Benefits of an Integrated Competency Based HR System

ATTEND WORKITECT’S BUILDING COMPETENCY MODELS CERTIFICATION  WORKSHOP ON NOVEMBER 7-9 AND LEARN HOW TO CREATE TAILORED COMPETENCY MODELS AND AN INTEGRATED COMPETENCY-BASED HR SYSTEM.

There are many bottom-line benefits of a competency-based HR system. Employee motivation leads to increased productivity and higher profits.  But the real values of an integrated human resource system are more complex–and more powerful.  Focusing on competencies will renew your company.  You’ll uncover startling energies and synergies that can give you the responsive, competitive edge you need.  Here’s what you can expect:

Enhanced Management:  With corporate goals clearly defined and a system of employee rewards in place that supports those goals, managers feel empowered.  They communicate more effectively with subordinates and with each other. Work proceeds more efficiently.  Quality measures go up.

Motivated and Committed Employees:  By involving employees in building your new competency-based system, you  ensure their early engagement with it.  And because the new system rewards employees for overcoming real, daily challenges, workers develop a sense of appreciation and commitment.  Less time is lost to wasteful activities.  Employees put creative energy into completing their tasks.

Increased Organization Effectiveness:  As all levels of your organization align with company goals, overall effectiveness increases dramatically.  And the focus on adding and refining key competencies augments this increase continuously.  Individual employees become more effective and, as a whole, your company becomes more dynamic, more competent.

Easier Cultural Change and Organizational Improvement: 
A competency-based, integrated human resource system supports your company’s strategic direction.  Necessary change becomes simpler when both management and employee goals are defined in terms of the company’s success.  With little incentive to cling to older methods or attitudes, both management and employees participate more willingly when change is necessary.

Increased Resilience to Market Pressures:  Your company responds to outside stresses not as threats but as challenges.  At every level, the goal is not individual survival but group adaptation.  By linking employee well-being to corporate health, you tap the creativity and motivation you need to stay competitive.

Cost Savings and Increased Productivity:  An integrated human resource system cuts redundancy and waste.  It gives overlapping and competing departments incentive to cooperate and coordinate their work.  Individual employees see that they benefit by finding more efficient, effective ways to do their work.  Less time and material are wasted.  Productivity goes up.

Read a white paper on Integrating HR & Talent Management Processes.
Learn more about creating an integrated competency system for your organization.
Contact Workitect for information about our services and products.

Editor’s Note: This post was originally published in September, 2012 and has been updated for accuracy and comprehensiveness.

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Conduct an On-Site Building Competency Models Workshop

Building Competency Models workshop has been conducted on-site for Google, Air Canada, the U.S. Department of Defense, and other organizations. This workshop, and others, such as the Creating Technical Competencies workshop and Interviewing for Competencies workshop, are effective at training and certifying individuals and small teams to develop job competency models and HR applications. But, each organization has its own particular needs and situation that are difficult to address in a public workshop, even with an hour of individual consulting help that is a part of the BCM program. Onsite programs can be customized to the special needs of an organization. Consulting assistance can be a larger component, technical competencies can be included, or organizational issues addressed.

Other benefits include being able to:

  • Evaluate, and possibly modify, past or existing model building approaches,
  • Focus on strategy, planning, and implementation of specific applications
  • Achieve synergy; prepare implementation team members to collaborate and support each other
  • Ensure consistency in applying model building methodology
  • Obtain cost-savings; training more people with no travel costs

Here are a few examples of on-site workshops and planning sessions that have been conducted by Workitect:

Google:

This 3-day workshop was tailored and conducted for HR and non-HR staff responsible for rolling out a project for Google Fiber that involved the staffing of a new organization to install a fiber-optic high speed internet and TV service in major cities throughout the USA.

ac_white_stkAir Canada:

Our 3-day Building Competency Models workshop was modified to devote more time to plan the implementation of the various competency modeling approaches, and on the development of three high priority HR applications.

braskemBraskem (formerly Sunoco Chemical):

Tailored a 3-day workshop that combined the essentials of both the building competency models and building technical competencies sessions for the HR staff. The workshop also focused on developing a consistent approach for building models throughout the company.

“Workitect demystified the competency development process and gave us the confidence to move forward with our program.”

Kelly Elizardo
Director, Learning & Development

attachmentFranklin Templeton:

We developed and delivered a 2-day working session to review the essential of building competency models with the company’s HRD staff.  The second part of the program was to build expertise in how to explain and sell the benefits of competencies to clients and to facilitate a consistent process for building models throughout the company.

dod20ig20logoU.S. Department of Defense, Inspector General Office:

We delivered two 4-day on-site sessions for the staff who are charged with building models for their organization. The workshops included both building competency models and building technical models.

