- As Sushil pointed out, you can learn to copy the behaviors and skills of a recognized expert, but you may not find a way to take those competencies to the next level. The goal should always be to move the standard distribution of your team to the right (increase the number of top performers and raise the top performance bar). So mimicry may help you get better quickly, but just as benchmarking only allows a company to become as good as a competitor, you must apply creativity to take that skill to the next level. The goal is always to create space and differentiate oneself from others.
- When you have a SME teach others the 'students' will learn the SME's best habits, but they will also likely learn some of the worst. Everyone falls into patterns of taking shortcuts to be more efficient and some of those may not be fully aligned with the desired way to achieve results (i.e. they may bend the rules a bit). More detrimentally, it is highly likely that a SME has a few bad habits and that those are not differentiated from the best ones by the students. I have come to prefer video as a behavior modeling tool for that exact reason. You can sterilize the model and eliminate the bad habits. These may be as innocuous as taking six steps to complete a task in Excel that should only take two or as grand as not using automation at all to complete a significant task.
Sunday, March 16, 2008
Saturday, March 15, 2008
I needed to do two things very quickly:
- This team was full of wonderful people and we needed to fully take advantage of their skills and knowledge across all areas within our parent company. This meant that we needed to organize the existing 42 classes and fully flesh them out so that these 11 trainers could advertise their offer and become fully leveraged.
- We needed to identify methods by which we could quickly put answers in the hands of our employees without making them wait for a training class or for a trainer to become available and sit with them.
The second objective has taken more work to realize and we must also get IT's approval, which is always interesting. Because people learn different ways we must provided a blended approach to increasing knowledge and improving skills (training ONLY improves gaps in knowledge and skill - see my blog on Gilbert's Model). Not every knowledge gap is also best filled by attending an instructor-led course. Some information should be at the employees' fingertips at all times. Some employees know what to do, but not how to effectively do it. They simply need to see it done right a few times until they master the skill themselves. Employees also need access to experts, and no trainer can be an expert on everything. Finally, we need to expand the offering beyond the line employees and help the leaders effectively do their job. Many people are sent to training to be 'fixed', but training does not fix 'broken' people. Leaders must learn how to identify the root cause of performance problems, and leaders must take ownership of developing their employees. The training team is a support team and our customers are the team leaders and executives. We should not do their job for them.
I am presently working with the trainers to develop skills in the following areas (which will help us realize the second goal):
- Subject Matter Expert Created Content
- Enterprise Wiki - a searchable database of information that is updated in real time by the employees (and confirmed for accuracy weekly by assigned experts who have the final say)
- Behavior Model Video - the video shows an expert executing the skill well (e.g. pre-positioning to prevent a common sales objection) and the attached job aid outlines the steps that were viewed
- Screencasts - Flash-based software tutorials that demonstrate 'how to' use key functionality in 30 to 60 second clips
- Facilitated Case Study - the 'students' review a deal prior to the session and identify issues; they share, discuss, and debate the issues during the session; the facilitator types up the documented agreements and sends them to the students and the students' bosses (collectively the group knows more than the trainer/facilitator)
- Trainer Created Content
- Self-Paced Training - whether a workbook or a web-based module, the trainer bases the content of the self-directed materials on job analyses (only facts and decisions are taught this way)
- Job Aid - a quick how-to reference guide (not an FAQ) for common skills that employees should post on the walls of their cubicles
- Instructor-Led Class - some topics require the opportunity to interact with others, practice the new skill in a safe environment, and to get feedback on that performance
- Special Learning Activities
- Assessment - valid and reliable test of soft skills, aptitude, and/or capacity that might be a self-assessment, boss-assessment, or 360 degree-assessment followed by an interpretive feedback session
- Individual Development Plan or Performance Improvement Plan - specific improvements are defined and documented along with the steps that the employee agrees to take to execute the plan (and improve)
- Coach - based upon a specific interpersonal skill gap a weaker employee (protégé) is partnered up with a stronger employee (mentor) and their interactions are guided by a plan such as the IDP above
- Developmental Assignment - most learning comes from doing and evaluating the results of our decisions and actions (both successes and mistakes) so employees are put into roles on projects, etc. where they are forced to excel in the area that needs to be developed
Tuesday, March 11, 2008
Individual performance drops by 20%, which frustrates the super star and your company.
The actual losses mount as morale declines, roadblocks are intentionally placed in front of the super star, Wall Street punishes you for a highly visible bad hire, and the super star eventually leaves in very public fashion.
Monday, March 10, 2008
Establishing Job Profile Context
1. Define the mission of the job.
a. What is the ultimate product or service produced?
b. How does this product or service contribute to the organization's strategy?
c. How would one know whether the mission was being accomplished successfully?
2. Describe the major outcomes/accomplishments required to achieve the mission.
a. Which outcomes does the organization NEED to have?
b. Which outcomes are NICE to have?
3. Define performance standards for each outcome NEEDED.
a. What does someone in this position need to know to achieve the outcomes?
b. What technical skills would be required to achieve the outcomes?
c. What experiences would someone need to have to successfully achieve the outcomes?
d. Which of these knowledge, skills, and experiences are possessed by the best performers, but not by the rest?
