Rise Performance Group

The Adaptable Competencies Survival Guide

12.2.12By Diamond Richardson

Competencies are measurable or observable knowledge, skills, abilities and behaviors critical to job performance. Core competencies are the foundation of a good job fit and a key to reducing turnover by hiring people who can successfully do their jobs.

Despite the benefits, competency models that are not developed to adapt to our changing world can actually hurt a company. Today, the rate of change is much faster than the rate of learning. Our innovation-driven culture has created a world where it seems like a new product comes out every week. Yale professor Richard Foster predicted that in 2020, 75 percent of the companies on the S&P 500 will be companies we do not know about today. The only certainty about business is change, and the companies that can manage this change will be the companies that succeed. Job competencies that are adaptable to change are the basis of hiring employees who are adept at handling change.

All three of the competency model components (knowledge, skills/abilities and behaviors) are equally important when deciding which competencies are necessary to succeed in a particular job function. Companies must develop all three with the ability to adapt in mind:

  • Knowledge: Most jobs have basic knowledge requirements that employees must possess to be successful. This can include a college degree or certification. But in addition to this basic knowledge, hiring managers should list knowledge of certain systems and business processes that they have found to be critical to success at their specific companies. This is where companies can build in adaptability. Companies should have plans in place at all times to quickly inform employees of any new knowledge they will need to better accomplish their jobs.
  • Skills/abilities: Similar to knowledge, every job function has basic skills and abilities employees need to be successful. But with technology constantly changing, most companies find themselves having to train their employees on how to use new software and systems that affect the entire company. Companies should have concrete and specific plans on how they will effectively but quickly train employees for these changes. This is a key adaptability measure because the longer it takes a company to get a new system up functioning, the longer they are losing out to competitors who could already be reaping the benefits of a more efficient system.
  • Behaviors: This is the competency component where adaptability can have the largest impact. Companies should build competency models based on behaviors that work well with change. Key competencies for most jobs should include the ability to learn quickly, ability to work in a fast-paced environment and a desire to seek out innovative solutions.

Women’s clothing retailer Zara provides a good example of how key adaptability competencies for its store managers have allowed the company to become extremely responsive to changing consumer tastes. Store managers are required to report sales information to corporate headquarters weekly. This sales information includes not only financial statements, but also consumer responses to particular styles that week. The company uses these reports to quickly design and produce new styles. Trends that store managers note as popular in reports can be found in stores in as little as 15 days, compared to the industry average of six months.

Retail companies like Zara adapt the competencies of their managers to respond to consumer tastes.Zara’s responsiveness can teach us to look beyond typical skills when building competency models. Most retail store managers are required to know how to report sales figures. But Zara requires its managers to have an eye for trends and the ability to predict which clothing items will be popular soon. This requires that managers keep up with ever-evolving fashion trends, a key adaptability competency.

Procter & Gamble Co. provides a great example of how building collaboration skills into your competency model can help keep up with evolving consumer needs. P&G stock prices took a dive in 2000. Company executives knew something had to change and decided to bring in outside perspectives on products through a program called Connect & Develop. As a result of the company’s willingness to collaborate and explore new ideas, it produced two of its most popular products: the Gillette Fusion and Crest White Strips.  P&G’s example illustrates the use of innovation and a willingness to collaborate as key adaptability competencies.

How do you ensure that your competency models are adaptable to change?

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