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The benefits of competence management are easily lost. We learned this early in our 20-year history of helping clients around the world articulate and implement competence management strategies that get the best from current and future workforces.

For those who are not familiar with competence management, it is the process that makes sure enough competent people are around to deliver what a business needs now, and in years to come. Not just in the workplace, wherever that is, but also down the supply chain and in the boardroom.

Competence management can be a game changer when it is used to inform business policies and strategies, but this is rare. More often than not it is a reactive, not proactive, process owned by HR and populated with requirements written in different ways by different business functions with varying degrees of enthusiasm and success.

In too many instances, the benefits of competence management are lost in the push for compliance with regulations or standards, or it is relegated to serving certain short term objectives. Because of this, it ends up getting lower billing on the executive agenda than it should (“it’s a management problem, let them sort it out”).

As a result, the business loses the opportunities created by having a clear picture of the competences at its disposal and a long term view of how its workforce needs to develop. The price for this is paid when strategies are shown to be fantasies, or where transformation programmes fail to transform anything (except money into thin air or goodwill into mistrust), or where major projects fall short because the workforce cannot deliver them on time or to spec.

Poor competence management is one reason why organisations get left behind and mistakes are made over and over again. Knowledge and skills are overlooked because they are not known or understood, people leave and there is no one ready to replace them, reliance on suppliers grows because the employed workforce is out of step with new demands of the business, its customers or the competition are putting on it. This affects organisational culture – breeding short termism, insularity and risk aversion where good people end up adhering to bad processes or businesses carry on delivering loss making services because that’s what they do.

Compulsory training and licensing are the first experience most front line workers get of the corporate agenda, usually relating to health and safety. If courses are out of date or don’t relate the realities of the workplace or they are delivered badly by unmotivated trainers, a great opportunity to align people with organisation values is lost and the cost of catching up far outweighs the cost of the training.