Competency Based Models Eviscerate Talent Development?..Not So Fast!

cbtmIn doing research for an upcoming leadership coaching session with a CEO, I came across something in Forbes that I cannot resist taking on (you see, normally I’m quite a shy person ;-) ).  The author (Mike Myatt) makes a bold statement saying that companies are doomed to failure if they use a competency based model and that it “eviscerates talent development”.  Unfortunately, while he is trying to make a very important point that strategic (soft) skills are far more important than technical skills, he blames competency based models as the culprit when what he should be attacking is the content of the model.  His real point is that competency models that consist of Technical competencies and don’t account for Strategic competencies are doomed to failure – we could not agree more!!  Every single client of ours reading this will recognize that argument instantaneously and every alumni will now know why we insist on integrating Strategic and Technical competencies in our model, curriculum, processes etc. etc. etc.

First, it is critical that we pursue competencies and not just skills.  Competencies are applied skills that produce tangible business benefits. The act of applying those skills facilitates Adoption – otherwise, the shelf life for adults of these newly learned skills is measured in weeks.  Myatt somehow equates competencies with technical competencies, ends up using the terms synonymously and goes on to say that organizations should value alignment, vision, values, collaboration, communication etc. (Hallelujah!!)

He then commits the cardinal sin ( ;-) ) of appropriating the term Next Practices for his definition, when in fact it is Competency Based Talent Management that is a Next Practice – as long as you use our (TMG) construct of making sure that Strategic competencies are not only included but also have at least as much weight as Technical competencies.

His argument actually becomes self-defeating. In fact, it is only through incorporating the Strategic competencies in your Competency model that you ensure that your entire Talent Management life cycle is based on the desired competencies – both Strategic and Technical.  The gaps that he rightfully tries to address (organizational, talent, leadership cultural etc.) will only get addressed if the entire lifecycle ( not just performance management, which is but one component) is based on the desired competencies.

Not rewarding the core competencies needed to perform the job (using a spreadsheet) is an important point that he raises and I could not agree more.  My formative years were spent at the Enfield CT facility of Digital Equipment Corporation (a pioneer High Performance Work System location) where you were paid a wage for showing up and producing parts – which was table stakes as Myatt calls it.  If you wanted to make more money, you had to acquire AND apply strategic competencies.

While I totally agree with Myatt’s central premise that Strategic Competencies are far more critical than technical competencies, I totally disagree with how he proposes to achieve his goal.  It is in fact by incorporating the right competencies in the desired competency model and then using it as the foundation for your overall Competency Based Talent Management strategy that you can actually achieve your goal of institutionalizing and adopting Strategic competencies.  When people know that every decision from Hiring to Retiring is based on both Strategic and Technical competencies – they know the corporation is serious.  By the way, incorporating activities (Stakeholder management, Communication strategy, Value Drivers, etc., etc.) that require strategic competencies in your core processes is also very critical.

Myatt makes a very important point regarding the importance of strategic competencies but then does himself a disservice by the answer he proposes???  My guess is that if we were ever to talk, we would end up in violent agreement.


Did you like this? Share it:

Critic or Coach?

iStock-Unfinished-Business-1At The Mpower Group we are strong proponents of Competency Based Talent Management.  One of the greatest assets most organizations have is their talent, yet few companies make the investment in that asset relative to other investments.   A large part of our consulting practice in fact is focused on helping organizations build capability and competency through Competency Based Talent Management (“CBTM”). 

 We look at CBTM as a system that needs to be managed as such.  We also believe that, at its core, is a well- defined competency model that helps employees understand what behaviors are required to be successful in their role.  One element that is often a given, is Performance Management.  Companies have built elaborate systems and spent millions of dollars to evaluate employees on an annual basis, supposedly with the goal of improving performance.  An article published in HBR’s April issue entitled “Reinventing Performance Management” looks at how Deloitte is redesigning their own performance management system which is currently out of step with their corporate objectives.

“ In a public survey Deloitte conducted recently, more than half the executives questioned (58%) believe that their current performance management approach drives neither employee engagement nor high performance.”  Believe it or not, as part of the reinvention,  Deloitte is getting rid of cascading objectives, annual reviews and 360 degree feedback – watch out for the HR police :-) !

Here are some interesting discoveries that helped them to build the case for change:

  • Creating ratings for employees consumed about two million hours a year
  • Assessing employee skills produced inconsistent data which was due to individual raters’ perception
  • Performance management was focused on the past not on the future
  • The person best able to assess a team members performance was the team leader and they were not part of the process

As a result of this study, Deloitte set out to reinvent their system under three main objectives  1) recognize performance 2) clearly see the performance 3) fuel performance.