“This course is simultaneously practical, comprehensive, and intellectually rigorous. By providing the project methodology and modeling methodology, Workitect has given me all I need to succeed. I am ready to go!”

Deane Williams
Program Manager

Review a typical agenda for an on-site workshop.

To schedule an on-site workshop, contact Ed Cripe at 800-870-9490 or ec@workitect.com.

Editor’s Note; This post was originally posted in April, 2015 and has been updated for accuracy and comprehensiveness.

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Develop Organizational Effectiveness and Development

ORGANIZATION DEVELOPMENT AND CHANGE LEADERSHIP is one of eighteen competencies in Workitect’s competency model for human resources professionals working in a global environment. The model was originally developed by Workitect for a global organization. It is one of four competencies in the Strategic BUSINESS PARTNERING Competencies cluster.  Resources for developing the competency are listed in the 166-page Resource Guide for Developing Global HR Competencies.

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The competency addresses the ongoing challenge of managing change. Change is a painful process for most people and it is generally the ‘people’ component that is most challenging in all change initiatives. It is therefore critical that Human Resources be available to help, from the initial analysis and design phases through all stages of the change process. As impartial facilitators, the Human Resource team can help to ensure a smooth and positive process, that any changes are consistent with company’s culture and that the interests of the organization and people are taken into consideration.

In SHRM’s HR Competency Model, this competency would be similar to Behavioral Competency #5 (Consultation) and Domain 2, Functional Area #6 (Organizational Effectiveness & Development).

Definition of this competency: Effectively communicates core values and behavioural standards; monitors and facilitates internal communications; disseminates necessary information to appropriate parties; develops the organization’s image within local community.

An employee demonstrating this competency:

Process analysis and redesign

  • Analyzes and redesigns organizational and business processes to ensure maximum efficiency, increased effectiveness and lasting impact.

Change Management

  • Manages change to create a positive environment emphasizing the benefits of the changes.
  • Oversees smooth and progressive transactions to change initiatives.

Culture redesign

  • Manages and promotes organizational culture redesign efforts to ensure that the changes meet organizational objectives with respect to the organization’s brand, employee performance and customer expectations.

Evaluating

  • Evaluates the effectiveness of current HR programs and practices and integrates competencies into all HR programs.
  • Applies cost/benefit principles in deciding on best approaches to work.
  • Performs appropriate information gathering intervention (in-depth interviews, surveys, focus groups, etc.) to determine organizational issues and needs.

Innovating

  • Produces strategic and creative solutions.
  • Thinks “outside the box” when addressing issues.

PRACTICING THIS COMPETENCY

As a Team Member

  • Look for opportunities to get involved in change initiatives, as early as possible in the planning and analysis phase, especially with regards to people issues.
  • Offer to help evaluate the various options, considering the ramifications on people and the Values and Culture Characteristics.Explore ways to integrate core, leadership and function specific competencies (where available) into all Human Resource’s programs.
  • Be prepared to suggest creative solutions to problems, both within Human Resources and to your internal customers where appropriate, and especially where it concerns people.
  • Offer to be part of data gathering groups, where objective evaluations are required.

As a Team Leader

  • Demonstrate positive change management/facilitation skills with your own team.
  • Use a specific change opportunity in Human Resources to demonstrate all of the elements and skills required in a change initiative.
  • Assign members of your team to assist internal customers with change initiatives, overseeing and coaching their involvement where necessary.
  • Be prepared to evaluate every Human Resource’s program to make sure that it is relevant and effective, and make changes where necessary.

OBTAINING FEEDBACK

  • Each time you try out a new change management process (e.g., for planning, team decision making, team problem solving) hold a session with the team to discuss what went well and what could be done differently and better in the future.
  • If you are a manager, ask the people who work for you what you can do to help foster innovation, both within the department and through cooperation with other groups.

LEARNING FROM EXPERTS

  • Volunteer to serve on a cross-functional team charged with implementing change. Observe what the team leader does and keep of list of ideas to apply in your own department.
  • Interview someone who has successfully led an organization/department through change. Consider people outside of your own organization, as well as people within it. Ask the person to walk you through the process he/she led. Find out how the person approached this situation and what he/she specifically did. Ask about problems that were encountered and how they were addressed.
  • Interview someone who successfully developed or sponsored the development of a significant innovation. Consider people both within and outside of your organization. Ask for a detailed account of what the person did and how. Make a list of ideas that you can implement yourself.

