On the face of it, spotting rising talent and improving performance is easy.
Yet for many organizations, this is a complex and elusive quest. Martin Belton thinks some of new business books may have hit upon why.
“Knowing what we don’t know is better than thinking we know what we don’t,” says Philip Tetlock in Superforecasting: The Art and Science of Prediction. This book was first published a couple of years ago. But it is now enjoying a new round of publicity which led me to its contents. This was a timely thought for me while I’ve been working on establishing our new model, the Talent Transformation Pyramid. More on that later because it’s also worth looking at the book’s underlying theme. That is, while most of us are quite poor at forecasting the future, there exists a small merry band who fare so much better than the rest of us. That cohort is far and few between. But statistics show it exists. The book goes on to reveal how these ‘superforecasters’ manage this.
Another popular business press read at present is Malcolm Gladwell’s latest, Talking to Strangers: what we should know about the People we don’t know. Interesting as always, Gladwell points out how bad we are at assessing strangers. In one observation, he cites the case of Judges assessing bail applicants in New York. They believed that face to face assessment was crucial. That was until a young researcher fed bare-bones information about applicants into a computer. It transpired the machine was superior to the judges at spotting re-offenders.
Misleading subjective assessments
I read them one after the other. I imagine that’s why I was struck by the similarities of their premises. The first similarity is hardly a revelation: both say that, when predicting future events, the more objective data you gather, the more chance you have of getting it right. But secondly, and more surprisingly, both point out how misleading subjective assessments can be and just how easy it is to be deceived and deceive oneself.
Going back now to talent and performance measurement, it’s not hard to see how such issues matter. Gathering, applying and managing data for these functions can be onerous. But without it, we're relying on subjective judgments. The Talent Transformation Pyramid model was created to enable us to counteract this. It provides a solid view of what we know, and what we don't know. Designer Eric Shepherd set out to address these issues after hundreds of conversations with professionals in the sector. They revealed the lack of a recognizable model that could pull together all the relevant factors that enable us to identify and grow talent.
12 separate factors
The Talent Transformation Pyramid recognizes as many as 12 separate factors to enable us to do that. It clarifies the relationships between those factors. That enables us to document them within competencies and group them into a competency model. The model helps us describe what is needed to be ready to deliver performance. If we are to create an effective talent and performance system, it is to this kind of detail we must turn.
Of course, the model also admits that it may not always be possible to gather all the data we would wish to. But as Tetlock noted ‘knowing what we don’t know’ can be useful as well. That alone can give us a far stronger platform to evaluate our Talent.
by Eric Shepherd
How we feel, behave, and think can vastly differ from other people in society. And we experience this every single day, even when we are not interacting with them directly. Being highly evolved mammals, we do share a set of personality traits, but other than that, one person is entirely different from the other. Understanding our personalities can be a great exercise towards bettering our lives, but understanding others' can be even more rewarding. Unlocking the psychological mysteries that shape our personalities is not only a fascinating endeavour but also helps us create an understanding and empathetic society. In this article, we attempt to lift the veil slightly and set you on a path of further studies and ponder. We will also focus here on intrinsic personality characteristics. Our behaviors are entwined with so many external factors and variables that it is often challenging to separate one factor from the other. Therefore the study of psychological characteristics can be challenging and rewarding at the same time.
Psychology of Personality
According to psychologists, 'Personality' refers to a set of psychological characteristics or traits that defines how we interact with the world around us. All of us have a distinct yet effective and stable way of responding to external situations and stimuli. While none of us behave the same way all the time, if we observe our behaviors and responses over a long period, specific patterns seem to emerge.
Stable and socially well-adjusted people can change or model their personalities according to the demands of a situation. We exhibit different personas depending on the situation. For instance, our social persona might be different from our work personal. And we will probably exhibit different behaviors when we're stressed.
Despite differences in how we perceive and respond to things, we have certain tendencies in terms of how we view certain events or actions, what motivates us, how to handle different emotions, and how we behave under certain situations. Some of these tendencies are common and shared between virtually all human beings across the globe. But to get a complete picture of your personality, it is paramount to understand those that are part of the basic human nature.
Apart from the common traits, many other characteristics differentiate us. Whether you are a morning or an evening person, your choice when it comes attending a party or staying at home, and whether you are quiet or talkative all contributes to the kind of person you are and how you lead your life. Despite those differences seeming to be inconsequential, their influence creates many significant differences in the lives of individuals, which is why psychologists study the differences in peoples' thoughts, values, preferences, behaviors, actions, and emotions.
To understand someone's behavior, it is critical to understand their psychological traits along with the demand of their situation. Regardless of the situation, our complex set of psychological characteristics always accompany us. These include our belief, traits, thoughts, preferences, values, emotions, and motivations, prime us to respond in specific ways.
