UK & Ireland Featured Project: NGN - Design Management

QEM Solutions are assisting NGN with Design Co-ordination activities, to ensure successful project initiation and design management of all current NGN projects.

Tell Me More...
Overseas Featured Project: Capita Symonds - Valve Inspections

QEM Solutions were contracted to carry 3rd party inspection and witnessing activities on a series of valves fabricated in Germany for a series of SGN contracts throughout Scotland.

Tell Me More...
We are QEM Solutions We are QEM Solutions

We are problem solvers. We are organisers. From the project start-up to the very final evaluations and analysis, we can bring enthusiasm to each and every part of your project.

We are problem solvers. We are organisers. From the project start-up to the very final evaluations and analysis, we can bring enthusiasm to each and every part of your project.

News

Back to News
15 Nov 2016

How long is a piece of string? Competence in the workplace

"Competence, like truth, beauty, and contact lenses, is in the eye of the beholder."

So said Laurence J Peter, a high-profile Canadian educator, perhaps best known for his management theory, the ‘Peter Principle’, published in 1969. This theory proposes that candidates tend to be selected on how well they’re doing in their current role, rather than how well they’re able to deliver an intended one. In his eyes, we only stop promoting people when they’re clearly no longer performing effectively. In other words, because we’ve little way of measuring competence in a future role, employees will naturally ‘rise to the level of their incompetence’. 

 

So why does this happen?

It’s partly because ‘competence’ is a hazy concept, and (some would say) a subjective one, hence Peter’s fairly damning quote above. The HSE describe competence this way: “the combination of training, skills, experience and knowledge that a person has, and their ability to apply them to perform a task safely. Other factors, such as attitude and physical ability, can also affect someone’s competence.”

So, it’s clear that competence has two broad categories: technical and behavioural, with every person’s working life combining bits of both. On the one hand, technical competencies are easily measured or verified by qualifications gained, certification, and the proven ability to use certain machinery or software. Behavioural competencies, on the other hand, are less easy to measure. These are the ‘soft’ skills like leadership, initiative, clear-headedness in a crisis, and so on. How do you measure those?

Many engineering firms now require that all contractors – on top of providing training and qualification records – evaluate the competency of all their staff. That’s a big ask, when competency seems like such a subjective asset. But, if done well, identifying required competencies for every role your people do can give employees a clear road-map of what’s expected of them, and an understanding of which of their talents are most valued. There’s merit in getting it right – not just to satisfy your client, but to keep staff motivated and happy too. 

So, how to measure and manage the competencies you require, alongside the portfolio of competencies that all of your people have?

After all, with so many of them related to personal attributes, they’re pretty hard to pin down and prove. Or are they? 

isCompliant has spotted how tough it can be to measure competency, and to ensure that every person is right for the job they’re about to do. In response, they've built a Competency section that fits snugly into the Training area of the Employees module in isCompliant. Here, your people’s competencies can be allocated to job roles and – crucially – an employee can be evaluated against a proposed role too. So, you’ll avoid promoting any staff ‘to the level of their incompetence’. That’s good news for everyone.  

The result? A satisfied client, and employees who know exactly what they are doing. And because this competency section sits within Training, and beside all of your employees’ certifications, qualifications, training, appraisals and personal objectives information, you have all the evidence on hand to make fast, informed decisions about any other new roles when the need arises.

So, while beauty, truth, and contact lenses may very well be in the eye of the beholder, we’d be inclined to disagree with the late Mr Peter on competency being so, too. It’s just that isCompliant hadn’t been invented yet.