8-Step Competence Development for Competitive Businesses (With Process & Tool)
Do you want to have a competitive business? One that sets you apart from your competitors? Well, then competence development should be the air you breathe!
Skill development is vital for business expansion and sustainability. And it's also one of the cornerstones of captivating top talent.
Now, are you wondering about what your next step should be? Worry no more because, in this article, we'll show you our model for competence development.
Find all the steps you need to follow to teach and build your staff's competencies.
👤 What are competencies?
Generally speaking, competencies are the characteristics that someone needs to perform a job or role. Sometimes, those characteristics are specific to an industry or organization, but they're much more than skills.
Since each job requires competencies, let's consider the case of People Ops specialists.
What knowledge, skills, and traits must they have to manage their company's workforce? Here are a few examples:
- Detailed understanding of the organization's history, mission, vision, culture, values, and structure.
- Acute sense of what high-potential job candidates are, which includes being able to spot them.
- Refined communication skills to evaluate a candidate's fit into the company's culture.
- Confidence in pitching the organization to candidates.
- Profound understanding of HR policies and procedures.
- An acquaintance of the company's flagship product.
- Knowledge and management of employee engagement, training, onboarding, offboarding, payroll, and benefits.
- Ability to use HR information systems and analyze HR metrics.
Keep the following generic competencies list in mind when discussing and defining roles at your company:
1. Acquired information (or knowledge of topics and processes): Practical or theoretical knowledge acknowledged by degrees and certifications.
2. Physical and mental abilities—or the skills necessary to execute tasks at work:
- Effective communication;
- Analytical, critical, and creative thinking;
- Decision-making and problem-solving.
3. Individual attitudes and values—or traits that come from character and personality and influence attitudes towards peers, supervisors, partners, and clients
- Work ethics;
- Sense of duty and commitment;
- Adaptability and flexibility;
- Tenacity and resilience;
- Calmness and a positive mindset.
💡 For more competencies, check out our competency database. You'll get 36 individual contributor competencies, performance behavioral indicators, and suggested developmental activities.
🌱 What is competence development?
Developing competencies is about learning and practicing specific competencies.
Some of them we already have because of our traits, values, and ethics. But others require a more formal development process, such as pursuing an academic degree. And after graduating, we have two options: take the first job we can get or specialize in an area by taking an internship.
Then, in a work environment, competence development is the process of growing competencies through training. And training can be either formal or informal. For instance, social learning and on-the-job training are more practical, hands-on training methods than classroom training.
This is how you can develop your competencies and grow your People Ops career:
- Expand knowledge of a topic—by, for instance, joining a Slack channel on employee engagement trends to learn new techniques to retain your best people.
- Improve both work and personal mindsets—each time one of your managers mentors you about solving staff, supplier, or client issues.
- Learn continuously—as you take bite-sized lessons in a mobile learning app.
➡️ Discover 15 examples of companies using bite-sized training with microlearning.
Learn how companies like Google, Freeletics, and Walmart use microlearning to train their people more effectively.
🏆 5 Crucial benefits of competency development
Building competencies benefits both employers and staff.
Employee satisfaction and retention
Employees feel happier with their job by continuously learning and developing their competencies.
Because they become (and remain) experts in their field, making them feel competent or confident, they have what it takes to excel at work.
But that feeling of competence isn't the only thing that raises employee satisfaction. Competence development gets staff members on the road to fulfilling their professional ambitions.
And believe us when we say ambitious employees find joy in developing competencies.
Now, guess what? Satisfied staff members stick by your company. That reduces your employee turnover costs and increases your employee retention rate.
Also, competence development means more motivation and productivity.
When you show appreciation for employees' career growth and build their competencies according to their aptitudes and talents, they get excited about doing their job. Besides, they do more, better, and in less time.
Through competency development, companies develop the competencies their staff needs to meet organizational goals.
Simply put, companies close their skill gaps.
Competency development should be part of a sustainable strategy to make strategic goals come true in changing business landscapes.
Competence development also sets companies to expand their businesses worldwide. A competent workforce will contribute to the businesses' competitiveness in the global market. In turn, the companies will become sustainable in the long term.
