Circle Insights

Competency management: the heartbeat of learning and development in transport and construction

Ollie Watson

Every employer conducts basic checks of their employees. Do they have the requisite qualifications, skills and experiences for the role for which they are being hired? Certificates, references and background research usually satisfy this. Then, to ensure that the person is actually appropriate for the job once they’ve started, a period of probation follows, supported by ongoing assessments at set intervals to keep tabs on their ongoing competence. In the transport and construction industries, however, competency management takes on far greater significance.

Forming part of a robust learning and development programme, competency management is essential to the smooth running of services and projects in these industries. Holding a qualification or a certain amount of experience is one thing, ongoing competence is quite another.

Take train drivers as an example. There are several assessments, exams and accompanied drives that must be completed before a driver is left to complete the task solo. That’s not the end of the process. In such a safety critical environment, with service users onboard as well, it is vital that ongoing competency management is in place. Taking Transport for London (TfL) as an example, they conduct regular assessments of their 4,500 London Underground drivers to ensure that they are fulfilling their role appropriately.

To manage this process, TfL utilises CACI’s Cygnum software. The system is used to schedule assessments, log their results and arrange any follow up activities. This helps TfL to maintain a holistic view of its London Underground drivers and their competencies, maintain service user safety and address any issues that arise.

A robust competency management framework, as part of your learning and development programme, is required to monitor, assess and train employees for their tasks. Having the technology in place to link everything together is essential, which is where systems such as Cygnum come in.

Where a large workforce is present with a vast array of skills, experiences and core competencies, staying on top of monitoring this, understanding it and carrying out regular assessments requires careful coordination.

From having an overview of your workforce, to linking projects to demand management and forecasting present and future projects, technology is assisting large organisations in keeping projects on track, creating efficiencies and managing the workforce. Competency management is a central component of this.

Aside from ensuring that people are fit for purpose, competency management can also help to unlock areas upon which to target workforce training. Regular assessments will reveal patterns; perhaps there is a common area in which assessments are failed, or raise red flags? This enables large organisations to data map their workforce and focus on areas for improvement. If certain tasks are regularly underperformed in, then this can feed into you training programme, helping to get ahead of the issue by highlighting it with the workforce and providing the necessary training to help alleviate the issue.

Competency management further feeds into recruitment. If you have a holistic view of your workforce, its skills, experience and competencies, then you can identify where there are gaps that need filling. This helps to refine the recruitment process by enabling you to focus on specific competencies required for projects and tasks. In larger infrastructure and construction projects, this can be linked to demand management and forecasting, helping you to have full oversight of the resources required in order to complete present and future projects.

Competency management is the backbone of learning and development. It feeds into every area of an organisation’s operations; assigning tasks to the right people, ensuring that the workforce is appropriately skilled for the tasks at hand, informing training programmes and guiding recruitment needs. Where workforce and service user safety and convenience are major considerations, failing to run a robust competency management framework as part of your larger learning and development programme isn’t an option.

Competency management further helps to realise efficiency gains by ensuring that the right people are in the right place at the right time; enabling schedulers and administrators to be able to pinpoint staff to specific tasks quickly and easily makes overarching project management easier and more transparent. A full depth of understanding of your workforce’s competencies is also useful in reassigning staff during times of strain, safe in the knowledge that they are appropriately competent for the tasks being asked of them to keep projects and services running.

We have explored this topic in our recently published white paper which focuses on learning and development, How can organisations enhance their workforce efficiently, in a data led way? It is available to download for free here.

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Ollie Watson