It’s your career development – so who should be in the driver’s seat?

Female DriverTHE NEED FOR TALENT

In a growing economy or in a down economy, there is always a need for employees at all levels to be fully competent and motivated. Global competition, rapidly changing technology, and increasing customer expectations are demanding more of our organizations and the people within them. In addition, our educational systems appear to not be producing enough prospective employees with the right skills and knowledge needed by business. It is clear that the top performing organizations of the future will have a sound strategy and competent and talented “human resources” who are committed to the goals of the organization.

What are the implications for you as a member of the workforce? There is a way for you to impact several extremely important parts of your work life—your everyday job performance, the relationships with your co-workers, bosses, subordinates and preparedness for other roles and careers. You can do this by enhancing and developing core competencies, abilities, capabilities, etc. There are many ways to do this.

  • By practicing the competency
  • Obtaining feedback
  • Learning from experts
  • Coaching from others
  • Setting development goals
  • Utilizing learning resources, such as books, courses, seminars, and e-learning program

WHY COMPETENCIES?

If the word “competency” is not yet a familiar one in your organization, it probably will be within the near future. More and more organizations are developing job competency models, “blueprints” of jobs that list the skills, knowledge, attitudes, motives, etc. that characterize superior performance. These models have a variety of uses, one being a guide for employee development.

Why are job competency modeling popular? Because they are developed by studying what superior performers actually do on a job, rather than relying on theories of what people “think” constitutes superior performance. In other words, they are practical, “real world” and based on fact—not subjectivity. They can also identify the competencies that every incumbent must possess to survive in a position, i.e. the “threshold” competencies that lead to average performance. But the really key contribution is to identify the few competencies that differentiate superior performance from average performance. With this information, organizations can change their human resource processes to select, develop and reward superior performers – which leads directly to increased sales and productivity, reduced costs and the achievement of the organization’s strategic and tactical objectives.

For example, if an organization can pinpoint the competencies demonstrated by their top sales people (e.g. the top 20% who produce 80% of the revenue), it can substantially increase sales by selecting and developing a sales force with the appropriate competencies.

As individuals, most of us strive for superior performance, motivated by the desire to excel, to be recognized or rewarded. This book provides guidance to help you be the superior performer your organization is looking for, with the personal benefits that accompany that level of performance.

FROM PATERNALISM TO PERSONAL ACCOUNTABILITY— MANAGERS AND EMPLOYEES AS COACHES

Most supervisors are as uneasy about the performance management and career development process as are their employees who are on the “receiving” end. Having a structure and framework for assessing an employee’s strengths and developmental needs removes some of the subjectivity from coaching discussions. More importantly, asking employees to self-assess their competency development needs with the help of feedback from others, helps reduce defensiveness and creates a more constructive environment for developmental discussions.

More organizations are putting the responsibility for career development precisely where it should be: in the hands of the individual employee. But employees still need support and coaching from others in the organization. Although the coaching role is usually performed by the employee’s immediate supervisor, it can also be played by mentors, team leaders, project managers and other employees. One of the most underutilized resources in organizations today are the experienced, long-service, “journeymen” and “journeywomen” who have served as superior performers in a position and can coach others to superior performance, particularly with regard to the technical proficiency of a particular position. This coaching role can also be performed by retirees who would welcome the opportunity to continue to play a meaningful role, even on a part-time, contract basis.

CDG copyWorkitect’s Competency Development Guide is a resource guide for developing competencies. Tips for developing thirty-five key competencies are outlined along with instructions on how to identify the competencies needing development.

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Develop a Competency-Based Career Pathing Process

Career StreamCareer pathing in its elaborated form is a sophisticated method of developing future managers through the careful assignment of an individual to positions that provide him or her with opportunities for developing the competencies needed for higher-level positions. Workitect’s approach to career pathing combines an analysis of positions in terms of both the tasks and the competencies needed for effective performance. The combined approach is essential for each of the jobs in a career path, because sharp discontinuities sometimes exist between the competencies demanded in one job and those demanded in another in the same career path.

