Millennials bring a different attitude to the workplace than prior generations, and with that, new challenges for businesses and their leadership. Management must learn to adopt new core competencies and ways of guiding these new employees. Focusing on competency management can be an effective way to do this.
In an article in Workforce.com, Bill Passmore and Sylvester Taylor wrote about how the new generational preferences are forcing leaders to adjust their core competencies.
They stated, “Millennials are looking for challenging assignments that provide opportunities for learning and growth. As only about 13 percent of the workforce is highly engaged, there is much work to be done.” While on the surface this generation seems less engaged, they also noted that the generation doesn’t want to leave their current jobs necessarily, but instead are seeking more opportunities to grow where they currently work.
If you have young people in your department, you should be aware of their workplace preferences. Some of these include:
Transparency in pathways to career advancement
A more flexible work environment
Mentorship from their superiors
Gamification elements in workforce trainings
A strong workplace culture and emphasis on social impact
Public recognition for their workplace accomplishments
A competency management system can help a company better integrate these preferences and more engaging methods of learning and development. This group of young, energetic, and passionate employees can be a big benefit to any organization.
Retaining Millennial Employees Throughout their Career
Much has been written about the new generation’s job hopping. According to CareerBuilder, employers expect 45% of their newly hired college grads to leave after two years, and the study also showed that by age 35, about 25% of young employees will have worked five jobs. The stigma that may have accompanied job-hopping for previous generations no longer applies.
But as stated above, millennials will stay if they feel they have opportunities to grow. Outlining job-specific competencies, defined as the hard and soft skills required for specific jobs within the organization, can help to engage them. A study of the Canadian workplace identified “quick advancement” as being essential, and according to Forbes, this desire is even ahead of compensation level.
Companies who can show career pathways for advancement will be able to retain their current young workforce better. Competency management can assist you with this process, by benchmarking milestones for training, promotion, and increases in salaries. It also can help make transparent the skills and experience required for advanced roles that a young employee may want to aspire to. This could be a role on their current path, or a lateral move into a new function or department within the organization.
This is because another preference of is the ability to learn from a variety of disciplines. According to a Forbes article on managing millennials, they “are especially motivated by dynamic, cross-functional positions.”
Companies with a flat structure or at least cross-functional roles will do better in attracting and retaining these employees. A competency management system can assist in this by tracking skills required for multiple positions, and give individuals the ability to access and complete optional learning activities if they have the motivation to.
The millennial generation views work-life balance very differently than their predecessors. They want a more flexible work environment and many don’t want to adhere to the traditional 9-5 structure. A study by Canadian Business stated that 70% of millennials would prefer to work remotely.
Many companies are experimenting with various workday structures, such as half days on Fridays, working from home one day a week, and some companies even operate 100% remotely. Not that every company needs to go this far, but don’t be afraid to experiment with your work schedule and options, as your younger employees will thank you for it.
Millennials value growth opportunities, and for this reason, would rather have a mentor-mentee relationship than a traditional boss-employee one. A leader who can practice empathy, guidance, and nurture a millennial throughout their career will gain his or her loyalty.
This generation appreciates positive reinforcement, and does better with more frequent check-ins with constructive criticism and praise as appropriate. The traditional annual review is not as effective, and according to Inc, they prefer “regular feedback – and mentoring to learn, grow, stretch, and improve.”
Keep in mind that a mentor does not have to be an employee’s direct superior either, and often its better if this is not the case. Establish a structure of mentorship within your company using a competency software system if you can, and assign mentors as a learning method to new employees. The extra attention and relationship-building will not only help prevent them from leaving, but will nurture them into even more effective and fully competent workers.
Millennials grew up playing video games, and another tactic that can help teach this generation is through the process of gamification.
This technique is defined as “the application of game theory concepts and techniques to non-game activities” by TechTarget. And according to LMS provider Docebo, one strategy to teach millennials effectively is to “build out a gamification model that maps competencies into tangible elements. Using leaderboards, badges, points, a little bit of your travel budget, and some departmental goodwill, you can build a full competency management program that can motivate your learners.”
While assigning badges or points to skills can work, organizations can get more creative with their rewards. One of the current clients of our own competency management system, the Competency Manager, assigns points based on community service hours taken by employees, and rewards them with gift cards when they reach certain hour-thresholds.
Gamification is an example of a company finding creative ways to engage and motivate millennials, giving them positive reinforcement for advancing, and showing them that this learning can be exciting.
Millennials do not simply want a place to work to earn money, but to contribute positively to the world and make an impact. They are idealistic and driven by a sense of purpose and desire to make a difference. They prioritize companies that either have a mission of social good, such as a charity or other non-profit, or companies that have programs in place such as volunteering to contribute in other ways. The 2016 Millennial Impact Report stated that 46% of responders had volunteered within the past month.
And Deloitte’s Global Human Capital Trends 2015 showed that millennials want to be part of something bigger than themselves. In a world where a sense of a deeper mission inspires more than half the workforce, core competencies can be transformative. Core competencies define the fundamental values and strengths shared by the entire organization, going deeper than the basic skills required to be a good employee. These competencies are likely a part of a millennial’s life outside of work, and he or she will value the company even more if they are also a part of work life.
Millennials have grown up expecting to be recognized for their accomplishments. Whether it’s the “8th place trophies” from Little League, or the constant assurance from social media likes, they want to be noticed. While its easy to look at this as a negative attribute, it can be turned into a positive. As mentioned earlier, gamification can inspire employees internally to achieve more. And externally, millennial employees can be your best brand ambassadors. Involve them in company-wide seminars, workshops, networking events, etc. that they are passionate about, and they will be happy to share pictures, videos, and more online to their social networks.
Social media is the glue that holds them together, it is their means of communication. And as a young person meets a particular milestone in work, encouraging that he or she advertises this through Twitter, Facebook or Instagram will let friends know about their career success, and further motivate the employee. It also may attract friends and other people in that person’s network to join the company or consume its content and products.
Leadership Competencies Need to Change with the Workforce
The takeaway is that the workforce is changing, and the way we define leadership needs to change with it. Our workplaces are filling up with high-potential, high-expectation millennials who bring a wealth of energy, enthusiasm, and ideas, but without the right leadership to nurture and retain them, they won’t stay long. HRSG (Human Resource Systems Group) reported that “a competency-based approach to talent management can help facilitate a shift towards a more millennial-friendly culture in several ways.”
Competency management is the new method of learning development that is most effective for the new generation in the workforce. It is appealing because it takes into account soft skills and opportunities for growth within an organization in a more comprehensive way. While leadership competencies such as “Embracing Diversity” or “Using Empathy” may seem unnecessary or hard to prove the ROI, it is these types of skills that millennials want to learn and value in others.
Competency management software can also help to promote transparency and collaboration within the organization. And if a young employee can easily see a future within the organization, he or she is less likely to leave it. There are many other ways a competency management system can benefit an organization’s employees, young or old. To find out more about our solution, visit our website.
In conclusion, if your company is dedicated to retaining the young and ambitious millennials in your workforce, choosing competency management software can help you develop and retain them.
Nowadays there are countless sales books, videos, and more that promise to teach you how to be a better salesman. I’ve read plenty of them and I’m sure you have too, but one of the best ones that has stood the test of time is “SPIN Selling” by Neil Rackham.
Personally, this book has helped me tremendously in my sales and marketing efforts. And after going through all of my notes, I felt I should turn them into an article that would be helpful to people, whether they are involved directly with sales or not. And at the very least, save you the time it would take to read the whole book!
Even though SPIN Selling is an older sales book, it is still relevant because of its unique approach and backstory. Neil Rackham is not a salesman in the traditional sense, he is a researcher and consultant. From the ‘70s to ‘80s his company embarked on a 12 year, 1 million dollar research study to determine what resulted in most effective sales performance. The hours and hours of studies, interviews, and research with different companies was distilled into a very simple model of questions that successful sales people asked in larger sales, which he called SPIN Selling. SPIN stands for:
And in his research, he also found out that there were clear differences in sales calls depending on the product sold. He made a distinction between complex, larger sales, and simple, smaller sales. The SPIN Model applies to complex sales.
Complex Vs. Simple Selling: How Are They Different?
Traditional sales techniques are good for simple sales (usually one call and a lower dollar amount) but do not work well for complex (multiple calls, large dollar amount) sales. This is for a variety of reasons, but two main ones are that complex selling requires buy-in from multiple stakeholders in the purchasing decision. Because of this the seller engages in many phone calls and meetings that involve not only discussing the product or service, but also about building relationships, as he or she will be working with people in that company for a long time if the sale is made.
