Are People in your Key roles Under-performing?
A 100-people strong client we worked with 2 years ago met us again this year. We had earlier instituted a simple behavioural competency framework for them that was standard across all roles and levels, and modelled on the core values of the organization. Their current grouse was that over the last few months, some of the key roles weren't doing what they were supposed to do.
Our discussion revealed that the leadership team's expectations from these key roles were largely un-said. The organization and its people had successfully matured, and the earlier behavioural competency framework had outgrown it's purpose. They now needed a role-based competency framework that included strategic behaviours. For example: Sr. Project Managers were now expected to exhibit solutioning abilities and drive cross-functional collaborations, but this wasn't mentioned in the old behavioral competency framework. And therefore, not being exhibited.
The client is now upgrading their competency framework, and also re-designing their hiring process to evaluate candidates' fitment. At Learngage as a part of the consulting work we have been doing with clients, we are stepping back from just learning to developing competencies that can be moduled to exhibit behavioural change on the job and predict future performance.
You're probably familiar with the phrase "what gets measured gets done." Defining and measuring effectiveness – especially the performance of reportees – is a critical part of your job as a manager. When designed in-line with the organization's goals, competency frameworks speeden up employee-alignment, and free-up managers' bandwidth from having to constantly monitor their team's work.
The question is: How do you set your people up for success in their roles? How do you know they're qualified for the job? In other words, how do you know what to measure?
The answer is: A competency framework that defines the knowledge, skills, and attributes for each role in the organization. To develop this framework, you need to have an in-depth understanding of the roles within your business. You can take a few different approaches:
- Use a pre-set list of common, standard competencies, and then customize it to the specific needs of your organization.
- Employ external consultants to study your organization and develop the framework for you.
- Create a general organizational agenda, and use it as the basis for other processes as needed.
Developing a competency framework can take considerable effort. To make sure the framework is actually used as needed, it's important to make it relevant to the people who will be measured by it so they can take ownership of it. From my experience of working across diverse industries over the last 18 years in HR, I believe the following three principles are critical when designing a competency framework:
- Involve the people doing the work: These frameworks should not be developed solely by HR people, who don't always know what each job actually involves. Nor should it be left to managers who may not be able to identify and translate operational aspects into behaviours. To understand a role fully, you have to go to the source – the person doing the job – as well as getting a variety of other inputs into what makes someone successful in that job.
- Communicate: People tend to get nervous about performance issues. Let them know why you're developing the framework, how it will be created, and how it will be used. The more you communicate in advance, the easier your implementation will be.
- Use relevant competencies: Ensure that the competencies you include apply to all roles covered by the framework. If you include irrelevant competencies, people will probably have a hard time relating to the framework in general. For example, if you create a framework to cover the whole organization, the competency titled “financial management” should not be included unless every employee has to demonstrate that skill. However, a framework covering management roles would almost certainly involve the financial management competency.
The process of creating a competency framework is long and complex. To ensure a successful outcome, involve people actually carrying out the roles to evaluate real jobs, and describe real behaviors. The increased level of understanding and linkage between individual roles and organizational performance makes the effort well worth it.