The performance of a company is intricately linked to how well it engages employees and leverages their capabilities to deliver quality products and/or services. Besides having the requisite knowledge and skills, employees need to demonstrate the relevant competency to successfully achieve the required outcome of the job. Competency development is where one’s knowledge, skills and attitudes are enhanced towards delivering and improving measurable job performance.

Competency-based training incorporates a significant emphasis on learning methods that focus on the outcome of the training. Participants are assessed on their ability to apply the knowledge and skills acquired and their performances are measured against specific competency standards, not against other participants. The focus on evaluating the ability to perform the job function helps to validate the practical applicability of the learning experiences, enabling employees to make positive contributions toward the growth of the organisation.

Building a competency framework which maps competencies to job functions, will support management and employees in building confidence and focus in acquiring job-specific competencies and helping them to effectively perform the required job or task.

 “There is an acceleration of the shift towards highly skilled workers”.

But what are the core skills that organisations should be focusing on?

A lot has been written about the need for new, high-level skills because of changes brought about by new technology, global competition and organizational restructuring. But, what does it mean to the worker and the employer?

As organizations adapt to new paradigms of how they organize themselves and how they compete there is a need to transform the workforce to keep up with the changes. The new focus of organisations is: “Work that needs to be done. People are back to doing jobs, not having them.” Keeping knowledge, skills and contributions at world class levels will enable workers to retain their jobs. Trends towards higher-skilled workers, increasing demand for new manager skills multi-skilling for multi-tasking and managing attitudes and behaviours will be the order of the day.

In response to all the changes in the workplace and the exponential pace of change, there is a need for a broader framework for core skills that goes beyond technical skills. The core skills for the 21st century is about essential life skills as well as enterprise and employability skills. Figure 1: Clusters of Key Core Skills

There is both direct and indirect evidence of the impact of core skills on business performance:

  • Increased quality of work
  • Better team performance
  • Improved capacity to deal with changes in the workplace
  • Increased profitability
  • Improved capacity to use new techniques and technology

As firms cultivate the high-performance workplace, the demand for core skills rises and skills strategies are more closely integrated into human resource strategies and strategic business development.

In order to respond to fast-changing work practices and preferences, learning to learn which underlies the willingness and capacity to learn will be the bedrock of capability.

With the pace of change; having to do things never done before; having to chart new ground constantly and a limited global talent pool, fostering core skills will have to be a constant focus of any organization. Active learning strategies like action learning, simulation learning, situational learning and project-based learning will speed up the acquisition of knowledge and shape attitudes and behaviours.  Collaborative action to foster flexible learning by leveraging technology (anytime/any place/anyhow) will facilitate continuous learning.

Figure 2: Simulation is 15 times more effective than traditional methods.

  • Teaching one-to-one

  • Learning by doing

  • Discussion Group

  • Audio/Visual

  • Reading

  • Lecture

Some organisations like Coca-Cola, who have embarked on their learning journeys using customised simulations for their leadership teams have been able to:

  • Support strategic alignment throughout the organisation
  • Shape mindsets and attitudes by ensuring consistency and re-enforcement of key messages
  • Support the roll-out of their key business strategies, opportunities and challenges
  • Build team cohesiveness and facilitate teamwork
  • Enhance cross-functional decision-making

All this resulting in profit impact and increased confidence and commitment to the organisation as a whole.

In conclusion: 

A competency framework which focuses development on job specific competencies and core skills which include personal attributes and values to drive lifelong learning and adapting to change is necessary to enable high-performance firms to remain flexible and competitive in a world of constant change. At the same time leveraging learning methodologies that will speed up the acquisition of knowledge, shape attitudes and behaviours and facilitate continuous learning, will accelerate the achievement of business value. 

This article is contributed by Ms Teo Jin Lee, the Managing Director of ODE Consulting Pte Ltd.

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