And not only that, but another important distinction is that most of the dialogue does not occur during these calls at all, as it does in small sales, but internally between stakeholders of the organization after the sales calls. The sale is really made when the sales person is NOT in the room, but when the company employees discuss among themselves and agree to buy. For this reason, a sales person must arm their prospect with the tools to sell to their own coworkers.
In addition to these major differences, keep in mind that the SPIN Selling model is not a rigid formula, it’s more like a road map. While the sales calls should loosely follow this structure it may not always, so do not view this like a checklist that must be done in a specific order all the time.
What Are the SPIN Questions?
The different stages of SPIN are defined as:
Asking about the current state of the company to get context on their responsibilities, processes, tools, objectives, and more.
Asking questions that allow you to identify any current problems the organization is having and start to formulate their specific needs.
Asking leading questions related to the problems discovered in the last stage. These questions will magnify these problems and uncover how they can negatively affect the organization.
N (need payoff)
This is the opposite of the implication stage. It involves asking questions about solutions. The seller will uncover how solving the problems identified will benefit the organization. If all of the stages are executed properly, the prospects will even tell YOU how your product or service can help them.
It is difficult to think of questions for all of these stages on the spot. Instead, prepare yourself in advance. Before every sales call, write down three problems the customer might have that you can solve, and three examples of problem questions you can use to discover them. For specific examples of these types of questions and more info, go to the corresponding section below.
But sales calls or meetings do not consist only of the seller asking questions. In the book, Rackham outlines four major stages of a sales call, including when to ask the SPIN questions.
Four Stages of a Sales Call
This is where the stakeholders for the vendor company and the potential customer meet. According to Rackham, don’t be afraid to get down to business in this selling stage. While spending a minute on pleasantries is okay, spending too long does not correlate to more successful complex sales. Instead, a better way to open larger calls is to go over the objective and establish your role as the seeker of info. Outline expectations so the customer feels comfortable from the beginning in providing information and answering lots of questions from you.
Investigation (the SPIN stage)
The key to this stage is to remain focused on one thing – asking questions. This is the stage where you will go through the SPIN model by asking situational, problem, implication, and need payoff questions.
In this stage do not focus on what you will tell the customer about your solution. This comes in the next stage. Always keep in mind that if you’re getting too many objections early on in the call, it means you’re not asking enough questions. Simply wait longer to offer a solution and ask more questions to fix this.
This is the stage most sales people rush into, which is showing what your product can do and why it is a great solution for the customer. In the book Rackham states that a benefit “should show how the solution meets an explicit need expressed by the customer.” Only discuss features and aspects of your product that directly address these explicit needs you learned about from your SPIN questions.
Do not talk about all of the ways the product can be used or all of its features, because at this point the customer does not care. This will only detract from what he or she wants to hear, which is how it will solve the specific problems that were expressed. And always keep in mind that value to the customer is so much more important than any specific feature or capability.
Lastly, a successful sales call results in a commitment from the customer. Rackham is very specific about how he defines a commitment. Four clear actions he outlines to gain commitment are:
Give attention to investigating and demonstrating capability.
Double check that key concerns are covered and ask lots of questions.
Summarize key points and benefits of the discussion right before moving to commitment.
Propose a commitment and suggest a next step.
And the four types of results in complex sales are:
Orders: This is when the customer makes a purchase and is a successful sales call.
Advances: This is when you set objectives for specific actions (such as schedule a next meeting) and is also a successful call.
Continuation: This is when the parties make an informal agreement to talk in the future, this is not a success.
No sales: If the prospect has no need for the product, this is also an unsuccessful call.
In simple selling, closing is the most important aspect, and you can try many types of established closing techniques to get this result. But with large, complex selling, it is different. Rackham showed that high numbers of closes in large sales led to fewer wins. Once again, it is crucial to stick to asking questions and gaining information at first, not attempting to make a sale.
And lastly, the best sales people review the calls after they made them to recognize what worked, what didn’t, and adjust accordingly. The best sales people understand the key to success is in the details of knowing what to ask and what you are going to do before the call even starts.
Examples of the SPIN Questions
Below I’ve outlined what the four SPIN stages are, as well as specific examples of questions you can use during each. Keep in mind these questions should be flexible and change depending on the context of each call!
Situational questions help set the stage for the rest of the call and are how you learn basic information about the customer. Don’t spend too much time here, as too many situational questions lead to failure. Ask just enough to set up the next stage, problem questions, which should be used more often.
Examples of Situation questions include:
What is your current role?
Tell me about your day to day duties?
How many locations do you have?
How many individuals and/or teams do you oversee?
What is your current process?
Which software platforms and tools do you currently use?
How long have you been using these tools?
What is your current budget for a replacement?
This is where you identify the prospect’s current problems. A simple method is to ask, “What are the issues with your current process?” Keep in mind that in large, complex sales, it is rare that your solution will solve every problem the company has, but customers don’t expect this anyways. They want the main problems to be solved, and at a reasonable cost.
Many sales people discuss features and details in small sales – do not do this in large sales. Customers don’t care about the features at first, they care if their problems will be solved.
In the problem stage, the successful sales person is a detective, and does not go into a sales call assuming to know all of the problems, but instead to ask the buyer questions to uncover them. As the buyer answers the more general problem questions, the seller can ask more specific questions to uncover deeper issues the company is currently facing.
Examples of Problem questions include:
How satisfied are you with the current way of doing things?
Are there any problems with how things are done now?
How many people are required to do the job with the current process?
How long does it take you to do the job now?
Is it too costly to complete an average job?
If you had to solve one problem you have now, what would that be?
This is arguably the hardest but most important stage of the call. This is where you expand on the problems you identified, and ask follow up questions to magnify them for the customer. Ask lots of “What if” questions in this stage. It is crucial to not offer a solution to the customer until the need has been built up to be strong enough, otherwise you will face objections.
Implication questions are problem oriented, while need payoff questions (the next stage) are solution oriented. It is difficult to come up with these types of questions, and they likely won’t come into your head during the call, so make sure to plan them in advance. A helpful technique Rackham gives is to imagine the customer objecting to you, saying “so what, I have these problems, but they aren’t that serious.”
This will force you to think of answers to these questions, and uncover the deeper problems underneath. In many cases potential customers can identify their problems, but are so entrenched in their day-to-day activities they do not realize how much of their process is built around these problems. As you ask probing questions, the customer will have “lightbulb moments” and see how a problem that seems small leads to other problems throughout the organization.
Simply uncovering problems does not make a successful call though. All employees have problems. You need to grow those problems until the customer is talking about action and is saying things such as “I’m going to overhaul our program next year.”
Examples of Implication questions include:
If you spend too much time on (duty they mentioned), what other duties are overlooked?
Are there any business goals or KPIs you have missed because of (current problem identified)?
If there is a problem with (necessary duty), how long does it take to fix this issue?
Have you ever lost a customer because of the current process?
In recent memory, what issues have been caused because of your current process?
Have you gone over budget because of the current (too costly or timely) way of doing things?
How does (the current situation) affect your personal career growth?
If (day-to-day duty) doesn’t happen, what is the result?
Does (prospect’s problem) affect duties of your superiors or other team members?
Need Payoff Questions
This is an often overlooked, but crucial stage in the sales call. Rackham proved in the SPIN Selling book that top sales people ask 10x more need payoff question than average. So ask as many as you can, maybe even more than you think is necessary! This is when you talk about solutions to the problems you have identified. Ask questions that start with “If you could” or “Would this help?”
When the customer raises needs, most sellers talk about their solution (product or service). But this is when you should ask need payoff questions because you get them to realize how they would benefit from having the identified problems solved. Remember, the prospect does not care as much about features, only benefits and value to them.
Need payoff questions are so important because they focus the customer’s attention on the solution rather than the problem. Up to this point you have been identifying problems and magnifying them. The customer has a negative viewpoint, and this is where you take the opportunity to turn their thoughts positive and be the solution! If done effectively, the customer will actually describe the solution to you and how you can solve their problems.
In the book Rackham tells an anecdote, of a successful millionaire dollar sales man. The man said it’s important to keep in mind that you (the seller) are only a small part of the selling. He recommends to think of a sales cycle like a play. Most sales people think they should be great actors, but they need to be great directors, meaning they are influencing other people to carry out the goal.
The key to this is in the need payoff questions, because it helps the potential buyer think deeper about what their needs really are. As mentioned before, most of the selling really occurs between your contact and other key decision makers in the company. Need payoff questions are valuable because there is no way any prospect can be an expert in your product with one or two calls. But if he or she can recognize the needs that product solves, he or she can accurately describe its benefits to other people in the organization. In this way, your contact is an asset in selling to key stakeholders, even though you may not talk to them directly as often.