Based on the situation, your psychological traits trigger responses; however, your actual behavior will depend upon your level of emotional intelligence. You will act based on the social situation, your role in that situation, other people present, their relationships with you and each other, whether your actions are appropriate or not, in the context of the situation. All this information is factored in before ascertaining whether you will be welcomed or shunned.
Personality psychology focuses on the inner psychological characteristics and mechanisms. Social psychology focuses on the social context and demands behind a behavior. More than the number of variable factors is the fact that most of these are ever-changing. Hence our personalities often take us to new experiences where certain social stimuli prompt a response that we have never encountered before.
Psychology as a Science
Psychology does not snugly fit the conventional notion of scientific disciplines such as chemistry, physics, and biology. One of the primary reasons behind this is the sheer volume of factors psychological researchers must deal with in each study. The science of psychology must deal with the ambiguity of several factors being in play at any given moment. And even when separated, many of them are difficult to measure accurately and study. Unlike chemical compounds that always have the same molecular structures or physical events where the same laws of physics work every time, when psychologists deal with a person, they are working with a complex set of personality traits modeled by years of internal and external influences that cannot be isolated, understood or measured fully.
But that does not immediately diminish psychology as a science. Psychological studies are based on scientific principles where subjects are carefully and systematically studied to arrive at science-based conclusions. Via these studies, we have understood a great deal about human personality mechanisms and the psychological processes that take place inside a human brain. It is now possible to predict how a person would behave under certain predesigned situations. But error rates are significantly higher than other disciplines due to people being vastly different from one another and their thought processes and personalities changing constantly.
Due to these factors, psychological science is fundamentally probabilistic, much like weather forecasting. Meteorologists try to understand a dynamic, ever-changing system that interacts with each other and try to come up with a model to predict the near future events. Via decades of studies and advances, it is more accurate than ever before but still with significant errors.
Influenced by Proportions of Variables
There is an ongoing debate as to the amount of influence each personality factor has on our behaviors. Some psychological researchers claim that the social context or pressure is the primary influence, and others suggest that individual personality traits are at the helm. But the current consensus is that it depends on the situation. For example, imagine a fine dining restaurant. There are social pressures of behaving in a certain way in a restaurant. Hence everyone behaves similarly. On the other hand, on a beach, you see all sorts of people doing different things and interacting differently because the social pressure is less.
How a person responds to a social demand is also a personality trait. Some people are more flexible in adhering to the current social context, while others mostly rely on their personality characteristics to behave in a specific situation.
To identify which factor is more critical in determining our responses, scientists use statistical analysis. In studies called the variability of proportions, scientists take emotion and calculate its variability to determine whether the personality traits or social demands was the cause of that emotion. When we take an emotion like anger, we see some people who seldom get angry and others get angry regularly. This gives us a variability that ranges, let's say from 0 to 100%. Studies have observed that the proportion of variability for emotions such as anger is close to equal for internal and external influencers. This means our behaviors are equally influenced by external social situations and inner personality.
Situational and Personality Factors Work in Conjunction
Situation and personality are more complex. In most cases, one factor can't exist without the other also influencing the outcome. Several studies have observed that people respond differently to the same situational factors eliciting completely different issues. Which means that both situational and personality factors are at play at any given time.
A pertinent study was concerned with teenage delinquency. Two significant factors behind juvenile delinquency are assumed to be growing up in a poor crime-ridden social environment and adolescent impulsiveness. Impulsive teenagers are more prone to commit crimes and kids who grow up in poor neighborhoods littered with criminals. But the study observed that impulsiveness did not factor much in delinquency when it came to more desirable neighborhoods. A more impoverished neighborhood contributed more to delinquency but only in impulsive kids. This is a classic example of personal and social factors working in conjunction because the social stimuli of living in a poor neighborhood affected only the kids with a particular personality trait. Non-impulsive kids did not respond similarly even under similar social pressure. Given the difficulty of isolating one factor from the other scientists must study and consider both influences to paint a clearer picture.
Competency models are frameworks that act as guides for governments, schools, colleges, universities, employers, students, employees, and job seekers. Industry-specific competency models are produced by government agencies and trade groups to provide a starting point for the other stakeholders. Competency models are formulated for different industry sectors, roles, jobs, careers, or job groups. By expressing the specific skills and knowledge requirements of an industry, they create the roadmap for career growth. Organizations then use these industry models to produce their versions of the model. These models help us clearly express the behaviors, capabilities, knowledge, skills, and abilities required for jobs. Job seekers can prepare themselves for their industry of choice by using publicly available competency models. Learning and development content creators can use these models to create relevant training courses. Industry competency models also inform the competencies required for licenses, credentials, and certifications. Employees can upskill to be up-to-date with industry expectations for their role.
