Is Your Firm Competent at Using Competency Frameworks?

competentThe SRA (Solicitors Regulation Authority) in England & Wales are making sweeping changes to ensure solicitors are competent. But is your firm ready for the new system?

Your HR team should be able to help. One of the great contributions from HR functions over recent years has been the introduction of competency frameworks. I hear some groans from non-HR specialists, but I’m serious! The trouble is many people don’t understand how they work or why they’re so important and useful.

Here’s a typical competency framework demonstrating the levels of competency:

Level 1 – Awareness

The person can describe the main area of expertise and its relevance to the business. For example, in managing others they might:

  • Support and offer help to others
  • Encourage others
  • Share own experiences

Level 2 – Knowledge

The person can interpret and evaluate information in this area of expertise. They understand the terminology and can hold an informed debate and ask relevant questions to test the suitability of different proposals. In managing others they might:

  • Provide constructive feedback
  • Set stretching targets
  • Celebrate success

Level 3 – Skill

The person can perform adequately the activities in the area of expertise. They can work from guidelines and convert to practical actions. They can solve problems and guide others. Typical performance indicators in managing others might be:

  • Motivate others
  • Apply coaching and mentoring skills
  • Address staff performance issues

Level 4 – Mastery

The person can diagnose and solve significant and unusual problems. They can also adapt practices with ideas gained from other sectors and make improvements to processes. Someone is operating at this level if they consistently:

  • Assess strengths and weaknesses of a business unit as a whole
  • Lead and shape new initiatives across a business unit
  • Put measures in place to monitor learning

Level 5 – Develop New

The person operating at this level can develop significant new and innovative methods in the area of expertise, such as:

  • Has a clear track record of success on new initiatives
  • Leads and shapes initiatives across the firm as a whole
  • Is recognised externally as a leading authority

So how are competency frameworks useful?

In essence, they enable people to judge where they are and what they need to do to develop. They provide a sense of progress. They also provide management with a means of assessing who is ready to promote to the next level.

Is your firm competent at using competency frameworks?

If not, HR specialists – what can you do to get your firms to truly buy-in to competency frameworks?

For more on the SRA paper Training for Tomorrow see http://www.sra.org.uk/solicitors/cpd/solicitors.page

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