Examples of Need Payoff questions include:
How would that help?
Why is that important?
What benefit do you see in (eliminating current problem)?
If you could easily solve (identified problem) how would that help you achieve your current goals?
If you could save time on (current situation), how would that help you?
What could you do with the extra time you have saved?
Would (eliminating current problem) save you money?
Why is (action that accomplishes goal) important to you?
Now that you have the knowledge of decades of selling experience, it’s time to go out there and start selling! Keep in mind that following the SPIN model is easier said than done, so be sure to practice scenarios on your own, and properly prepare for any upcoming calls. Good luck!
How is it that some companies continue to be successful and innovative for years, even decades? In any field this is a challenge, and even more so with the rapidly changing technology landscape. Companies that excel across decades can do this because they successfully implement cultures and philosophies that breed innovation, and an awareness of market trends. This happens purposely as a result of how the organization and its individuals act.
One way of doing this is by developing core competencies. Competency management for individuals refers to defining the necessary skills required to perform successfully to a set of criteria, such as an employee’s role. And at a macro level, core competencies are defined as “strategic advantages of a business, including the combination of pooled knowledge and technical capacities, that allow it to be competitive in the marketplace,” according to Investopedia. Having a few central themes and behavior-sets help direct organizational decisions.
Below I’ve highlighted Google, Amazon, and Facebook, outlined common themes that allow them to be innovative, and summarized them so you can begin to implement them as core competencies within your own organization.
Google is one of the world’s most innovative companies because it does not stop at just delivering the world’s most popular search engine, but in carrying this mission of democratizing the world’s information through many other methods. These include platforms that today are commonplace such as Gmail, Google Maps, and Google Earth, to futuristic missions such as driverless cars, and delivering internet to the more than three billion people who still do not have access.
Google can remain innovative and successful because of its reliance on several core competencies, such as:
Open Source Mentality
Flexible Structure Produces More Innovation
The organization is famous for building in change and innovation into the company from the ground up with its creative structure. One example of this is with its “20% time” model, which allows employees one full day a week to work on any project they choose.
Google builds innovation and change into the company’s culture with policies and encouragement. In a 2016 talk at the Forbes CIO Summit, Google CIO Ben Fried even mentioned that change is one of its most important core competencies, saying, “People are creatures of habit, and yet technology has never moved as quickly as it is today. As a result, CIOs need to make change a core competency. The ability to change is essential to stay competitive.”
Google has even upped the ante on its dedication to change with its in-house incubator Area 120. According to Fast Company, this idea was instituted two years ago, and is similar to 20% time, with one major difference – employees who are selected spend 100% of their time on the project. Google can behave like a startup with the resources of a major corporate company in this way.
With such divergent products and services, from a search engine, to driverless cars, to Android phones, Google is a huge proponent of the “open-source mentality” that many developers have. The company welcomes research and insight from many types of people and disciplines, whether they are in the company or not.
According to Inc.com, Google greenlights over 250 new research projects a year, spending billions of dollars in the process, and even inviting researchers on-site for their sabbaticals. The company has a history of acquiring or investing in seemingly unrelated companies due to scientific or data capabilities. Examples include Nest, the thermostat and smart home company it acquired for $3.2 billion, or 23andMe, the company that can sequence anyone’s genome, in which Google invested millions of dollars.
Google welcomes all types of researchers to access its tools, data, and knowledge in order to make discoveries. And in the truest sense of the word, Google’s wildly successful Android operating system is fully open source. It’s worth noting that Android phones account for over 80% of all phones sold.
Thinking Big (and Backing it Up!)
With so many ambitious projects that Google has produced or is currently working on, it’s no secret that the company likes to think big. But just thinking is not enough, the company backs this up with its actions, and segments the organization in ways that allow its best big thinkers to do what they do best.
Google underwent a huge structural change in 2015, repurposing the company so that its core services (such as search and AdWords) were under the Google umbrella, but its more diverse projects were under different companies.
This is a big deal because it allows Alphabet to make longer term bets with its other wings of the organization, while continuing its core products/services.
One of the most secretive of these new companies is entitled simply “X” and has also been called “The Moonshot Factory” according to the company’s website. This takes the evolution of 20% time and Area 120 to an even greater level. Some of the exciting new projects that are a part of X include:
Waymo: A self-driving car project.
Wing: A delivery drone service.
Loon: A project to create worldwide internet access using balloons.
Malta: A project to store renewable energy in molten salt.
Brain: A research project on Artificial Intelligence and machine learning.
This is just a fraction of the ambitious projects Alphabet, Google, and X have in the pipeline, which sum up Google’s core competencies in a nutshell. As Managing Director of Area 120, Alex Gawley says, “You want to build products that solve problems that people encounter daily.” Google can do this consistently because of the core competencies it has developed and deliberately built into the culture of its organization.
It’s no secret that Amazon has become an incredibly successful and omnipresent company in the marketplace; the organization is currently listed as the second most valuable in the world.
The company has not only been able to grow its core business as an ecommerce giant but has been able to innovate and move into other market segments successfully. While Amazon does many things well, some of its most significant core competencies are:
Distribution and Logistics
Creating Self-Sustaining Platforms
Distribution and Logistics Core Competency
Amazon thinks of itself as “Earth’s most customer-centric company” according to its website’s mission statement. It delivers on this mission with an unparalleled ability to streamline the buying process, deliver products quickly and efficiently, and to create tools and an ecosystem where vendors and customers can connect with each other.
The company changed the ecommerce landscape with the introduction of Amazon Prime and guaranteed two-day shipping back in 2005. And it went even farther with the introduction of Prime Now in 2015, guaranteeing delivery within two hours for select products and in select cities. This type of distribution capability is unmatched by other organizations.
Creating Closed Ecosystems
But Amazon thinks differently, and not only wants to provide products to the globe, but to provide tools and platforms for others to create and run their businesses. In this way it executes on another competency, creating closed ecosystems and platforms for sellers. On Amazon.com in 2017, over half of all sales were by third party merchants, according to a shareholder’s letter by CEO Jeff Bezos. And not only that, but 55% of online shoppers begin their product search on Amazon, according to a 2016 survey from BloomReach.
With such a high volume of businesses succeeding on Amazon, the company ensures that not only will it continue to earn fees from these companies, but that they will stay on the platform because they are making money!
The company continues to innovate with this way of thinking, providing multitudes of platforms that allow sellers, content creators, and more to distribute products and services under the Amazon umbrella. Here are just a few examples:
Twitch – Video Game Streaming
Twitch is a massive force in the video game industry and streaming in general. One of the most popular broadcasters is a 26 year old who goes by the name Ninja, and makes an estimated $350,000 each month from the platform. He was recently joined by popular rapper Drake during a Fortnite game, smashing Twitch’s record and resulting in 628,000 concurrent streams. Twitch is growing in popularity fast and will become a platform that many aspiring gamers build their careers on.
Audible – Audiobooks
In a totally different market, Amazon has also become the go-to platform. According to Observer, 44% of audiobooks are purchased on Audible.com, which Amazon owns. Audiobooks are growing in popularity, increasing sales by 20% in 2017. Audible is not only the place people go to listen to audiobooks, its where many independent authors sell their books, and depend on the platform for their careers as well.
Amazon Web Services (AWS) – Cloud Hosting
Amazon made a big early bet with its cloud computing network, Amazon Web Services. AWS now hosts over 33% of the cloud and is Amazon’s fastest growing business, growing 252% in the past three years. While competitors such as Google’s Cloud service and Microsoft Azure are growing too, Amazon has a big lead. Amazon has positioned itself so that it hosts much of the world’s internet. Not only do independent streamers, authors, and small businesses depend on Amazon’s platforms, huge organization such as Netflix, Spotify, Airbnb, Comcast and more host platforms using Amazon Web Services.
Whole Foods – Supermarket Chain
And lastly, while Amazon’s dominance on the web is clear, it is worth noting that the company is making strategic acquisitions to establish themselves offline too. With its purchase of Whole Foods in 2017, the company now sells the food you eat as well.
Amazon’s vision is to create closed, interwoven ecosystems of buying and selling. Many people now and in the future will buy most products on Amazon.com, buy groceries from Whole Foods, host their website on AWS, and use Amazon’s Ecommerce platform for their business. Amazon understands the virtuous cycle that occurs as more and more commerce platforms are interconnected and owned by the organization.
Of course, none of this is possible without a reliance on sophisticated technology and a constant push to improve it. Amazon has its hands in many divergent markets, but with all of them it brings its signatures of unparalleled customer convenience and forward-thinking technology.
