As most of you are aware (especially the thousands of our alumni 🙂 ), we have always been extremely passionate about competency development. While there are many key areas where we differ from all the others on the topic of Competency Based Talent Development, the one that has always caused us to be classified as total renegades was our insistence that the Strategic Competencies (erstwhile soft skills) were at least, nay far more important than the Tactical (functional) competencies. No more are we wandering the wilderness alone and fortunately, many others have now joined us. We recently partnered with a very well-known (and one of the oldest) professional association to conduct a competency and talent risk study and while the results are being analyzed, we have enough completed to offer some glimpses. This association is not only going to utilize the results to align all their offerings but are also leading a community-wide effort to solve some of the issues and we will be collaborating with them through this process.
We asked the respondents in this study to first identify what their top 3 organizational goals were and then to assign a hundred points based on the importance of each of those competencies in achieving those organizational goals. In other words, force rank the importance of the competencies relative to those goals. The competencies were a combination of Strategic and Tactical competencies and not surprisingly, the Strategic competencies outweigh the Tactical. This always surprises the respondents because they don’t expect their own results let alone everyone else’s. The reason we ask them to identify their top 3 goals is to force them to think strategically and to look at the causal relationship between their organizational competencies and their organizational goals. Once you do that, the answers become predictable and Strategic competencies quickly gain the importance that they deserve. In this study, two of the most important competencies in achieving strategic organizational goals were Change Management and Collaboration/Building Relationships – both Strategic Competencies.
We then asked the respondents to score where they are today and where they need to be (in the next 12-18 months) to achieve their strategic goals for each type of competency. This will help us identify the gap in each competency that needs to be closed and again, the results were predictable and not surprising. For example, the three competencies with the highest gaps were Change Management, Collaboration/Building Relationships and Business Intelligence and Acumen – ALL Strategic Competencies.
So the data thus far shows that the most important competencies are Strategic and the ones with the highest gaps are Strategic as well. If you were to multiply the two numbers for each competency, it would truly give you the magnitude of the problem but that’s for the white paper that is going to follow. The question we need to ask is, given the results, are all of our internal training efforts focused on Strategic Competencies or are we still training our people to get better at their functional skills? Are we hiring and promoting people to close those gaps? Do our people even know that these are the desired competencies we are looking for? The larger questions are whether our academic institutions are incorporating the Strategic competencies into their curriculum so that fresh graduates come better prepared and we all know the unfortunate answer to that. Are professional associations starting to acknowledge and recognize this issue and adapting accordingly? Fortunately, our collaboration partner in this important study is taking some risk by wanting to get in front of this issue and we applaud their leadership for that. They are planning to use the results as the basis and foundation for their strategic planning session to ensure that the results of this study permeates their thinking and that their offerings are addressing this need. They are also attempting to gather a group of senior executives to drive alignment and collaboration between other associations, academia, internal / external training partners etc. to address these concerns. Please stay tuned here for future updates on this noble effort but we at least wanted to salute them.