‘How can I improve my own competencies or those of my colleagues?’ is a question that has probably crossed your mind once or twice. Competence development is a goal-oriented way of sharpening existing competencies or adding new competencies to your professional baggage.
But what exactly is competence development? What are its main benefits? And how can you develop a proper competence development framework for your organization? This article will tell you all about it.
What are competencies?
Before we can say anything useful about competence development, it is important to agree on a clear definition of competencies. They are often conflated with skills while the two are clearly distinct concepts.
The main difference between a competency and a skill is that competencies make up a much broader category than skills.
Competencies are the sum of:
- The specific knowledge someone has on a certain topic or within a certain field.
- One or multiple skills. Skills mainly refer to physical and mental actions and tasks that someone has mastered.
- The attitudes and character traits of an individual. Such as someone’s attitude towards colleagues, someone’s sense of duty, or their temperament.
In this blog you will read all about the difference between competencies and skills. You will also find practical examples of both terms.
What is competence development?
Today’s labor market is a dynamic environment. Digitization continuously demands new competencies and skills while a lot of traditional jobs are disappearing or losing ground. In addition, an increasing proportion of companies and government institutions needs highly qualified employees who are eager to learn and prepared to grow along with the organization.
On the flip side, today’s professionals are demanding as well. A lot of millennials don’t just work to pay the bills but are also looking for a meaningful position that offers growth opportunities and satisfaction. In a recent study, almost two-thirds of participating employees preferred a job with a moderate income and a lot of growth opportunities over something unchallenging and monotonous yet royally paid.
This means that employers and employees both benefit from competence development. But what exactly does the term mean? Competence development is the practice of developing one or several competencies in a specific way and in a particular direction..
‘Development’ refers to:
- Improving existing competencies. Ways of accomplishing this include targeted exercise, gaining additional knowledge and changing your attitude.
- Adding new competencies to your professional arsenal. This involves continuous learning and openness to new challenges.
From an organizational perspective, competence development serves two main purposes:
- To improve the alignment between the competencies of employees and the strategic goals of the organization.
- To stimulate and develop employee involvement in the organization. The result? Content staff and less attrition.
Good competence development offers many benefits, both for organizations and individual employees. These are the main benefits:
1. Improved competitiveness
Competence development improves the match between the strategic goals of an organization and the competencies of its employees. This strengthens your competitive position and makes the organization more future-proof.
2. Improved decision-making
Competence development facilitates careful mapping of all the strengths and weaknesses of your workforce. This information allows you to increase the efficiency of your business processes and avoid over or understaffing any specialized projects.
3. Recruitment and retention become easier
No organization wants to be a revolving door. In view of business continuity, it is important to attract the right people and commit them to the organization for an extended period of time. Competence development makes this easier. You gain an understanding of what competencies you need, while employees who get to develop themselves at your organization consider you an appealing employer.
4. Improved service
Does your workforce have the right competencies? Delivering top-notch service will be easier. The quality of your services and products gets a boost, which improves results and strengthens the bond with your clients. Very important in an era where personalization and high service levels act as driving forces behind added value and customer loyalty.
5. Improved safety, fewer risks
Once all employees have a clear understanding of competencies and skills, production lines and production processes can be organized safely from start to finish. The benefit: improved safety and fewer occupational accidents.
6. Prepared for the future
Is one of your employees approaching retirement age? Or has someone left your organization unexpectedly? Competence development allows you to prepare high-potential staff for their future role, ensuring you’ve got the right successor on board at all times.
7. Employee growth
Competence development is an effective tool for facilitating personal and professional growth. The method offers employees a better understanding of their own potential, allowing them to sharpen existing and develop new competencies in a more targeted way.
Framework for competence development
How does one develop competence development? The exact approach may vary depending on the organization, but there is an effective framework that consists of several fixed steps.
Step 1: preparation
Putting competence development into practice begins with sound preparation.
- First and foremost, determine what goal you want to achieve with competence development.
- What information do you want to collect?
- How and for what purpose do you want to use that data?
- And what scope do you apply?
The answers to these questions allow you to determine what individuals within the organization will be working with the framework for competence development.
Step 2: collecting information
The next step is information gathering. The more data you’ve got, the more precise and detailed you will be able to organize the process of competence development.
In collecting the necessary information, there are several methods (and combinations of methods) at your disposal.
- Observe how people go about their job. This method is especially useful when it comes to tasks that require manual labor (factory work, construction, etc.).
- Talk to your staff. Interviews can be conducted individually or in groups.
- Design a survey or questionnaire and have it distributed to all relevant employees.
- Analyze work and business processes. Verify whether they are aligned with the strategic goals of the organization and whether they are efficient enough.
Step 3: building the framework
You have now collected all the relevant information. Good news, because you can now start building a good framework for competence development.
The steps below serve to make the building process easier and more transparent.
- Group all the collected information into competence categories.
- Divide competencies and their associated employees into subcategories. Refine these categories further.
- Identify and name the competencies at the individual level.
Step 4: implementing the framework
With the final framework ready to go, the time has come to implement your competence development plan into your organization. Communicate with the employees involved. Generating support is an important precondition for successful competence development.
Below you will find some tips on framework adoption.
- Ensure a clear connection between individual competencies and business objectives.
- Reward competencies with a fitting salary and proper growth opportunities.
- Provide high-quality coaching and training.
- Keep it simple. A framework for competence development has to be clear and understandable to all. A complex network of rules beats the purpose.
- Be honest and transparent with your employees when it comes to the how and the why of competence development.
Tip: make competencies visual!
Competence development becomes more concrete and easier when competencies are visualized. The best way to do this? Making and maintaining a skills matrix.
A skills matrix is aschematic overview of employees and their associated competencies, skills and qualifications. A skills matric may have one of several practical forms, depending on the complexity and the skills and competencies mapped. The matrix consists of a vertical and a horizontal axis. One axis represents the various employees while the other axis represents the competencies and/or skills required for the proper execution of a certain role. The other way around works just as well.
The matrix offers several benefits.
- At a glance, you see what competencies your employees possess and which ones your organization is still missing.
- A skills matrix is a highly variable and flexible tool. Depending on the needs, it can be tailored to teams, specific departments, locations or managers. In short: a skills matrix offers plenty of room for customization.
- It will be easier and less time consuming for you to find replacement and supplemental staff for peak season.
- The matrix accommodates the human preference for processing information visually.
- Special skills management software allows you to view and adjust information about competencies in realtime.
Don’t hesitate any longer and use the tools and tips above to get serious on competence development! It will benefit your organization and your workforce alike.