The competency conversation has been dissected robustly on the conference circuit for at least two decades. We have had sessions on the importance of hiring competencies, assessing competencies, promoting competencies and off-loading unnecessary competencies. There have been classic definitions of competencies (KSAs, anyone?) and updated approaches (70:20:10, if/then, etc.) given to business leaders to help us align our jobs to the competencies needed. We have taken workshops and brought in consultants to define what we need and reform our methodology for finding it.
The latest statistics tell us that we should focus on anywhere from 10 to 14 competencies (LLAMA, for example, http://www.ala.org/llama/leadership-and-management-competencies) for true growth measurement. Yet, when we look at these competencies, are they really being evaluated? Take out the last job requisition you had. Look at the Job Responsibilities and Job Qualifications sections. Now look at that LLAMA list of competencies. How do they align? Is there a path for progression perhaps? (Don’t weep, it’s okay)
Of course, the first reality to address here is that it’s very easy for us to lose track of the core. We can get distracted by a manager’s “must haves” in a new hire that we veer ever so slightly off-track. This is particularly the case when an employee leaves and everyone tries to figure out “what we really need.” We wind up looking for someone who needs to have competencies that would work for 2.25 jobs rather than just the one we originally had. From this new reality, a new norm is assumed. And what once was very acceptable for the role is now seen as far removed for our current needs. OK, fine. But is that merely a responsive formation to an individual’s abilities? And what competencies have we stopped looking for because of our new tactic? It may not be working.
Secondly, developing competencies takes time. And this is not only true for the employee, but for the employer, too. The organization may have a reasonable expectation of the role but then find out that the work being done requires more in certain areas than originally thought. The evolution of position, with corresponding KSAs, is a functional reality. That will take time to assess and measure. It’s okay. Take the time.
And connected to that, again, is the time is will take for an employee to display a progression in these competencies. Sometimes, it’s not that the employee can’t, it’s that that the employee hasn’t. When managers get frustrated about an employee’s performance, it’s wise to ask about the number of opportunities to display mastery. As of the writing of this blog, Christian Yelich has the best batting average in baseball; he’s at .337. Think about that. That means he gets a hit about 1/3 of the time he goes to bat. In many organizations, we would have fired someone who only gets a hit 33% of the time. And yet, he is the best right now. What are the comparatives being used? 100%? If so, then you need to be ready to show and defend the perfect “batting average” desired. Batting 1000 is a rarity, but our companies act as if this should be a daily occurrence. Perhaps we’ve let go of someone based on poor competency review parameters. It’s sickening when we realize what we’ve lost because of it. What suckers we are sometimes.
Finally, think more long term about competencies. While we need short-term wins in our companies, we, also, need to be more attentive to growth in areas of problem solving, emotional intelligence, change and conflict approaches. Those areas, along with others, are not quick in development or experience. Set goals for competencies that look down the road.
By the way, to save you from Googling it, Ty Cobb has the greatest career batting average in all of baseball’s history at .3664 over 24 seasons. He bested Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig, Rod Carew and Joe DiMaggio, to name a few. Would his 37% success rate at the plate allow him to stay at your organization? No? Look at those assessment and ranking tools again. Swing, Batter!