Amazon can innovate quickly and consistently because it practices an agile methodology, a common approach to software code writing, and applies this to the organization at large. It focuses on creating small teams quickly and producing a minimum viable product as fast as possible. The organization prioritizes “launching early over everything else,” according to a former employee memo.
Examples of leveraging technology can also be seen in its use of drones and robot workers to help improve efficiency of its ecommerce business. The company currently uses robots in its warehouses to help with moving inventory, and has plans to deliver to customers’ doorsteps using drone technology.
Amazon constantly delivers on its mission of being “Earth’s most customer-friendly company” due to a consistent reliance on core competencies such as distribution, logistics, creating platforms and tools for people, and leveraging technology.
Facebook: Making the World More Connected
(Image Source: Facebook)
One of Facebook’s core competencies is the ability to rapidly iterate and add new features; it was named one of Fast Company’s most innovative companies of 2017. According to the article, Facebook innovated with concepts such as “the Creative Hub, a platform for businesses and agencies to mock up, share, and test ads.” It has several core competencies that permeate the entire company and allow them to be consistently innovative. These include:
Focus on Impact
Move Fast and Break Things
Facebook likes to exemplify the Silicon Valley mantra “Move Fast and Break Things” which is the hacker’s mentality. In Mark Zuckerberg’s 2012 letter to investors he said, “Hackers try to build the best services over the long term by quickly releasing and learning from smaller iterations rather than trying to get everything right all at once.”
This agile approach can come with its fair share of difficulties. Facebook has faced plenty of backlash with controversies lately, including a major data security breach that led to Zuckerberg testifying before congress. But this willingness to be bold and fast-moving has its benefits. Facebook consistently creates products and improvements to its platform quickly. Significant features such as removing trending topics, adding timeline stories, and adding image filters have all been launched in the past few years. The “hacker way” allows the company to move quickly and constantly improve the platform.
Facebook also notably gives its employees autonomy and trust, and with that comes self-imposed high standards of responsibility and performance. In an article written by a former employee Pedram Keyani, he tells a story about working on a code change to the Timeline which was pushed out to 25 million people on his second day at the company.
Zuckerberg himself echoed this also in the investor letter, saying that the developers organize hackathons on their own, and that “Many of our most successful products came out of hackathons, including Timeline, chat, video, our mobile development framework, and some of our most important infrastructure…”
Facebook can make innovation a daily habit with these principles. According to Spigit, which provides innovation management software, idea frequency, implementation, and executive buy-in is crucial. These are three principles Facebook holds. Not only do the employees self-organize and enjoy the process of creating new products, but executives including Zuckerberg himself, get involved and implement the best ideas that stem from these sessions. This motivates employees to continue thinking outside-the-box.
Focus on Impact
And lastly, Facebook can innovate and be successful because it operates based on a shared goal of changing the world for the better. The company’s mission is to “make the world more open and connected,” and this inspires employees to create great products and services. This philosophy drives all company actions, whether operational decisions, or hiring, and allows the organization to be consistently competent and high-performing. Facebook is listed every year as one of Glassdoor’s best companies to work for this very reason. The employees believe in Facebook’s mission and are inspired to go to work every day.
Innovate in Your Organization by Bringing These Core Competencies Together
There are many similarities between these three organizations and others that are top performing. For those that want to focus on innovation, there are some common themes to follow:
Foster a Culture of Innovation.
Be open to new ideas and open communication with executives.
Trust employees and give them freedom.
Move quickly and look for the next improvement always.
Don’t be afraid to fail.
Have a higher purpose.
Foster a Culture of Innovation
While it may seem obvious, being an innovative company does not happen accidentally, but by deliberately setting the company up for this type of success. Google, Amazon, and Facebook all have different ways of accomplishing this, but all have the type of structure that allows them to innovate. With Google, the restructuring of different goals throughout the Alphabet umbrella, and with Amazon, through its small starting teams on new initiatives.
Not only are these companies structured in this way, but the culture promotes and encourages innovation. Through hackathons, structured time away from core duties, collaborative office environments that encourage discussion, and more, these organizations produce environments that are conducive to new ideas.
Open Executive Communication and Welcoming New Ideas
New ideas that come from within an organization must be encouraged by executives to flourish. They must be approved from the top-down, but often are sparked from the bottom-up, according to an article in Forbes on innovation in the workplace.
But not only that, most innovative organizations welcome ideas from outside perspectives and divergent disciplines. Cross-functional teams of individuals in different roles can help encourage new ideas, or even bringing in outside resources to help foster creativity such as a consultant or freelancer. In Google’s case, it even brings in academics and researchers who spend sabbaticals within the organization. With this kind of encouraged collaboration happening daily, innovative ideas are born organically.
The CEO of YouTube, Susan Wojcicki said, “Some of the best ideas at Google are sparked just like that – when small groups of Googlers take a break on a random afternoon and start talking about things that excite them.”
A logical step from creating a culture of innovation and executive buy-in is of course, fully trusting your employees and giving them freedom to do what they do best. The best example of this is of course Google’s 20% time, but there are many others.
Give employees autonomy, allow them to do what they are most competent in, and give them purpose. Success and innovation will follow naturally with that recipe.
One of the most common themes in all these organizations is they are not afraid to fail, aim for big ideas, and move fast. They start new ideas with small groups, and as the idea grows it spreads to the rest of the organization. As innovation consultant Tendayi Viki said in Forbes “As we succeed with early adopters, other business leaders will then be attracted to our transformation agenda.”
Companies cannot be the most innovative in the world, creating products that have never been thought of before, without the reality that failure will occur. But by thinking of failing fast as a core competency and a success, not a mistake, organizations can move past these inevitable roadblocks. “Failure is the way to be innovative and successful. You can fail with pride,” says Google’s chief social evangelist Gopi Kallayil.
Have a Higher Purpose
Perhaps most important of all is to have a higher purpose. An organization that does not have a north star that drives all business actions and eliminates distracting elements will not be able to consistently perform at a high level. One of the most innovative business leaders of all time, Steve Jobs, said it best, “Innovation is saying no to a thousand things.”
And in his Stanford commencement speech he said, “Your work is going to fill a large part of your life, and the only way to be truly satisfied is to do what you believe is great work. And the only way to do great work is to love what you do.”
The greatest organizations may have lots of products and services that are seemingly unrelated, but they all follow a singular mission. And as organizations grow, and hire people who believe in this purpose, it only gets stronger and more meaningful. Whether it’s “To organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful” like Google, or “To give people the power to build community and bring the world closer together,” like Facebook, these ambitious goals drive the world’s most innovative organizations. And with this blueprint, it can drive yours as well.
CABEM’s Competency Management Software
In order to succeed and innovate like a FANG company, you must run your organization and train your employees in an innovative way. While many companies train using Learning Management Systems (LMS), or using documents and spreadsheets, these are outdated and incomplete methods.
Competency management software such as Cornerstone or our own Competency Manager allows companies to formally build competency programs and deliver them to all individuals and locations across the organization. This allows them to not only train individuals, but to prove that the training is successful, and track progress and/or required credentials.
If you work in Human Resources or are a CEO who keeps up to date with learning and development program trends, you will know of competency models. A competency model, according to TrainingIndustry.com, is “a framework for defining the skill and knowledge requirements of a job. It is a collection of competencies that jointly define successful job performance.”
Competencies are more all encompassing than job skills because the idea is they take into account soft skills such as knowledge, behaviors, and abilities in addition to technical or required skills of a role. And this collection of competencies makes up a competency model.
Whether your company needs to assess hard or soft skills for business goals or due to compliance with quality and safety regulations, implementing competency models within your organization will supercharge your learning and development program.
Elements of a Competency Model
Competency models can take a variety of forms, but as CareerOneStop.org points out in the excerpt below, they usually include the following elements:
Competency names and detailed definitions
Descriptions of activities or behavior
A diagram of the model
For example, a competency model could include a competency called “Teamwork” defined as:
establishing constructive and solid interpersonal relationships;
treating others with courtesy, tact, and respect;
working effectively with others, regardless of organizational level, background, gender, race, or ethnicity;
working to resolve disagreements, attempting to persuade others and read agreements;
abiding by and supporting group decisions; and
facilitating team interaction and maintaining focus on group goals.
And this model of Teamwork could consist of behaviors such as:
handling differences in work styles effectively when working with coworkers,
capitalizing on strengths of others on a team to get work done,
anticipating potential conflicts and addressing them directly and effectively,
motivating others to contribute opinions and suggestions, and
demonstrating a personal commitment to group goals.
While these models can often be as simple as a bulleted list, a visual diagram can help leadership and direct reports get a better sense of how the competencies are interrelated and its key features. They can also include information on career pathways and how the requirements of the hard or soft skills are different at various levels of mastery and experience.
