Competency assessments come in many different shapes and sizes based on a number of different factors including, industry, employer, position, and skill set. The specific shape these assessments take will depend largely on the industry. Since we are concerned with technology and app development, when we explore competency assessments, we will do so through the software development lens.
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- Competency Assessment Defined
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Let’s learn more about what competency assessments are, why they are important to organizations, and the most effective way to use these assessments to maximize team performance.
What is a Competency Assessment?
On the most basic level, a competency assessment is a test or a skills evaluation to determine a person’s proficiency and skill in a particular subject area. When it comes to mobile app and web development, these assessments seek to gauge a person’s technical abilities with code, app design, etc.
You might think that competency-based assessments only focus on “hard skills,” like some of the technical abilities we have already mentioned, such as code proficiency, skill in app design, etc. While “hard skills” like technical abilities are important, competency assessments can be used for more in-depth evaluations of a person’s “soft skills” as well.
The term “soft skills” is used to refer to a person’s other attributes outside of the technical tasks at hand. These skills include things such as, ability to work well with others, communication skills, etc. When building a high-functioning team, it is often the “soft skills” that are most important in evaluation.
You might be thinking that competency assessments are only used as a tool for hiring new employees, and while competency is a big part of the interview process, competency assessments are most valuable when done on current employees and teams.
Technology and best practices for building apps, websites, and other digital assets are constantly evolving as advancements are made. Your organization cannot afford to ignore the skill level of your development teams and employees. Competency assessments are an effective tool that can highlight a development team’s current skill level and areas that can be improved or enhanced, also known as skill gaps.
Competency assessments not only help organizations highlight important skill gaps, but they also help them decide whether they are better suited by hiring a new employee to fill that skill gap or developing the skills of their current team.
Competency assessments play an important role in developing and maintaining a well-rounded software development team. They are also important evaluation tools to use during the hiring process to make sure a candidate is a good fit both skill-wise and culturally.
The Importance of Competency Assessments
Competency assessments are an important part of modern software development. Organizations and project management teams that are not utilizing these evaluation tools are missing out on several opportunities. There are several reasons why your organization should be conducting competency assessments, including:
- Inventory skills
- Identify skill gaps
- Create more effective training programs
- Create individual career paths
- Save money on recruiting costs
No matter what your business is, you need to have a clear understanding of the skills and abilities your employees have. You will not be able to make strategic business decisions if you do not possess an accurate understanding of the skills within your organization.
In the software development industry, competency assessments become even more important because there is a wide range of skills on the market and certain projects require certain technical skills. For example, if you have a potential customer whose project requires expertise in Python or Ruby on Rails, you need to know if your development team is proficient in these technologies before you commit to the project.
Likewise, if you recognize that there are a lot of opportunities for a certain type of development, such as building native iOS apps, you need to know how proficient your development team is with Swift, if your team can learn Swift, or if you need to hire new developers to meet this rising demand.
Identify Skill Gaps
Identifying skill gaps builds on taking inventory of your employee’s skills. You cannot begin to pinpoint the skills that your team lacks until you understand which skills they possess. This information will be a big help in determining the best path forward in terms of training, hiring, and internal promotion.
One of the biggest things overlooked in the importance of competency assessments is the value of assessing “soft skills.” “Soft skills” are typically harder to quantify and assess than “hard skills,” but an accurate assessment of these skills and the gaps present will play an important role in your organization’s future success.
For example, let’s say that you need to choose between two or more employees for a promotion to product design manager. While all candidates may possess the necessary technical skills for the role, a competency assessment might identify which candidates lack the necessary communication and time management skills to be the most effective choice for the role.
Create More Effective Training Programs
Identifying skill gaps in individual employees also gives your organization the ability to create better, more targeted training programs for your employees. When your organization lacks the insights provided by competency assessments, you end up sending all employees to the same training sessions even if some or most of them are already knowledgeable on the subject.
Not only is this a waste of your training resources, but it is also a waste of your employee’s time. This could be keeping them from working on important projects or doing other training programs that actually cover skills that they don’t already possess.
By utilizing competency assessments, you get two benefits. One, you send employees to training that actually targets their skill gaps. Two, if you perform ongoing competency assessments, you will see how effective your training programs are.
Create Individual Career Paths
Understanding the skills of your employees will help your organization create career paths to keep them motivated and engaged with the organization. This helps keep morale high, and it also helps you create and plan career development plans and paths for new hires too.
These things all contribute to establishing a positive and attractive employer brand. In the technology sector, there is a lot of competition for highly skilled employees, so having a positive reputation for aiding career development and growth can be a big advantage when it comes to attracting top talent and innovating.
Save Money on Recruiting Costs
By identifying skills gaps and providing more training opportunities aimed at filling those gaps, you actually help your organization save money on recruiting and hiring a new employee. It is far more cost-effective to fill skills gaps from within your organization through training than it is to hire a new employee.
The Best Ways to Perform Competency Assessments
Constantly testing your employees might lower morale and make them feel inadequate or simply not trusted. We know that competency assessments are a major benefit for businesses, but how do you go about doing them in a way that doesn’t upset your employees? While there are many ways to go about performing competency assessments, here are two methods that are easy and non-intrusive:
- Career meetings
One good way to gauge your team’s skill and skill gaps is to ask them to perform self-assessments. This forum will give them the opportunity to examine the skills they have, the skills they would like to have, and which skills are necessary for their jobs.
One concern you have to weigh is that people could be less than honest when it comes to evaluating their own skills and performance. However, if you cultivate a culture of learning and improvement, you can mitigate most of this issue.
Self-assessments are far less intrusive than being tested or even told what skills you do or don’t possess.
Perhaps a more sincere method of performing a self-assessment is to have career meetings with your employees. Give them the opportunity to talk about their career goals, personal goals, desired skills, etc.
Many employers perform these kinds of assessments during the interview process, but they are seldom conducted after hire. These types of meetings not only give your organization a clear idea of the skills your employees have and want, but they also show your employees that the organization is buying into their success too.
Competency assessments play an important role in all industries but especially in the technology development sector. Even the most successful HiTech organizations can benefit from regularly performing these assessments.