Closing Critical Competency Gaps with Learning

Posted November 26 2013
Aberdeen recently released a research report titled Newbies to New Leaders: Closing Critical Skill Gaps with Learning.  The report is based on a survey of 185 organizations and seeks to determine how organizations connect learning to business priorities, create development programs that impact every stage of the employee lifecycle, and utilize technology to support learning initiatives.  

Key findings from the report include:The Impact of Best-in-Class Learning
1) Best-in-class learning leads to higher percentages of 'highly engaged' employees, internally filled key positions and retained employees (see figure 3 to the right)
2) Despite top drivers for learning being a need for leadership talent and closing the marketplace skill gap, only 19% of organizations have programs for new college hires and only 36% have dedicated leadership programs for emerging leaders
3) Best-in-class organizations provide consistent learning and development at all career levels, ensure learning is closely tied to the business strategy and involve organizational leadership in developing and executing the learning strategy
4) 47% of organizations cited identifying and closing gaps between their current and desired workforce skills and capabilities as their top strategic priority
5) 76% of best-in-class companies conduct pre-hire assessments and 60% conduct post-hire assessments (versus 50% and 48% of laggards, respectively)

The report also heavily emphasizes the positive impact that competencies and competency models have on learning and other talent management functions: 
A) "To achieve best-in-class performance, companies must work with the business to establish a consistent set of characteristics, skills, and competencies that are required to support strategy execution, and use them as a framework by which to assess, develop, and manage talent"
B) "It is very difficult to create a comprehensive, career-long learning path without business buy-in and a strong picture of what skills and capabilities will be required of individuals as they progress through their career"
C) "Best-in-class organizations are 70% more likely to have a defined competency model already in place"
D) "Organizations must link learning to the business and define competencies before they can implement a more consistent development experience"
E) "With a consistent competency model in place, companies are better equipped to provide useful performance reviews, develop leaders internally to fill key positions, and help individuals exceed performance expectations by setting clear goals"
F) "Having a consistent competency model ensures that the business and HR have a common language by which to discuss andA Consistent Competency Model Pays Off evaluate talent"
G) "Once (a consistent) model is in place, it becomes far easier to map individual development plans to the right skills and capabilities to ensure continued individual and organizational performance"
H) Use of consistent competencies and competency models results in a higher percentage of employees who exceed performance expectations, organizational use of formal performance reviews and internally filled key positions (see figure 5 to the right)

CTK agrees with these findings - competencies and competency models serve as the foundation for learning & development. Development plans should be derived based on a competency model for each employee and their respective competency gaps. This approach enables the best-in-class capabilities outlined in #3 above and delivers the benefits in #1 above.  Consistent definition of competencies required by all levels of the organization results in consistent learning and development, and defining competencies based on organizational priorities and core values links learning to the business strategy.  Furthermore, pre-hire and post-hire assessments can be more effective when based on competencies.  

CTK would suggest an addition to the Aberdeen report.  In their PACE framework, Aberdeen lists the pressures, actions, capabilities and enablers faced and employed by best-in-class organizations.  While 'defining and building a consistent set of competencies to guide development activities' is listed as an activity, organizations can avoid reinventing the wheel and save time & money by leveraging pre-built, expert-developed competencies and competency models.  CTK would suggest Aberdeen add 'Pre-built competencies and competency model libraries' to the list of enablers.
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