Building the foundation for high organisational performance
Growth is what all businesses aspire to, but it can bring its share of organisational challenges. This was the case for one of our clients, a global accounting firm currently experiencing a period of rapid growth. An increase in headcount had led to difficulties in terms of unifying processes, recruiting the right people and providing a consistent employee experience. With staff unsure where to turn to, what to prioritise and which tools to use, it’s no surprise that overall performance was taking a hit. Faced with this situation, our client needed help aligning everyone towards the objectives the business was trying to reach. How could they make sure they had the right people, in the right jobs, doing the right thing? For us, the answer was clear: competency frameworks.
The benefits of competency frameworks in times of rapid growth
At Let’s Talk Talent (LTT), we believe competency frameworks are the lynchpin that supports your mission and purpose. They clarify roles and responsibilities, define what good looks like and contribute to higher employee performance, thus future proofing your organisation at the same time. “Competency frameworks go further than job descriptions. They aren’t just about what needs to be done as part of an individual’s role. They highlight the ‘why’ but also the ‘how’. The behaviours and attributes that are valued within your business need to be clearly established for your people to be able to live them every day,” says Jo Taylor, MD and Founder at LTT.
When to use competency frameworks
In this particular case, our client experienced a rapid growth in headcount, which led to a need to quickly build the kind of employee experience that would get, keep and grow brilliant people. With everyone feeling overwhelmed and recruitment procedures taking priority, staff felt confused and left to their own devices when it came to their development opportunities and performance management procedures. While the business had created plenty of resources for its people in all these areas, this content was very detailed and needed to be simplified, as employees struggled to understand what was expected of them. We needed to create the golden thread that would cut through the noise.
Our main task was clear: we had to create alignment. Between the different service lines, departments and levels, as well as between the various touchpoints that form part of the employee experience. However, there was no need to start from scratch. Considering the amount of materials available, we began by joining up everything that was already in place. Here’s how we achieved this.
Our approach to designing competency frameworks that work
The discovery phase
First, it’s never a good idea to come in like a bull in a China shop. At LTT, we like to understand our client’s business context, culture and processes so we can create an approach that’s truly tailored to their needs. During this project, we set up a discovery and data capture phase during which we reviewed everything that was in place. This comprised desk research, steering groups and focus groups from all areas of the business to ensure people from every level had input into the final deliverables. The audit phase had one objective: to define what it means to be successful in this business.
The competency frameworks development phase
Now that we knew everything there was to know about our client’s internal culture, we could focus on bringing it to life. Core competencies would sit across all service lines and work as a baseline for everyone, providing transparency on the performance requirements linked to each role. We then drilled down to define what these competencies would look like at four levels of hierarchy, from senior leadership to specialised experts.
Once this benchmark was established, it was time to get into the practical side of things. We used the STAR framework to highlight the core Skills, Training, Attributes and Relationships needed to perform. This included the behaviours employees were expected to display as part of their role, and the knowledge and expertise to achieve their objectives. We also highlighted the relevant learning and development opportunities that would help staff acquire new skills or deepen their expertise, as well as the most important relationships for every level in the business. In short, we demonstrated the ‘what’ and the ‘how’ for each employee to perform well within their job, and to progress towards the next step of their career.
With shiny new competency frameworks in our pockets, we should organise a huge launch to the entire company, right? Actually, at LTT, we believe in an iterative approach. Before the main roll-out, we took time to test our newly designed frameworks with a small stakeholder sample. We ran focus groups as well as one-to-one interviews, and gathered feedback. Armed with this data, we were able to issue a new and improved iteration of our clients’ competency frameworks, which contained small tweaks and a few additions.
Launch and training
Company-wide frameworks were then launched throughout the business. However, the work didn’t end there. When issuing new processes or resources, training is a crucial part of the adoption process. To ensure these materials would be used throughout the business and not left in a drawer to gather dust until the next year-end appraisal, we organised relevant training. We focused on managers and team leaders as the main driving force behind the implementation of any HR strategy initiative, from performance management to recruitment and career progression. But changing the way things are done is like turning a huge ship around: it takes time. Which is why we proposed staggering our approach for best results.
Ensuring the future of the organisation through competency frameworks
Our immediate focus was on viewing competency frameworks as the building blocks of career progression. This involved embedding them into the organisation’s performance management process, and using them to structure regular one-to-ones, end-of-year appraisals, and career development plans. We also trained managers and staff alike on how to have better career conversations and openly discuss current performance, career opportunities and the skills needed to get there.
Over the next two years, our aim is to go further and embed competency frameworks into everything the organisation does, including:
- Performance management (feedback conversations, goal setting and performance evaluations)
- Development (personal and professional)
- Reward and recognition
- Recruitment (Employee Value Proposition, recruitment process, onboarding)
Painting a picture of what good looks like
The benefits of competency frameworks are endless, but can be summed up into one little phrase: they define what good looks like. When faced with many issues brought about by change, expansion or a bout of rapid growth, it can be hard to know what to focus on. Competency frameworks align your people’s performance to the needs of the organisation so they are clear on what needs to be done. Remember that life is too short for beige, so book a call with us to create the kind of kickass competency frameworks that will motivate and energise your people and unlock their full potential.
For more tips on how to lead employees during uncertain times, read our blog article. You can also visit our competency frameworks service page for a ton of free resources, tips and advice, including our competency framework whitepaper, which highlights our approach.
Related career development resources:
- How to build a positive workforce [Blog]
- Download our free career planning whitepaper [Free Whitepaper]
- How to attract and retain great talent [Blog post]
- 5 ways to improve your talent management strategy [Blog post]
- Exploring the 70/20/10 model for learning and development [Blog post]
- The EDGE feedback framework for effective development conversations [Blog post]
- How to use competency frameworks to help career development [Blog post]