Career pathing involves making series of job-person matches that enable the person to grow into greater levels of responsibility, thus assuring the organization of the talent it requires for maximum productivity. Optimal job-person matching is not a simple matter—the attributes of both the job (duties and responsibilities—tasks) and the person (knowledge, skills, traits—competencies) must be taken into account. Our research shows that the more complex the job, the more difficult it is to identify the critical tasks and competencies related to success.   To use an extreme example, assembly-line tasks may be well circumscribed, and the workers’ necessary knowledge and skills defined briefly: the competencies that make the difference between satisfactory and unsatisfactory performance are limited and highly task-specific. By contrast, in professional and managerial jobs, the competencies that make the difference between minimal and outstanding performance tend to be much more generic than task-specific; because of this, the competencies are harder to identify than are those of manual laborers. Nevertheless, these competencies must be considered when making career pathing decisions involving professional and managerial.

Most career pathing systems used by organizations consider only task-specific job requirements in making job-person matches; when such systems do consider generic personal characteristics beyond knowledge and skills, these characteristics are usually vaguely defined, difficult to assess, and not demonstrably related to outstanding performance. By contrast, Workitect’s competency-based career path analysis avoids these problems. In addition to looking at the requirements for acceptable performance of the specific job tasks, it examines and documents the more general characteristics of outstanding performers—characteristics that are not covered by the analysis of tasks. Moreover, Workitect examines different levels of jobs within an organization, in order to determine both the task and the competency requirements of target jobs and of jobs that feed new talent into the target jobs (“feeder jobs’).

Understanding the task and competency requirements of various jobs helps clarify human resource planning. Although two jobs may have similar task requirements, there may be little overlap in the competencies needed for effective performance. The most commonly cited example of this phenomenon is the transition from salesperson to sales manager—people in these two jobs share tasks, yet the sales-management position demands competencies that are very different from those required by the salesperson’s job.

In a competency-based career pathing system, the job-task analysis is only part of the picture; it thus contrasts with traditional approaches to career pathing, in which task analysis makes up the entire picture. Naturally, it is important to determine how familiar an individual is with the tasks of a target position, since even if the person has all the characteristics necessary to be a superior performer, it may take him or her considerable time to master particular tasks. But from an organization systems perspective, any approach based exclusively on task requirements omits a critical part of job performance—characteristics of the individual who performs the job in an outstanding manner. Indeed, it is this factor that is the most powerful predictor of a person’s performance in high-level jobs.  Download this report about the entire process of competency-based succession planning.   

The Process

The major steps in developing a competency-based career pathing system are:

  1. Put together a resource panel of experts on the target and feeder jobs, who will set direction and specify the job performance criteria that determine who the outstanding performers are.
  2. Generate task and characteristics, through the resource panel, and survey job incumbents to obtain their perceptions of which job tasks and personal attributes contribute to success in the target job.
  3. Identify top performers in the target and feeder jobs, using performance criteria specified by the panel.
  4. Conduct in-depth interviews with both superior and average incumbents in target and feeder jobs, in order to find out what they do and how they do it.
  5. Develop a task analysis from the interviews, focusing on these tasks and deemed most important by superior performers.
  6. Develop a competency model of people in the target and the feeder jobs, identifying the competencies that all job performers need, but focusing on those competencies that make the biggest contribution to outstanding performance.
  7. Analyze career paths by combining the survey and interview results for target and feeder jobs.
  8. Implement the career pathing system through a number of options:
    –  Computer-based task and competencies inventories
    –  Performance appraisal linked to new job opportunities.
    –  Systematic counseling.
    –  Career development and related training programs.

The Products
The products of a competency-based career pathing system include:

  1. A description of the tasks required by target and feeder jobs, broken down by job families.
  2. A competency model and individual profiles of the outstanding job performers in each target and feeder job.
  3. Behavioral descriptions of each competency in the model.
  4. An analysis of job tasks in terms of the competencies that are required to perform them
  5. Performance indicators that provide the material for a competency-based evaluation program and a computerized skills bank.
  6. A career map of the organization identifying which jobs are the key feeders to higher-level positions.
  7. Recommendations for training in or selection for each competency in the model.
  8. Recommendations for developing a computer-based human resource management system that incorporates the findings of the task, competency, and career path analysis.

Summary
The objective of succession planning is to provide senior management with a system for providing and identifying a pool of ready replacements for key jobs, and to provide professionals with a clearly defined career path and a process to optimize their advancement. We help organizations develop and implement these systems.

Effective talent management, talent development, and career lanning contribute directly to the financial performance of an organization. The focus of talent management should be on assessing the competencies the organization needs to implement its strategy, and planning for the recruitment, selection, development, and management of that critical talent. Workitect consultants develop competency frameworks, models, and integrated applications that align with business strategy. Learn more.

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