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Apples or Oranges: How to assess the critical competencies which will define success in the future workplace?

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This is the fourth in the series of blogs that I have written on the effects of the fourth industrial revolution. In my last blog I had talked about the critical behavioral competencies which will define success in an era of fast change and uncertainty and concluded that success in the future will depend on competency sets which support “Innovation”, “People” and “Business processes” in that order and the “great” performers will be differentiated from the “good” due to their “Cognitive Flexibility”
Having concluded that these competency sets are critical to success, the key question is as to how organizations can assess and then develop these competencies in their employees? It is of no value to an organization to know what are the critical competencies which will define success in the future, if they are not able to measure where each of their employees is as far as these competencies are concerned.
In this blog I will discuss various means which are available to assess these competencies. These could be used for assessing all the competencies as long as the assessment process is designed to clearly differentiate between different levels of a competency.
The easiest method is to ask the manager of employee to comment upon the competency level of an employee. This could be as simple as a paragraph on each of the competencies to a detailed questionnaire giving out behaviors which define different levels of each competency. Although it is the easiest and the fastest method of assessing competencies, it suffers from a major disadvantage that the rating depends on the manager’s perception of how the employee is performing in these competencies. There is also no way of removing personal bias from these ratings.
A more advanced form of this method is a 360 degree feedback in which a number of stakeholders provide a rating on each of the competencies/behaviors for the employee. The stakeholders are normally the manager of the employee, the team members, peers and other key stakeholders with whom the employee interacts on a regular basis. This method is more time consuming and relatively more expensive in terms of time and resources but gives a more valid and correct assessment of various competencies as a more complete picture of the employee’s competencies emerges from this exercise. Due to the number of responses personal bias, if any, gets removed due to the averaging of responses.
The third method of assessing competencies is through a structured interview. The validity of this method depends on the experience and skill of the interviewer. The highest validity is for a behavioral event interview where the employee is asked about his/her reaction to past events to assess the ability on various competencies. The interview approach to assessing competencies is fast and economical, however, it is dependent on secondary information as the assessment is done based on the answers given by the employee during the interview.
The fourth method is the assessment through various psychometric instruments which use various forms of questionnaires to assess the competencies. The validity of this method to my mind is low as it depends on the answers that the employee has given. Although there are a number of checks and balances incorporated in a well designed psychometric instruments, they are again dependent on secondary information. i.e. the response of the employee.
The fifth method of observing the employee at his/her work. The natural work environment makes the candidates more relaxed and they display their job related competencies at ease without the usual anxiety that accompanies assessment. This makes the job of the observers easy and they get concrete and relevant examples of behaviors to be assessed simultaneously, as they can see them in action. However, it becomes very time consuming and resource heavy to conduct.
The sixth method to assess competencies is through an assessment center. In an assessment center, the employee is put through a number of exercises which replicate the multifarious challenges that are faced in a workplace. These exercises are designed in such a manner that the behaviors which comprise the various competencies have to be utilized to complete them. These behaviors are observed and noted by experienced assessors who use these notes to rate the employees on different competencies. This is by far the most reliable and valid method of assessing competencies as it utilizes actual behavior exhibited in a work like environment to rate the employees compared to the first four methods where the rating was based on perceptions of self/critical stakeholders. In addition, the use of independent and neutral assessors increases the acceptability of the results in the minds of the employees. The assessment center approach, however, is expensive in terms of time and cost.
Although all the above methods have their own validity, the direct observation and assessment centers could be considered to be more predictive of job performance due the fact that the assessment is based on direct observation of behaviors rather than through a secondary source.
In the next blog I will discuss a few methods of developing these competencies.
Rajiv is the principal consultant at R Square Consulting. This is fourth in a series of blogs, which will discuss the effect of the fourth industrial revolution and the competencies required to be successful in the workplace of 2020. Rajiv can be reached at rajiv@rquareconsult.in for any query, discussion or any professional requirements.
About R Square consulting : R Square consulting provides end to end services in the field of building leadership and managerial capability to include leadership development interventions based on a holistic blend of exploration, reflection, action learning and coaching, assessment centers and various Organizational development interventions.
We are a HR consulting firm providing customised and holistic HR interventions for developing the human capital of an organization through:
Executive Coaching
Assessment and Development Centers
Organizational Development Interventions
Leadership and managerial development
Flexi HR support for SME

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