Strengthen Your Workforce Using Competency Management

Navigator - Competence

Published Feb 4, 2016 11:35 PM by Dione Lee

I was very excited to see the February 2016 issue of The Navigator, a free publication by The Nautical Institute in association with the Royal Institute of Navigation, focused on competence. The true meaning of competency in the maritime world, in my opinion, is just now starting to come into its own as a continual improvement process within an organization to manage versus just be seen as a standalone certificate for the individual mariner to manage, such as: Certificate of Competency (CoC), Certificate of Equivalent Competency (CEC), or Standards of Training, Certification, and Watchkeeping (STCW) certificate. Note: the CoC is equivalent to “licenses” or “endorsements” in the United States.

With the 2010 STCW Manila amendments and predictive shortfall of qualified and competent mariners in the industry worldwide, more and more companies are adopting “a build your own” approach to recruit, retain and develop a robust workforce. 

How companies approach competency varies, but there could be an opportunity to adopt a systematic approach for managing competency using a Plan-Do-Check-Act (PDCA) continual improvement closed-loop process by plugging it into your existing management system. The International Organization for Standardization for quality management and environmental management systems, ISO 9001:2015 and ISO 14001:2015 respectively, both address “necessary competence” as a requirement in Clause 7.2.

This PDCA competency management approach provides a process to move forward with purpose and direction by identifying workforce risk and opportunities, which can be organized by significant impact for planning purposes and resource allocation. Plans to define and further develop job positions, especially those tied to external “certificates”, can integrate existing criteria like STCW and the U.S. Coast Guard Towing Officer Assessment Record (TOAR). This type of learning is very similar to an apprenticeship style approach, blending on-the-job training (OJT) and classroom instruction. Once criteria are established by position, the employee is trained, assessed when ready, periodically monitored, and provided recommendations for improvement. The approach is structured, systematic, and has shown a high degree of success, especially with employee retention and engagement. Not only is the employee continually learning, but those within the organization who are mentors and assessors also receive training and continually grow and learn as well.

Organizations I have the pleasure to work with that have adopted this approach, achieve and continue to achieve an excellent return on their investment in the way of high performance and low turnover. In addition, this approach provides an opportunity to streamline and improve workforce effectiveness by further defining roles, responsibilities and authority. Everyone is clear on what is expected of them and how to succeed within the organization. Some other benefits include:

- Identifying skill-gaps during the process

- Defining succession planning and cross-training opportunities

- Identifying and providing clear career pathways

Competency management is not just about training; it is about engaging your employees and empowering them to be part of the solution to ensure you have qualified and competent workforce today and in the future.

The opinions expressed herein are the author's and not necessarily those of The Maritime Executive.