The Cost of Higher Quality Decision-Making

How do successful human resource teams manage to do more with less, thus earning their respective title? Less staff, less outsourcing… all thanks to higher quality decision-making, which drives lower costs. Sounds easy enough, right? It doesn’t have to be complicated.

Here’s a little insight to how having an integrated talent management approach can help manage costs and promote resiliency.

Foster resiliency, foster freedom

We all ideally want to achieve that sense of purpose in our careers – after all, our “job” is simply an aspect of identity, while our “career” serves as an aspect of our lives. When the concept of resiliency is fostered by the HR function, both parties (HR and employees) are provided the freedom to make choices and act on them, thus allowing everyone involved to feel ‘in control’ of their professional life. This, in turn, assists in boosting productivity and overall performance.

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Some tips for promoting resiliency include:

  • Engaging employees via communication regarding the influence they hold in daily tasks and their career paths.
  • Re-framing stress into opportunities for growth & development (i.e., incentives).
  • Cultivating creativity by involving employees in the process of any organizational change.

Research has shown that the more an individual views their job as a calling rather than simply a set of tasks, the more committed they are in the workplace. By fostering resiliency and applying tips, such as those mentioned in the above bullet points, you allow your employees to adopt a sense of freedom and true purpose – and a better chance they will stick around in the face of high-stress situations or corporate change.

Sharing a common language

Along with cultivating a resilient staff, successful HR organizations understand how to remain focused on the business’s objectives in order to effectively identify the skills needed for the job, both present day and well into the future.

Before adopting a talent management program, it’s important to recognize what it means for the HR function to ‘share a common language’. An integrated talent management system shares a communicative architecture, contrasting from a typical system where:

1)     Selection decisions are made via one set of criteria

2)     Performance is appraised on a second set of criteria

3)     The training function teaches a third set of skills

Using a more integrated approach, for example a selection decision, is based on the understanding of not only on how employees should be identified, but how their skills align with the company’s vision and culture.

To learn how you can begin taking the first steps to successfully do more with less by fostering resiliency and building an effectively integrated talent management system, please visit our webpage.

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Developing Technical Competencies

Technical womanThe demand for and interest in technical competencies has significantly increased in the past few years.  When the concept of competencies first emerged, the focus was largely on the behavioral factors that led to successful or exceptional performance in a job.  The original positions targeted were generally leadership jobs.  The models were created to identify and describe what differentiated the best managers from the rest.

The positions targeted for development of competency models have evolved to include a variety of individual contributor roles where there is much more emphasis on technical knowledge and skill requirements.  We have found that technical competency models can be created using similar approaches to those we use in developing traditional behavioral (non-technical) with a few notable differences:

  • For technical competencies, we are much more reliant on the expertise of incumbents and their managers to identify both the competencies and the behavioral indicators.  While we may have an in-depth understanding of what the influence competency involves and the typical behavioral indicators, our understanding of an engineering competency called “uses technical models and tools” is very limited.   We use resource panels made up of incumbents and managers to identify the technical competencies and create definitions for each.
  • While using levels with behavioral competencies is common, we seldom see a technical model that doesn’t have levels.  The 4 levels are typically labeled Basic Proficiency, Intermediate Proficiency. Full Proficiency, and Expert.  Again, we rely on the SMEs to write the definitions of the levels as part of the resource panel activities.
  • Finally, we work with the managers of the department to determine the technical competencies required for each job and the needed proficiency level.  This builds consensus among the leaders about the technical requirements for each job.  We also find that it defines the difference between jobs, e.g. the difference between an engineer 1 and an engineer 2, which is welcomed by the jobholders.

Technical competencies models can be used to define the essential levels of knowledge and skill that technical professionals need for effective performance.  However, when it comes to determining what differentiates the best technical professionals from the rest, we find those answers lie within what we traditionally have labeled as the behavioral competencies.

We teach people how to create technical competencies and a technical competencies dictionary in our Creating Technical Competencies workshop.