COACHING SUGGESTIONS FOR MANAGERS

If you are coaching someone who is trying to develop this competency, you can:

  • Assign the person to work on a team headed by a consultant or internal leader who is skilled in change management.
  • Help the person develop a plan for working with his/her department to implement change. Think through the resources and support this person will need. Try to anticipate and develop contingency plans for problems that may be encountered.
  • Make yourself available on a regular basis to discuss how the change management efforts are progressing.
  • Provide opportunities for training in areas such as problem solving and change management.
  • Provide opportunities for training in technical skills needed for innovation in a particular area.
  • Assign the person to teams involved in developing innovations or in implementing change.
  • Recognize and reward innovative behavior.

 SAMPLE DEVELOPMENT GOALS

  • By March 15, I will hold a meeting with the employees in my department, to review the overall direction of the division and identify what our department needs to do differently to implement this dition and to develop a plan for change.
  • By April 10, I will identify a new group problem-solving method and try it out in my department.
  • By May 1, I will read The Dance of Change, by Peter Senge and develop a list of ideas to try out in my department.
  • By May 3, I will complete the AMA self study course in creative problem solving and prepare a list of ideas that I can apply in my own work.
  • During the spring, I will volunteer to serve on an improvement team and contribute actively.
  • By July 14, I will form a team to identify and implement improvements in our employee orientation process.

External resources (books, online and self-study courses) for developing this competencies.

Roadmaps for developing seventeen additional competencies are contained in Workitect’s Resource Guide for Developing Global HR Competencies, a companion to Workitect’s Competency Development Guide.                  

Read the Table of Contents for the HR Competencies Development Guide. Purchase the Guide.

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Develop the HR Competency of “Promoting the Organization’s Culture & Values”

HR_ResourceGuide_SpiralCvr_612x792

VALUES AND CULTURE PROMOTION is one of eighteen competencies in Workitect’s competency model for human resources professionals working in a global environment. It is one of five competencies in the HR LEADERSHIP COMPETENCIES cluster. Resources for developing the competency are listed in the 166-page Resource Guide for Developing Global HR Competencies.

Definition: Effectively communicates core values and behavioural standards; monitors and facilitates internal communications; disseminates necessary information to appropriate parties; develops the organization’s image within local community.

An employee demonstrating this competency:

     Communicating the firm’s culture and values

  • Articulates the firm’s culture, values and goals and inspires others with that vision.
  • Utilizes HR team and senior employees to establish role models for others behaviours and attitudes.
  • Assures the development of clear and focused letters, newsletters, memos, etc. to inform employees of programmes and organisational objectives
  • Monitors internal communications to ensure that the firm’s goals, mission and values are represented.

    Internal Communications

  • Manages internal communications to help employees understand their roles and responsibilities in meeting and exceeding the expectations of customers, owners and employees.
  • Educates management and employees to understand their role and responsibility for internal communications.
  • Analyses, categorizes and circulates information to others.
  • Assures that information is communicated at a level appropriate for the audience.
  • Oversees that all employee have access to relevant company and customer communications.

    Community Relations

  • Works with management team to promote the organisation as a reputable and respectful employer in the local community
  • Pro-actively develops relationships with organisations in the local community to provide humanitarian assistance when needed.

Importance of This Competency

This competency, the first strategic competency of five under the category of Human Resources Leadership, revolves around the organisation’s values and culture, and places the Human Resources function clearly at the helm in promoting these success characteristics.

General Considerations in Developing This Competency

The most obvious way to begin to develop this competency is to ‘walk the talk’ and demonstrate our company’s values and culture in your day-to-day interactions. If you are seen to demonstrate these characteristics yourself, then you will be able to start to practice the skills and other behaviours that will help you to communicate and educate others in their importance, value and application – you will be seen as a credible source of information on these issues.

Practicing This Competency

    As a Team Member

  • Look for ways to incorporate values and culture characteristics in your daily interactions, and be consistent in their implementation.
  • Look for ways to reinforce these characteristics in other communication pieces (e.g. employee newsletters, notice boards, etc.).
  • Review other internal communication documents (e.g. memos and letters) to make sure that the message is consistent with these characteristics.
  • Look for ways to make information more accessible and relevant to employees.
  • Provide feedback and examples to your team leader of situations in which the culture and value characteristics are being demonstrated (or not demonstrated).
  • Look for humanitarian opportunities in the local community for the company and employees to connect with and support.

