Competency-Based Learning: Why Talent Management Needs to Get on Board

Competency-Based Learning: Why Talent Management Needs to Get on Board

This past week we made some changes to our HSI LMS platform. No, we didn’t just rearrange a few buttons or take away any of your fave features… We wanted to truly add something of value. And we did - with Learning Tracks, our HSI LMS feature that focuses on competency-based learning.

In fact, this is a feature that many of our current clients have been requesting. All of our courses are now mapped to 36 of the 67 competencies based on the Lominger model. HSI LMS users and admins will now be able to offer and assign videos specifically about those competencies, which will make development around those competencies a piece of cake, with much less guesswork.

OK, so why is this big news?” you ask.

I get it - if you’re not incorporating competency-based learning already, you might be wondering why this is a big deal. And you’re not alone: Roughly 31% of organizations have yet to define the essential leadership competencies required for their leaders in order for them to achieve their business goals, according to a 2016 study by the Brandon Hall Group. And only 24% are fully using any of the components of a competency-based talent management program.

Well, I hope to change your mind about competencies, including how your organization approaches them. There is some good research showing that the most successful companies use competencies both for assessment during hiring and for development. They have shown over and over again that using competencies is a proven way to grow your people, something HSI has been committed to from the start.

And FYI, this will be the first in a series of blog posts about competency-based learning. I want to show some of the particular competencies used in the Lominger model and how they directly link up with the success of your company. That way, you can see them in action and sample some of the content that can help you grow and nurture the skills linked to those competencies.

But before diving into that nitty-gritty, it would be helpful to understand why competencies (and learning tracks based on them) are so important. So here’s the 101:

What, Exactly, Are Competencies?

Competencies are abilities, behaviors, knowledge, and skills that impact the success of employees and organizations. They can include general skills (like communication skills), role-specific skills, and leadership skills, as well as others. The common theme is that a competency can be broken down and analyzed into a set of specific behaviors that tell employees what is expected of them, and that management can measure.

There are 67 competencies defined in the Lominger model. To give you a feel for them, here are some common ones that organizations choose to focus on:

The idea is that these competencies should be well-defined across the organization. Take the customer service competency above. It is defined in such a way that it can be employed anywhere, for any role and in any department. This way, everyone is on the same page and working from the same definition.

The definition is not enough by itself, however. It needs to be paired with specific behaviors or tasks that are expected of the employee. These will be different depending on the role of the employee in question. Take customer service again. If this is a core competency for your organization, everyone should be focused on it! But customer service to a sales rep looks different from customer service for a warehouse employee. And that’s OK: These jobs are different and their “customers” are different, so the ways that customer service will manifest itself will look different.

Once you have your competencies defined, you can create a competency model. A competency model is a set of 7-to-10 core competencies that are aligned with your company’s business goals. Businesses differ in many ways, so the competency model for each business will look slightly different.

Once you have a model, you can begin defining tasks for each competency for given roles. You can then use these to:

Why It Is Important to Incorporate Competency-Based Learning Into Your Organization

Competency-based learning is now a mainstay in the most successful businesses. In one study by Development Dimensions International (DDI), 89% of best-in-class organizations had core competencies defined for all their roles, compared to a mere 48% of all other companies.

A separate report, the Top Companies for Leaders report done in conjunction with Fortune and Aon Hewitt, found that a full 100% of companies making the global top companies list use a well-defined competency model.

Of course, just because something is popular does not mean that it is truly useful or effective. (Fidget spinners, anyone?) Still, there is ample evidence that using competencies does help businesses:

Granted, some of these stats speak to using any well-tested competency model. So why did we choose the Lominger model in particular when deciding how to organize the training content in HSI LMS?

Most simply, the Lominger model has been around for a long time (since the 1980s). It has been vetted, tested, and tweaked. Many businesses have adopted it already, and so there are plenty of well-documented cases where the model has helped businesses achieve their learning and development goals.

So the issue, then, is not whether the model works. The issue is how to get started using the model without having to make a sea-change in your organization.

Kathy’s Recommended First Steps Toward Using Competencies

If you have the resources and the backing to rebuild your talent management systems, and you can do so from the ground-up using a competency model, more power to you. But most organizations don’t have that luxury, and so it might be hard for an HR professional to know where to start.

Here, then, are six steps I recommend for getting your feet wet with competency-based learning:

Our use of competency-based learning tracks in our HSI LMS platform is just one way we are helping clients do that last bullet point. If you would like to see some samples of videos crafted into a course for a given competency, you can request a free trial anytime.

I hope to make a believer out of everyone soon! Now go get yourself a slice of pie!

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