Creating a Capability Ready Culture

By: Pamela Walters, May 1, 2014

Most business executives focus their leadership efforts on the strategic side of growth, including market expansion, brand credibility, and contract negotiation. But many are overlooking some very important pieces of the growth puzzle—their people.

Successful business transformation requires several things: new processes, leaders with the ability to direct others, and a ready-to-play “bench” of capable professionals. During a season of transformational change, it is critical to have skilled people on board who can work synergistically to fulfill the vision and goals of your company.

Populating the bench

Planning for growth requires identifying talent that will be ready to shoulder more responsibility and propel others through the upcoming changes. Leaders must keenly observe their employees, conduct disciplined evaluations, and be able to envision the future potential of an individual. They must be tuned-in to identifying character traits such as dependability, resilience and work ethic. Then, assumptions must be tested so that evaluations are fair.

Evolving into a capability-minded culture that demonstrates flexibility to change often involves sophisticated diagnostic tools and processes. Beyond that, leaders can contribute to this objective by having a capability-ready mindset. These fundamental steps will get you started:

  • Identify sources of measurement, such as assessments or skills tests, that can gauge capability in the context of a specific job, the current culture, and the future work environment. Look for underutilized skills that can be leveraged for future assignments. For example, a manager’s problem-solving capability can evolve from moderate to complex if he is given enough experience and coaching.
  • Call out specific behaviors that you notice in your employees, such as business acumen, the ability to collaborate with others, or courage in the face of great risk. Recognizing these attributes creates focus for the individual. If they know which strengths are valued, they will be more open to being coached in underperforming areas as well.
  • Provide employees with clear and compelling feedback, whether it is corrective or affirmative. Statements should reference attributes that you’ve noticed and show how they were applied.
  • Help individuals link their current roles to the company’s future mission and vision. There is nothing more intrinsically powerful than having a sense of purpose.

As a talent management professional, I have had hundreds of conversations about capability with individuals, team leaders and senior management. I have had the privilege of recognizing top talent, calling it out, and discussing its power in both current work assignments and in the scope of future career moves. People commonly say to me, “This was the most constructive conversation I have ever had.” In contrast, the dialogues they typically have with their supervisors are all about the business at hand rather than the person’s demonstrated competencies.

Leaders, I challenge you to become proficient at identifying and ‘calling out’ capability within your workforce. Find the right tools to help you and make it a daily habit. This will nurture your workforce, create loyalty, enhance job clarity and energize workers to reach greater levels of achievement.

Take the time now to identify, nurture and develop key attributes and the people who display them, so that your bench is loaded with vetted talent. Practice this at every level of your organization and watch your culture transform.

Send in the Clowns

By: Darby Fazekas, April 24, 2014

Every member of a circus has a specific job that matches their talent. If the lion tamer quits, the circus doesn’t plug the open job position with a fire-eater. It’s a safe bet that the lions would have ferocious objections to working with an unskilled lion tamer. The circus management would not ask the existing juggler to do the job of the trapeze artist until they hire someone else. Unqualified applicants would not try to fake their way through the interviewing process for the open tightrope walker position simply to fail on the job.

While it’s absurd to believe this type of employment practice would ever exist at a circus, it is a very real practice in companies globally today. Unqualified candidates are hired or an employee qualified for their current position is moved to one they are unqualified to do. Unlike a circus where it is quickly and visibly apparent if a contortionist can contort, it is not clear cut in a company if a leader can lead.

Job requirements have been merged, melded and multiplied to the degree that if a job description exists it is no longer current. Effective job alignment is unlikely if neither the supervisor nor worker understand the responsibilities of the position. Too often performance is not reviewed unless it is horrific.

The first step in fixing job alignment issues is to define the position. Spend time to answer the question, “What do we pay the person in that position to do?” Ask each of your employees to answer the question, “What does the company pay me to do?”

Next, express your answers in six to eight highly specific bullet points. Most, but not all will be measurable. For example, if you have a sales position, the bullet point of “prospect for new business” is too general. The following are more specific:

  • Set twelve new prospecting appointments with Vice Presidents of Finance or CFOs
  • Attain quarterly sales goal of $250,000 in new business
  • Conduct three financial seminars per quarter
  • Coordinate with the engineering team to customize software per the client’s request

Once you have clarity on the position requirements answer this, “Does the person doing this job have the right job competencies to be successful?” This is a more difficult question to answer. Use objective and subjective data to assess the job alignment. Behavioral assessments that include job specific competencies will give you objective data. Awareness to moods, attitude, interactions and appearance will give you subjective data.

Be open to the possibility that you have top talent in your organization performing the wrong job. Spend time discerning what the highest value activities of each employee are and evaluate how they are being utilized in your organization. When you need a clown, take a page from the Greatest Show on Earth and send in the clowns.