    As Team Leader

  • Make sure that you demonstrate the value and culture characteristics with your own team (ask your team for feedback) – practice what you preach!
  • Recognize and encourage behaviors in your team members that demonstrate these characteristics.
  • Identify opportunities to coach other managers and supervisors in ‘walking the talk’ – coach and provide feedback where necessary.
  • Review internal correspondence and communication materials to make sure that all written materials also ‘walk the talk’.
  • Look for additional methods of increasing communications within the firm, encouraging ‘two-way’ communications and open dialogues that move beyond curt email messages.
  • Encourage relationships with local organizations and other activities and behaviors that demonstrate value and culture characteristics within the context of the larger, local community.

Obtaining Feedback

  • After sending out a significant report or memo, contact people and ask for feedback on it. Try to find out how many people read it and remembered it and what they thought of it.
  • If you use voice mail or e-mail as part of your work, ask co-workers about how effectively you use these communication vehicles and what you can do to improve your effectiveness in communicating.
  • Ask colleagues for specific feedback on the degree to which they believe you effectively model organization’s values and culture.

Learning from Experts

  • Observe the communication behavior of a skilled leader. Look at the frequency, style, and format of this person’s communications. If possible, ask this person about his/her thinking in planning particular communications.
  • Before sending out an important communication, ask for suggestions from someone strong in communication skills.

Coaching Suggestions for Managers

  • If you are coaching someone who is trying to develop this competency, you can:
  • Model this competency by sharing information and by crafting clear, concise messages addressing the needs of the audience.
  • Provide assignments that involve drafting memos, reports, or other communications. Provide constructive feedback on the communications.
  • Help this person think through the communication vehicles and messages needed by a department or team of which he/she is a part.
  • Assign this person to a team or task force headed by someone who demonstrates a high level of attention to communication.

Sample Development Goals

  • By June 12, I will make recommendations to the Planning Team on ways we should communicate the new operational plan to the Division.
  • By July 1, I will distribute a memo to all department heads summarizing the work of the Waste Reduction Team. A week later, I will call six of the department heads and ask for feedback on this memo.

 External resources (books, online and self-study courses) for developing this competencies. Roadmaps for developing seventeen additional competencies are contained in Workitect’s Resource Guide for Developing Competencies, a companion to Workitect’s Competency Development Guide.                                   

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What will key users of a competency model need from it? 

Business People Using a Laptop --- Image by © 2/Ocean/Corbis

The planning of a competency model requires identifying the most important stakeholders and users and considering how they will want to use the model.

People in the job often want to use a competency model to provide a recipe for success. These users are asking, “What could I be doing differently that would make me more effective?” They are likely to value very specifically worded behavioral indicators that describe what to do, with whom, and in what circumstances. A matrix linking the competencies to major job tasks is also helpful to job incumbents.

Supervisors can use the same detailed information to assist in coaching jobholders. Since part of a supervisor’s job is also providing detailed feedback about effective and less effective behaviors, descriptions of less effective behaviors associated with each competency are beneficial. For the same reason, supervisors may find it useful to have a matrix linking the competencies to key performance criteria and measures. Because supervisors are also in charge of hiring for the position, they need a competency model that includes all of the important skills and qualifications required for the position, including technical skills and educational credentials that are baseline requirements for all jobholders. Here is an example of such a model, one developed for a Marketing Representative position in an insurance company.

Human Resources professionals who will be using a competency model have a different set of needs. HR staff may need to build a shared conceptual framework of competencies and a common language for describing the competencies. They can then facilitate matching skill profiles to different jobs through selection, promotion, and career-path planning; and the creation of training and development programs for people across a broad range of jobs. HR staff also need easy ways to compare the requirements of different jobs in the organization. It is useful for the human resources staff to be able to say which competencies are required for a job and the level at which the competencies need to be demonstrated, to achieve effective performance. Since Human Resources staff often need to communicate and explain a competency model, competency models that are clear, simple, and written with powerful language are preferred.

Key Question to Answer before Building Competency Models                                 

When 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. The following seven questions may be useful to Human Resouces professionals responsible for planning and implementation:

  1. What HR application should be included in the initial model building project?
  2. What will the key users of the model need from it?  (covered in this blog)
  3. How should key stakeholders be involved?
  4. How extensive should the data collection be?
  5. How should research be balanced with intuitive approaches?
  6. What format of behavioral descriptors will best suit the application?
  7. How can additional, future competency models be accommodated?
Included in Workitect’s Building Competency Models Workshop and applied in our consulting practice to help organizations develop job competency models and HR and talent management applications, including performance management, succession planning, assessment and selection, and training and development.
 
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The Benefits of Competency Based HR Applications

Eliminate HR? No problem? Not so fast.

What value is added when human resource applications are built on a foundation of job competency models?

