Competency models and programs often fail to recognize, develop and reward key employees in specialist positions (without direct reports), leading to unnecessary loss of talent, and even compromising competitiveness.
We suggest an approach that covers all jobs irrespective of the organisational level, leading to improved commitment and comprehensive talent management.
With competencies we refer to behaviours – like “Influencing” and “Inspiring others” – which you need to turn vocational skills and work experience to drive results.
Many companies exercise talent management programs of high expectations, but actually end up in undermining strategic adaptability: The programs are often run for management talent rather than for talent as such. As a consequence, potential talent remains untapped and may even leak out, deteriorating competitiveness and strategic adaptability.
The point here is that we unconsciously value hierarchies so strongly that even a good cause to empower people gets diluted. We even reward talented people by promoting them upwards in the hierarchy, because we sincerely feel that’s the best thing to do. No wonder people on the lower tiers get passive over time.
To ensure talent potential is utilized properly and to enable employees to contribute to their fullest anywhere in the organisation, talent management programs should be revised to foster talent regardless of the hierarchical positions of the employees.
We suggest HR should take a lead to clear the ground. Here are three suggestions:
- Competency models should be based on accountabilities on all levels of the organisation, not on supervisory skills only. Many companies struggle to get the supervisor competency set implemented, and feel satisfied for having achieved this improvement. While important, it is not enough for strategic adaptability.
- Our rewarding models set too much weight on hierarchy. The amount of people reporting to an individual often plays a major role in scoring a job. If an excellent performer wishes to improve his/her salary, the best way is to move upwards in the organisation. If there is no room, that person leaves the company. Another talent wasted.
- We should implement paths for both specialist and supervisor careers. Some companies do. People get acknowledged and rewarded for excellence instead of position.
Complement your benchmark job framework and redefine your competency model
Benchmark Job Framework
If you already are using a benchmark job framework, defining levels of maturity (typically something like junior-intermediate-senior-lead), you have a good starting point. We advise you to compare your existing framework to your organisation and find out the jobs that you still don’t cover. In many organisations these jobs are in the “specialist” categories and on the lowest organisation level, simply because management jobs are often sorted out first.
When you are ready with your inventory, take some time to consider how to complement your framework. All employees should find their place in the framework, but on the other hand you should carefully decide what kind of career paths are needed in each job – in essence, how extensive and broad your level definitions should be.
Using the level definitions within a job may in some cases prove to be a limiting factor, if the span from a junior practitioner to the world class guru is really wide. In those cases you may need to define several consecutive jobs, each representing a higher capability and accountability. This is a way to set lasting career paths and to enable talent development in the long run.
Your competency model may need revising to support your new job framework. The point is to define competencies so that they can be understood and applied regardless of the job. If your competence model is built for supervisors, you need to complement it or revise it totally.
It is advisable to detach your thoughts from your current model and think about the competency groupings you need irrespective of the job.
Paroc Group, a European insulation producer, harmonized their white collar competency models in 2012. Their new competency model is based on four categories – Leading Self, Interaction, Leading Others and Direction. Each category contains three competencies, which are now applied to all of their benchmark jobs, even if the standards in each job vary quite a lot.
Paroc example is encouraging: You can build a transparent competency model everyone feels comfortable with and which is applicable equally well to all jobs in the company.
You might have some competencies in your current systems that you can use in the new one. Take some time to assess the indicators you use to gather evidence of the competency. It is the indicators that often cause the obstacles in extending a system to new jobs, simply because the indicators have been defined with the original job context in mind, e.g. a management position. Redefining the indicators might turn a management competency into a general one.
Matching jobs and competencies
If you have big gaps either in the Job Framework or in the Competency Model, it might be good to develop them in parallel. This gives you the opportunity to occasionally cross-check the comprehensiveness – and simplicity – of the two.
Finally you should set the competency standards for each job. You may find that existing beliefs of the organisation need to be discussed at this stage. This is quite natural, because people tend to refer to current employees with their strengths and weaknesses when evaluating the model, sometimes causing unnecessary requirements for a given job.
Assess employees to place them into the job framework
When you place your employees into the Job Framework you may detect problems. Some individuals simply don’t seem to find their place. Don’t let it stop the process, take it to the development of the model.
Revise your compensation system
You now have a system enabling talent management regardless of the position, but you should also align your compensation system to support it. How you do this, depends on your strategy and vision.
Beliefs about what is right and reasonable as compensation need to be discussed in the management. If your aim is to improve the engagement in all jobs, you may have to shake these beliefs.
The new comprehensive benchmark job framework and competency model bring transparency and clarity to talent management, leading to many benefits:
- People understand better what is expected from them, and their self-awareness is improved
- Employee satisfaction and engagement will improve simply because the employer takes care of them
- Talent management extends to the whole company, improving talent detection and enabling efficient competency development
- Company competitiveness will improve as a result of employee engagement and improving competencies and capabilities in all functions and on all levels of the organization
- Improved employee retention, which helps to avoid unnecessary loss of talented people.
If the biggest barrier, our belief in hierarchies, is overcome within management, the main challenges are in project leadership.
- You should have competent, committed people leading the change. They should engage and inspire the teams of business people to create a good momentum and enthusiasm.
- These people should be empowered to run the renewal within a reasonable schedule.
- This effort requires participation across functions, and participants should prioritize the work high enough for the project to proceed with a constant drive.
Take a deep breath and study the models you might apply. This is equally important within benchmark jobs as in the competency models.
Decide whether you want to go for the whole company right from the start or for a subset – a division or a function. Ultimately you aim for the whole company, but you should have a manageable entity to show results to feed the momentum and gain interest.
Brief the management team you need to support the effort, and agree about the sponsorship within that team.
Appoint the project manager and assemble a competent core team. The project manager is key, much relies on her/his ability to coach participants and to steer decisions along the way. When you select people from the businesses, look for people with development enthusiasm and earned credibility. It is a benefit if they have experience from various working environments for versatile insight. Ensure their commitment. This is crucial, since they are often really busy. The core team members should support and spar the project manager, and participate in the workshops of their own areas.
Schedule the workshops and prepare them well. You have two main work streams – benchmark jobs and competencies – that need to be managed in parallel. It is advisable to keep them separate at the beginning to maintain focus and clarity, and to connect them later. People participating in the initial stage in these workflows don’t need to be the same, but keep the core team posted of the proceedings at all times.
After 90 days
By the end of the 90 days you should have a fairly good view of both the benchmark jobs and competency model, and within six months you should have a system to launch.
Placing your people into the new model, revising your compensation system and fine tuning details should follow in due course.