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What names could be used for 3 levels of competency for new employees eg beginner, intermediate


My company has begun to scope out a new project to improve employee retention and our focus is on employees first 18 mths with our company. We have devised 3 core and technical competency levels which each employee will work towards but what we don't have is an appropriate name for each cometency level eg beginner. We are a global recruitment company with a sharp edge in the market and this should reflect the language we use. Any suggestions?
Joe Derby

7 Responses

  1. Benner’s scale from novice to expert
    The terms used by Benner to denote the earlier stages of competency (stages 1 to 3) may be worth considering.

    Stage 1: Novice

    * Performance is guided by rules and objectives
    * Lacks a strategy for practice
    * Whole situation is not understood
    * No experience of the situation
    * Inability to discuss reasons for practice

    Stage 2: Advanced beginner

    * Has prior experience of the situation
    * Can identify overall important aspects of a situation
    * Unable to sort out priorities in a situation
    * Compares, contrasts and discriminates aspects of the situation
    * Beginning to develop a strategy for practice

    Stage 3: Competent

    * Has a long-range view of practice
    * Develops a strategy for practice
    * Practice informed by analysis and problems solving
    * Identifies own practice goals and formulates plans for achieving these
    * Can manage many aspects within a situation

    Stage 4: Proficient

    * Has holistic understanding of the situation
    * Coherent strategy for practice developed
    * Adopts a problem-solving approach in each situation
    * Prioritises between competing variables
    * Theorises and well developed perspectives guide performance

    Stage 5: Expert

    * Designs and implements a process for resolving situations
    * Highly developed, organised and integrated strategy for practice
    * Decision-making based on sound analysis of the situation
    * Intuitive grasp of the situation
    * Innovative and creative

    Source: Benner, P. (1984), From Novice to Expert: Uncovering the Knowledge Embedded in Clinical Practice. Addison Wesley. California.

  2. beware nomenclature
    Given that the first 18 months with the company could be at graduate first job level for some, and at fairly senior level for others (assuming that you sometimes recruit to fill higher level gaps,) you may want to be careful of words like “novice”…it might put off the new sales director!

  3. Use Analogies
    Beginner or novice is a little patronising. I suggest you choose something creative and analagous. e.g.

    Walker, Hiker, Mountaineer.

    Bather, Swimmer, Diver.

    Cyclist, Motorist, Astronaut.

  4. Some ideas
    You could be a bit creative and use
    Crawl,Walk, Run
    Red, Amber, Green
    or more basic with
    Level/stage one
    Level/stage two
    Level/stage three

    I am happy to be used as a sounding board if you like just contct me.

  5. Spelling mistakes
    Try to avoid spelling mistakes in your text by using spell check and reading to correct any errors not picked up

  6. Most importantly – get the buy-in of your users
    Hi Joe,

    Here are my general suggestions for naming skills frameworks levels, based on some years experience in skills management.

    1) Consider using numbers instead of names, but if you do so, be clear which end of the scale is the more skilled. Experience suggests that most people expect the highest number to indicate the greatest experience.
    2) It’s always possible to use both numbers and names together.
    3) If using names for grades across different languages, consider whether to translate the names or not. It may be that a direct translation is not possible.
    4) Ensure that each skill is defined at each level that is relevant for it – for example, provide enough detail to make it clear what you should be able to do when at level 1 at Spoken Business French, as opposed to level 4.
    5) Consider adding a level 0 (or ‘None’) to your scale. This allows people to show that they have no skill at this level. This removes any ambiguity in the case of someone choosing not to assess against a skill, which can be taken to mean that that the skill is not relevant to them.
    6) Ask yourself whether progression is a necessary part of the skill grading. SFIA (the Skills Framework for the Information Age) for example gives levels according to how the skill is used at that level. The levels are, in short form: Follow, Assist, Apply, Enable, Ensure, Initiate, Strategy.
    7) Eccentric names for skill levels work in close communities where everyone is clear about the purpose of skills assessment, and feels comfortable with it. If this is not the case, then it is better to be unambiguous and possibly dull rather than over clever and risk alienating people.
    8) If you are asking people to assess themselves against a grade of skills, avoid the word ‘competent’ unless unavoidable (e.g. for legal reasons). Nobody ever wants to say they are less than competent.
    9) One often-used set of grades is: Aware, Beginner, Confident, Developing, Expert. I’m not sure that this has much to recommend it beyond being in alphabetical order.
    10) The most important thing is that the words you use mean the right thing to your population. I would recommend forming a small representative focus group, proposing a set of grades to them and modifying it in line with their recommendations. This will give you a gauge of whether your words work, and (if the process is managed right) a first group of people who will act as ambassadors for the final set of words chosen.

    I realise that this is a rather long answer, but the last point is the most important – the best choice of words will be that which people accept.

    If you want to discuss this any further, please feel free to drop me a mail.

    Best regards



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