Ensuring your workforce is competent
Updated: Mar 9, 2021
Ensuring your workforce is competent and then identifying, maintaining and monitoring the knowledge, skills, and attributes necessary to meet and maintain those levels can be a challenge.
Competence is a subject area that may span the length and breadth of an organisation however many organisations choose to address in the first instance safety critical tasks. The competency requirements for personnel involved in technical and operational activities will be different dependent upon the organisation’s activities, the job position and the associated tasks and risks. In most instances the higher the degree of risk, expertise and complexity involved in the work, the higher the competency needed.
Regulators are increasingly putting more pressure on organisations to prove that their people are competent and not just trained. Legislation in many jurisdictions is demanding that people at all levels are competent and therefore demonstrating this competency is an important and real issue.
Competency is something which is commonplace within high risk industries and particularly Oil & Gas however the methodology and approach is something which can benefit organisations regardless of sector to develop their people, performance and processes.
So what is Workforce Competency?
Workforce competency can be described as a framework that sets out and defines both the functional skills and knowledge that enables an individual to perform a technical or operational role, as well as the softer skills in terms of how individuals are expected to behave. This in turn can be applied at every level of the organisation so as to achieve and maintain performance to a required standard.
Why is Workforce Competency important?
Workforce Competency is important as it provides the structure to support productivity, consistent performance standards, strategic talent management, workforce planning, recruitment & selection, career planning & development and employee engagement.
For many organisations, some form of organisational change is inevitable. Change can be brought about by technology, legislation, and business demands, all of which have the potential to create opportunities and challenges across the workforce.
By setting competencies at the appropriate level, an employer can benchmark to identify and remedy any shortfalls between the current level of competency possessed by the workforce, the required level and what learning and development, if any, will be necessary to bridge the gap.
Workforce competency can therefore not only help to foster a strong corporate culture but also build a more aligned workforce and establish key competitive advantages.
Benefits of creating a Culture of Competence
Competencies have long been used as a structure to help focus employees' behaviour on the things that matter the most to an organisation. They can provide a common way to create high performance, consistency as well as select and develop talent. The benefits are clear for employees, managers and the company including:
· Providing clarity to Managers and staff as to what is expected of them
· Providing a clear focus for future development of employees looking at training and development needs as well as progression
· Using as part of the organisation’s recruitment and selection procedures, through the inclusion of the competencies in job specifications and consequent selection procedures
· Using competencies as part of performance reviews
· Helping further establish job requirements
· Increasing job productivity
· Supporting succession plans and/or transferring knowledge, skills and responsibilities to other employees.
Defining competence and competent people is what helps organisations to thrive and be better able to cope with constantly changing demands. A culture of competence is a strong platform from which to build a successful business, thinking about competency in a way that goes beyond just legal and health & safety requirements, can have positive and far reaching results.
Developing an approach to Competence
An organisation’s development, growth and performance, depend on a talented and effective workforce. A systematic and quantitative approach is therefore needed to not only assure the competence of employees but also prove it.
An effective competency management program is a structured and documented process that defines the performance capabilities critical to the company. This should therefore take in a full range of competency and compliance needs; from policy documents, competency knowledge tables, assessment and verification, gap analysis, improvement plans to high-level competency strategy development, as well as the development & implementation of competency frameworks and content.
Many organisations silo competency into very specific areas of work, rather than recognising that not only does it need to be a key business priority, but that it is also required across the business.
By creating a culture around competency and in turn what key competencies are required for each job role, will not only help appoint people who are better able to fulfil the subsequent job demands, be they physical or mental but also allow for better development and progression of existing staff.