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Our New Hires Need Customized Economics Training. Would Establishing 'Knowledge' Competencies Be of Any Use?

As a financial services company, how can we devise useful competencies for our knowledge workers? Our new hires need basic courses in economics and skills to use our customized econometrics model. We know what we're looking for in new recruits, but we don't know how to formally express it by way of competencies. —Seeking Knowledge, adviser, financial services, Ottawa
June 6, 2012
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Related Topics: Skills Testing and Assessment, Competencies, Dear Workforce
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Dear Seeker of Knowledge:

Your question is vitally important. There is "junk" floating around that "competencies" in the workplace are only for people with advanced degrees. That simply isn't so. Achieving a tight connection between core business objectives and employees' development and performance is vital—especially in labor-intensive organizations like yours. Competencies—or "core competencies," as they are known in some circles—are nothing more than the knowledge, skills and abilities upon which compensation professionals have long performed job analysis for pay-grading purposes.

What we're after is simply a clear understanding of the desired behaviors and the key capabilities required to reliably produce those behaviors. A brief, albeit very basic, road map:

  • Start with one key job or job family.
  • With an eye toward broader business objectives, determine what good performance looks like for that position. What are the people actually doing, and achieving?
  • Confirm your findings by observing, and developing profiles of, a handful of acknowledged exemplars. Use people currently in jobs, because this can really change over time. Contrast your findings by similarly observing the knowledge, skills and behaviors of lower performers (although don't tell them they have been so identified).
  • Determine the three to six (no more) critical success factors associated with the desired level of performance. In other words, what are the most important things that people in this job must be able to do?
  • Evaluate the relative importance of each factor. You may find it helpful to weight the factors relative to one another on a simple arithmetic scale.
  • Determine the specific elements of knowledge, skill and ability that are essential to each of the aforementioned success factors.

It will be essential for employees to move beyond basic courses in economics and learning to use your customized econometrics model. Must your employees, for example, understand the application of macroeconomics within an investment portfolio? Will they need to communicate it orally to clients? How much knowledge of financial modeling should they possess? Is it important that they can work successfully within a team environment?

If your aim is to use the identified competencies solely as a basis for recruiting, your next (and final) step is to construct candidate sourcing, screening and selection methods targeted to the identified competencies. In zeroing in on position competencies, please be careful not to exclude consideration for organizational "fit" requirements, as doing so could create a situation in which you have a perfectly competent but miserable employee.

If you plan to use the identified competencies for development and evaluation purposes, take the process a step further. Delineate in writing the relative levels of mastery for each competency. Best wishes as you begin this challenging, but critical, function within your organization.

SOURCE: Bill Catlette, co-author, Contented Cows MOOve Faster, Memphis, Tennessee

LEARN MORE: Behavioral-based interview questions help you determine if a candidate possesses the required behavioral traits for the job.

The information contained in this article is intended to provide useful information on the topic covered, but should not be construed as legal advice or a legal opinion. Also remember that state laws may differ from the federal law.

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 The information contained in this article is intended to provide useful information on the topic covered, but should not be construed as legal advice or a legal opinion. Also remember that state laws may differ from the federal law.

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