Look at this competency model from CareerOneStop.org as an example. It is the Waste and Wastewater model. And to learn more about manufacturing and competency management, read our article on the topic.
Once the model has been put in place, there are many different ways to implement it into an organization. Many companies use elearning and training software such as Learning Management Systems (LMS). More advanced companies use Competency Management Systems. See a few examples of this below.
Competency-based Training Example in Manufacturing
Human resources and training departments use competency models to define skill requirements for specific positions. These models are also used to assess performance and job progress, and in this way help set business strategy throughout the company as a whole.
Understand how one’s performance can impact the success of the organization
Demonstrate an understanding of market trends, the company’s position in the marketplace, and defined market segments
Understand the position of the company’s product/service with regards to market demand.
Any worker possessing the above competencies will make them a more valuable employee. And as you can see, workplace competencies encompass much more than the technical skills required for job performance. In this Advanced Competency Model, they also include issues related to business ethics, legal/financial issues, environmental, health and safety, and social responsibility issues.
Competency Model Example in Human Resources
Not all competency models have to be industry specific and can have broader use to Human Resources as well. Assessment Associates International, a recruiting firm, recently noted, “Organizations are fluid and dynamic. Technologies and processes change, and competitive pressures regularly alter how jobs are defined. Less supervision, increased technical skills, greater use of information technology, and the ever-changing nature of work itself all create a need for a different set of competencies.”
AAI also goes on to describe how competency models can not only help with the learning and development of current employees, but can aid in the process of hiring to determine what to look for in a candidate and career pathways for each individual from day one. Look at their version of a competency model below, and notice the similarities and differences from the one that CareerOneStop put together.
While it is true that all companies already have some sort of competency management program in place, because if their employees weren’t competent they would be out of business! But the purpose of a competency management system and competency modeling is to identify what makes the best members of the organization special, and translate that to the rest of the business. Cheryl Lasse for TD.org specifies that “In essence, the value of a competency model is that it identifies what skills each person in the company must be able to do to be “great.” If everyone performs at the “great” level, the company strategy is achieved, and a company is likely to have a competitive advantage. For example, an engineer must be able to perform engineering design functions, but a great engineer can work with other R&D engineers to troubleshoot design issues before they reach manufacturing.”
Bear in mind that in today’s competitive business environment, the need for competency models is more acute than ever. Lasse goes on to elaborate this point, saying:
The pace of change has accelerated—and with it, the skills required to be successful continue to change.
To survive today, companies must continuously innovate, which only increases the changing skills required.
People stay in the same job for less time and, therefore, people need to be able to become “great” without as much experience as they had in the past.
New workers entering the workforce want to be able to make an impact more quickly; they want to know how to be “great” right away and are motivated to get there.
Managers need to know what hard and soft skills are required for themselves and their direct reports to excel. They must also understand how to innovate and maximize their talent management potential. This leads to more motivated individuals and success for the organization.
How to Use Competency Models in Your Organization
Now that you understand what a competency model is, have seen examples, and how they are valuable to an organization, it is time to make them for yourself! To use competency models, it is important to identify who the key instructional designers and subject matter experts are in your organization. These personnel will be instrumental in not only creating the models but also distributing them to the organization and making sure they are implemented effectively. Depending on the type of organization, these individuals could all be in the HR department, but it is likely they are in the Learning and Development department, as well as some members in the Quality and Safety divisions.
Many organizations use a combination of spreadsheets and written documents to write down the competency models, and then put the onus on L+D leadership to carry them out to the rest of the organization using an LMS.
Here at CABEM we believe that the best way to positively impact your employees and learning and development programs is with a competency management software system. We designed our Competency Manager product for this exact reason. If you see a value in this type of approach and want to learn more, we’d love to give you a demo.
Developing competencies for an organization is as important as it is challenging. While most of the focus in competency management is for the individual employee, it is equally vital for C-Level executives, managers, supervisors, and other decision-makers to adhere to competencies specific to them.
In a Harvard Business Review study, Sunnie Giles analyzed 195 leaders in 15 countries over 30 global organizations. Participants were asked to choose the 15 most important leadership competencies from a list of 74.
These competencies were grouped into five major themes and priorities for leadership development programs. These have a significant impact on both operations and business development. The five groups are:
Demonstrates strong ethics and provides a sense of safety
Empowers others to self-organize
Fosters a sense of connection and belonging
Shows openness to new ideas and encourages organizational learning
Giles concluded by saying, “These five areas present significant challenges to leaders due to the natural responses that are hardwired into us. But with deep self-reflection and a shift in perspective (perhaps aided by a coach), there are also enormous opportunities for improving everyone’s performance by focusing on our own.”
Core Leadership Competencies Evaluation
As a CEO, look at the above five groups as guiding principles to your management style. As other leaders have agreed upon these, they can help you make sure you are behaving in ways that not only benefit not only the organization as a whole in accordance to these themes, but also improving your own skills and personal development.
Demonstrates Strong Ethics and Provides a Sense of Safety:
Are you, as a CEO, upholding the standards that your company represents? Do you motivate your employees to act in a fair and balanced way in all their business transactions. Are you treating all individuals and customers with respect, and communicate about the importance of honesty in all business dealings? If you do, then you are contributing to your employees’ sense of safety. A workplace where standards are defined and upheld, and where personal differences are respected, is one where employees can thrive and work together as a team.
Empowers Others to Self-Organize:
As Giles noted, research has repeatedly shown that empowered teams are more productive and proactive, provide better customer service, and show higher levels of job satisfaction and commitment to their group and organization. Are you a leader who hesitates to let people self-organize or resists giving up power? A leader that is able to do this successfully sets his organization and individuals up for long term success.
Fosters a Sense of Connection and Belonging:
If you are a CEO who wants to promote a sense of belonging among your employees, this goes beyond simply holding a Holiday party every December! You need to reinforce this sense of connection every day, in all your corporate communications and in your behavior. Walking through your company’s offices each morning and greeting employees by name, asking about their families, and giving them recognition for a job well done all go a long way towards developing a sense of connection in your team. As you do this your employees will not only feel more appreciated and have improved morale, but improved performance as well.
Shows Openness to New Ideas and Fosters Organizational Learning:
You want to be the type of leader who shows support and encouragement to employees who come forward with ideas about how to improve processes, save time and money, and make other suggestions that will make the workplace more productive. You also want to foster organizational learning at your company, to give workers the chance to improve themselves, seek opportunities to advance and to acquire new skills. All of these will have an impact on both your operations and your business development. If you develop an environment that encourages risk-taking, and that sees failure as an opportunities for lessons and growth, then you will support employees in their creativity and find that your company is a place where people enjoy their work and thrive in their roles.
Are you a CEO who nurtures growth? Are you willing to listen to your managers as they grapple with problems, and do not judge them as they try out new solutions? If you do this, you will be nurturing their growth. People learn by experience. Sometimes they have to fail to grasp a lesson well. And if they do, help them get back up and try again. Your managers will grow in the process, they will trust you as their CEO, and they will feel confident they are developing skills as they move forward.
Competency Models Can Guide You in the Process
Many leaders instinctually have all of the above competencies, and some do not. But either way, it is important that leaders formalize their own competencies just as they do for their direct reports and others.
Develop or implement a competency management system in your company that allows you to lead by example, so you can clearly communicate expectations throughout the business. Don’t be restricted by what has been done in the past; push the boundaries and welcome feedback as to what your employees like or don’t like about your competency management process and learning and development program.
How to Deliver Competency Models to an Organization
If your company has been using a Learning Management Systems (LMS) for training, this can be very effective, but does not address all elements that come with the broader view competency management allows. This type of software can deliver competency models to individuals across the organization, accounting for not just hard skill trainings, but soft skills such as behaviors or knowledge. Moving to a competency management system can alleviate the following pain points:
Organizational silos in big companies, where information is not readily or easily shared
Allows C-level to step back and assess their goals, and use that assessment as a compass for their Learning and Development programs
L&D and cultural knowledge can be formalized and distributed company-wide
Giving your team access to all relevant information on a dashboard will enhance business development and ensure you are poised to react to industry changes. As Pasmore and Taylor said in their article Core Competencies Remain Critical to Success, “In the future, change will be key to every major breakthrough, of which there are potentially very many. To seize these opportunities, leaders will need to up their game concerning change…”
Competency management software will help your senior team to get ahead of the change curve and identify opportunities quickly, which in turn “will build a greater capacity in individuals, teams, and networks to undertake successful change,” said the authors.
Most importantly, your competency management software will enable you to understand the potential of technology to transform your organization and the world. You want to achieve significant accomplishments and do so in an efficient, effective, and lasting way. Competency Management software will be critical to your success in this endeavor.