There's no way a business thrives and prospers without attracting great talent. It can survive for some time, but no one can do business at the same level as their top competitors without the right people.
Competency development is a means of appealing to the best candidates.
Tip: You can even integrate competency development into your employer branding program to spark your candidates' interest in the company.
But it's also a means of figuring out the competencies you need to recruit.
It helps you map out what your workforce knows and doesn't know, can and can't do, and how they act with each other.
A clear picture of available skills and competencies in your workforce leads you to conclude whether you're understaffed in some regions of expertise or ready to face current and future projects.
Improved product quality
It might sound overly obvious, but it's never too much to say: You can't make lemonade without lemons.
Similarly, you can't deliver a world-class product without a highly-competent workforce.
The quality of your product reflects your staff's competencies. These either limit or widen what they're capable of creating with their work.
As a result, you either delight your clients or lose them. And if you lose them, you miss multiple opportunities, such as your clients:
- Choosing your product over others;
- Repeatedly buying it;
- Recommending your product to their family and friends;
- Writing a positive product review.
Leadership development and succession planning
Here's the thing: Executives quit unexpectedly, get fired, retire, and sometimes die suddenly. And you must be prepared.
You must plan the succession of your leaders. This means you need a leadership development program for your managers, directors, VPs, and C-suite.
But you see, implementing a leadership development program without competence development is impossible.
Leadership is a competency that requires the mastery of specific knowledge, skills, and traits. And you must develop them when planning for succession.
Competency development starts with assisting you in identifying the potential of your most promising employees. Then, it grows competencies in those employees to prepare them to step into future leadership roles.
➡️ Want to get started with leadership development? Check out nine leadership training topics for building the next generation of forward-thinking leaders.
👀 What does a proper competency development process look like in practice?
Our approach to competence development materialized in our employee development cycles.
But before a cycle begins, you have to do some prep work. So, here it goes.
Prep Step #1: Be strategic and analyze your company's goals—for the business and its different projects and products. Discuss them with the executives in charge, from managers to the CEO.
Prep Step #2: Those conversations will point you to the competencies your workforce currently lacks or will need in the future. You might use a skill matrix to help you map all those skills.
Prep Step #3: You'll determine if you have to hire new staff members based on that information. You'll also conclude on the need to train your current staff members and those you hire. Consider using a training needs assessment survey.
Prep Step #4: Don't forget to examine your employee retention and career progression levels.
Do you have a high employee turnover? Are employees not growing in their careers?
If the answer to any of these questions is "yes," it's time to rethink your competency development program.
This is the blueprint we recommend for employee growth cycles:
1. Create competency-based role descriptions
Describe the competencies of all roles in your company with role descriptions. A role card clarifies the knowledge, skills, and behaviors that you expect from a role.
Each role card has role levels and a list of competencies. And each competency contains a description per role level.
Tip: When defining role levels, consider the various seniority levels that apply to each role.
For instance, do you have product managers at the associate, leader, and manager levels? If you do, describe the competencies of a product manager for each one of the three seniority levels.
By the end of each growth cycle, the description of roles within your organization might change. So, before a new cycle begins, you might need to update the competencies associated with each role. You might even need to create new roles or seniority levels.
2. Assign role cards
After updating your role cards, assign them to the corresponding employees. This will:
- Let them know what you expect from them when performing their role;
- Clarify promotion criteria;
- Help with performance assessment in the future.
3. Start the growth cycle
It's up to you to define how long the growth cycle should last. Obviously, the longer the cycle, the more action items should be on your employees' development plans.
Make sure you clearly communicate the cycle's length and major milestones along the way.
Use the growth cycle to:
- Reflect on career expectations;
- Allow staff to actively participate in the process of setting up their career growth goals;
- Bring attention to the aspirations and preferences of your workforce.
4. Employees define focus areas
To engage your staff members with the competence development program, 50% of the program must focus on the competencies they want to enhance during the growth cycle. Those must match their own professional goals but also the organization's goals.
Tip #1: Check the employee's role card. What competencies do they need to learn and practice?
Based on that, define half of the employee's focus areas and ask them to pick the other half.
