Bringing your competency framework to life

Posted on April 21, 2016 at 09:02 AM

Laptop with spring and autumnIn our last blog post we looked at how to spring clean your competency framework. Once you've refreshed and updated it, you can begin to think about where the opportunities are for competencies to show their face in the day to day operation of your organisation.

In what ways are competencies visible?  What would you see if a competency framework was really ‘alive’?

Competencies can be expressed in any of the following:

  • What we do and what we show to be important – as a manager or leader of people.
  • How we treat our colleagues or team members.
  • How we collaborate with people in other teams, work cross-functionally, share resources and support others.
  • How we work with people outside of the organisation, such as delivery partners, agencies, suppliers and contractors.
  • How we deal with conflict.
  • How we conduct and manage meetings.
  • How we communicate with colleagues or customers.
  • Who we choose to recruit, and how we do that; how we on-board people and settle them into the company.
  • How we train, teach and learn about the organisation, our customers, or roles and our areas of specialism.
  • How we go about solving problems or overcoming challenges in our work.
  • How we make decisions – and what is judged to be ‘right’ and ‘wrong’.
  • What’s acceptable and what isn’t, with regards to behaviour and actions; what do we challenge and confront, and what do we overlook?
  • What information is shared, how it’s communicated and how it’s framed.
  • How we deliver against expectations and goals.
  • How we interact with our customers.
  • The level of risk we are prepared to take, individually and collectively; attitudes towards risk management, safety and wellbeing.
  • The pace at which things are done, the standards applied and the level of quality assurance that takes place.
  • What gets ‘special attention’ and what gets the ‘good enough’ treatment.
  • What is given priority (and what isn’t).
  • What is recognised, celebrated, reinforced and rewarded.
... and there are clearly others.

The key point is that there are many opportunities to generate dialogue about behavioural expectations, to see how people are doing against them and to make the competencies in your competency framework a more fundamental part of ‘business as usual’.

Time to take action...

As a starting point for you to see how your competencies are ‘lived’ in your organisation, review the list above, add any other ways in which you see competencies evidenced in your organisation, and generate some actions which would help to bring your competency framework to life.

Train leaders how to make decisions effectively
Decision-making is a critical part of organisational life, and we do it all the time, but people are rarely taught how to make a ‘good’ decision. Values and competencies can help leaders to be more rigorous, mindful and fair in their decision-making, so you could consider introducing a values-based decision making module into management and leadership programmes.

Daily reminders
In their book ‘The 31 Practices’, Alan Williams and Dr Alison Whybrow describe an interesting methodology for making a set of values ‘live’ within an organisation. Essentially, they help organisations to turn their values into a set of 31 practical, tangible behaviours (one for each day of the month) which employees are then reminded of – either via a daily desk calendar, email, app reminder or intranet pop-up – to help them understand how they can express these behaviours in their role, on a daily basis. This reinforcement leads to a much greater understanding of the values and more consistency between what the organisation says its employees do, and what they actually do. Whilst 31 Practices is more about making values come alive, competency frameworks should also be in service of this and should be the behavioural representation of your organisational values.

Draw on the values whenever you can
Business communications expert Carrie Bedingfield also recommends creating one simple version of the competency framework which can be referred to and drawn on at any time. Many organisations use posters, coasters, mugs or other corporate paraphernalia to act as constant reminders, but these are often a cause for derision and seen as propaganda. It’s probably better to have them accessible somewhere (e.g., via a link on the intranet home page) rather than decorating offices with them.  Providing reminders at opportune times is also a more subtle way of communicating competencies: reminding learners which competencies or values a training programme will be focusing on; restating relevant values or competencies about collaboration, respect and decision-making at the top of meeting agendas; self-assessment against behaviours before a performance review and setting expectations around how the team is going to work together at the start of a project are all examples of this.

Embed values during applicant attraction
Remember that your opportunities to put your competency framework to good use start before someone even walks in through the door. You can use the values and competency framework to provide new and potential recruits with realistic job-fit and culture-fit information before they join. Create examples and stories of what people actually do, get high performers to ‘show and tell’, put together ‘a day in the life’ for key roles; share on the web, in videos, in blogs, at events; show those coming in to your organisation what the values look and sound like in action.

The impact of values on customers
Ask customers to talk about their experiences of your organisation – how they felt, what your employees have done to make a difference to them, what it’s like to be a customer, what they value about your company. There should be observable evidence of your competencies and values in these stories and they’re great for connecting people to the impact of what they do, and how the right behaviours lead to the right results.

Work values into training and development
When designing training and development courses or programmes for those in critical roles such as customer service, first line management or business partners, consider engaging industrial actors to help bring important behaviours and values to life. Learning through watching scripted sketches, one-to-one situational role plays and forum theatre workshops can be a really good way of exploring what’s important, what works and what doesn’t work, in a way that is less threatening than some training methodologies.

With your competency framework refreshed, take action now to bring it to life.

Bringing competencies to life

 

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