If you are interested in making this shift, talk to us! Our competency management software is flexible and scalable enough to accommodate growing organizations of any size.
Many professionals are required to participate in continuing education programs (often called CEUs) for a certain number of hours per year to keep their certifications, credentials, and licenses to practice. And many others participate in optional programs to further their careers.
These occupations include:
Real Estate Agents
Over time certain associations have emerged that not only provide an organization for career advancement and education, but that define, set standards, and control requirements for its industry.
Some of these associations have over 100,000 members, and with this comes an administrative challenge to track member activities including:
Who has the necessary requirements for membership
When do they need to renew
Where are certifications and credentials stored
Where can members earn additional required credits
While most associations put this responsibility on the members themselves, often people don’t organize their credentials and certifications properly which can lead to problems and inefficiencies. But with easy access to certification and credentialing information using software, the association and/or the members themselves can easily prove they are competent in their profession and have the necessary requirements for membership.
Any association that can implement a self-contained ecosystem for membership management will not only be more attractive to potential members, but can operate more efficiently and cut down on administrative costs of existing members.
Examples of Associations that Require Certifications
There are hundreds of associations that not only educate its members but offer trainings and certifications that have significance or even requirements in its respective industries. Examples include:
While some people join an association because it is required, most do so with the intention of learning additional skills and knowledge, networking, and overall advancing their professional and personal careers. Associations can be a partner in this journey by thinking like a business and creating what the organization determines are the core competencies of a successful career in that industry, in addition to any and all requirements of membership.
For example, in 2015 health professionals worked together to determine core competencies of the industry. A report resulting from the collective efforts of several health associations was published by the American Association of Colleges of Nursing (AACN), entitled Core Competencies for Interprofessional Collaborative Practice.
The report stressed that an “institutional curricular development of learning” was needed for enhanced productivity, continued learning, and to meet the ever-changing demands of the profession. The report also offered information to accreditors so they can set common standards for interprofessional education, and offered insight on how to create testing content.
The largest healthcare profession is nursing. And with membership based of over 1 million members in some cases and reports like the one above, it is clear that associations in all industries need formalized software to carry out their membership and competency programs globally.
Competency Management Outlines Pathways for Career Advancement
Another major benefit for a member is the ability to view career pathways and define goals for him or herself. If the association allows, users can view standardized career pathways of members who may be more senior, and the skills and certifications they have earned.
Software of this kind can create a network and communication ecosystem to encourage mentorship and relationship building for members at various skill levels and stages in their career. If the association so chooses, members can view what classes the more senior members have taken and what courses they should take to grow professionally, similar to creating career pathways in a business field. The could highlight aspirational career pathways that a new member can follow to envision themselves in 5, 10, or even more than 20 years as a member of the association and professional in that field.
Forward thinking associations can aid this process by providing not only the required competencies and courses for membership, but optional courses as well in a public library within software. Associations can better contribute to its members’ learning and development in a much more involved and effective way than just by giving requirements for membership and stopping there.
LMS’ Are Not Enough for Total Workforce Management
There is a growing awareness within the world of associations that Learning Management Systems (LMS) may not be enough to keep up-to-date with all the training needs of association members. In her paper on “Instructional Designers need Flexibility” for the Association for Talent Development (ATD), Mimi Banta spoke on challenges in using LMS’s for trainings, saying, “[Instructional Designers] want to deploy the most current solutions, like social and informal learning, to best meet a need. Yet, the organization’s infrastructure may not be able to document and track that type of learning. Let’s look at the best way to do things. We can figure out how the systems need to adapt to us, versus the other way around.”
While these tools are often guiding the learning, they should not dictate how the learning is carried out. In order to be flexible and best serve members the most effective trainings, competency management software can help. Another article of ours, we talk in-depth about how to implement competency models into your organization.
Another aspect of competency management software is that it can be used to track leadership development in associations. For example, The National Educational Association of teachers, has developed a leadership competencies and skills intended for all current and upcoming teachers, regardless of experience. The skills, the NEA says, “are designed to prepared NEA members to lead relevant and thriving educational associations and become world-class education leaders.”
NEA states, “These competencies define for our association what leaders should know and be able to do in the areas of professional practice, organizing, advocacy, communications, business, as well as governance and leadership.” Associations that take the time and effort to create these competencies should have software that allows them to distribute them effectively and easily to their membership base.
Make Members’ Lives Easier with Software
Storing the membership credentials and competencies of individuals within software not only benefits the association or trade group, but the members themselves. Some benefits for the associations are:
An easier way to disseminate learning information
Clearer way to track attendance at member events
Track members’ uploaded certifications
Individuals sometimes can lose track of where their certifications are located or any expired credentials. An association that can promise a closed, self-sustaining system of managing certifications helps members with one less thing to worry about: keeping track of relevant data.
Competency management systems and credentialing software systems will help associations keep track of individual membership requirements, disseminate training content globally, and track other milestones. Associations that choose to build competency models and adopt a competency-based approach to membership and credential management will find they operate more efficiently and have more satisfied members. We have developed software for this purpose, to learn more request a demo.
The manufacturing industry has come around to realizing the power of a competency-based training philosophy, and is seeing benefits in reduction of injuries, efficiency, and performance as a result. Find out below what competency management and modeling is, and how to implement this type of approach to benefit your learning and development and safety programs.
What is a Competency Model?
A competency model is “a collection of multiple competencies that together define successful performance in an established work setting” according to Competency Model Clearinghouse. It provides a description of what an individual needs to know and be able to do within their job role. This can include specific job-related skills, but also knowledge, behaviors, and abilities as it pertains to the organization or the industry as a whole.
The Competency Model Clearinghouse (CMC) is sponsored by the U.S. Department of Labor, Employment and Training Administration (ETA). The goal of the Clearinghouse is to inform the public workforce system about the value, development, and uses of competency models. The Competency Model Clearinghouse has an initiative called the Industry Competency Model Initiative, in which they are developing dynamic models of competencies for a variety of different industries. If you are unfamiliar with competency development and need a good place to start, I suggest you check out the website after reading this article to see what information it has that pertains to your organization.
Motorcycle Manufacturer Case Study
Within manufacturing, different models have been developed to cater to a category of expertise. The Tooling U-SME Competency Framework outlines specific competencies for each job role in nine functional areas, including Machining, as described in the case study below.
In this example, the manufacturer wanted to develop technical employees into workers who could perform in a broader spectrum of roles across the globe. According to the report, “The team developed a competency framework and designed curriculum elements to include a standardized blended program of online classroom, simulated work and on-the-job training (OJT).”
The report states, “The use of a competency framework resulted in an accelerated process, with workers achieving competency 60 percent faster than with standard training programs, resulting in productivity gains and cost savings.”
Tooling U-SME Case Study
Tooling U-SME is a workforce development provider of online learning solutions. It offers a wide range of online classes, instructor-led, and blended learning.
If Tooling U-SME can be combined with an automated system for competency management, the results will be a more extensive dissemination of the competencies and trainings, easier access by companies and individuals, and a more efficient system for tracking individual progress. Besides this specific case study related to a motorcycle manufacturer, it is clear that other companies can benefit from the use of the competency model described.
Advanced Manufacturing Competency Model
The Advanced Manufacturing Competency Model (below) from the Manufacturing Institute, was developed by manufacturers to illustrate the competencies and skills needed by workers in the industry, whether just starting out or looking to progress in their career. It includes core skills and competencies such as:
Basic applied skills in reading, writing, math, and locating information
Next are the critical industry-wide technical competencies. These are crucial for safety and quality programs and will be different based on the industry. These types of competencies can be completed by a blended learning program that includes test taking, on the job training (OJT), instructor led training (ILT), and more. This is accomplished easier using a competency management software system than using online communication such as email or Microsoft Office, and also is preferable over traditional LMS.
The third level of certification is specific to the sector of an industry. Occupations that are in demand are matched with industry certifications, examples include welding, fabrication, and more.
At the top of the Competency Model are managerial and specialty occupations, which can be covered with certifications and advanced degrees.
The Advanced Manufacturing Competency Model is an effort on the part of manufacturers to develop a common reference of skills necessary to succeed in a variety of professions but will be different and specific to each company and industry within manufacturing. The model was updated in 2010 to reflect new information about sustainable and environmentally-friendly manufacturing behaviors.
Competency Models in Action – Competency Based Education
Competency Based Training can apply to a variety of different industries. In the below case study, the National Center for Biotechnology Workforce collaborated with the Los Angeles Valley College to develop the Biotech Bridge Training program, which helped build a pipeline of talent.