Career Pathing and Retention

Job Competency Models provide detailed maps for existing employees to follow as they plan their careers and self-development. The model for any given job describes the exact competencies necessary to advance to that job, giving aspirants both secure information and incentive to acquire those competencies. That’s the kind of open opportunity that keeps talented and ambitious people working for you.

Recruitment and Selection

Today you may have all your players in place, but every new day brings the possibility of change. Retirement, outside recruitment, personal difficulties:

These and many other events can leave you with holes to fill–and anxiety about the quality of the people you’ll choose to fill them.

By applying Job Competency Models to the promotion and hiring processes, your senior management can greatly simplify their work. Models identify optimal career paths to look for, simplifying the search for candidates. Models also describe in detail the exact competencies employees will need to perform well in their jobs.

Performance Management

Performance assessments underlie decisions about employee rewards and promotions. Unfortunately many employees feel they have little control over the results of their work. You can counter this perception by linking employees’ rewards to their competent performance in employees’ rewards to their competent performance in defined areas. By doing this you empower workers and encourage cooperative, team-building behavior.

Job Competency Modeling provides an excellent base for performance management. As with development and recruitment, employee assessment is based on accurate, detailed information about job performance. To appraise this performance effectively, your managers need:

  • Accurate job-performance standards
  • Clear descriptions of job behaviors required to perform specific job tasks
  • Indicators of both average and superior job competencies

When you use competency models to provide these data, assessments yield useful, practical recommendations. Competecy–based compensation systems also explicitly tie rewards to the development of key competencies. This gives employees greater control over their professional development and offers incentive for excellence to workers and managers on every level.

Training and Development

Competency modeling provides a truly ideal framework for your training programs. Studies show that competency-based training offers a return on investment (ROI) nearly ten times higher than the ROI of traditional training methods. And improvement of your training is central to Workitect’s purpose. We have developed a process entitled the Competency Acquisition Process (CAP) for managing training efforts through increasing levels of competencies. The CAP consists of seven steps, outlined below:

– Identification of Required Competencies: Job Competency Models supply this information, or a simpler, less detailed system can be used for non-critical jobs.

– Assessment: Employees assess their current competencies and compare them to examples of superior performance. Performance assessments by managers are obvious tools as well. Employees and managers then decide which skills to focus on.

– Observation and Study: Employees study examples or models of superior performance. Trainers provide supporting information to aid participants’ comprehension.

– Practice: After acquiring a basic understanding of the concepts involved, participants move to practical, job-related applications of their new knowledge.

– Feedback: Trainers observe participants applying their new knowledge and offer constructive feedback and reinforcement.

– Goal-Setting: Trainers work with employees to set specific goals and action plans for applying new competencies back on the job.

– On-the-Job-Support: Supervisor and peers reinforce and support each individual’s demonstration of newly acquired skills.

When your employees enter this cyclical process of planning their own development and acquiring necessary training, everyone benefits. They take responsibility for their own career paths, their own job security, and you gain an ever more skilled and competent workforce. Improved performance, bonuses, increased productivity, and career advancement spell success for everyone.

Let Us Help You

Workitect has recently helped organizations in Chicago, New York, and beyond to develop competency models, frameworks, and applications for human resources and talent management.  You can learn how to develop your own models and applications by attending our Building Competency Models workshopContact us today to learn more about how we can help you.

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“How to Do HR Right” – FastCompany

Several years ago, the business magazine FastCompany published an article written by Keith Hammonds, titled “Why We Hate HR”.  It was posted in a previous Workitect blog, “Why Do Some Executives Hate HR?”  Most of the article describes where HR falls short in being an effective contributor to business results. The article also includes a list of five suggestions for improving the effectiveness of the human resource function.

Say the Right Thing. At the grand level, what HR tells employees has to match what the company actually believes; empty rhetoric only breeds discontent. And when it comes to the details of pay and benefits, explain clearly what’s being done and why. For example, asks consultant Dennis Ackley, “When you have a big deductible, do employees understand you’re focusing on big costs? Or do they just think HR is being annoying?”

Measure the Right Thing. Human resources isn’t taken seriously by top management because it can’t demonstrate its impact on the business. Statistics on hiring, turnover, and training measure activity but not value. So devise measurements that consider impact: When you trained people, did they learn anything that made them better workers? And connect that data to business-performance indicators-such as customer loyalty, quality, employee-replacement costs, and, ultimately, profitability.

Get rid of the “Social Workers.” After Libby Sartain arrived as chief people officer at Yahoo, she moved several HR staffers out–some because they didn’t have the right functional skills, but mostly because “they were stuck in the old-school way of doing things.” Human resources shouldn’t be about cutting costs, but it is all about business. The people who work there need to be both technically competent and sophisticated about the company’s strategy, competitors, and customers.

