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Don't Leave Workplace Competence To Chance

A ‘workplace competency’ is the description of a required skill, feature or behaviour for a specific job, and is used to define and measure an individual’s effectiveness.

Competencies are arranged into a structure that brings together numerous roles, and the required capabilities that the employee must possess or acquire, in order to perform his or her job effectively. While aiming to provide a fair and consistent approach to employee engagement and development, workplace competencies are especially popular in large companies. These principles also enable small businesses to focus on key management and operational performance.

While the term ‘workplace competencies’ is not a new one in corporate Bahamas, there still seem to be delays in adopting them as the order of the day. Most seem comfortable going through the motions of performing tasks that may be dated and, in some cases, sub-standard, avoiding at all costs a true measurement of efficiency. We seem comfortable guessing at a person’s value to the company, often-times sighting successes of the past and looking past those crucial skills required for business success now.

Workplace competencies give employees a clear idea of what is expected from them in terms of their performance. They indicate which behaviours are valued, recognised and rewarded. The focus moves away from formal qualifications and career history, and toward proven capability to do the job, as demonstrated through recorded workplace experience or tests designed to assess an individual’s capabilities that directly relate to the job. Each competency consists of knowledge, skill, ability or personal characteristics, sometimes in combination.

There are two generally accepted categories of competencies: Behavioural and technical. Each job incorporates several of each. For example, behavioural competencies of a department leader may include the ability to work confidentially, inspire others and meet report deadlines, while parallel technical competencies may be written communication skills, knowledge of procedures and ability to resolve conflict. Each competency must be measurable so the job holder understands what level of achievement he or she must attain in order to meet the requirements.

It is perhaps also important to note that competencies must not, and cannot, be measured in a vacuum. There must be certain conditions present, and resources available to the employee, if he or she is expected to function and demonstrate certain competencies. Highly-skilled individuals, who possess many competencies, are not credited for them because:

* The leader does not know what to look for and has not fully grasped the competency themselves.

* The team member is so disillusioned that they have become despondent, and are operating below the standard despite their capability

* The leader and organisation have not developed a system of measurement to accurately determine how each team member has progressed in the acquisition of the skill.

This article is to assist leaders in both the private and public sector in adopting a competency-based approach to training, recruiting, delegating assignments and evaluating employees. We cannot continue to shoot in the dark and hope, by chance or happenstance, that employees are ethical enough to bring themselves to a reasonable standard. It must be mandated and measured accordingly.

• NB: Ian R. Ferguson is a talent management and organisational development consultant, having completed graduate studies with regional and international universities. He has served organsations, both locally and globally, providing relevant solutions to their business growth and development issues. He may be contacted at tcconsultants@coralwave.com.

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