The organization developed a “a six-week program designed to help students develop a much-needed set of core skills and competencies targeted specifically for the bioscience industry.” The program is very selective, only choosing 20-30 students. From the program, students learned hard skills in math and science as well as soft skills such as interview and preparation.
A global pharmaceutical company, Baxalta, has hired 96 students from this program, with only a 5% turnover. Average turnover of employees hired via HR and normal onboarding procedures is 23% according to the study. Another company Grifols, a global biopharmaceutical manufacturing company, has hired 25 students from this program. This program proves that when care and attention are taken to train manufacturing employees to a set of core competencies, it produces excellent workers. To learn more on how to implement this in your own organization, read our article on How to Apply Competency-Based Methodology to Learning and Development Programs.
It is clear that some manufacturers are already developing competency models for various categories in their industry and benefiting from them. However, most manufacturers are still relying on online learning or classroom teaching to improve their workers’ skills. In this era of advanced technology, these methods are outdated, costly, and limited.
If manufacturers can advance to an automated system for competency management they will see many benefits:
A system that adapts to manufacturing companies’ changing needs
A variety of training methods that cater to individual learning preferences, whether written, visual, OTJ, ILT, blended, and more.
Wider distribution of competency model management within the manufacturing workforce as a whole, and within individual companies.
Ease of access from all employees via computers
Easier storage of data to mark progress and keep track of credentials, and for supervisors to keep track of employees’ training
Manufacturing is a rapidly changing industry, and to account for these changes, companies would benefit greatly from modernizing their workforce development programs with competency management. Our Competency Manager software is designed to help manufacturers build a framework for individual competency. To learn more and request a demo, click here.
What are Competencies and Why Does an Organization Need Them?
Training employees today is very different than it used to be. Many organizations have realized the benefit of using an online training software, with the LMS (learning management system) market projected to grow almost 4x by 2022. But even with all of the LMS offerings, customers are still not happy. Some studies have shown that as many as 44% of customers will replace their LMS in two years.
The thinking behind employee training has not changed, and a more comprehensive approach to employee growth using a competency-first mindset is necessary. Competencies are the skills, knowledge and behaviors required to perform a specific job and to achieve success.
It is essential that companies develop competencies for each position so that each employee understands what is expected, can be trained to these requirements, and can perform to the best of his or her ability. This is a more complete way of approaching learning and development which benefits the organization as a whole, and also the individual in achieving his or her own goals.
But it is not easy to standardize the trainings of individuals throughout your organization and to make every person fully competent. Some of the main challenges include:
Creating learning and development programs that cater to a variety of learning styles based on an individual’s learning preferences and demographics
Disseminating these programs to the entire organization in an efficient and effective way
Tracking the results of these training programs in ways that are comprehensive and allow for informed decision-making that improves the organization as a whole
And yet every company finds a way to evaluate competency. If an organization’s employees weren’t at least partially competent, the firm would be out of business!
Can Competency Management Apply to Your Business?
While there are challenges associated with this approach, competency-based thinking is applicable to any size of business and in virtually every industry.
Startups and small-to-medium-sized businesses may encounter growing pains if they make a jump in employee size or add another office at a different location. Their training methods at one location may not be as effective at the next location. They now need better methods for training a workforce that is not only increasing in size but is more spread out. Having a formal competency management approach in place can help prevent or solve these problems.
And in enterprise and Fortune 500 companies, especially those that are looking at acquisitions, management may utilize an LMS (Learning Management System), but not the software capability to formalize and communicate the organization’s culture, philosophy, and soft skills effectively. In addition, any acquired firms may have used training methods that are very different from those used in the parent company. Competency management can help to assimilate new acquisitions and help the entire organization perform more consistently and effectively.
What we often find is that companies have “pockets” of expertise and knowledge that are hidden. This employee expertise should be acknowledged and shared with the entire organization using software.
As eLearningindustry.com said, “Corporations have to adapt fast to changing environments; so do the employees of those companies. To make the change smooth, HR managers should know precisely what skills the company’s staff already has and what competencies they are lacking.” Once a company has this information, it can organize training to fill in gaps in knowledge and skills.
The traditional method of workforce development involves the use of online training software such as Learning Management Systems. While these have provided more capability and flexibility to the Learning and Development process, the overall approach and philosophy to employee training has not adapted at the same pace.
Many companies use an LMS as a standalone method of practice, creating courses or modules with assessments such as true/false, multiple choice, and short answer. Others use the more traditional classroom teaching, only in a virtual environment rather than physical. This can be effective in many cases, but the problem with this method is that it only covers the material taught in class.
What about the skills needed for the job or in the field? The most efficient way to train and to assess skills is to practice in real situations. Companies need to put employees in real life conditions to challenge them, check their abilities and safety measures, and ensure they are competent in their jobs. Some LMS’ cover this with ILT (instructor led training) and OTJ (on the job training), but this needs to be at the core of learning and development programs, not an afterthought. This can be accomplished more effectively with competencies over traditional skills-based online training.
Skills vs. Competencies
In order for an organization to shift from traditional training to competency-focused methods, it is important to understand the difference between skills and competencies. The difference is subtle and can be nuanced, but it is extremely important to an organization’s success.
Context is key. Competencies are the skills within the context of the employee’s responsibilities, distinguished by role, department, or even location. For example, a set of competencies required by a manager at a distribution center would be different from those needed by a sales manager at corporate headquarters.
Keep in mind:
These requirements will continuously change, which makes it even more critical that they are documented and formalized
Competency is different in each industry
Even with individual organizations within an industry (for example Ford vs. Toyota in automotive manufacturing), there is no standard on what being “fully competent” is, so any software that addresses competency management should be flexible to account for this. Each organization has its own goals and idea of what competency is. This also applies to different sectors such as aerospace vs. automotive manufacturing standards.
Competencies are useful to employees because, as the NIH stated, “Competencies focus on specific training and development opportunities that will help employees grow and strive for excellence.”
How to Create Competency Models
Now that you understand the importance of competencies and how they differ from traditional training, how do you implement this new approach, and create models of competency-based training that your employees will utilize?
It’s important to keep in mind that the goal of any Learning and Development program is to produce fully competent employees. When choosing software to help with skills management, it is crucial the new product does not dictate how this is accomplished. As mentioned earlier, software should be flexible to the unique operations of an organization, and this extends to a person’s unique learning preferences as well.
Competency models need to include:
Identification of core competencies needed on a job
Links to other talent processes
Alignment with business goals
Highlight of other strengths for an individual to develop
Notification of other opportunities that will give an individual additional experience.
Competency Models can be written down in a list format, or use a visual table or graph. They can be built for an individual role, but are more effective when they take into account learning pathways of an individual in a specific career trajectory. For example a technician at a warehouse facility needs specific hard and soft skills, but his or her foreman needs additional skills as well.
Individuals learn in different ways. Some learn visually, by reading written material, via audio or tactile means, and others by practicing a skill. Many also learn by being coached, with mentoring programs, and a combination of these techniques.
Technology today is advanced enough to address these different learning styles for individuals, so why is it that most corporate training programs deliver tests in a standard manner to every person? These standardized tests are effective for some, but not equally effective for all individuals.
Further complicating this learning issue is the generational difference. For example, Millennials prefer video and microlearning, while the older generation prefers print. And learning styles will continue to evolve over time as technology changes.
That is why it is crucial to build competency models that identify the core competencies employees need for a comprehensive L+D program. These models serve as a blueprint for superior performance.
When employees follow a competency model that suits their learning preferences and applies to their particular role, they can improve their skills quickly and succeed, which leads to higher job satisfaction, enhanced performance, and improved employee retention.
Competency Management Aligns Itself with Business Goals
A competency management software system is also beneficial because it allows management and other decision makers to take a step back to think about how their trainings affect the organization as a whole, not just their department or direct reports.
The interrelation of subject matter experts in departments such as quality, safety, HR, and more, is important to a consistently performing organization that is poised for growth, especially those industries with quality and safety concerns.
Mark Homer, in his article, Skills and Competency Management says, “It is most important to identify which particular set of key skills is required for the business to achieve its strategic goals.” He emphasizes the importance of capturing distinct competencies to ensure employee trainings align with the goals of the enterprise.
Competency management enables team members to not only prove they are competent in their current role but that they continually improve their knowledge, skills, and behavior, all the while addressing their individual learning styles.
And as Laci Loew wrote in TrainingMag.com, “Effective and automated competency management creates a real-time and predictive inventory of the capability of any workforce.”
Competency management software can help assist your employees to improve their skills and morale. This progress will lead to less turnover, greater organizational efficiency, and increased profits for your business.
