Connectingthe dotsbetween hr &technology


Supporting Fast Expansion through Competence Management

27 September 2022

Umicore and Flexso teamed up to co-create and embed a Competency Matrix in Umicore’s HR software suite. This solution gives a clear overview of current competencies in the organisation and helps us close any gaps. Apart from ensuring a safe working environment, this solution enables Umicore to speed and scale up manufacturing activities.

Umicore is the leading circular materials technology group. We met up with Mark Dolfyn, HR Director of Umicore’s Rechargeable Battery Materials (RBM) business unit, Bruno Meganck of their corporate HR Department and Bart Van Hove of Flexso, Competence Lead and Solution Designer of the Competence Matrix.

Mark, Umicore is a large company. What triggered the need for a solution that harmonised onboarding and competence management for multiple plants?

Mark: “Our business unit is facing expansion at incredible speed due to the electrical vehicles market (EV) boom. To keep up with that pace, we are scaling up our production lines. Our global customers demand high-quality products that meet the most stringent standards.

We must be able to deliver the same quality of products in all our plants. So staff skills and production methods must also be the same around the world. If we roll out an effectivecompetence management system for one plant, we can apply it in the other plants at a pace that supports success.”

So such a system is key to future-proof careers within the business unit?

 Mark: “The first and utmost priority is making sure everyone can do the job he or she does today. Quality of the product and safety on the floor are the most important reasons why you need people with the right qualifications, certificates and training. It’s also important to guarantee that you can comply with official industrial standards. Secondly, the tool helps us and our employees see the gap between the competencies they already have and the ones they need if they want to evolve to a new role. It’s not rocket science, but it’s a great way to visualise situations, to keep the overview, connect the dots, to track and document learning.”

It’s not rocket science. It’s a good way to visualise an overview, to track and document competences. It allows fast replication across plants. That is what we need

Bruno: “The need for a more holistic way of managing competencies was indeed not new. We’ve been tinkering with it in our own way on SharePoint or with Excel files. But soon or later you encounter limits. That’s why we explored the market. It was imperative that we found something that not only met our requirements but could also be integrated with our SAP SuccessFactors environment. That’s why we chose Flexso.”

Triple win philosophy

You co-created the solution. What does that mean?

Bart: “We had an existing solution, an extension to SuccessFactors that we commercialise. We created it together with the initial client in 2019 and with the requirements they had. Each time we enhance or broaden the product to meet new requirements, all the clients benefit because we have the SaaS model and ongoing releases. We call this our ‘triple-win’ philosophy’.”

Bruno: “We also had our own requirements and some ideas we threw at Bart and his team. From day one they helped us refine the requirements to make them more generic while still meeting our needs. The final product fits Umicore, but it remains a solution other customers can benefit from. And at Umicore, it is our go-to application for Competence Management in our Umicore  product portfolio . We are becoming experts in using the tool together with our BUs and starting with the RBM BU.”

Objective grounds for dialogue

The Competency Matrix allows managers and HR professionals to create overview and analysis dashboards across a range of competencies, roles, training and other data. But it also includes an individual view, where each employee can see his or her own competence portfolio. Does it make them more aware of their career tracks, we wonder?

Mark: “Certainly. It’s a great starting point for the dialogues our supervisors have with team members a couple of times a year. They discuss training priorities and competence evolution together. But for instance in Asia, where hierarchic relations may hamper open dialogue, the tool provides the needed objectivation to get the dialogue going. It lowers thresholds.”

Does it also provide a helicopter view to analyse competence mixes on a team or plant scale?

 Mark: “Yes. For instance, the new plants we’re starting up now in Poland will start small but expand many times. The Competency Matrix allows us to see how we have to blend in existing competencies and experienced workers into new teams.”

To conclude, gentlemen, how do the three of you see the mutual future of HR and Tech? More proactive talent management?

Mark: “Attempts have been made in the past to link up competence catalogues with talent management. But the right technology was lacking. I am happy with this approach: start with current competence needs and move forward from there.”

Bart: “I see potential in AI to better support competence management. It can help organisations lower the effort for skill detection, mapping, and analysis.”

Bruno: “We are looking into that. We still have a lot of work to do. (laughs)

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