competencies in a business means that first you need to understand where and how competencies might be used. They are the glue that joins learning to the other areas of Talent Management and they are a fundamental building block if a business is to have success in this area.

When I say a fundamental building block, if you compare a Talent Management strategy to a large house, then competencies are the foundation bricks that allow you to then construct the rest of the house. Think about it this way…if you assume that Learning is not there purely to put a tick in the box for compliance, and you think about the broader business drivers for a business wanting to deploy learning, then you have to start to think about the business being able to quickly get it’s people well trained at the jobs they do. People in the business who are already well trained (and competent) will want to use training as one of the components to enable them to move upwards in the business. The business will want to use training to fill any gaps in knowledge where they are possibly considering a person for a senior and critical position for the business (this is part of succession planning).
All of these situations first of all require the business to have a defined set of competencies, and without them none of these activities will work.

Gartner’s View of Talent Management
At this point it’s probably worth going back to my blog last week – I said then that there was a fairly simple diagram that I liked about Talent Management – and this is it:

Gartners View of Talent Management

This is Gartner’s view of  Talent Management – and the reason why it’s good to bring it out now is that you can see two things from this: Competencies go across the entire strategy & learning is only one of 7 pillars.

So moving from Learning into Talent is a big step.

Implementing Frameworks
The next questions to think through are:

1. How long does it take to define a competency framework?

2. Who needs to be involved?

3. Do companies sell frameworks?

Unfortunately the answers to the first two are not easy….I spent a full day at Disney in Orlando a couple of years ago sitting in a room in one of their hotels defining and mapping the competencies for 2 fictional jobs that we used for an exercise with about 10 clients. Defining

competencies can take a long time, and you typically need to involve the business leads – the people who know what is needed to do the job well. Therefore there is time and cost involved in defining the framework.
One interesting aspect to question 3 – you will tend to find that a lot of companies sell leadership based frameworks as Leadership is fairly well understood and the competencies of a leader therefore tend to be fairly well defined. However technical competencies are often specific to the business, and often therefore take more time to define – as the business needs to do this from scratch normally.

Paralysis through analysis
HR Directors can be quite critical of competency frameworks – some of them have already gone through one round of trying to implement them and if you’re not careful implementing a framework too deeply can cause paralysis through analysis – the business takes so long defining, and then measuring scores for individuals relative to their job/role that it costs the business too much money and things grind slowly to a halt.

Focus on strengths
Not many systems out there allow businesses to focus on strengths – most systems look at competency gaps – and this tends to make businesses focus on weaknesses and not strengths – I got a lot of feedback in my time from HR Directors who when selecting key Talent wanted to focus on strengths – often the most Talented people can actually be quite annoying people, and they often have some real weaknesses – but this is outweighed by their strengths. So don’t think that competencies and using them is the panacea for everything Talent related….

Competency rating scales
To be most effective each competency has to have an associated rating scale. This then let’s a business rate their people on that scale. Person A might have a rating of 1 out of 5, and person B has a rating of 4 out of 5. Training requirements will differ for person A than person B.

Next week
Next week I’ll talk about ratings for competencies and how these can be done. This will bring us onto 360 degree assessments and performance appraisals.

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