In summary, if your business wants to help your employees progress, develop programs that advance your organization’s goals, and have evidence that your staff can perform their jobs not just in theory, but in real world situations, then it is time for you to try a competency management software system. We offer a solution called the Competency Manager which was made to solve this need. If you have an LMS and are unhappy with your training program, or simply want to add the benefits of competency management, we’d love to give a demo today.
Learning Management Systems (LMS) are utilized by countless organizations to train employees throughout various stages of their careers. But according to recent studies, they may not be as effective as once believed. A survey by the Brandon Hall Group found, “44% of companies are looking to replace their LMS within the next two years.” And, unless changes to their technology strategy are made, “they will most likely find themselves perennially in the replacement group.”
In an effort to address these shortcomings, progressive organizations are focusing more on managing competency rather than relying on traditional training methods. Conventionally, companies have used LMS’ to train their employees to specific roles. But their capability usually ends with administering and grading tests such as true or false and multiple choice.
How a Competency Management System is Different From an LMS
A competency management system takes this further and proves that the employee who has passed a test is also competent to perform to his/her role through objective evidence. As stated in an article from the International Journal of Manpower “The competency approach to human resource management is based on identifying, defining and measuring individual differences in terms of specific, work-related constructs, especially the abilities that are critical to successful job performance.” When managing competency, the focus shifts from pass/fail test taking to a more comprehensive analysis of the capabilities and expertise of both employees and jobs. These includes skills, qualifications, and even behaviors.
While completing a module and passing a test is still an acceptable form of employee training, it is not enough in the modern workplace. A trained employee is not necessarily always a competent one, which we discussed further in our article trained vs. competent. Being able to prove and sign off on an employee’s competence gives a company the peace of mind that their team is completing tasks effectively and safely. Mark Homer, in his article Skills and Competency Management says, “It is most important to identify which particular set of key skills is required for the business to achieve its strategic goals.” He is emphasizing the importance of capturing distinct hard and soft skills (competencies) to ensure employee training and management align with the priorities of the enterprise. These competencies can be grouped in various ways such as by role, by department, by team, by physical location, and more.
Competency-based Systems Make Trainings Flexible
Multiple completion methods of competencies are necessary to provide employees the ability to prove their competency to a specific group in a variety of ways. The Institute for Learning Styles Research has identified seven styles in which people learn. These include:
Print: Printed or written words.
Aural: Refers to listening.
Visual: Seeing visual depictions such as pictures or graphs.
Haptic: Refers to sense of touch.
Interactive: Refers to verbalization.
Kinesthetic: Whole body movement.
Olfactory: Refers to sense of smell and taste.
These many preferred ways of learning will also affect the ways in which people prove something has been learned and retained. Current LMS’ do not provide flexibility to learners who struggle with traditional test taking and therefore cannot provide a clear picture of competency within an enterprise.
Managing competency enables team members to not only prove they are competent to their current role, but to also continually improve their knowledge, skills, and behavior, all while addressing their unique learning styles. Additional techniques for competency signoff in modern systems include manager and subject matter expert (SME) signoff, witnessing, performance assessment, certification and documentations, attendance, and even user signoff. These methods can be independent or mutually assigned to ensure employees are fully competent.
Keeping track of all of this information has proven to be a daunting task for many industries, especially heavily regulated ones that must be compliant to ISO, OSHA, and other standards. For this reason, a comprehensive competency management system should come equipped with gap analysis, risk management, and metrics modules that provide efficient and systematic visibility into the enterprise. A gap analysis allows administrators to easily view the number of missing competencies required for employees to satisfy a specific role. And with risk mitigation features, managers can assign a risk priority number (RPN) to individual competencies, making it easier for administrators to focus in on higher risk action items.
Our Solution to this Problem is the Competency Manager
Due to this emerging trend of businesses towards competency-based learning, and away from traditional LMS’, we have developed a software system that specifically addresses this need, called the Competency Manager. The product is derived from our existing LMS, and provides an enterprise framework for competency. It gives an organization the ability to assign customizable competency programs for their workforce, allowing you to train employees, identify pathways to success, manage risk, and increase efficiency at all levels of the organization. To find out more, request a demo.
Companies of all sizes use Human Resource Management Systems (HRMS) and Human Capital Management (HCM) tools such as Workday or SAP Successfactors to manage their employees. Tracking and managing all HR functions is a complex undertaking, and with the technology available today, it is clear that software is the best solution to this challenge.
As the changing workforce management landscape makes this task more complex, companies are using other software to supplement and augment their HR systems, such as competency and skills tracking software. Competency software is similar to an HRMS in that it contains employee information such as job function, history, and documents. Competency software cannot replace an HRMS, but can improve its functionality because it focuses on improving the workforce by identifying the skills and qualifications required for reach role, location, department, or other group, as well as training to and fulfilling these requirements.
A competency system allows a manager, admin, or SME to then match or identify employees that are competent to the skills of each role and group. Depending on an organization’s permissions, individual employees will have access to their information as well.
While competency software systems are still in the early adoption stage, there are a variety of different HR Systems available today, and most cover the same basic functions:
Policy and Documentation
An HRMS will contain an employee’s payroll information as well as his or her benefits and the insurance plans available. Some systems such as Bamboo HR have individual profiles for each employee to see this information on their own, and for a manager to see the employees he or she is responsible for.
Giving employees visibility into his/her own profiles allows them to input timecard information as well as request vacation days and time off themselves, driving down managerial costs. A comprehensive competency system can also contain payroll information as part of a user’s profile, and with a Calendar feature can allow personnel to see upcoming training, audits, or other action items.
Software systems are great for collecting information on employee’s skills for onboarding purposes as well as workforce development and succession planning. It is essential for managers to have a grasp on which employees they are responsible for, their lines of authority, and what skills these employees possess.
HR Systems such as Zenefits are designed to hold onboarding documentation such as W4s and I9s, as well as hire date and history. A skills tracking software can hold this documentation, as well as determine what competencies a role requires. If an organization is hiring multiple people at once, that user’s skills can be entered, and he or she can be assigned a role automatically by a manager within the system. Employee skills can be entered into buckets not only by role but also location-specific competencies, departmental, or other.
This can work for succession planning as well, from an individual and organizational perspective. Based on permissions, a user is able to see his/her own competencies, as well as other roles that the person may only be one or two competencies away from. With this information a manager can run a Gap Analysis report, in which they can quickly identify the gaps in skills between individuals of different or similar roles.
A manager can even perform Gap Analysis if there is a role or requirement that no one is competent to, and determine which employees are close enough that they can be accelerated to fit the criteria. If there is any lack of competency to a role, being able to see this easily within software is a significant advantage to businesses with the goal of keeping lean operations, and remaining efficient and effective.
Ultimately, if a new hire is required, an HR system can automatically post job descriptions and opportunities to sites such as Indeed or Simply Hired. A competency system can be designed to integrate with existing HR software, and can be imported to or exported from using an API, CSV, and configured in other ways based on an organization’s needs.
Policy and Documentation
All organizations have documentation associated with each employee, and depending on the industry, there may be multiple documents that are required by law. An HR or competency system is able to contain all of the necessary documents, from employee manuals and handbooks, to certifications and credentials of necessary safety training to remain compliant to OSHA or ISO.
Lastly, most comprehensive systems can automate a company’s processes by scheduling reminders of recurring training, and to minimize manager duties, can have self-certifying options for employees such as e-signatures.
Can My Organization Benefit from a Competency System?
If you use one of the many HR options out today, you realize how well they help your organization by simplifying administrative tasks as well as managerial duties related to employee information and learning and development. A Competency system can work with an existing HRMS to continue this improvement and augment functionality of skills tracking and performance management, for regulated and non-regulated industries.
By taking HR functions to the logical next step and proving an employee is competent to a role, regulated industry standards such as ISO and OSHA are addressed. This makes recurring audits and inspections much easier – all employee certifications, past training, education, and skills are already in a software system. To get started with this, read how to implement competency-based methodology into your organization.
And for organizations that want to improve their workforce, competency software does this by standardizing requirements and nomenclature companywide.
CABEM’s Competency Manager
If you have made it this far and see a value in adding competency software to your current HR Suite, CABEM Technologies’ Competency Manager (CMGR) satisfies all of these needs. It is designed with ISO quality systems, EHS, HR, and other regulated industries in mind. We have worked closely with quality consultants, HR personnel, and safety managers to ensure that it covers everything you will need to capture employee competencies and effectively fulfill them as necessary to your organization. The CMGR allows you to replicate company structure as well as develop, prove, and maintain the competencies of each employee, whether by traditional trainings such as test-taking, or more advance methods such as performance assessments and indicators. If you think competency management can augment your HR needs, click the link to learn more about our CMGR or email us at email@example.com to request a free demo.