Tip #2: For each focus area, define the desired outcomes and be clear when writing them down. And for each outcome, outline action items (with a deadline and dedicated budget).
An action item is an actionable step that helps the employee improve in a particular focus area.
Tip #3: Action items must be clear and allow you to transform theoretical knowledge into practical skills.
Tip #4: The best way to transform knowledge into job-relevant skills is to train your staff with diversified training methods.
Our suggestion is to use the 70-20-10 model of learning:
- 70% from job-related experiences such as daily tasks;
- 20% from socially interacting with peers and supervisors;
- 10% from formal training courses.
Tip #5: You can also define check-in dates per action item to track each employee's progress in the program. That's why you must make sure that all action items are measurable and realistically achievable by their deadline.
5. Employee-manager feedback
As a people manager, you should be open and encourage employees' feedback.
Focus the feedback process on the following:
- The desired outcomes, action items, and deadlines you specified for the focus areas of their preference.
- The remaining focus areas that align with your company's goals.
Some examples of touchpoints for upward feedback are:
Have you provided enough support to your employees? Were they still missing something? Find out what it was, and act on this feedback.
Have you been communicating effectively how your employees' development aligns with the organizational goals?
6. Employees refine focus areas
Defining focus areas is an iterative process. That's why after giving feedback to employees, they might wish to revisit their focus areas.
Welcome and support them in doing so. As a result, you might need to adjust your competency development program to incorporate those changes. Just ensure that despite the changes, employee-defined focus areas will still contribute to meeting the organization's goals.
7. Monitor progress and completion
Hold progress-tracking meetings by the check-in dates you set earlier in the growth cycle. Your goal is to verify if staff members are completing action items and obtaining the desired outcomes on time.
Tip: Offer help through guidance such as tips and tricks, resources, and contact points.
You might also run company-wide pulse surveys. And in the case of soft skills, you might interview employees and direct managers. That's because objectively measuring the progress of soft skill development is quite tricky.
Aim for a competence development system that sends monthly notifications with a summary of growth stats.
For example, on Zavvy, you can see the number of focus areas completed, the activity status of your staff members (inactive or active), the duration of inactivity, and more.
8. Reflect and repeat
Employees completing the action items you planned for each focus area doesn't mean they got the desired outcomes! And when that happens, it often means you must fine-tune your competency development program.
Ask staff members and their managers for input on enhancing the program:
- Were the outcomes or deadlines unrealistic?
- What action items were missing or didn't make sense after all?
- Should you measure progress in different ways?
- What new training do you need to offer?
Tip: Use all of these insights for your next growth cycle. There is never an end to upskilling and reskilling your employees.
✅ What competencies are the most important right now?
There's no doubt we live in the era of information and the Internet.
Because of that, markets are incredibly dynamic and shift in a heartbeat. And to succeed in business, employees must master a combination of competencies.
Here are some of the most relevant.
Sure technical skills depend on the employee's role. But in today's business world, staff members with these skills most likely bring relevant extra flavor to a workforce. That's because the amount of SaaS companies out there is immense.
These are the technical skills we're talking about:
- Cybersecurity is the top skill gap that all industries must address in 2022, according to Pluralsight.
- Artificial intelligence and machine learning is the most common technical skill among the top jobs of 2022, according to Glassdoor.
- Decentralized finance (or DeFi) relates to "blockchain technology" and "cryptocurrencies," a market that Statista predicts to reach about 19 billion US dollars by 2024.
- Data analysis is instrumental in the decision-making process. It brings more accuracy, especially when businesses work with large amounts of data from varied sources.
- Computer programming is a skill that comes in handy for professionals other than software developers, such as technical writers, Web designers, UX designers, or IT project managers.
- Sales and digital marketing allow any professional to become an influential leader in any industry. Employees need these skills to be digitally fluent in this all-digital panorama where everyone does business.
You're mistaken to think that entrepreneurship is a competence exclusive to business owners.
Check below the entrepreneurship skills that any employee can apply to their role.
- Creativity and innovation—considering that creativity powers innovation and both allow approaching new challenges in business and the work environment from a fresh perspective.
