Steven Forth is a Co-Founder of TeamFit. See his Skill Profile.


Designing a competency model

One of the most important pieces of work going on at Ibbaka-TeamFit is our project with the ResiliencebyDesign University(RdB) team at Royal Roads. This team, led by Dr. Robin Cox, has been commissioned to design a competency model for adaptation to climate change as part of the Inspiring Climate Action project. The work is being sponsored by Natural Resources Canada as part of their Building Regional Adaptation Capacity and Expertise grants, and the BC Climate Action Secretariat.

In their early work the RdB team found significant interest in building competencies for adaptation to climate change among BC professionals. The organizations below were surveyed and the results are available in the report Planning for Climate Change Adaptation Continuing Professional Development.

Given the size of the audience, the importance of this work and the need to make the competency model widely available, adaptable and connected with other talent management systems, the RdB team selected TeamFit as the competency management platform.

In September, the RdB team and TeamFit held a design session to create the initial architecture for the model. Competency models come in all shapes and sizes and the goal was to come up with an architecture and a shared understanding of the different components in the model.

We began by defining the use cases for the model and defining the user persona. Here is a summary of this critical context.

Users of an Adaptation to Climate Change Competency Model

Adaptation Professionals – This is an emergent profession and is not yet formally recognized in Canada. In the United States, there is the American Society of Adaptation Professionals (ASAP). The ASAP is currently developing a high-level competency model, but it is not granular enough for the Climate Change Action Plan use cases.

Professionals – Engineers, landscape architects, planners, foresters, agrologists, architects. These people already have professional bodies (see below) that have formal certifications. They are interested in adding adaptation to climate change to their current expertise. A competency model will help them to understand what skills they need and where to apply them. It can also link them to learning resources.

Governance Bodies for Professionals – The professionals are members of professional associations. These associations already have competency models (although they use many different names for these models, from ‘body of knowledge’ to ‘required skills’) and they want to add the most relevant skills for adaptation to climate change. They are likely to take components of the Adaptation to Climate Change Competency Model and add these to existing models rather than adopt a new model.

Organization Leaders – Many organizations are concerned about how they will adapt to climate change. See the McKinsey report Earth to CEO: Your company is already at risk from climate change. Governments at all levels, public and private corporations, are all under intense pressure to have adaptation plans in place, and they are moving to build the necessary capabilities in their organizations. These people need to have a high-level summary of the necessary competencies and then a way to help their organizations build the needed capabilities. They are likely to pass the competency model on to their human resources leaders for action.

Human Resources Leaders – Accountable for training, hiring, may have some organizational design responsibilities. Use competency models to inform job architectures and to define the capabilities the organization needs. Also use these models as a way to assess organizational readiness.

Learning Program & Curriculum Designers – Responsible for the design of learning and training resources. Skills and competencies get mapped to learning objectives at this point. This is a large group and includes people at colleges and universities that want to add programs, courses and professional training for adaptation competencies, professional training organizations that see this as a growth area, professional associations (see above) and corporate learning and development leaders who need to build adaptation to climate change capabilities in their organizations. These organizations may also develop certification programs.

Students – There is a strong awareness among young people of the severity of climate change and how it will impact their lives. Universities are reporting a growing demand for courses in this area. The competency model will help students guide their learning and help them see if the want to pursue a career in this emerging field.

There are many interactions between these different users. Professionals work for Organizations and are trained by Universities and their Professional Associations. Students study at Universities and become Professionals. Organizations and Professionals fund Professional Associations and rely on them for standards and certifications. A well grounded competency model can help all of these different actors coordinate their actions.

Once we had brainstormed the users and discussed their needs and how they would use the model we moved on to considering what should be included in the model.

Components of a competency model

Competency models can include many different things and no competency model should include all of the possibilities. One principle of competency model design is to be choiceful and only include the components necessary.

Note that competency models connect to individual and organizational skill profiles. Competency models are a way to organize these profiles.

The Adaptation to Climate Change model is meant to be open and evolving and to serve many different use cases. The design goal was to keep it as open and flexible as possible while providing enough structure to make it usable.

This is the current model for the Adaptation to Climate Change Model.

The above model was built from the following possible components (all of which are supported in the People Insights Platform).

Jobs: Formal positions within a specific organization

Roles: Functions assumed or played by a person in a particular context (such as within a job or on a project)

Behaviors: Specific ways a person demonstrates their knowledge, skills, attitudes and values

Tasks: Actions performed in pursuit of an outcome

Competencies: The combinations of skills, attitudes and behaviors that suggest a person is proficient in an area of expertise

Values: Ways of being or doing that hold some importance to the practitioner and help determine behaviors

Learning Resources: Activities, people, documents, experiences that support capability enhancement

Assessments: A set of evaluations to review proficiency in one or more capabilities

Experiences: A set of events that impact skills,capabilities, attitudes, values

Credentials: A set of certifications or professional designations

Questions: Questions that are used to better understand and assess the other objects in the model

Skills: Granular descriptions of what is required to carry out a specific job, role or task

(Skills are always part of our competency models as our AI relies on our underlying skill graph to make inferences.)

We are not quite done. The RbD team is also consulting with other subject matter experts in adaptation and other professions to ensure that the model is comprehensive and reflective of the current state of the field. In addition, in a large competency model like this one, one needs to be able to organize information in additional ways. One of these is the set of filters that will be applied. The filters make it easier to find all of the different components relevant to a specific interest. In this case, the design team decided one way to filter was using disciplines and subdisciplines. This will make it easier for people working in specific professions (e.g., agrologists, engineers) to find the jobs, roles, competencies and skills that are most relevant to their own professions. Disciplines supported will include Forestry, Architecture, Landscape Architecture, Planning, Engineering, Biology, and a more general category for technicians (and its many subdisciplines).

Our platform has a set of default categories for all skills, but one can also develop a custom category system. The default categories are Foundational, Social, Business, Technical, Design, Tool, Domain. This did not quite fit the RbD team’s vision, so an alternative category system was devised.

The design of this category system is still a work in progress, but at this point the team is considering identifying competencies according to the categories Foundational, Functional, and Transferable, with specific Skills and Knowledge identified as the core components of the competency. to create the ability to perform a competency.

The Resilience by Design team is now building out the model, populating it with the different jobs, roles, competencies and skills and identifying learning resources. This will include commissioning learning resources where major gaps are apparent. There will be many more cycles of design and consultation before the model is ready. The first public release is planned for February 2020, and the model will continue to evolve as more people interact with it and it is put into use.

See our upcoming interview with Dr. Robin Cox, leader of the ResiliencebyDesign team.