Recent research from the Aberdeen Group showed that best-in-class performers are up to 86 percent more likely than “laggard” companies to know which skills and traits make top performers. This statistic points to a relationship between understanding what core competencies are for the various roles within the workforce and how bringing in those skills and enhancing them contributes to the overall success of the business.
Obviously, having the right competencies in the right part of the enterprise is critical for aligning its personnel to its goals. Equally obvious is the fact that corporate learning can help ensure employees have the specific skills and knowledge they need to succeed in a particular role from both an individual and organizational perspective. But chief learning officers should be doing more than just developing training in reaction to a perceived need for this or that competency. To make themselves and their function more strategic, they should be deeply involved in the competency conversation from the outset.
This likely isn’t a profound revelation for learning executives, most of whom have been aware of how employee development relates to competency management for some time now. However, many of them probably aren’t where they need to be in terms of influencing this other aspect of talent. For the good of their organizations, this must change.
Effecting this change is not terribly complicated, either. Recognizing that learning and competency management share the same “people” rubric with many other related functions, learning leaders should involve themselves in other associated aspects of talent. These include:
1. Hiring: By creating hiring profiles with detailed and standardized competencies for various positions, organizations can bring on employees who will be more likely to hit the ground running. CLOs might want to participate in the creation and maintenance of hiring profile programs or simply voice support for them. In any event, these will make efforts around onboarding easier from the perspective of the learning department.
2. Technical infrastructure: CLOs should make sure their learning management system can track employee competencies somehow. There are essentially two ways to do this: Get a comprehensive LMS that includes some sort of application around competencies or attach the LMS to a separate but connected competency management system. This decision probably will rest largely on the resources and proficiency of the organization’s IT department.
3. Performance management: Once learning executives have some technical means of aligning competencies to learning, they can assess employees to make sure the knowledge actually has been absorbed and retained. It’s even better if there’s a feedback loop in place that can show employee performance well after the fact to make sure learning programs are having the right impact. For example, if several workers are evaluated as competent in certain areas but don’t achieve the desired job performance, learning professionals can revisit their programs to see if something is wrong with the content or delivery, the competency baseline needs to be raised or they need to teach altogether new skills.
4. Succession planning: Learning programs shouldn’t only familiarize employees with the competencies they need to know for their current jobs. They also should identify high potentials (via assessment methodologies) and eventually instruct them on the competencies they need to know for higher-level positions within a logical career progression. This will help prepare a talent pipeline for key positions within the enterprise, ones the organization might otherwise have trouble filling.