Those of you who’ve considered implementing a competency management program within your organization already understand the powerful impact it can have and how the benefits and long-term success far outweigh the effort. However, such large projects to implement can often feel overwhelming, particularly if the basics of solid project management are not adhered to – that’s when hazards pop up and mistakes occur.

The excitement of getting a competency management program in place is energizing and can often lead to a desire for quick results. Senior leadership can push for a quick assessment of employees’ skills in order to get to the next phase of the project. However, this typically leads to undesirable results and potential road blocks. Hazards tend to arise quickly exactly when an organization is trying to move quickly, hindering progress – or worse, causing great delays.

Don’t Gloss Over a Pilot

While an enticing idea, breezing through a pilot can turn out to be disastrous. The pilot stage is critical for establishing key factors such as the hierarchy for approvals, definitions and language, the pace at which implementation can progress, and the data desired from the program. Without an initial test and validation on a small scale, these fixable factors suddenly become overwhelming issues that affect the entire organization. Particularly when the stakes are high, skipping a step will usually come back to bite you in the future.

Testing and validation is needed throughout the entire process to ensure that the full implementation does not face overwhelming obstacles. A pilot project is recommended to test each phase prior to full roll-out; this includes the communication and training programs, the technology for assessment delivery, and the technology for analyzing assessment results. With each pilot, specific questions should be asked, discussed, and resolved, such as:

  1. What was done well? What was not done well?
  2. What was overdone or underdone?
  3. What was unclear or redundant?
  4. What could be interpreted in a way that is different from how it was written?
  5. What feedback was unaccounted for among employees?
  6. What understanding was lacking by specific groups during the assessment?
  7. What should be tabled for a future phase?

Solicit Honest Feedback

There will be other questions that can also be asked and evaluated at this stage. And, challenging though it may be, it’s also important to solicit honest feedback, and even criticism, from others. Ensure that representatives from all job families are asked to provide input, along with all the members of the implementation team, keeping in mind that employees at different levels will have varying reactions to the assessments.

It’s best to keep an objective viewpoint when hearing both positive and negative feedback; while the criticism may be difficult to hear, it may also provide valuable input for avoiding significant errors when the rest of the program is rolled out. Additionally, take note of feedback that indicates a need to return to an earlier planning stage.

The pilot group will need extra support, and with the right approach, they can become strong project advocates for the entire competency management implementation. Overall, it’s best to take a hard look, evaluating what worked and what didn’t, before rolling out the assessment to others in the organization. New pilots might even be needed in order to test aspects again, ensuring that the desired, high-quality data is being delivered.

The rapidly changing pace of business often requires we do more with less, and competency management implementation is no different. Sometimes shortcuts seem appealing, but ultimately they only lead to poor implementation that must be redone down the road. For more guidance to ensure your competency management project runs smoothly, read Avilar’s white paper – 8 Critical Success Factors for Competency Management Implementation – or contact us for a free consultation.

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