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

 

We all use models to help us understand and act in the world. For people working in the fields of people operations, human resources and learning development, the most important of these models are used to understand the skills and competencies needed to perform work. One of our clients, a large medical technology company with a very effective (and large) marketing group attributes its commercial effectiveness to its marketing competency model, from which all of its training and capability development work flows.

These models are not without their challenges and their critics. I have been one in the past. When the models are developed and implemented top down, as they often are, they can fail to connect with how work is actually done. They can be difficult to maintain as work changes and skills evolve. And skills are always evolving.

Over the past few months, TeamFit has been working with its partner company Ibbaka to see how skill and competency models are being applied. We are leaving this survey open for now, you can take it here, but we would like to share the results to date.

Conclusions
• Skill and competency models are most often developed in-house and the most successful companies use multiple, purpose built models
• Building connections to learning and development is essential and this include mappings to both learning resources and the paths through which mastery can be achieve
• The long term goal should be to enable and predict individual, team and organizational performance, this requires a feedback loop from performance measures to the model

There were only 45 responses to the survey, so it is at best suggestive and should not be used for benchmarking. We will do another survey on this theme in 2019 and try to reach a wider audience. That said, we did reach a wide variety of people and organizations.

Management consulting firms (18%) and IT consulting firms (14%) were the most common respondents, followed by B2B software companies (12%). Other industries represented included financial services, healthcare, energy and utilities, manufacturing and education. Companies of all sizes responded, with small (less than 1,000 employees), medium (1,000 to 10,000) and large (more than 10,000) about equally represented. We also asked about the type of company culture, (industry analyst Brandon Hall asks this revealing question and respondents job roles.

 

The Brandon Hall culture categories are as follows:

Collaborative culture: Open and friendly place to work where people share a lot of themselves. Leaders are incented to be mentors or support roles. Group loyalty and sense of tradition are strong. The organization places a premium on teamwork, participation, and consensus.

Creating culture: A dynamic, entrepreneurial and creative place to work. Innovation and risk taking are embraced by employees and leaders. A commitment to experimentation and thinking differently are incented within the organization. Leaders strive to be on the cutting edge. Individual initiative and freedom are encouraged.

Controlling culture: A highly­ structured and formal place to work. Rules and procedures govern behavior. Maintaining a smooth-­running organization is incented. Stability, performance and efficient operations are the long­-term goals. Success is based on dependable delivery, smooth scheduling, and low cost. Management supports security and predictability.

Competing culture: A results-­driven organization focused on job completion. People are competitive and goal­-oriented. Leaders are demanding, hard-­driving, and productive. The emphasis on winning is incented in the organization. Success means market share and penetration. Competitive pricing and market leadership are important.

It is interesting to see how organizations are using Skill and Competency Models. The two most common responses were skill gap analysis and for career development. Team building came in third, and more than 50% of respondents also use these models to assign learning resources.

 

More than 45% of organizations have more than one model. Anecdotal evidence suggests that The most successful companies have a model for each business unit or discipline, and develop new models quickly to add models in response to new business or technology challenges.

Sixty five percent of these models were designed internally, 15% were evolved bottom up, 12% were adapted from existing models and only 5% adopted an existing model. The base models (whether adapted or directly adopted came from a variety of sources.

  • Standards bodies such as the IEEE
  • Competency model experts such as CMDS or Comptryx Mercer and Radford
  • Models supplied by consulting companies such as Deloitte and IBM

Most of the models are represented in a word document or as a presentation (63%) and as a spreadsheet (65%). There were only a few respondents who were using a skill or competency management system (15%). More relied on their learning management system (20%) and a few relied on their talent management system or their HRIS (7% each).

We also explored the ease of use of existing models, specifically

  • How easy is it for people to understand the model?
  • How easy is it for people to use the model to find a new role?
  • How easy is it for people to use the model to find learning resources.

 

It is interesting that so many people felt it was easy for people to use the model to find learning resources. This is a best practice and it is good to see that it is well supported, at least by those companies that do support it!

Let’s dig a little deeper. There are many things that can go into a competency model. Part of our goal with this survey was to compile a comprehensive list.

 

The responses under Other included location, languages, learning style, communication style and leadership style.

We also asked how important skill and competence models are to success at the individual, team and organizational level. Here the scale is from 1 – Not Important to 5 – Extremely Important.

It is good to see this balance. Skill and competency models may be most important for organizational success, but they are also important for team and individual success.

There were some important insights shared in the general comments.

Several people mentioned that it is important to be able to map from the model to development. In other words, a good model will act as a guide to skill and competency development and not be limited to a simple inventory.

In addition to skill gap mapping, it is important to assess the level of expertise for both individuals and teams.

There was also a general interest in how skills and competencies are being integrated into business processes. Some of the business processes mentioned were …

  • Recruiting
  • Succession planning
  • Team selection and balancing
  • Development of learning plans and learning resources
  • Performance analysis and prediction (for both individuals and teams)

It is the final one that is the most important. Skill and competency models are the missing link that connects learning to performance. A learning plan that is not grounded in skills is just random posturing. A skill model that does not connect to performance lacks the critical feedback loop needed to drive evolution and improvement.

In Q1 of 2019, TeamFit will be introducing a skill and competency model editing module. This module will make it simple to build and manage these models and to evolve them in response changing conditions. It will make it easier to connect a managed top down approach to skills and competencies with one that bubbles up from below. Connections to learning management systems (LMS) and learning experience management platforms (LXP) will be supported.

Our goal is to make it easy for every organization, team and individual to leverage the advantages of skill and competency models.