Why Competencies Matter: Learning

The Learning Pay Back

BBKingToday’s emphasis on talent management is not surprising given that, on average, companies now spend over one-third of their revenues on employee wages and benefits. The ability to effectively manage the “employee lifecycle” —at all levels—is really the only true competitive advantage an organization possesses these days.

One of the primary challenges organizations face is ensuring learning takes hold, and the best way to do this is to ensure employees are acquiring the knowledge and experiences they need to improve the competencies they use daily to perform their jobs. In other words, make it relevant to the work they do.

It’s been found that:

  • 70% of employee development happens on the job through a variety of work experiences such as stretch assignments, cross-training, special projects and so forth.
  • 20% of learning happens through regular feedback from managers, peers, direct reports, coaches, customers, mentors and personal networks.
  • The final 10% of learning occurs through more formalized training methods such as online courses, classroom work, continuing education, seminars, etc.

In addition, we know that employers are  placing a greater emphasis on learning skills that can be applied in the workplace. In a recent Cincinnati Enquirer article William Even, an economics professor at Miami University stated that, “workers that want to improve their skills are more productive…” and “tend to be better workers in general.”  In fact, “Extra productivity makes it economically feasible to pay a large portion of employees’ tuition bills,” according to Peter Cappelli from the National Bureau of Economic Research.

Add all of this to the Fourth Annual Global Leadership Research Project conducted by Chally Group Worldwide in which it was found that, “coaching/mentoring continues to be the most popular leadership development practice for both small and large companies…The next favored leadership development programs are action learning and assessments.”

Organizations can leverage competency models to great benefit by assessing the current capabilities of its workforce against competencies, and using the results for talent planning as well as to guide investment in learning and development activities that will help close critical competency gaps. Taking it one step further by linking these activities to on-line development planning software, organizations will then have better data to help employees better leverage competency-related information and resources.

Competencies Can Be Learned
Once an organization determines the kind of competencies critical for each role, it can take steps to develop its employees’ capabilities to exhibit those competencies. More flexible than personality traits, competencies can be developed and improved.

For example, if an organization determines the kind of leadership behaviors critical for its success they can enhance their success by taking steps to develop the capability of their leaders to demonstrate these competencies on-the-job. Unlike personality traits, competencies are characteristics of individuals that are (relatively more) malleable – they can be developed and improved.

Taking this example a step further, if Strategic Vision is a critical leadership competency and I know that I am not perceived as very visionary by my colleagues, then I need to learn and demonstrate more visionary behaviors. There are lots of ways I could do this:

  • Hold more meetings where I review where we’ve been, where we are, and where we are going in the future;
  • Partner with a senior leader to develop plans to sell others on the organization’s strategic directives;
  • Be a positive model to my reports and walk the walk as well as talk the talk;
  • Take online courses to develop my visioning skills.

A side benefit  of all this is retention. It’s incredibly expensive to rehire and train employees. Instead, develop and retain the talent you have by stimulating learning and development.

Next up, how competencies can distinguish roles and your organization. For previous blogs, click here.

Jackie Messersmith is President and CEO of Talent Management LLC. Talent Management is the developer and distributor of Talent Snapshot®, an integrated, competency-based, “in the cloud” talent management solution. Jackie can be reached at 513-528-9700 or jackie@talentmanagementllc.com.

Talent Snapshot® – Talent Management Made Simple. www.talentsnapshot.com