Author: Dick Gerlach

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Selecting for Success: Succession Planning

Talent Management PuzzleThe challenge with any corporate succession plan is ensuring its adaptability to the dynamic nature of the actual succession process, as well as the shifting demands of a given position. Translation: gaining a baseline assessment of your internal candidates, truly understanding the talent pool, avoiding the myths associated with the process, and implementing the right competencies once the requirements for a position have been determined.

Of course, as with any plan, the hardest part is execution. Have you tested your selection process recently?

The myths surrounding succession plan failure

There is a common misconception of how to go about the business of succession planning, and top management and board members are often quick to assume that they cannot truly find a viable successor from inside their organization. This often leads to several myths, including:

  • External candidates are more exciting and/or promising
  • The successor has to be ready “now”
  • What worked in the past will work in the future

In such scenarios, it is frequent to observe that failure with succession planning has nothing to do with the competencies of employees, but with the company’s establishment and assessment of these very competencies.

Look far and wide

The first step is, of course, to identify the competencies of the top performers in each job, ensuring that the competencies match the responsibilities of the job. Once the requirements for a given position have been determined, you must gain a baseline assessment of your internal candidates. Avoid focusing on favorites or those who have been high performers in their current role – this is not always indicative of how they will do in the future.

Instead, look wide and deep to better understand the talent pool within your organization. It is critical to create and continually refocus a succession plan on the moving target – that being the knowledge, skills and abilities (competencies) the successor for any role will need in order to succeed. It is only at this point that you can begin to make decisions about candidates.

You can read more about this topic in the article “Succession Planning: How To Do It Right” on Forbes.com.

To learn more on how we can help you design a competency-based succession plan, please visit our webpage.

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Key Questions to Answer before Building Competency Models

HumanResources_WordCloud_v2 copyWhen planning the development of a competency model or models, there are practical considerations that affect the design of the project, the format and content of the competency model, and the success of the project’s implementation. There are key questions to answer before building competency models, including “what HR application should be included in the initial model-building project?”.

Some organizations build a competency model but never get around to applying it. And a competency model alone provides little value to anyone. It is essential to have a particular HR application in mind when building a model and build the implementation of that application into the initial project plan.

There are three important reasons for doing this.

  1. The nature of the intended application can shape the data collection and analysis.
  2. The planned application can shape the format of the model, especially its behavioral descriptors. Having a clear idea of the model’s intended application shapes both the data collection plan and the format in which the model was presented.
  3. Ensuring that money and other resources will be available for the application. If the initial application is not part of the budget for the model-building project, there is a chance that financial support will no longer be available when the competency model has been completed. The organization receives little benefit from its investment, until the model is applied in a way that enhances productivity.

From “Practical Questions for HR Professionals Who Are Building Competency Models

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The First Competency Model

Harvard University

Harvard University

The first competency model was developed in the early 1970’s by the eminent psychologist Dr. David McClelland and consultants from McBer and Company2. McClelland was a Harvard professor who published a paper in 1973 titled “Testing for Competence Rather Than Intelligence”. This launched the competency movement in psychology. The first test of competency assessment methods was with the U.S. Department of State. The department was concerned about the selection of junior Foreign Service Information Officers, young diplomats who represent the United States in various countries. The traditional selection criteria, tests of academic aptitude and knowledge, did not predict effectiveness as a foreign service officer and were screening out too many minority candidates.

When asked to develop alternative methods of selection, McClelland and his colleagues decided that they needed to find out what characteristics differentiated outstanding performance in the position. They first identified contrasting samples of outstanding performers and average performers, by using nominations and ratings from bosses, peers, and clients. Next, the research team developed a method called the Behavioral Event Interview, in which interviewees were asked to provide detailed accounts, in short story form, of how they approached several critical work situations, both successful and unsuccessful. The interviewer used a non-leading probing strategy to find out what the interviewee did, said, and thought at key points within each situation.

To analyze the data from the interviews, the researchers developed a sophisticated method of content analysis, to identify themes differentiating the outstanding performers from the average performers. The themes were organized into a small set of “competencies,” which the researchers hypothesized were the determinants of superior performance in the job. The competencies included non-obvious ones such as “Speed in Learning Political Networks”; the outstanding officers were able to quickly figure out who could influence key people and what each person’s political interests were.

Workitect uses the McBer methodology to build competency models.

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