Serve the Business. Human-resources staffers walk a fine line: Employees see them as stooges for management, and management views them as annoying do-gooders representing employees. But “the best employee advocates are the ones who are concerned with advancing organizational and individual performance,” says Anthony Rucci of Cardinal Health. Represent management with integrity and honesty-and back employees in the name of improving the company’s capability.

 Make Value, Not Activity. University of Michigan professor Dave Ulrich, coauthor of The HR Value Proposition (Harvard Business School Press, 2005), says HR folks must create value for four groups: They need to foster competence and commitment among employees, develop the capabilities that allow managers to execute on strategy, help build relationships with customers, and create confidence among investors in the future value of the firm.

Related Reading: Teaching Guide for “Why We Hate HR” published by SHRM, “Why We (Shouldn’t) Hate HR”, HBR by Bill Taylor, June, 2010.

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Why Do Some Executives Hate HR?

Scan 2In August, 2005, the business magazine FastCompany published a thought-provoking article written by Keith Hammonds, titled “Why We Hate HR”.  It was meant to be the viewpoint of non-HR executives at the time. We are re-publishing it here to stimulate an assessment and discussion of the points that were made in the article, points that may have or may not have had a ring of truth nine years ago. We encourage you to post your comments. Do some executives still view the HR function this way? How has HR changed and how does it still need to change?

___________________________________________________________________________

IN A KNOWLEDGE ECONOMY, COMPANIES WITH THE BEST TALENT WIN. AND FINDING, NURTURING, AND DEVELOPING THAT TALENT SHOULD BE ONE OF THE MOST IMPORTANT TASKS IN A CORPORATION. SO WHY DOES HUMAN RESOURCES DO SUCH A BAD JOB — AND HOW CAN WE FIX IT?

Well, here’s a rockin’ party: a gathering of several hundred midlevel human-resources executives in Las Vegas. (Yo, Wayne Newton! How’s the 401(k)?) They are here, ensconced for two days at faux-glam Caesars Palace, to confer on “strategic HR leadership,” a conceit that sounds, to the lay observer, at once frightening and self-contradictory. If not plain laughable.

Because let’s face it: After close to 20 years of hopeful rhetoric about becoming “strategic partners” with a “seat at the table” where the business decisions that matter are made, most human-resources professionals aren’t nearly there. They have no seat, and the table is locked inside a conference room to which they have no key. HR people are, for most practical purposes, neither strategic nor leaders.

I don’t care for Las Vegas. And if it’s not clear already, I don’t like HR, either, which is why I’m here. The human-resources trade long ago proved itself, at best, a necessary evil — and at worst, a dark bureaucratic force that blindly enforces nonsensical rules, resists creativity, and impedes constructive change. HR is the corporate function with the greatest potential — the key driver, in theory, of business performance — and also the one that most consistently underdelivers. And I am here to find out why.

Why are annual performance appraisals so time-consuming — and so routinely useless? Why is HR so often a henchman for the chief financial officer, finding ever-more ingenious ways to cut benefits and hack at payroll? Why do its communications — when we can understand them at all — so often flout reality? Why are so many people processes duplicative and wasteful, creating a forest of paperwork for every minor transaction? And why does HR insist on sameness as a proxy for equity?

It’s no wonder that we hate HR. In a 2005 survey by consultancy Hay Group, just 40% of employees commended their companies for retaining high-quality workers. Just 41% agreed that performance evaluations were fair. Only 58% rated their job training as favorable. Most said they had few opportunities for advancement — and that they didn’t know, in any case, what was required to move up. Most telling, only about half of workers below the manager level believed their companies took a genuine interest in their well-being.

None of this is explained immediately in Vegas. These HR folks, from employers across the nation, are neither evil courtiers nor thoughtless automatons. They are mostly smart, engaging people who seem genuinely interested in doing their jobs better. They speak convincingly about employee development and cultural transformation. And, over drinks, they spin some pretty funny yarns of employee weirdness. (Like the one about the guy who threatened to sue his wife’s company for “enabling” her affair with a coworker. Then there was the mentally disabled worker and the hooker — well, no, never mind. . . .)

But then the facade cracks. It happens at an afternoon presentation called “From Technicians to Consultants: How to Transform Your HR Staff into Strategic Business Partners.” The speaker, Julie Muckler, is senior vice president of human resources at Wells Fargo Home Mortgage. She is an enthusiastic woman with a broad smile and 20 years of experience at companies such as Johnson & Johnson and General Tire. She has degrees in consumer economics and human resources and organizational development.