As the diagram below shows a competency model brings many uses and benefits.
National and regional government use industry models to inform their policy and funding decisions. Schools, colleges and universities use models to drive curricular and the competencies required to win a credential. As stakeholder Awarding bodies are key. Awarding bodies are also known as test publishers or certification authorities. Awarding bodies use models to define the competencies requires for the certification programs that might be used to documents qualifications and grant credentials.
Competency models underpin critical HR functions such as writing job descriptions, recruiting, interviewing candidates, learning programs, employee development, performance management, selection, promotion, upskilling, certification, and so on.
Finally, individuals use competency models to inform their career choices.
Competency models are dynamic
Competency models are not stagnant management models. Industry and business experts regularly update these models based on economic, business, and technology changes. Competency models must remain current to inform stakeholders. Industry competency models provide governments, and regional economies, insights into trends to develop strategies, policies, and funding to grow the talent pool required for prosperity.
A Competency Model is a collection of defined competencies is known as a competency model. A competency describes what an individual should know and do to perform a specific role or a task. These are used to define one or more job roles within an industry or a particular organization.
Behaviors vs. Capabilities
There are two broad categories of competencies; behaviors define how an individual should behave, and capabilities represent what an individual should know or be able to do.
The actual number of behavioral competencies referenced with a competency model varies from organization to organization but is in the order of 4 to 15.
Capabilities define knowledge, skills, and abilities that an individual must be able to use to complete a task successfully. Sometimes granular levels of details define capabilities, and in some models, only high-level definitions are documented. The number of capabilities referenced with a competency model can range from tens to hundreds.
Competencies serve as a standard and define how to assess and measure performance via differentiating levels such as “Needs Improvement or Support”, “Meets Expectation”, and “Exceeds Expectation.” A good competency definition includes:
Competence describes an individual’s ability to perform a specific role or a task successfully within a predefined workplace setting.
Defining a Behavioral Competency
While a competency definition may assume many forms, they always have some shared elements such as the “Competency Name” and “Competency Definition.” For example, a behavioral competency:
Each competency will have a list of desired behaviors outlining the desired abilities and assessment criteria. For example, the desired list of activities for teamwork might be:
Some competency models also contain information regarding the level of mastery required at different organizational and occupational standards. They inform the abilities to be demonstrated to achieve each level of competence. Such information helps create learning and development content and performance measurement. A competency definition typically contains the standards which are used to measure “Needs Support”, “Meets Expectation” and “Exceeds Expectation” performances.
Defining a Capability Competency
A capability competence establishes the knowledge, skills, and abilities to perform a task. Just as with a behavioral competency, these competency definitions also have a “Competency Name” and “Competency Definition.” For example, a capability competency:
For this capability, a list of tasks would be specified; for example:
A capability competency definition will typically contain the levels which are used to measure “Needs Support”, “Meets Expectation” and “Exceeds Expectation” performances. In this example, the individual’s actual performance might be determined by a supervisor or by using virtual reality.
Effective and Targeted Learning
Competency definitions often specify the learning needs of a person who is currently below the expected performance level. By following the learning guidelines laid out by a competency, an individual can access targeted learning opportunity which allows him to upgrade himself to above expectation or meets expectation performance levels.
Competency Models and Upskilling
Individuals today must continuously upgrade their skills, adapt to, and learn to stay relevant in the job market and provide the necessary skills organizations need to remain in operation. This constant need for improvement is driven by competition at the global level, massive technological changes, and the need for environment-friendly and sustainable solutions. These factors affect the economy directly, and businesses are supporting these trends.
Under such a climate, employers, the government, and the education system are motivated to come together to perform the following critical functions:
Of course, these responsibilities go hand in hand where one cannot be achieved without the other. Unless someone documents and publishes the skillset and aptitude necessary for high-skill positions, educators would not be able to create curricula and guidance systems to prepare potential workers. Competency models provide the framework for this documentation. Business and industry experts come together to develop comprehensive industry competency models. These models document in great detail the desired skillset for crucial economic sectors and emerging high-growth industries.
When properly formulated, these industry competency models serve as reference frameworks that provide the interconnectedness between governments, academia, employers, and individuals. These models allow employers to define clear job descriptions and describe the topics for upskilling. They help prepare curricula, guidelines, and assessments required to measure the behaviors and capabilities required to perform the tasks of the job. By providing information on the desired credentials and licenses needed to fulfill the competencies, the models offer a clear pathway for career progression and growth.
