Think ahead to this time next year. What if you didn’t have to wonder where your employees shine? What if you knew exactly who you needed to recruit? If your workers were proudly and confidently mastering the things that matter most? And your leadership team knew – down to their toes – that the entire organization was working together to achieve their goals?

This vision isn’t a pipe dream. It’s exactly how competency-driven organizations look, feel and act. If you’re not there yet, take heart. It’s only January. There’s still time to take these five steps to up your competency management game in 2019.

1) Adopt Competency Management Technology

You may already be using competencies to understand your employees’ weaknesses and develop learning plans to close essential skills gaps. Increasingly, organizations are using competencies more holistically, to support their strategic plans. But solving strategic business goals through competency management is a complex endeavor and it’s really tough to do that well without technology.

The good news is that competency management systems, like our own WebMentor Skills™, help automate the effort to define, track and measure workforce competencies. Technology can really boost the effectiveness of competency management programs. In fact, research and analyst firm Brandon Hall found through its 2017 Competency Planning and Management Study that “fully automated organizations are 79% more likely than other organizations to rate their top competency objectives as effective.”

2) Infuse Job Descriptions with Competencies

It’s easy to overlook competencies in job descriptions. After all, the primary purpose of a job description is to outline the work that needs to be accomplished. Duties. Responsibilities. A list for employees and managers to use to measure productivity. However, output is only part of what’s required from employees. Skills, experiences, knowledge, abilities and behaviors all play essential roles in job fit and performance.

A competency-based job description “emphasizes the skills and experience the jobholder will need, or will need to learn, to successfully handle in the position.” Job descriptions with competencies capture the full picture so your employees – and your organization – can identify the level of performance required for each position.

3) Recruit for Competencies

With low unemployment, changing workforce demographics and rampant skills shortages, many organizations are struggling to find the employees they need. When talent is scarce, the worst thing you can do is hire the wrong person for the job. A mismatch of skills can negatively impact productivity and morale – all of which can languish until the wrong person leaves and a good fit arrives. Emphasizing competencies in your recruitment ads and interviews can help you make significantly better hiring decisions, helping ensure that new employees are a fit from the start.

A more subtle benefit of competency-based recruitment efforts is that prioritizing competencies in your process opens you up to workers that you might otherwise overlook. Unconscious bias in the recruitment and hiring process frequently introduces unintentional discrimination and poor decision-making. You may be missing out on a wave of competent people who are reentering the workforce after raising a family, retiring from the military, engaging in drug or alcohol recovery paths or even serving time in prison.

Put competencies first when hiring. You have a better chance of finding great employees – and gain the many benefits of having a more culturally and ethnically diverse workforce.

4) Build Learning and Development Around Competencies

Best practices for learning and development programs continue to evolve. Classroom, video, elearning, virtual learning and microlearning are all in the blended learning mix. So, too, are technical skills, soft skills and leadership skills. Personalized plans and paths mapped to workforce demographics, geographies and cultures all come into play. Learning management technologies are a must.

One thing that doesn’t change with all of these variables is an underlying commitment to competency-based learning. Educational institutions and corporations are increasingly moving away from GPAs and transcripts and toward a “show what you know” approach to measuring learning effectiveness. It makes sense. A rapidly evolving global marketplace like ours drives a need for lifelong learning that’s grounded in practical skills and knowledge. Competency-based learning keeps our collective eyes on the prize – the set of skills, knowledge and experience each worker needs to master to achieve individual, team and organizational goals.

5) Keep Core Competencies Current

A robust competency management program will give you an edge in building your future workforce. Stay tuned to the skills and competencies that are most in demand – and will be in demand five years from now. Use that time to recruit the employees you need and build the skills of your workforce so you are prepared to take on what’s next.

Your core competencies will be unique to your organization. But this list of 21st-century accounting firm competencies is arguably a good start for any company:

  • Adaptability
  • Systems thinking
  • Complex communication
  • Self-management/self-education
  • Non-linear thinking/problem solving

Do you resolve to be a more competent company in 2019? Read our Mastering Competencies: How to Create the Best Framework white paper to get started. Or contact us to learn how competency-driven organizations are achieving greater customer satisfaction levels, increasing profits and growing market share.

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