And I have no idea what she’s talking about. There is mention of “internal action learning” and “being more planful in my approach.” PowerPoint slides outline Wells Fargo Home Mortgage’s initiatives in performance management, organization design, and horizontal-solutions teams. Muckler describes leveraging internal resources and involving external resources — and she leaves her audience dazed. That evening, even the human-resources pros confide they didn’t understand much of it, either.

This, friends, is the trouble with HR. In a knowledge economy, companies that have the best talent win. We all know that. Human resources execs should be making the most of our, well, human resources — finding the best hires, nurturing the stars, fostering a productive work environment — just as IT runs the computers and finance minds the capital. HR should be joined to business strategy at the hip.

Instead, most HR organizations have ghettoized themselves literally to the brink of obsolescence. They are competent at the administrivia of pay, benefits, and retirement, but companies increasingly are farming those functions out to contractors who can handle such routine tasks at lower expense. What’s left is the more important strategic role of raising the reputational and intellectual capital of the company — but HR is, it turns out, uniquely unsuited for that.

The author went on to describe four reasons he thought HR was “unsuited”.

1) HR people aren’t the sharpest tacks in the box.

2) HR pursues efficiency in lieu of value.

3) HR isn’t working for you.

4) The corner office doesn’t get HR (and vice versa)

Read the entire article.

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The Business Case for Competencies – Part Two

Background

Raising the bar: What if your employees controlled your recruiting process?In 1996, the American Compensation Association (now WorldAtWork) sponsored a research study titled “Raising the Bar – Using Competencies to Enhance Employee Performance”.  The results were published in a 76-page booklet, which has been long out of print. I recently discovered and re-read a copy I had filed away. What is interesting is that most of the findings are still relevant and insightful today. This section is taken from Part 4, “The Business Case for Competencies”, pages 15-18.

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To get a sense of how business and human resources strategy might impact decisions about competency applications, the research team had asked participating companies to state their primary business strategy objectives, how their HR strategies support these objectives and the intended purpose of implementing competency-based applications.

business-case-fig9

A Review of the Data

Following is a summary of specific findings identified by data collected from 217 organizations that filled out the primary questionnaire for this study:

  • A variety of HR strategies are identified that best support business strategies. Respondents identified from the list that appears in Figure 9 (above) the three most important human resources strategies that best support their broader business strategy. It is common for respondents to use these strategies in combination. Again, while many of these strategies are generic, they show the human resources context in which competency models are being created.The most frequently cited human resources strategies are:
  • creating awareness and understanding of the need for change in business
  • enhancing work-force skill levels
  • improving teamwork/coordination, increasing the link between pay and performance
  • reinforcing corporate values/strategy/culture.

For manufacturing respondents, the top strategies are creating awareness of the need for change and improving teamwork/coordination. Among service respondents, the top strategies are reinforcing corporate values/strategy/culture, enhancing work-force skill levels, and increasing the link between pay and performance.

• HR and business strategies are not strongly linked. Respondents indicated how well their human resources strategies support their broader business strategists. Given that HR and business strategies should be linked, it is interesting to note that less than one-third of respondents see their human resources strategy as strongly linked to business strategy. (See Figure 10 below)

• Competency-based applications focus behavior. Respondents indicated how competency-based HR applications are intended to best support their organizations business objectives. The three most frequently cited expectations are that competencies will enable the company to communicate desired behaviors, raise the competency level of all employees and emphasize people capabilities that lead to competitive advantage. These also constitute the most popular combination of responses, with 6% of all respondents choosing all three. (Figure 11)

Figures 10 & 11

When asked to comment on the effectiveness of competency-based programs in achieving their expectations, a substantial majority of respondents said it was too early to render an opinion. In fact, few respondents have quantitative measures of effectiveness. However, early indicators suggest that competency-based applications are helping organizations achieve their primary business objectives. This is particularly true for respondents with applications in place for one year or more.  Within this group, competencies are clearly viewed as having a positive effect on achieving the three most desired results mentioned above.

What do you think? What has been the effectiveness of competency-based applications in your organization?

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Creating Competency Based Talent Management Processes

Air CanadaCompetency modeling has received its fair share of criticism over the years, particularly with respect to the level of complexity involved in the process of adapting these models to the many HR-related needs of large organizations. There’s no denying that developing customized competency models that can be applied across many HR applications and a growing multitude of job roles is an arduous challenge; one that requires time, resources and commitment.

