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QEM Solutions have been assisting Cadent Gas with the implementation of our Mineral Blue and isCompliant software. By developing a bespoke connection between the two suites, QEM were able to establish a streamlined process for gathering project milestone achievements. Balancing these achievements with audit and inspection results have enabled Cadent to to get a true measure of project success.

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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.

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01 May 2019

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 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. 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 are the ‘soft’ skills like leadership, initiative, clear-headedness in a crisis, and so on.

The need for competency evaluation

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 happy too.

How we’ve made it easier

At QEM, we’ve created a system to manage employee competency. It’s called mySkills: a system where workers save and share their work certificates and professional qualifications. 

Using mySkills, workers upload their certificates which can then be verified by employers. Those certificates can then be shared online and by email as workers move from role to role, wherever they are in the world. Significantly, mySkills delegates the task of certificate data entry to individual workers, simplifying the task of worker certification, and engaging workers in their own career certification and CPD.

In the back-office system, certificate types are then associated with work, and workers lacking verified certificates can’t be assigned to that work. If their certificate expires, the system advises stakeholders by email and SMS.

This means you can now manage your competency process. Simply allocate minimum and preferred competencies to a role or a project and then allocate an individual to that role or project. Our system will automatically use the data within mySkills to highlight gaps or areas of high risk.  

One step further?

And if you want to go further, our business management software isCompliant – which can help ease your journey to ISO certification – has a Competency section that fits snugly into the Training area of the Employees module in isCompliant, beside all of your employees’ certifications, qualifications, training, appraisals and personal objectives information. So you have all the evidence on hand to make fast, informed decisions about new roles when the need arises.

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 of well-managed competencies? A satisfied client, and employees who know exactly what they are doing.

So, while beauty, truth, and contact lenses may 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 QEM hadn’t got on the case yet.