4. Identify barriers to achieving the mission and outcomes.
a. What has prevented people from succeeding in the past?
b. Which barriers are caused by knowledge, skill, or experience deficiencies?
Capturing Knowledge, Skill, Experience Requirements
NOTE: Save all knowledge, skill, and experience components for use as a master list of components. These will be used to validate the success profile.
5. Isolate knowledge components.
a. Circle points of knowledge identified as NEED to know, not nice to know (i.e. those that help the best performers in this position succeed beyond the rest of the performers in this same position).
b. To what degree must this knowledge be entrenched to be a best performer? (basic, intermediate, or expert)
6. Isolate skill components.
a. Circle skills that were identified as NEED to have, not nice to have (i.e. those that help the best performers in this position succeed beyond the rest of the performers in this same position).
b. To what degree must each skill be mastered to be a best performer? (basic, intermediate, or expert)
7. Isolate experience components.
a. Circle those experiences that truly differentiated the best from the rest in this position.
b. Which of these experiences would a person have for at least a year before becoming a top performer?
Capturing Leadership Competencies
8. Leverage research. (In this example we will use Lominger's Leadership Architect, which includes 67 research-based leadership competencies.)
a. Mark competencies that are critical by level according to Lominger's research, add the Price of Admission and Competitive Edge unique to that level to the poster.
9. Modify based on incumbents.
a. Identify top three people in the position.
b. Sort through Lominger cards to find the top ten competencies that differentiate those three from the rest (i.e. the top three have more of this than anyone else).
c. Mark top ten on poster with colored dots or 'X' marks.
d. Discuss to reach consensus.
10. Narrow selected competencies down by presence in the general population.
a. Select 8-10 Price of Admission competencies for the Success Profile.
b. Select 5-9 Competitive Edge competencies for the Success Profile.
Validate the Profile
11. Assess all incumbents against all 67 competencies.
12. Identify highest performers and select competencies that they have more of than the other performers.
Think back on the training classes that you have attended during your career. Of those that provided a great deal of theory instead of focusing on the work that you did at the time, did you do anything differently or better as a result of attending that course? It is highly unlikely that anything changed for better or worse.
Theory can establish a deep understanding, but must be followed by a focus on observable and measurable work-related activities. For example, learning about effective listening can begin with compelling reasons to become a better listener and theory on how listening works, but improvement won't happen without providing a concrete, easy-to-remember model and plenty of practice time during the class (with immediate feedback). The learner should also identify critical times to practice effective listening on the job and create a plan for using the model during those times. Sharing that action plan for listening with your boss is the most powerful anchor because you now have to meet her/his expectations as well. Had the class stopped with just a theory on listening, real improvements at work would not occur, especially during critical times.
Developmental difficulty is based on several factors:
• How complex the skills are that are needed to execute the competency well
• How much experience is required to master the competency
• How much the attitude, values, opinions, and beliefs of the learner impact the desire to be competent
• How the competency involves, engages, or triggers the learner's emotions
• How much intellectual and cognitive complexity is required for mastery
• How much hard-wiring is required to use the competency
It is also important to note how frequently the competency shows up in normal distributions. The rarest competencies may be the hardest to develop simply based on its rarity.
• Training should only include competencies that can be effectively developed (i.e. hard-wired traits that don't significantly change over time won't change as a result of some fabulous training class)
• Students must be able to apply the lessons learned while on the job in observable or measurable ways (if the benefits of training cannot be measured then training will not be valued)
• Courses should teach more than one competency (competencies do not live in isolation so teach clusters of common skills together, e.g. planning, prioritizing, and decision making)
• Courses should be followed by on-the-job application and feedback and bring the manager into the developmental cycle (create job aids for the bosses of the students so that the bosses can hold the students accountable for what was learned)
What a painful, yet common, story from a real organization that has a competency model. The real problem is that only the titles of the competencies are in common use instead of the descriptions. The real power of competency-based models lies in the common language that results from the clear and unambiguous definitions of the competencies. This language should be applied to all HR systems so that job descriptions and success profiles lead to consistent interview questions, employees are consistently represented on workforce planning maps, performance appraisal feedback means the same thing to both manager and direct report, and classes teach the competencies as they are commonly understood.
The skills that must be taught fall into three distinct categories: Strategic, Intra/Interpersonal, and Technical. As you move up the organization you will find that there are fewer technical job skills but more strategic skills required. Therefore, a training curriculum should be weighted accordingly with line employees focusing more on technical knowledge and skills, some interpersonal skills related to working with customers and/or team members, and only a presentation on the company's strategy and how the line employees fit into that equation. Mid-management would get a mixture of those same classes with the emphasis being on understanding (not doing) the technical work, managing people (not work), and executing the strategy. Senior leaders will not need to know the technical work, but should have a high-level overview of the company's employee activities; senior leaders need to know how to manage cross-functional processes (and teams of leaders); and senior leaders must know how to craft and cascade strategic plans.