Do competencies need to begin with a big bang?

Dubs at Systematic HR cites a recent Mckinsey’s Quarterly article by Reineke, Spiller and Ungerman. It shows that within the purchasing function it is possible to show a strong correlation between productivity and competencies.

Specifically, there are three competencies which differentiate high purchasing performers: quality of hiring decisions, performance management and business alignment.

Dubs applauds this systematic approach showing a direct line to the bottom line for HR, as do I, but then we disagree …

… he goes on say:

The reality of this type of metric is that while it’s what we should be going for, HR doesn’t usually have the tools to plan for these programs or provide the total analysis needed.

Doesn’t it? It rather depends on how large you want to go. There is no doubting the value of large-scale talent management implementations. InfoBasis has done plenty of these, including one recently at a large engineering firm which needs TM software for thousands to cover L&D, compliance and job role alignment for both blue and white collar roles.

But these large implementations almost always these things start small in one of two ways. Either we run a pilot for a limited number of users, or the client has already proved the concept by using competencies to underpin existing procedures (in this case, both were true).

Often they have done this over a period of time, to tackle one or more specific issues (defining job roles, targeting learning and development and improving recruitment are typical examples). Having done this with home-grown systems, they are aware of the potential benefits of a specially designed technology, and go looking for it.

The point is that in both cases the concept of talent management is proved without a big bang solution, because the benefits are made clear to the people whose buy-in is essential: the line managers. Not every line manager in the organisation, but a group of them, perhaps within one specialism, or department. Once they are on board (and their vital input has been included in the implementation), then talent management can spread vertically and horizontally.

I don’t suppose this view is anything new, but it’s always worth remembering it at the beginning of a technology cycle. I still wake up at night in cold sweats remembering the early 2000s Learning Management System hype and crash, which was the epitome of weak logic coupled with executive fiat (always a dangerous combination), resulting in e-books left on shelves and bewildered training managers with empty virtual classrooms.

Talent Management has more going for it than the LMS boom ever did – not least because unlike an LMS, it is possible to start small with competencies and get benefits.

Anyway, I’m not having a go at Dubs. I fully recommend Systematic HR – the quality and output that Dubs achieves is an awesome achievement given that he also has a full time job to attend to. If (as I initially was) you’re cautious of the anonymity of the site (what’s he got to hide? I asked myself) there’s a good reason for it. Dubs’ day job is in the field, and he wants to be able to express himself fully and fairly – which he does. Fair play.

But speaking of fair play, if you read his piece on competencies in purchasing you’ll notice a recurrent American sporting metaphor (baseball), despite my recent plea for globally-friendly writing. Caught you out, Dubs – howzat!


4 responses to “Do competencies need to begin with a big bang?

  1. Donald, how are you?
    I hope you don’t mind, but I tagged you in a meme on goals. If you don’t want to do it, I understand. Its at my blog Murphy’s Law. Best wishes. Ev

  2. Pingback: The Talent Factor in Purchasing « TO’B HR Blog

  3. Hi Ev

    Apologies for the delay in replying – no real excuse beyond an exceptionally busy time at InfoBasis. I will respond to the Goals Meme next week.


  4. Addendum:

    Bobvis has an excellent look at the issue of whether this McKinsey research has been contaminated by the Halo effect. He also points out (and this is a concern of mine, too), that “performance differences may in fact be best practices and not the other way around!”

    For more, visit the blog, which is a laugh and worth a trip anyway:

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