It is rare to encounter success that happened by accident. Most often, it results from three things – the right person, the right team, and the right timing. When an organisation lacks one of these, it can be difficult to achieve the desired outcome.
Businesses usually start on the right footing. But when they begin to scale, the chaos of new challenges can leave them off-balance. Decision-makers can lose focus on their core mission and become bogged down by the need to keep up with operational demands.
Start-up founders spend 40% of their day on tasks that do not generate value, like hiring, human resources, and payroll. This often leads to founder burnout, which constitutes 5% of start-up failures. If expansion is the end goal, businesses should first develop a blueprint for all aspects of the company, from processes and systems to people and culture.
This is where a competency framework comes in. A competency framework is a set of behaviours, knowledge, and skills required for an individual to perform their role in an organisation. It outlines the expectations of employees and sets a standard against which they can be measured.
Why a competency framework is critical
A competency framework ensures employees and managers are aligned with the company’s goals. It helps leaders make informed decisions about hiring, training, and development.
In a scaling organisation, a competency framework can be used to:
● Define what success looks like at each stage of growth
● Create clarity around roles and responsibilities
● Identify gaps in skills and knowledge
● Benchmark employees against their peers
● Facilitate succession planning
A well-designed competency framework will help businesses avoid the pitfalls of growth and ensure that they can scale successfully.
A guide for hiring
Scaling operations does not necessarily mean strength in numbers. It is more crucial to appoint the right people to the right roles than simply fill vacant positions. By understanding the skills and behaviours required for each position, businesses can identify the best candidates during the recruitment process.
When looking at a candidate’s resume, it can be hard to ascertain whether they have the required skills and experience. Using a competency framework as a guide, hiring managers can rate candidates against specific criteria, making it easier to distinguish the strongest contenders.
Competency frameworks can also be used to assess an individual’s potential. While experience is important, it may not always indicate future success. A clearly defined competency can aid in identifying individuals with the right aptitude and attitude rather than those with the required skill set.
A tool for training and development
Investing in employee development is essential for any business scaling. But how do you set up the proper training and development programmes? Once again, by using the framework as a reference. An excellent framework would not only outline expectations of each employee’s role but also provide guidance in achieving these standards.
Clearly defined competencies can also serve as an individual progress tracker. With criteria in mind, managers can identify areas where employees need further improvement. As such, competency frameworks provide a valuable feedback loop that helps businesses fine-tune their training and development efforts.
A foundation for succession planning
Successful businesses consider the future when hiring for the present. When an employee is aware of the expectations and requirements of their role, they can be better prepared for future opportunities within the organisation.
For managers, arming themselves with the competency framework helps pinpoint potential successors and create a pipeline of talent for the future. In this way, succession planning allows businesses to mitigate risks associated with key personnel leaving the company.
A way to build a positive company culture
The workplace is constantly evolving, and businesses must keep up with the changing landscape to attract and retain top talent. To do this, they must create a company culture that employees can buy into.
A positive company culture does not happen overnight – it takes time, effort, and planning. But it starts with having the right people in place. Businesses can lay the foundation for a strong company culture when each team member has a firm grasp on their responsibilities.
Keeping everyone on the same page creates a sense of camaraderie and purpose. Employees feel valued and appreciated, which leads to higher job satisfaction and motivation. In turn, this increases productivity and helps businesses achieve their goals. Research proves that highly engaged business units realise an 81% difference in absenteeism and a 14% difference in productivity.
Designing a competency framework
Competency frameworks vary per organisation and industry. When developing this instrument, remember to include only measurable components. If the goal is to scale up, the framework should be flexible enough to accommodate future growth.
Consider these steps to build one from scratch:
Step 1: Define the company’s purpose, values, and goals.
A good starting point is to clarify the company’s purpose, values, and goals. This will help determine the behaviours necessary to support these. For example, if one of the company’s values is “customer-centricity,” then customer service skills would be included in the competency framework.
This session has to involve both stakeholders and employees. The former will identify the company’s aspirations, while the latter can provide insights into what it takes to get the job done.
Step 2: Assess the organisation’s current state and identify gaps
Scaling is not always about building for the future. It is also about re-evaluating the company’s current state and making necessary changes. This practice will help determine which competencies are needed and which require refining.
At this stage, it is crucial to consider the different skill requirements of employees in the organisation. For instance, a customer service representative would have different strengths from a team leader. The former would need to possess good communication skills, while the latter must be able to motivate and inspire others.
Once the gaps have been identified, the next step is to design a plan to address these. It might involve developing training programs or revising job descriptions. We will delve more into this later.
Step 3: Conduct job analysis to understand specific role requirements
A significant part of creating a competency framework is understanding the requirements of specific roles. Job analysis makes this possible since it involves assessing a particular job’s tasks and responsibilities.
This exercise will help identify the skills and knowledge (hard skills) necessary to perform the role effectively. It will also reveal any gaps in the current competency framework.
Aside from hard skills, job analysis also considers soft skills. These are harder to quantify but are just as important in achieving success and are transferrable between roles. Qualities like adaptability, teamwork, organisation and communication skills can make or break an employee’s performance.
Step 4: Draft behavioural indicators for each competency.
Behavioural indicators are specific actions or behaviours that employees must display to demonstrate that they have mastered a particular competency. For example, if the desired behaviour is “excellent customer service”, then indicators could be things like “responding to customer inquiries within 24 hours” or “proactively addressing customer concerns.”
When listing these indicators down, take note of their measurability. These will serve as criteria for decision-makers when they proceed with succession planning. Employees who have hit all the right notes may be considered for career advancement.
This step is also crucial in developing a workplace culture, as it helps cultivate the values the company wants to uphold.
Step 5: Create a learning and development plan
For the competency framework to take effect, there must be a plan to support its implementation. It will ensure that employees can develop the necessary skills and behaviours.
The learning and development (L&D) plan should identify which employees need what training. It should also be aligned with the company’s budget and timeline. L&D initiatives can include e-learning modules, on-the-job training, workshops, and coaching.
Step 6: Evaluate and revise
The final step is to monitor the progress of the competency framework’s implementation. It will tell you when your business is achieving the desired results. Adjustments can be made along the way to ensure that it meets the organisation’s evolving needs.
However, understand that the implementation stage takes time. Competency frameworks are not quick fixes. They require a long-term commitment from both management and employees. But when done right, they can help businesses reach their full potential.
Scaling up is daunting for any organisation, but it is crucial for businesses that want to stay competitive. However, many have failed this test due to a lack of preparedness and foresight. A competency framework can help businesses avoid this pitfall by laying out a clear roadmap for expansion.
Expert advice on competency frameworks
Business expansion is a monumental undertaking, so having the proper competency framework is critical. Ellivate Consulting specialises in developing and implementing competency frameworks for sales and customer success. We have helped companies of all sizes to overcome the challenges associated with rapid scale. If you would like to learn more about how we can help you, don’t hesitate to get in touch.