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Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Competency Development and Training

This is the second of a series on the topic of competency-model usefulness. If you want to see the first, click here.

If you succeeded in developing a competency model, you would have done a couple of these things. You would have identified a cluster of related knowledge, skills and attitudes necessary for the successful performance of a job. You would have described these competencies through sets of observable behavioral manifestations. You would have deviced a way to determine competency gaps (I'll write more about this next issue). Lastly, you would have developed a competency development plan that include training (our topic today) and performance management (our topic for later).
The good thing about having a competency model when planning your company's human resource development program is that it gives you a blueprint of behaviors that support successful performance. All you need to do is to develop a set of interventions aimed at building and strengthening these competencies. As usual, this is easier said than done. If you are one of those who rely on external training or public training providers, you will most likely find yourself looking for a needle in a training providers' haystack because a lot of them did not think of the competencies you are looking for when they develop their programs. We, including myself may have a different set of models in mind and it is possible that our definition of a particular competency may differ from yours. What to do then? Here are some suggestions:

Often, when we identify a competency like customer service or customer focus for example as one that needs to be addressed, we look for providers that offer training on customer service. If we are sending people to public seminars, we are likely to send them in a one-size-fits-all program that may be too broad or too general for our own use. If you are in a similar situation I suggest that you look closely into the program, even ask the course facilitator about how the behaviors you want your employees to demonstrate will be supported. The content of the program should match the competencies you wish your employees to manifest. I'm beginning to see a lot of clients with this kind of mindset. Deep inside, I'm always terrified of the work it will entail to customize a program for a client but I love what I learn when I do this. I also most often love how the training program turns out in the end.
If you manage to find a program that tailor-fits with your competency requirements, make sure that the program allows your participants to restore the knowledge, demonstrate the skill and appreciate the importance of right attitudes at work. This means that the program is thick with memory reinforcing activities, skill practice and other activities that addresses the affective domain of learning. Remember, it is possible for a program to contain the information you need but if the strategy for transferring these information is ineffective, it will be all for naught.
As I mentioned in my previous works, communicating your expectations with employees on how to use the information they get from the program, supporting the behaviors they need to demonstrate and following through is critical. For example. If you send them to assertiveness training, let them know that you expect them to become more assertive when they return. If you are able to lay down all the behavioral manifestions of this competency, they should have any difficulty understanding what you mean. For example, they should be able to tell that you want them to be capable of being able to speak their minds without being offensive or aggressive after attending the training. You can support this behavior by encouraging them to manifest the behavior during meetings, discussions and other communication opportunities. You will need to help them see that you appreciate these behaviors. I remember one instance when the boss in one company opened the training by telling the participants that he expect them to improve their assertiveness after the training but when one attempted to do so, the boss gave him dressing down that communicated a stronger message to others, assertiveness is not welcome. Do not fall into this trap.
The downside of basing your training plan on the competency models you produced is that it is downright difficult. You will experience difficulty finding programs that match your requirement, going into the details of the program to ensure its effectiveness in developing the competency would be quite a challenge, and lastly ensuring that the managers will support the competency would be a feat. But if you are able to do all these, there is no reason why your employees cannot turn in at least a decent level of manifesting the competencies required. If you did part 1 of this topic right, and then match it with the right set of development programs, watch how your employees will shine in their performance.


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  2. I can understand the interest in competency development. I believe that this interest is much more difficult to address in the technical areas compared to the behavioral and management areas. This difficulty stems from the fact that there are very few, if ever, specific technical training courses outside the organization. This difficulty, however, can be overcome to a significant degree by training in-house technical trainers to develop course(s) in their individual areas of expertise. The first challenge is having a training course specifically for technical trainers where content is very important and difficult to get from outside. Fortunately, the content can generally be sourced from the experienced technical people, both in operation and in technical services. The challenge is training them to put down their know-how into a training course in a way that can be well-understood so that application in the line becomes easy. I noticed, in several occasions, a very positive response from the trainees, their direct managers and from management. In fact, I used this technical trainer training course for the participants to look more closely into their individual areas of expertise, organize their know-how and relate it to actual application in the line. An additional bonus is the confidence built into the new trainers as they become acknowledged experts in their individual areas of expertise.


If you have an opinion about this topic or a related experience you want to share, please feel free to leave a comment but please be respectful. No bad words please or I will be constrained to delete it.