“You will never get good work out of anyone if you hand over a brief and go, ‘We have no clue what we want, but why don’t you just do it for us.’"
Stefan Olander (@soland), Digital Support division VP of Nike+, may have been referring to the athletic wear company when he uttered this statement, but the sentiment is easily applicable to many areas of business, including talent management. The engineering team believes core competencies are the very tools holding companies back from innovating and that it is their ability to stray from them that led to the successful creation of a product, previously considered outside of their industry or business model. They hold their ability to disrupt at the heart of their achievements.
We agree to disagree.
In fact, in order to break the rules, you need to first know them. We call this building on the basics, and having a foundation of work is very much an important way to further innovate and create.
For example, Netflix’s core competency is considered its content delivery system. It was the first on the market to see an interest in on-demand, cloud-based movies, and television. After becoming a household name, they did not rest on their laurels, and now they have their own productions and exclusive, original content. It wasn’t the first time a company provided original television series, but because Netflix had made a solid foundation based on their core competencies, they were able to enter a market previously unknown to them.
The connection talent acquisition and management professionals need to walk away with here is that competency-based systems give both employees and managers a clear idea of what their company and team can do better than any competitor. When you know what you’re good at and perfect the process and delivery, you have a platform to expand upon. As Olander mentioned, you can’t have a brief idea of what you want and expect people to perform.
Core competency-based talent management allows companies to leverage those unique-to-you competitive advantages at every level of employee development. That includes from the time they are applicants to the day they reach leadership positions. Talent acquisition teams can make more data-driven decisions when using a competency-based recruitment and selection process. There is a clear direction for the interview and the possibility for predictive performance measures as well as a decrease in bias.
Better Talent Management Process
Similar to the recruitment and hiring process, core competencies help managers better predict how employees will perform, either in new roles or during different times of the year. Competencies can provide insight into more efficient and engaging performance reviews or feedback. Once your team has a grasp of organizational core competencies and can comfortably navigate the business and industry using them, how do you inspire innovation?
Innovating with core competencies may seem like an oxymoron to some, but we’re here to tell you it’s possible.
“There is such a fine line between ‘leveraging’ your core competencies, and being held captive by them. Of course, you have to have, or be able to create some kind of right to win in a marketplace. At the same time, you have to be like an entrepreneur that thinks about the opportunity first–and then marshals the capabilities to seize that opportunity.” - Scott Anthony (@ScottDAnthony), Innosight
As Anthony mentions, you must understand capabilities, but once those are grasped, you can more feasibly see opportunities as realistic or not. In business, this would be understanding what the customer truly needs and anticipating that past even their own understanding. In talent management, it’s seeing how your employees react to various situations and anticipating what will need to take place to ensure productivity and satisfaction is the outcome.
There is such a fine line between ‘leveraging’ your core competencies and being held captive by them.
Innovating with Core Competencies
Without knowing the distinct capabilities of a company, it is hard to provide clear-cut ideas of what will actually help a team innovate past the unique core competencies. However, there are some amazing innovation-boosting techniques out there to explore.
- Provide real-time, continuous feedback: Employees need to feel comfortable with their job and performance within the job. If leaders manage performance as it wanes or deliver timely compliments, they can adjust immediately instead of six months down the road.
- Develop realistic goals and expectations: Developing and aligning realistic goals to core competencies with employees will help build an understanding of what is expected over time. Employees who know what it is they are supposed to be doing can push the boundaries in the tasks that support them.
- Make mistakes acceptable: Mistakes aren’t fun, but good ideas are often based on a bad decision or prototype. Give employees the chance to make a few bad decisions and you might both be surprised by the outcome.
Do you need help understanding what sets your company apart from the pack? Check out our comprehensive list of 40+ Data-Driven Metrics for HR to Track.