- Focus refers to the capacity to remain emotionally strong, persistent, and resilient in the face of failure and setbacks. It also means following or adjusting the course of action when necessary and always keeping the end goal in mind.
- Strategic thinking is needed to guide the accomplishment of any goal at work, thus growing the career while propelling the business, which entails planning.
- Negotiation is essential, as any employee eventually needs to negotiate to positively resolve conflicts with their peers, supervisors, partners, and clients.
- Decision-making competencies are essential since comparing alternatives with solid criteria and backing up choices with good data and facts is not a straightforward task.
Not everyone wishes to become a leader. But with the proper traits, eagerness to learn, and practice, many can become effective leaders.
Being a leader translates to defining goals and then inspiring, guiding, and responsibly influencing team members to accomplish those goals through collaboration and synergies. And these are some of the skills that leaders need to develop:
1. People management which consists of:
- Building a sense of shared mission among teams.
- Motivating and encouraging team members to achieve goals.
- Delegating work while ensuring balanced workloads, removing roadblocks, and overseeing the execution of work.
- Managing performance.
- Actively listening to ideas and concerns.
2. Change management refers to leading the organization through times of shift while overcoming resistance to change.
3. Conflict management means knowing how to handle employees with a negative attitude and resolve delicate, intricate situations honestly and straightforwardly, with fairness, firmness, and yet empathy.
4. Positivity is fundamental to the functions of a leader. For example, it is instrumental in maintaining employee engagement levels high and a healthy work environment of camaraderie, respect, and positive reinforcement (even during the most stressful times).
5. Emotional intelligence is the ability to recognize, understand and control our emotions and the emotions of, in your case, peers, supervisors, partners, and clients.
6. Accountability means accepting, acknowledging, and learning from the team's successes and failures, evaluating alternative fixes, and coming up with the best improvement actions possible.
7. Relationship-building refers to building a strong, cohesive, and engaged team with healthy work relationships. This implies sharing experiences and lessons learned (even when you're the leader) and appreciating the work of team members.
The contemporary workplace is an increasingly complex environment. And to triumph in it, professionals need learning skills:
- Critical thinking and problem-solving are essential for becoming autonomous, making decisions, and continuously improving individual performance and organizational results based on information analysis and questioning.
- Communication means thoughts and ideas effectively and respecting individual traits.
- Collaboration refers to finding the best solutions by working together and compromising in favor of a shared interest, which is the company's success.
Information, media, and technology skills
Nowadays, the amount of information available in digital media is unprecedented. But we can access it all through online technology. The only catch is that this technology changes frequently, and we have to keep up with it, adapt, and grow these skills:
- Information literacy means understanding online data and distinguishing trustworthy sources from unreliable ones. This implies knowing how to avoid misinformation and disinformation.
- Media literacy is the capacity to identify publications and formats with accurate and up-to-date information.
- Information and communication technologies literacy means knowing the hardware and software that makes the circulation of information possible (e.g., cloud technologies and mobile devices), how they work, and how to use them comfortably.
Life and career skills
There's no such thing as a long, successful career without strong cognitive, social, and emotional skills.
And although we're talking about work, these skills are crucial for our everyday lives on and off work:
- Flexibility and adaptability: adapting to changing plans and accepting that others' opinions can be as valid as ours and, sometimes, that we're just wrong.
- Initiative and self-direction: starting and carrying out work without supervision, demonstrating a solid work ethic and professional growth.
- Social and cross-cultural skills include the capacity to network, nurture strong relationships with other professionals, and leverage innovation through diversity and inclusion.
- Productivity: overcoming setbacks, managing concurrent priorities, and delivering outcomes at work in the least amount of time possible.
⚙️ Zavvy: Your competence development tool
Zavvy has all the ingredients to help you create and manage your workforce's competence development.
With our growth cycles, you will not only boost the skills and productivity of your employees but also create a culture of learning and development.
Our tool will streamline and automate the communication between HR and staff on all things career progression.
➡️ Find out how Zavvy's development solution works in a free 30 minutes demo!
Let's establish together the employee growth process your people will love.