Our perception of work has gone through a quantum shift in the last couple of years. This is partly due to the introduction of new technologies such as machine learning, AI, drones, automation, robotic processes, autonomous vehicles, and so on. These new paradigms have been driving significant changes across industries. Experts estimate that within in the decade, the traditional notion of work will be completely transformed.
No one knows what our work will look like in the future, but by studying changes today, we can probably develop some excellent ideas. We are experiencing a significant transition. Such transitions bring about tremendous uncertainty in terms of job security, availability, and requirements. Experts weigh in on both sides of the equation. Experts weigh in on both sides of the equation. Some despise the changes due to the potential tsunami of unemployment and the stress it might put on society. Others welcome this transition predicting a future where machines will fulfill our basic needs.
Whether we like it or not, the transformation has already begun, and it is here to stay. At this point, no one can correctly predict what the future holds. But it is certainly interesting to observe the changes we are already experiencing. A closer look at them might reveal how the future of work will shape up to be.
Humans and Machines Working Together
Close to 45% of the jobs performed by humans today can be fully automated. In some industries, such automation has already started. The emergence of these trends makes employees insecure about their jobs. The situation is comparable to the wide adoption of computers. Employees across the planet were sceptical that the introduction of computer and internet would make them redundant. But the adoption of computers created a whole new set of roles that did not exist before. Jobs that require employees to interact with the computers, fix them, program them, and ensure the tasks are performed correctly. Not to mention the thousands of jobs created in the network engineering industry to keep the internet secure and up and running.
We are watching the same scenario unfold again. Despite 45% of the workforce feeling that their jobs could be at risk, the adoption of AI, machine learning, and automation will require skilled employees to interact and communicate with these technologies. Recent studies paint a clearer picture. Despite there being more automation than ever before, there are close to 7 million well-paying jobs in the US alone that employers are finding it difficult to fill. The real reason behind the current talent crunch is a skill-gap that is being caused by organizations engaging in digital transformations.
As technology progresses, organizations need more and more individuals to fill mid and high-skill roles. To fill these roles, employees must be conversant with big data, OLAP, ML, AI, automation scripting, robot deployment, drone piloting, and other high-tech skills. Exposure towards STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) subjects is necessary to achieve these skills. But the participation of American students in these high-tech and engineering courses has been dwindling for years.
Some organizations have already identified the challenges and are taking corrective steps. Amazon, for example, is investing close to US$700 million to upskill a third of its low-wage US workforce. As these 100,000 employees are brought up to speed to work with the latest technologies, we expect other companies will organize similar initiatives.
Just as with previous industrial revolutions, the introduction of new and sophisticated technologies does not necessarily strip way jobs. Instead, it creates opportunities that were not possible before. One possibility is for humans to be more human. And for machines to take on the dirty, dangerous, dull, repetitive, demeaning, disliked, detestable and physically tough tasks.
In this day and age, a modern job seeker needs to have skills that allow them to co-exist and collaborate with machines. But if the current trend is a marker, we can see the skill gap widening for a good part of the next decade.
The only solution is for governments, companies, and educational institutes to adapt to the changing times. Governments to create environments to incubate the talents required for the future. Education to teach cutting-edge and cross-cutting skills as are necessary for this new age. Companies will have to share the burden of and preparing their workforces for the technology they have to master.
The Freelance Work Culture
While freelance consultants working from gig to gig have been a part of the economy for many decades, this work model has seen a significant uptick in the current years. Studies show that 75% of the millennials now prefer the work-by-project model instead of a steady job with an organization. This is a considerable change in terms of the workforce, economy, and current job market.
Some experts have expressed their concerns over this model since a gig-by-gig career cannot guarantee job security or sustained income. The solution is for gig workers to recognize the skills they need and upskill themselves. With a better and updated skillset, gig workers can win high-skill projects that would otherwise be impossible to secure. This not only translates to better pay for the worker but also allows employers to find the right candidate for challenging to fill positions.
Gig platforms that accommodate employers and employees can detect skill shortages and upskill their members to benefit from emerging opportunities. They provide learning opportunities to their members and monitor their progress via assessments. This allows better opportunities for the worker, high-skilled employees for the employers, and build commissions for the platforms. By introducing training programs, we can create a win-win scenario where everyone gets what they want and deserve.
Embrace, not Resist
The changes to working as we know it is here, and it is inevitable. Introduction of new technologies and growth of the gig economy poses challenges, but there are benefits to be derived if we overcome them. History has taught us that industrial revolutions take away tasks and jobs, but it creates far more opportunities to take their place. It is up to us to embrace the changes and choose to adapt to this fast-changing work environment. What the future holds, we don’t know for sure. But it sure helps to stay prepared.
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