Analyzing the impact of Corona on contemporary organizations, Gartner (2020)[1] argues that a heavier focus on skills over roles is necessary to “drive the organization’s competitive advantage and the workflows that fuel that advantage”. This competitive advantage can be achieved by a reliable mapping of behavioral competences, which can cope with a VUCA (volatile, uncertain, complex, ambiguous)-world.

How you do this? Well we explain below how we complete such an assessment in a world where remote work, across different geographies, is the new normal. Our approach visualizes the

actual proficiency levels of individuals and teams, and compares these to the required competence level from the organization's perspective.

1. The first step consists of identifying competence gaps by means of an interview with Management. This helps in prioritizing training needs based on business impact and separate these training needs from non-training needs.

2. Each employee performs an online self-assessment followed by a one-on-one semi-structured interview. Both techniques focus on competence-based behavioral questioning to capture the potential and actual project management talents of individuals and teams.

3. All results get visualized as personal and team heatmaps. This supports recommendations, which are often finalized in a co-creative workshop with all (or a focus group of) employees and management, to bring the current talents to greater heights, set priorities and bridge performance gaps together.

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Step 1: Visualization of competence gaps and growth potential

Boselie (2014)[2] describes competences as being the main representation of individuals’ talents. This means that competences, someone’s knowledge, skills and attitudes, reflect the actual and potential contribution of that person to the organization. In what follows we briefly describe the inspirations that guided us in developing our competence assessment.

The seminal work of Baron & Kreps (1999)[3], originally focused on performance evaluation systems, infused with our best practices consulting experiences, is the main inspiration for our competence assessment. Here we briefly describe the most relevant criteria that make the screening of competences effective:

  1. Who or what is to be evaluated?
    Our approach centers on the screening of individuals and teams. We make use of the principle of “incremental validity” (Smith & Smith 2007)[4] where we strengthen the validity of our semi-structured interviews with a self-assessment on project management knowledge, skills and attitudes.
  2. Who performs the evaluation?
    For the semi-structured interviews, a senior expert is required. Employees can fill in the self-assessment themselves.
  3. What's the time frame?
    We strongly advise an annual performance screening. Effect measurement initiatives are integrated during the competence development implementation (e.g. training, knowledge sharing, coaching and mentoring). This way, you can obtain a competence development graph that visualizes the effectiveness of the competence development process.
  4. Use of objective or subjective data?
    We use mixed data. The question-battery in the self-assessment and the interviews are designed to measure project management behaviors according to a four-levelled proficiency scale. This allows us to visualize the required level of talent that specific organizational processes require, and actual PM talent individuals and teams possess.

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Step 2: A sneak peek of our competence screening techniques

For the individual online self-assessments, we use our own proprietary platform, PMTalk. The assessment contains 130 questions and is based upon

  • PMIs project managers competence development framework (PMCDF, 2007)[3],
  • IPMA’s Individual competence baseline (2015)[7] and
  • our 20 years of best practices experience in successful competencies for different project management jobs (project, program, portfolio) and job levels (junior, medior, senior, expert).

Inspired by PMI’s talent triangle[2], we organize all competence-based questions in three competence clusters:

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  • Technical project management concerns competences that effectively apply PM knowledge.
  • Leadership skills involve the ability to guide, motivate and facilitate a team towards high-performance.
  • Strategic & business management skills involve the ability to see the high-level overview, effectively negotiate and implement decisions that support strategy and innovation.

Outcome of this self-assessment is personal talent snapshot that demonstrates their current capabilities and further growth opportunities.

The semi-structured behavioral interviews are written out with model answers on 4 proficiency levels and corresponding scores, leaving room for contextual factors. The proficiency scales are:

  • absence of behavior or no independent application
  • sufficient behavioral traits present
  • autonomous and proactive application
  • stand-alone and potentially innovative application

Step 3: Recommendations

Examples of structural recommendations often following the competence assessment can be:

  • Training roadmaps: to solve specific business challenges by learner-centric learning that delivers sustainable behavioral change. These trainings can also include an onboarding track to bring new employees as quickly as possible to the job performance level required by the organization.
  • Targeted sessions: to transfer learnings within teams (e.g. inter- or supervision sessions, knowledge sharing moments, individual and group coaching or mentoring,...).
  • Individual career planning and team development. This can also help facilitate a more self-organizing way of working for teams, as in a more inspired Agile approach.
  • A baseline for organizational change.

Key takeaways of this blog

  1. Competence assessments, when focused on observable behaviors, become measurable and strengthen high-performance on individual, team and organizational level.
  2. A reliable screening of competences distinguishes the actual and potential talents of people from the required levels of competency demanded by the organization to do the job. A heatmap visualizes this delta.
  3. Both of previously mentioned elements increase transparency and chance of success of effective behavioral change on the job.

Thinking of assessing your people's competences yourself? Do not hesitate to ask us your questions or rely on us to execute the assessments.

Sven Gellens
Product Owner of Talent Management, Consultant

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