  • Recognize performance – at the end of each project (or quarterly, for long projects) teams leaders were not asked about an individual’s skills but rather about their “own future actions with respect to that person” (e.g. would you want that person on your team again OR is this person ready for promotion OR should they receive the highest salary increase / bonus possible)
  • See performanceteam leaders provide results and behavior observations of the team member to support  the “performance snapshot” – evaluation is timely, more frequent  and utilizes several data points
  • Fuel performance – team leaders check in with the team member often (even daily) to provide coaching and guidance as opposed to the once-a-year conversation behind closed doors. Because team leaders have heavy demands on their time, it is the team member’s job to initiate the check in

In my opinion, some of the elements of this performance management approach are very strong:

  • It is not an annual process but one that considers many data points and is led by the person that is closest to the team member
  • Looks to the future as opposed to the past; forcing the team leader to state whether they would want to have this individual on a future team (how many of us have been the victim of a poor performer that was passed along to us)
  • Places the team leader in the position of coach as opposed to criticizer – this is huge and if done well can go a long way to building better teams and fueling performance.  By the way, this has always been the job of the team leader, but as we all know this does not happen consistently or ever

By the way, requiring the team leader to take on the role of coach requires a different set of competencies which has to be factored into the entire competency based talent management system.  We have long held the opinion that modern performance management practices simply do not work.  For the most part, they are not integrated into the “system” of competency based talent management.  Like Deloitte and others we have surveyed hundreds of companies across numerous industries and have found VERY few that have ALL the elements of a comprehensive talent management program.  All the elements must work together to be effective.  So, while Deloitte is working to “reinvent performance management” they also need to ensure that their talent objectives are supported by recruiting, training / development, career management and succession planning as well.

 Let us know what you think and join in the conversation.  . . . . . .     


Did you like this? Share it:

Just Focus on What They Wear-Throw Away Myers-Briggs

3d small people - business pyramid7inMy original title was going to be ”Just Hire Skirts” but I was told in no uncertain terms that some might find that offensive, regardless of my message :-) .  There is the famous story of Michael Jordan never winning a championship till the 1991 finals against the Lakers (I watched at the clubhouse in Pebble Beach with a number of clients on a TV we had them drag in during our dinner- the club was not happy :-( ) when his coach pointed out to him that he was part of  a team, and Paxson was open while Jordan was being double teamed and missing shots.  Bill Russell (11 championships in 13 years) was asked if the Miami Heat was going to win when they first assembled the Dream Team (LeBron, Dwayne and Chris) and he said – “NO” with his explanation being “One Ball”. 

Much has been written about the importance of teams and how to form them.  Popular thinking has been to mesh personalities (based on tools like Myers-Briggs “MB”) and Cass Sunstein (author of Nudge, White House advisor) has some very strong arguments debunking both the premise of effective teams (because of meshing of personality types) and using MB to determine personality types.  The predictive power of personality tests is very dubious according to most research and an “MB score is going to be totally useless for purposes of prediction or for deigning a team”.  His other argument is that MB intrinsically has low test-retest reliability – meaning you will get different results 50% of the time when you retake the test (I can attest to that personally).

While he concedes that the collective IQ of a team does determine outcomes, Sunstein uses the research by MIT to introduce a new measure of collective IQ of the team called Factor C.  It consists of three different metrics:

  1. The average score on a test of Social Perception (the reading the mind in the eyes test- Invented by Borat’s brother) – higher scores equal higher performance
  2. Uneven Participation – Dominant types have negative impact on performance
  3. Number of XX chromosome members – more women on a team equals higher performance (can we please stop the discussion on this topic already and start adopting this premise)

For those of you who have been through the full blown “Teaming” portion of our curriculum, all this will be very familiar and a number of simulations will come to mind (some humorous and some embarrassing memories for sure).

Having the core competency as an organization to assemble, launch and effectively utilize teams is most critical today and unfortunately sorely lacking in most companies.  We have seen major Transformation efforts fail  because clients continue to “under invest” in this.  In almost every client engagement, we attempt to demonstrate how to utilize teams effectively by launching joint teams but the attention to the art and science of teams is quickly abandoned.

Most Competency Development or training programs often miss the mark on this as well.  By minimizing the focus on “soft skills” or Strategic Competencies, they fail to enhance exactly those competencies that lead to better teams.  By not providing experiential learning, which can get quite uncomfortable for many participants (but is exactly why it’s a powerful learning experience), they don’t provide a safe, constructive learning environment for people to practice new behaviors and discard bad ones.

By the way, my views on women in the workplace are well known.  If you were smart, you should  go to the third metric listed above and just focus on the chromosomes – make sure you have as few Y chromosomes on your teams as possible.  It turns out that women consistently score better than men on the first metric and it would be hard to argue that the second metric is much more of a Y chromosome (male) trait.  Like I was saying – Just Hire More Skirts!! .  Next time, be known as a genius…. look around the room and count the skirts on the team and you can predict their success.  Just don’t tell them you were counting skirts.


Did you like this? Share it:

Don’t Waste Any More Money on Training in 2015

trainingdollarsIt’s more than just a play on words – if you ask any senior leader what they are getting from their training investments, you will get a very frustrated response.  Yet at this time of the year, everyone is trying to figure out where to spend their training dollars.  I have a simple piece of advice – save your money and spend it on something else-unless you know the answers to the following Key Questions.  And if you are an alumnus of Strategic Sourcing/Supply Chain “U”, these will look very familiar…

What competencies do you need to meet your objectives? You would be surprised at how many organizations waste money on training without understanding the causal link between their organizational competencies and their ability to meet their objectives.  Hint:  If most of your training is in negotiating better deals with suppliers you may want to think again.

