Selling Competencies to Your CEO

Andy Andrews

“We’ve got enough on our hands trying to do the day job without have to do this as well!” A comment often heard from the executive team, from managers and employees alike in response to a request for participation in a competency profiling or assessment program. That’s if you haven’t done your job properly and explained to them why they should feel good about supporting the initiative in the first place.

One of the critical success factors of any competency related project is helping every sponsor, stakeholder or participant to understand how they will benefit from the project, and this engagement starts from the top.

The CEO and the executive team are interested in business performance. Since competencies are often defined as the skills, knowledge, attributes and motives that define excellent performance, the route to reason is not a long one. The performance of the business is directly related to the competencies of its constituent teams, managers and employees. Not only does this relate to the degree of performance, but also to the alignment of performance with business strategy, which is one of the stated aims of building and deploying a competency model.

For example, consider the performance of the sales force within the organization; the link between the performance of the sales force and the organization’s bottom line is a very obvious one. By profiling the competencies of a high performing sales person and then using these competencies as a benchmark you can identify the gaps of other job incumbents, identify learning interventions to bridge the gaps, improve your recruitment criteria and so on. If this leads to a 10% improvement in sales performance consider the impact it will have on your P & L? What about a 20 or 30% improvement?

Another area of keen interest to the executive team is simply having the reassurance that its workforce has the capability to continue to operate, despite unexpected departures. Which competencies are critical to the smooth running of the organization? Which ones are at risk and how would the organization most effectively bridge them if the unexpected occurred? How is it possible to answer any of these questions successfully if the competencies of the workforce have not been measured in the first place? This is something that only an effective competency management program can achieve.

Increasingly, compliance is becoming an issue for many organizations. What is the relationship between compliance and competency management? In line with compliance, competencies have a knowledge and skills component. The compliance issue is not necessarily because an organization is not compliant, but it needs to able to prove that compliance requirements have been met. Why is this of interest to the CEO? Put in simple terms, not being able to prove compliance can bring financial penalties and also operational ones – in some industries this can literally translate to shutting down a part of the business. In addition, the adverse publicity a non-compliance notice can bring can have a damaging effect on the business and ultimately impact your bottom line. On the other hand, a well-defined competency assessment initiative can be used to prove that employee related compliance requirements have been met.

The list of compelling reasons for competency management has by no means been exhausted in this blog post and the order of priority given to each one will vary from organization to organization. Importantly, the closer the reasons you provide for competency management are to the bottom line, the more likely you are to sell competencies to your CEO and to your executive team.

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