Tag: purpose objectives goals

Wednesday, June 8th, 2011

Competency Frameworks: A First Step

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I’ve been seeing the phrase “competency frameworks” a lot lately.  I’m glad.  I’ve long been concerned about the disconnect between training content and job performance.  In a quarter decade of business training, I have rarely felt much attention was given to the question: “What do these people need to know to do better in their jobs?”  I often felt that training was designed from the starting point of “here’s what I know so that’s what I’ll teach”.

So, what is a competency framework and how will it improve the effectiveness of training?

Ratings of Exceptional, Exceeds Expectations, Meets Expectations, etc.The HR Dictionary defines competency framework as “the set of duties or tasks performed as part of a job with the standards which should be achieved in these duties”.

OK, so for every training course we design, we need to know:

  • What job are we training for?  In other words, what duties or tasks are we teaching someone how to do?
  • What are the standards that we will measure against?  How will we know if our students have learned enough of the right things to perform those duties?  How will we know our training accomplished this?

In my mind, competencies for education are fairly well-defined and adhered to by a very strict accreditation system.  It is relatively easy to accurately measure students’ understanding of geometry, grammar, or DaVinci’s work.  Education provides foundational knowledge; training is the application of that knowledge in a specific situation.  My brother-in-law (a math whiz) was always amazed at how his grandfather used calculus in his machine working job.  But Granddad didn’t actually know calculus; he knew some rules for machining.  My brother-in-law, with his foundational knowledge, can apply what he knows about math to just about any situation.

The difficulty with business training is that job descriptions (and their related competencies) change frequently.  People in those jobs come from varying backgrounds.  Often, people have to adapt to new job requirements because that’s the best thing for the company.  An example would be that of typists.  There’s no such thing as a typing pool any more.  For awhile, typists were converted to word processors (using machines of the same name).  That transition required an entirely new competency: using a computer.

Businesses try to fill the gap between “knowledge/skill” of workers (old, young, new, tenured) and what they need at that moment, with training.  Not only is it difficult to determine what training is required for that gap, it is even harder to measure if the training is effective.  Sadly, it is even more difficult because often the very people in charge of these efforts are not competent in training design or testing!  I’m hoping that with increased emphasis on it from a software view, there will be some attention to the concept itself.

Much the same as when mapping a process, the people who do the job should be involved in the determination of the necessary competencies.  Mind Tools™ has posted an excellent article on the subject, which includes a step by step guide to get it done.  As they say, it will take a lot of effort; effort by the people who actually know the positions.

The US Army is very good at defining job duties and training to them. Every job, at every classification, has defined skills within the MOS system. (Note: this term varies by branch of service, but the structure is very similar.)  Here is an example for a US Army Corp of Engineers Diver for five skill levels.  Notice how this also includes required scores on fitness and written tests, as well as other requirements.  Those developing the training would start with these requirements, not with what they felt like teaching!

I encourage you to read as much as you can about the concept of competency frameworks (start with this Wikipedia article), browse through the Army’s MOS listings (for ideas on how to structure yours), and do your own Internet searches.  To read more on how competency frameworks are critical to the success of your business, visit my blog for earlier posts (such as this one) on testing in a business environment and this one on Purpose-Objectives-Goals for business training.  Future posts are planned for how Moodle supports competency frameworks through grades, scales, and outcomes.

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Tuesday, August 3rd, 2010

Creating Purpose-Objectives-Goals for a Business Training Course

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In my post on creating course outlines, I wrote that two pages in any course should be the Purpose-Objectives-Goals (POG) page and the Summary page. That sounds simple enough, right? Well, maybe not…

What is the POG for a business training course? Is it the same as it would be for a university course? Does it come from the business case for delivering the training? Is it related to the mission of the business?

Let’s start with some assumptions:

  • Business training differs from academic education (note the different uses of “training” and “education”).
  • Academic education seeks to impart not just information to students, but to equip them to think about new scenarios, to integrate ideas, and to build upon their education as they experience life. This is done through a foundation of knowledge. We don’t simply learn that “2+2=4”, but why it’s so.
  • Business training, while sometimes is for the sole enrichment of employees, is usually targeted to improve a business metric. Or, it is intended to be.

A while back, I wrote a post on assessing the effectiveness of business training. I have observed a huge gap between the intended or desired outcome of business training and what it actually delivers. My “hypothesis” (which I have empirical evidence to support) is that this gap exists because of three things:

  • The lack of proper evaluation of training effectiveness
  • The failure to align training objectives with business objectives
  • The failure to create and deliver training to the objectives, if they had been aligned in the first place

The first item is discussed in the post; the third item is a deeper subject known as instructional design. This post addresses the second item, aligning training objectives with those of the business.

So, how do you align training goals and objectives with the goals and objectives of your business?

  1. First, understand your business goals and objectives. Where are your “problem areas”? What do you want to improve? Where do you want to reduce risk? Some likely business examples:
    • prevent accidents
    • reduce errors
    • improve customer service
    • improve efficiency
    • reduce waste
    • improve communication
    • reduce time to market
    • leverage knowledge
    • protect intellectual property
    • improve work environment (physical)
    • improve quality of work (emotional)
    • increase promotion opportunities
    • increase market share
    • reduce redundancy/confusion from department to department
  2. Second, understand to at least some degree, who in the organization can affect these goals. Your delivery driver might have a strong influence on several goals, but she isn’t going to have anything to do with reducing the time to market of a new product. A RACI chart would be a useful tool for this.
  3. Based on the RACI chart, decide what level of training should be provided to each position in topics aimed at achieving each goal. Bloom’s rose would be a great reference for this.
  4. Determine what those topics, tools, and methods are. You will need to seek the assistance of subject matter experts to accomplish this.
  5. Create a curriculum (map out all of the training).
  6. Write a POG for each course in that curriculum. Please note that the terminology can be highly variable.. I’ve seen many instances where Goals were defined as more general than Objectives. Still others use them interchangeably or use completely different terminology. It doesn’t matter. The important things are that you use the terminology consistently, in a manner that your students understand, and that these three words combine to define the scope of the course.

Purpose (a.k.a. Aim): These statements should be formulated with phrases similar to these: “to provide an overview of…”, “to provide the framework for…”, “an in-depth discussion of…”, “to advance the knowledge from Course 101”, “to apply knowledge to field examples in…”.

While Control Charts have a solid history of use in manufacturing, they are excellent tools for use in monitoring and controlling transactional processes as well. This course demonstrates the construction and use of control charts, providing both scenarios and corresponding example control charts.

(Learning) Objectives: These are essentially from Bloom’s categories (Cognitive domain) and more specific than the purpose of the course. There are usually a few objectives.

1. Explain the purpose and proper use of control charts.
2. Introduce the six basic types of control charts.
3. Provide examples of how control charts can help stop trends and identify potential problems in the processes.

Goals (a.k.a. Learning outcomes): SMART goals directly related to the objectives.

It is important that you leave this course knowing:
1. Which type of control chart is best suited to different situations.
2. How to construct and use a control chart.
3. How control charts fit into larger quality initiatives.

These examples are taken from the SPC 101 course at BeeLearn.com. They are not perfect. Yours probably won’t be, either. But, they are “good enough” to define the scope of the course, set expectations, and to build content around.

The Summary page of every course should tie back to the POG. The course exams and activities should be built in support of the POG. The content should be built to the POG. If you do this, you’ll have created a course that serves a purpose; to make your business stronger by providing training that is aligned with and effective at meeting your goals and objectives.

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