When will you need those competencies?  Remember that there is a significant lead time involved in developing competencies.  You cannot send someone to a cross cultural orientation class and send them off to India to develop a new supply base there.  So, if you need that Indian supply base in two years, it may be time to started developing those competencies now.

Do you know if you are going to “rent”, “build” or “rent to build” (TMG preferred model)? You must identify your critical competency gaps and have an overall strategy for each of them.  Are you going to hire consultants(rent), are you going to train people and provide them with the infrastructure-tools, processes, templates etc.(build) or are you going to have a hybrid model where your consultants are charged to help you deliver results as well as build internal capability.

Are you focused on just the functional competencies?   A trap that many organizations fall into is to focus on the “technical” or “functional” competencies not realizing that the Strategic (erstwhile soft skills) are actually far more critical and have a much more causal relationship with meeting objectives.

Are you clear that training does not deliver competencies, only Adoption does?  All research points to the fact that unless adults immediately apply (adopt) what they learn, retention drops to zero very quickly.  Additionally, any value to the organization from the new skills only occurs if and when the new skills are applied.  While both those points may seem very obvious, they are almost always missing from most training programs. TMG alumni will remember this as the Adoption Bridge.  Do you have an Adoption plan that will convert training into competencies?

Are you focused on organizational competencies – not just individual?  Many organizations send people off to training as individuals or in small groups and wait for the Organizational competency to rise.  Organizational competency is a factor of many elements – common process and tools, common training in teams, availability of tools, templates etc., an opportunity to share and learn etc, etc..  To impact Organizational competency you need to move towards Communities of Practice.

Have you thought about the other elements of a Competency Based Talent Management strategy?  While it is great that you are investing in competency development, to really maximize your return, you should also be looking at how you recruit, measure, reward, and develop people.

If you are trying to determine what to do with your training dollars this year, you may want to start by asking yourself some of these questions.  You may also want to make sure that your leadership team is also on the same page.  If you would like some help, we have a few very elegant and powerful tools that we would be happy to loan you to help you to get at some of these issues on your own.

Did you like this? Share it:

How Good Are You at Candy Crush? It May Determine your Career!

imagesca4dnz00“People with criminal records stay longer and perform better”

“Relevant experience does not lead to increased productivity”

“Management quality influences attrition & productivity more than employee background’

“Educational attainment is not as critical”

“Long period of unemployment does not make you a worse worker”- From Your boss wants to be Nate Silver

I’m sure most of you have believed at least one of the above but according to recent research ALL of them might be false.  People Analytics or applying Big Data to Talent Management may be fundamentally changing how employees are selected and managed.  It is allowing companies to use predictive analysis on not just personality tests but biometrics and personal data that we all leave everywhere. 

Clearly, the ability to identify the real drivers of employee success and using those to select the right employees is a very powerful tool. If having been to college or which college is not critical, the potential candidate pool looks dramatically different (If true, it also changes the value of an education but that’s for another day.)  That in and of itself could cause a major disruption in the job market.  If having relevant experience is not critical, then career management takes on a whole new dimension?  By the way, similar techniques are  also being planned for assembling the “right” teams of people.

Utilizing video games as part of the selection process allows for the collection of biometric data.  Not only can your play predict your behavior at work but the biometric data collected predicts your responses in certain situations. Your next interview may involve a head mounted video camera, an optical pulse recorder and measuring electrodermal activity.  This is no longer science fiction; it is available to early adopters today.

The data trails that we leave everyday are also being collected and analyzed for predictive patterns.  The number of sick days, attendance issues, what you buy and where you spend your online time – all of these combined offer vast amounts of predictive power.  That predictive power is already being extensively used for marketing and politics and now employment.  Companies are combing the cloud for all the data we leave behind and offering it to employers as a screening device.

A lot of this sounds scary – we have all seen science fiction movies where “machines” are sorting out humans and predicting human behavior (Minority Report).  The “identification” of people into certain “categories”, though based on some tests and algorithms, eerily sounds like a caste system.  The notion that everything that you have ever done (whether online or off) and how you interact with a video game or perform on some personality test will actually determine your (and everyone else’s) station in life is daunting. You can just imagine the Jonah Hill character in Moneyball sitting over a computer and deciding what you are good for.   What happens to our lives when the machines know us better than we know ourselves”?

This is clearly a debate that we will all need to engage in.  This clearly has the potential to fundamentally disrupt how we select and manage employees-and how we as individuals prepare for employment.  The potential predictive power sounds very exciting and inviting.  The ability to identify the perfect employee is clearly better than depending on instinct.  It looks like Big Data has crept into and may fundamentally change Competency Based Talent Management.  Yet, it comes with all kinds of risks and concerns that must also be dealt with.  These two statements probably sum it up well:

 “This video game (interview) never ends.  This job interview is permanent.” – referring to the data we leave behind.

 “In the long run, will it be healthy for society to run everything by the numbers?”

Did you like this? Share it: