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saad Ajeel



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Assessing competencies


 To all those who know ,I do have a burning question .Please help me if you can .

I came to know that when assessing  sof skill competenies such as communication,,problem solving ,dealing with change ...etc , we need not put a rating based on our personal  observation. It is said that such rating is likely to be subjective .

Instead ,there are others who suggest that to assess a competency ,you need to define its elements and to arrive to an objective assessment you tick these elements if you observe them . For example  if there are 6 elements  in that  competency and you  observed and ticked three only .then that competency is at the average level .

Would you please indicate  to me website or other sources where this practice is explained  and clearly  demonstrated  for the majority of soft skill competencies .

2 Responses

  1. Heres what I think

    Soft Skill competencies are inherently difficult to assess due to the nature of the things that need to be observed not being a simple Yes/No or black and white situation. The suggestion that any competency could be objectively assessed by simply ticking a checklist is an appalling approach as it still leaves a level of subjectivity being: I observed that skill/behaviour and it was satisfactory. The observation of the action/behaviour is objective, but the determination that it was satisfactory is subjective. I don’t think there is any way to get away from some element of subjectivity in any assessment that requires some form of observation.

    Take the example of a child bowling a cricket ball, we could easily use a checklist to indicate that they are able to bowl the ball, but there are other factors, such as how far, how fast, was it a legal bowl etc. You say that we need to define the elements of the assessment so that it becomes objective, this cannot be done because of the variances in the desired outcome, at some point the decision needs to be made that they can bowl the ball well or badly and all those things require some level of subjectivity.

    Referring back to one of your examples, problem solving: we could objectively observe the correct use of some tools, but there is a whole area of subjectivity around whether the starting point was right, the level of group participation, was the solution workable etc. determining those things requires a subjective assessment to be made by the person making the observation and will most likely be based on their knowledge and experience and therefore, may differ next time it’s done by a different observer.

    As for your other example where you mention ticking 3 of 6 elements would deem the competency at an average level, I would argue that 3 of 6 is not competent at all (but getting there). Use the example of driving a car, I wouldn’t consider someone an average driver if the element of braking was not achieved, in fact you wouldn’t allow this person on the road. They must be competent in all elements of the task to be competent with the task. Anything less is a degrading of skills.

    One of your examples mentions dealing with change, is a person able to deal with change if they merely understand the change cycle, I say no, there has to be some observed behavioural change, acceptance etc. Unless they demonstrate a level of competency in all those things, can the person actually deal with change?

    I guess what I’m getting at is that the ‘Others’ you mention are off track and on a dangerous path if they think they can produce a tick and flick checklist that has no level of subjectivity and particularly if they think that achieving 3 of the 6 elements is OK.

    Heres a link to a bit of a lengthy paper that might be of assistance. It doesnt necessarily reflect my views above, but it may give you some insight.

  2. Behaviours

    For me the answer to this question relates to a number of other issues which must be resolved first:

    1. What is the issue/s in the workplace that has led the organisation to believe that training of one form or another is necessary? How has the need been identified? Is there a clear performance gap, are the individuals failing to deliver or reach a particular level of productivity in the work they perform? How do we know? What have we observed?

    2. Is that performance gap important to the business? If it is, does the shortfall relate to an absence of knowledge or skill in the individuals concerned? If it does what are the requisite skills? To define this we can compare or contrast performance and behaviour with good or high performing staff. We then isolate what the latter does that the former does not. Now we start to identify specific behaviours and actions which correlate with successful performance or competence.

    At this stage, the ‘soft skills’ are not quite as ‘soft’ as they may have initially appeared. Problem solving can be defined (not always) as a process of actions and behaviours which can lead to effective solutions. Some manufacturing industries have successfully implemented process and systems which help stream and focus behaviours which can sometimes be termed ‘soft skills’ but you won’t find it called a ‘soft skill’ on the factory floor.

    When we begin to isolate particular behaviours which constitute and form part of a soft skill we can now begin to develop those behaviours, train them and observe them in class room exercises and tasks. The trainer if they have designed sufficiently robust training package can say with some confidence that the individuals concerned have been observed to practise and demonstrate the requisite behaviours.

    One of the things I teach are presentation skills, this is a rich blend of soft and hard skills. Part of the initial development process is to identify what these skills are, then help people explore them, develop them and practise them. My assessment looks at a range of core or essential behaviour factors which if the learner and I have been successful means that both of us can be fairly confident that they could return to the workplace and deliver good work. But I think we also need to remember that competence is not the isolation and practise of single behaviours but the orchestration and integration of a whole range of them. So behaviours have to be practised in an harmonious relationship. Sometimes absence of competence is not due to absence of behaviour but rather poor amalgamation and streaming of those behaviours.

    Practise and application in the workplace of these behaviours is what competence is. Being assertive in a role play indicates that a person can utilise and demonstrate the appropriate behaviours. Competence can only be deemed to have been achieved when they go back and apply the skills in the workplace successfully.  If you want a grading system class room based performance you might use a 3 level strategy:

    1 = Some essential behaviours demonstrated but significant development required.

    2 = All essential behaviours demonstrated requiring only minor levels of improvement.

    3 = All essential behaviours demonstrated indicating an acceptable level of attainment.

    I haven’t got much free time at the moment to invest in the forum so I have just typed this off without any checking or re-writing so forgive any errors or ambiguity.


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