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In search of hidden treasures

27 September 2021

In the ‘war for talent’, all companies must be economical with their in-house staff. Taking stock of the available competencies is the initial step towards a strategic policy of having the necessary knowledge and skills in place to achieve long-term goals.

When times are tough - for example, when a crisis like COVID-19 occurs - companies can be far too quick to cut budgets for personal development or training. And they dismiss employees too quickly. Thereafter, the management team concludes that without specific competencies, it cannot achieve the strategic objectives. In other cases, companies simply cannot find the right profiles and realise that it is much better to give existing employees the opportunity to develop themselves. "A moment of crisis is precisely the right time to provide training and coaching. These efforts are also positive for employee happiness and thus for retention rates”, says Gretel Vlogaert, national manager career & talent development at Randstad RiseSmart.

"Organisations are becoming increasingly aware that attracting new people with scarce profiles is an expensive process. Developing the talents of your own employees is sometimes much cheaper and more efficient. It also increases their job satisfaction and commitment. It is often worth investigating whether there might be existing employees with the necessary growth potential and the 'hunger' to develop specific competencies that will allow them to take on another role or additional tasks within the organisation in the future," says Jo van Bellingen, senior talent & assessment consultant at Randstad RiseSmart.

Translating objectives into HR policy

Jo van Bellingen has noticed that interest in the subject is growing. “More and more organisations are asking us to guide them through this process. An important step is to translate the strategic objectives into concrete, required competencies. It is wise to take the time to do this effectively and carefully define the competency profiles. They must be adapted to the specific situation and future needs of the company. This allows the HR department to clearly define the knowledge and competence the employees need to make the difference for the company."

The key to successful competency management is to make an inventory of the existing competencies. Companies often only start doing this during a crisis moment, when there are sudden increases in absences, retention problems or restructuring. “In these periods it is vital to know which competencies the company will need in the future. In the long term, it is often difficult to predict this in detail, but you usually already know which direction the profile changes will take. Then you must compare your wish-list with the list of competencies the company already has”, says Gretel Vlogaert.

To measure is to know

Assessment centres and development centres are extremely useful tools for taking stock of competency levels. Assessment centres are usually aimed at finding out whether a candidate is suitable for a specific role. Development centres use roughly the same methods but tend to focus on the development of the people involved. On this basis, the experts determine the areas where the participant scores well and where there is still room for improvement. It also maps growth potential as well as personal motives and ambitions. Participants are also offered the opportunity to increase their self-awareness (Who am I? What can I do? What do I want?), consciously reflect on their further ambitions and development, and take responsibility for their own role and task fulfilment in the light of what is needed within the organisation. Jo van Bellingen: “More often than not, organisations already have some data about their employees, such as evaluation reports and the results of performance reviews. Team leaders and other executives may also already be aware of what their employees are capable of. But we must also consider that employees can often do much more than the company realises. Sometimes simply because certain competencies are not needed in their current role. They may also have competencies from their private activities or from previous experience that their employer does not know about. These will be showcased during an assessment. So, together with the client, we go in search of hidden treasures within their organisation. In one case, a company wanted to set up a new department, so we took several employees out of their comfort zone and put them in a development centre where they had to search for solutions in a new environment. Only then do you see what emerges and what the employees are capable of. This also provides opportunities for the employees you already have."

You must first measure the existing situation before making decisions about changing the composition of the workforce. “That is also an important consideration for an ageing labour force. It is important to constantly keep competencies up to date and to ensure your employees’ talents and career goals still align with your organisational goals," says Gretel Vlogaert.


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