Getting to the Roots of Failed Competency Assessments

Getting to the Roots of Failed Competency Assessments
January 29, 2014 seouser

When competency assessments are not getting every employee an adequate pass, you know that it is time to look at what causes a failed result. In many cases, the answer may not be what you assume, and your consequent planned actions may not be the right ones either. At the risk of over-simplification and generalisation, two of the most typical root causes for failed assessments are a lack of skill or a lack of will. In other words, the employee in question should display the willingness to succeed, and/or the technical ability to succeed. Some employees have both, and those are seldom going to give you much cause for concern. Those who lack one or the other (or both) are the employees you need to be watching however, as it is those employees who pose the most risk of failure.

Failed Competency Assessments – Lack of Skill or Lack of Will?

To demonstrate how each of these factors influences success or the lack thereof, here are some pointers to keep in mind…

If Skill is Lacking…Skill is the technical ability to perform tasks and responsibilities. Those who have motivation but not skill can benefit from training, additional support and resources.

  • Determine which skills are lacking. If there is not a huge skills gap, could training improve performance results? Is there enough aptitude to invest in training? If there is value in training, sufficient motivation can help to improve performance.
  • Set a progress deadline and goals. This should be realistic and incorporate all the steps required to improve skills.
  • Determine a ‘point of no return’ progress status. This will indicate the point at which results are not forthcoming or satisfactory enough for the employee to continue in their current role. Termination should be a final resort however – if there is no progress after a reasonable amount of time and nothing more can be done; then it may be time to consider this as a last option.

If will is lacking…Will is the motivation and attitude that powers employees onward, regardless of their skill level. Those who have skill but not motivation may likely have attitude issues, distractions or a history of noncompliance.

  • Reasons for flailing motivation are varied. These could include frustration, tiredness depression, boredom, stress or even a shortened attention span. Consider psychological, incentive and other motivation strategies as ways of changing current attitudes to positive behaviours.
  • Determine the best way to open communication lines. Depending on the causes of decreased motivation, which may even be external and not related to work at all, approaching employees to discuss their attitude can be daunting. Approach carefully and keep the discussions focused on behaviours to minimise potential defensive or further stress.
  • Set a point of no return status on attitude progress. From there, you can set the rest of your employee’s goals for improving their motivation. If no results have been achieved within the deadline, you can determine the best course of action. Again, termination is a last resort when nothing else works.

Of course, there are many other reasons that employees may not do well during competency assessments. A simple bad day can cause poor results if attention is not focused. Health issues, learning gaps, inter-personal relationship issues with co-workers and even personality clashes all have their place in bad results too. But sometimes, taking a step back and simplifying things into skill versus will can go a long way in streamlining your employee competency testing strategies, thereby making the process far more effective all round.