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Draft:Developmental Competence Management

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Developmental Competence Management is all about putting the candidate front and centre of the process, focussing on their needs and encouraging them to own their own competence.

Over time competence management has found itself divided into two different camps:

• Compliance-based

• Developmental

The Compliance-based Approach

The driver for a compliance-based approach is the assurance that an organisation is adhering to the terms of their safety certificate and franchise agreement, essentially asserting that they are compliant with the law.

Typically this results in a reactive approach and a determination to spend as little time and effort as possible on gaining that assurance. Minimum time is spent with candidates, and as a result, little is known about them or their level of competence – they are either competent or not competent. The training needs of the organisation are based on current legislation and incidents that have occurred with the company, rather than any feedback from the candidates or measurement of candidate performance.

Organisations participating in the compliance-based approach simply cannot implement improvement plans or become pro-active about competence management because problems and issues are not found until someone has an incident. The compliance-based approach is reactive by it’s nature.

The Developmental Approach

Developmental Competence Management encourages the candidate to take ownership of their own competence by providing clear learning materials, open access to their records and and Assessor support. Rather than assessing them and determining them “competent or not”, a grading system is used to rate individual criteria and highlight any development needs. As a result of this more granular grading, learning and development can be tailored for the individual and will actually help them to improve their level of competence.

The grading system is vital within a developmental system because it is the tool used to identify development needs. In theory, the grading system can have any number of levels, however they are usually most effective with a small number of levels as this is easy to understand and meaning are clear. The example shown below is a grading system based around a variation on traffic lights.

• RED - Significantly below standard

• AMBER - Just below standard

• GREEN - Meets standard

• DOUBLE GREEN - Exceeds Standard

In this system, a candidate receiving a RED against a criteria item would know that they have a significant development need – perhaps retaining is required. Whereas an AMBER would indicate a more minor need, say a clarification or re-briefing, which could even be undertaken by the Assessor at the time. GREEN would indication the candidate performed as expected and the DOUBLE GREEN would be recognition that the candidate has gone above and beyond in some way.

Assessor Candidate Engagement

When an Assessor is planning to undertake a developmental assessment they will make a plan that’s designed to engage the candidate fully. They will make sure the candidate understands the performance criteria, understands what’s being assessed and why; and even ask them if there is anything they need help with.

Discussing the assessment in these terms means that the candidate has the opportunity to highlight any areas within their competence that the feel are weaknesses or any where they lack confidence. They should feel confident about doing this, knowing that an assessment in this area will help them to get any help and development that they need – leading to them feeling more confident and competent at the end of the assessment than they did in the beginning.

The Assessor will make a plan to address the areas highlighted by the candidate along with any others that are due for attention for any other reason. A good Assessor will use a range of methods to test technical skills and underpinning knowledge, making sure they get a holistic view of the candidate’s performance.

The result of all this is that the candidate now has a really clear view on their own competence and can focus on the areas that need improvement. They can agree development actions with the Assessor and get help and support in executing those actions.

The outcome is that candidates are encouraged to deal with their own shortfalls pro-actively, before an incident occurs; hence owning their own competence.

Benefits of a Developmental System

A well executing developmental competence management system will bring the following benefits to an organisation

• Improved Performance People become more competence over time by focussing on their own development needs. They feel empowered because they own their competence and know exactly were to focus; and they stop dreading assessments.

• Improved Visibility and Confidence A Company deploying a developmental approach has a very good idea of its level of competence. This view is based on data gathered from a reliable source. This data shows the learning state of the individual as well as groups of people within its organisation, and it can be used to analyse the effectiveness of training.

• Reduction in Incident Rates Performance issues are dealt with pro-actively, before they course incidents, instead of reactively in response to an incident.

• Cost Savings Incidents are expensive, inefficient training is expensive, writing and managing competence development plans for candidates that have “failed” is expensive – all these costs can be reduced by introducing a Developmental Competence Management system.

Developmental Competence Management can be used to support the approach suggested by James T. Reason in ‘The Swiss Cheese Model’, which refers to reducing the active failures in the system. It’s key to creating a 'Just Culture'.

Developmental Competence Management was first developed for the UK Railway industry by AssessTech Limited and has now become a standard process for companies such as Great Western Railway (GWR), Heathrow Express, c2c, Southeastern and many more of the Train Operating Companies in the UK.

References[edit | edit source]

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