Yet, as many organizations continue to focus on education and experience when assessing candidates for a job role, more and more studies show that acquired skills and past experience no longer support organizations’ need to adapt to a modern, rapidly changing, global environment. As groundbreaking technologies make their way into our professional lives at a pace faster than most companies can adapt to, can the simple fact of having learned a certain skill – often years, if not decades, prior – guarantee a company’s future success?

Online resources and public workshops, such as our 3-day Building Competency Models workshop, are effective at educating and training individuals and small teams on the benefits and process of developing job competency models and HR applications. But large organizations tend to deal with very complex and unique issues, and each situation is difficult to address with generic documentation or in a public workshop.

A truly customized program caters to the special needs of an organization, with one-on-one or small group consulting, highly technical competencies, and solutions to address unique organizational issues.

Furthermore, a customized consulting approach can better evaluate and improve on past or existing model building approaches. By focusing on the strategy and implementation of specific applications, companies gain a superior edge in achieving synergy across teams, and ensure consistency in applying model-building methodology.

Case in Point: In late 2012, this large Canadian-based company looked for a consultative competency-modeling workshop that could be built upon its own internal data, and tailored to different segments of its HR department, for a variety of applications. It was also seeking guidance on current best practices for organizations with similar challenges.

Their performance management program already included competencies, but the company was hoping to use Workitect’s dictionary and resources to further refine its models by job role (individual contributor, manager, director level) and branches (sales, marketing, law, finance, human resources, etc.), in addition to separating competencies between generic levels and specialty jobs.

Their competency model had been developed for performance management applications, with 5 core and 17 branch competencies, through a 360-review process for leaders. The response from this process had however been slightly negative and as such, the HR team had been given the mandate to remove ‘behaviors’ from performance management. This eventually resulted in competencies being officially removed from all performance management assessments the following year.

A few years later, the company decided to re-introduce ‘behaviors,’ but this time by incorporating Leadership Competencies and Corporate Values into its performance management program. Competencies were developed in house, and some branches even launched their own competency-based initiatives. A specific group hired consultants to develop branch competencies by level and use assessments, while another moved to implement a series of workshops focused on the development of leadership skills, based on the Learning Organization theory (The Fifth Discipline, Peter Senge).

However, these leadership competencies were not correlated to the many HR applications, and the company was then looking for experienced consultants to help integrate its HR processes to all aspects of workforce management: recruiting, performance management, professional development, succession planning, etc.

When the company came to us at Workitect, the team was already equipped with a project plan and timeline. The company requested that the workshop be customized to ensure that its HR professionals gained a thorough understanding of various competency modeling approaches, but also that, from a recruiting perspective, they learned how to extract critical competencies required for positions from the intake session with hiring manager, as well as how to select the right behavioral competency questions for interviews.

In order of priority, the company wanted to focus on:

  1. Succession planning
  2. Leadership development
  3. Assessment and selection decisions
  4. 360° feedback instruments
  5. Training design and development
  6. On boarding
  7. Performance management, review and appraisal

The company also requested consulting on using competency models to the benefit of optimizing client consultations and interventions, e.g., rightsizing, learning programs, job descriptions, leadership development, employee/candidate assessment, etc.  The company needed to provide its key players with a ‘toolkit’ that could be used for designing processes and solutions for its clients.

Process Using the basis of our 3-day competency-modeling workshop, we modified the content to focus more on the implementation and integration of various competency-modeling approaches to different applications within the organization.

Twelve participants attended the workshop; 1/3 of which were HR advisors, 1/3 covered key areas such as recruitment and talent acquisition, and 1/3 focused on development and succession planning. This group covered the entry and employee lifecycle within a company.

Using select generic competencies from the Workitect dictionary, the team focused on defining key competencies that were suited to their needs and reality, including:

  • Providing motivational support
  • Fostering teamwork/empowering others
  • Managing change
  • Interpersonal effectiveness (influence)
  • Analytical/forward/Strategic thinking
  • Fostering innovation
  • Customer/Results orientation
  • Decisiveness and self-confidence
  • Adaptability
  • Flexibility
  • Personal accountability
  • Personal credibility

Implementation The implementation process was handled internally, with Workitect’s consulting advice and plan. The company began the process with live sessions to senior management teams, followed by “people manager” training, both with very positive feedback from attendees.

Let Us Help You

Workitect is a leading provider of competency-based talent development systems, tools and programs. We use “job competency assessment” to identify the characteristics of superior performers in key jobs in an organization. These characteristics, or competencies, become “blueprints” for outstanding job performance. Competencies include personal characteristics, motives, knowledge, and behavioral skills. Job competency models are the foundation of an integrated talent management system that includes selection, performance management, succession planning, and leadership development.

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