Everyone Needs a Fan Club

By: Julie Johnson, April 17, 2014

Opening day for baseball fans is an exciting event and, in some cities, is practically considered a holiday. Communities come together as the “10th man on the field” cheering for their home teams, and every year the anticipation is reborn as fans root for their baseball faves through the good times and the bad.

Identifying your fans

Chances are you haven’t progressed through your career entirely on your own. Everyone needs a fan club—people in your vast network of acquaintances who support you through the ups and downs of your career. Your “10th man” is someone who has invested in you and your success. They pick up the phone when you call. They listen and offer advice when you have a question or problem. They are on your side even when they would have done things differently than you did. It’s important for leaders to identify who these loyal fans are so that first, you can thank them, and second, you can maximize the benefit of having them on your side. As with everything in life, you need to be intentional with this special relationship.

Why fans are critical to success

The pace of our everyday lives has increased exponentially over the past twenty years. There are so many opportunities today and a variety of paths one can take to achieve career goals. Whether you want to start your own business, reinvent yourself in a new career, or simply become the best version of yourself in your current career, your fans can help. For example, they may talk you through a difficult decision or encourage you to rebound gracefully from failure. Resiliency is a critical life skill and fans will usually provide you with honest and immediate feedback. Have you ever caught yourself booing your own team? We all need to ask for and listen to constructive criticism once in a while.

Take a few minutes to think about who is part of your fan club. Then consider whom you cheer for. It’s important to have fans, but it’s also important for you to fulfill that role for someone else in your network. By behaving in this way, everyone scores a home run.

The Importance of Competency-Based Assessments

By: Sourushe Zandvakili, April 11, 2014

Every job requires a set of specific skills and knowledge, but the details of that skill set depend on each position and its complexity. Competency-based assessments provide a means for building the skills and knowledge people must have in order to perform a job well. This type of assessment can also be helpful in succession planning since it offers a course of action to develop employees for future roles. It allows for effectively conducting Team, Culture and 360 analyses as well.

If you properly implement competency modeling sequences for all jobs in your organization, your company will be ahead of the curve. Benefits include:

  • Converting your organization’s vision and core values into expected employee behavior
  • Reducing costs in selection, lowering absenteeism, and reducing turnover
  • Utilizing fairer and more objective assessments
  • Identifying individual employee-specific development needs that are directly linked to outcomes and objectives
  • Targeting training resources to areas with the highest ROI
  • Establishing valid and effective performance evaluation criterion
  • Identifying gaps between current skill sets and potential future skill set requirements through “Talent Match”
  • Empowering employees to direct their own personal development and to self-evaluate

The bottom line is that organizations will enjoy increased productivity and profitability by ensuring that their employees have the capability to meet objectives and customer expectations.

The Devine Group has created a streamlined process through which HR professionals can construct competency-based job models in less than an hour! HR simply sends assessments to a handful of SMEs (Subject Matter Experts) and then immediately generates a highly customized competency-based job model based on SME input. We also offer the more traditional approach of allowing clients to select appropriate competencies from our library of more than 130 job competencies.

We would love to have an opportunity to showcase our proprietary competency-based Job Model Builder for you and your colleagues. A tool like this can make all the difference in ensuring success for the future of your organization.

Talent Assessments Around the World

By: Andrew Day, March 20, 2014

People doing business on the international stage are aware that business is conducted differently in every country. If international business is to be successful, it is critical to develop a thorough understanding of the culture, values, and interpersonal norms that impact the workplaces of foreign colleagues. This same level of thought needs to be applied to assessment solutions used to identify and manage talent in different countries.

Although a job role may have the same title and similar objectives across the globe, the ways in which people achieve results in different localities can vary. The critical behaviors and competencies measured by an assessment needs to account for those differences. For instance, the type of sales approach that works well in the United States may be too aggressive for cultural norms in other parts of the world. If an assessment based on US sales behaviors is transported to a different part of the world without due consideration of these differences, the people hired abroad will not deliver the expected results.

When using assessments in different countries, key considerations include:

  • Avoid Assumptions – As mentioned above, do not assume that jobs are the same everywhere. Also, do not make assumptions about differences based on country stereotypes. Instead, follow best practices for assessments and analyze the job itself. Treating a new location as a new job will provide detailed information so that the assessment can be designed to measure the critical behaviors for top talent.
  • Utilize Local Resources – Identify subject matter experts who are part of the local culture and knowledgeable about how businesses operate. These experts will have first-hand insights and can help successfully design and implement appropriate assessments.
  • Use the Right Language – Translating an assessment into the local language may seem like an obvious step, but it must be done correctly. To ensure the quality of the assessment is preserved, a precise methodology of translation should be followed. Mistranslation and colloquialisms can impact the reliability and validity of an assessment, leading to poor conclusions and loss of ROI.

Choosing solutions that help objectively identify and manage talent are important no matter where business is conducted. Applying a knowledgeable understanding of differences that impacts assessments will ensure that talent measures are aligned to achieve business objectives in all areas of the world.