Tools and methods for competence development

Competence is the foundation of working and competitiveness

Competence development and lifelong learning are things that go hand in hand. Whether you are working with information, products or operations, maintaining and developing your own skills is always important. Being able to trust that one’s own competence is staying up to date is something that helps maintain hope for the future – especially in uncertain times.

In addition to the competence development of individuals, it is also necessary to have development at an organizational level. The competence of an organization is often directly proportional to its competitiveness, which makes it really important. In an unstable market situation, it is not only the existing competence but also the ability to change that affects the company’s ability to maintain, develop and grow.

But what are the best ways to develop your own or your organization’s competence? Let’s talk about competence development tools!

The best tools for developing competence at an individual level

There are numerous tools that are helpful for developing an individual’s competence, but there is one that is clearly the most important, and that is motivation. Both internal and external motivation act as boosters that make competence development easier and more effective. Here are some examples of practical tools that can be used to develop the competence of a motivated individual:

  • Visiting tours: A common way of conducting onboarding for a new employee is to arrange visiting tours to the different offices and units of the company. These tours are often very beneficial because, in addition to learning about the business, the new employee will also gain information about the organizational culture and ways of working. The visiting tours are also beneficial from a social point of view: Visiting tours will allow the employee to meet people that they wouldn’t normally meet in their everyday work.
  • Learning from others and teamwork: Each member of a team always brings their knowledge and skills to the table and shares some of their knowledge with others as well. In addition to that teamwork can teach individuals about other people’s ways of handling situations and problems. Like each organization, each team has its own culture that can either support or prevent learning from others. This is one of the reasons an organization should invest time in improving the working culture.
  • Supervision is a tool in which an individual’s work is studied, reviewed and developed with the help of a supervisor. Supervision is something that can be used to help make common objectives clear, increase the ability to change and learn and develop leadership and cooperation. At best, supervision can increase the quality of work, efficiency and customer satisfaction, while strengthening the employee’s professional identity and work performance.
  • Different kinds of professional training and development programs as well as in-service training and apprenticeships are forms of skill-based competence development. What that means is that learning is based on learning a certain skill and then implementing the skill on solving other tasks or solutions. The keywords for these tools are active learning, teamwork, comprehensiveness and applicability. The goal of skill-based learning is to acquire, process and practice using new knowledge. Skill-based learning will often come with benefits for teamwork and communication skills as well.
  • On-the-job learning is something that many vocational institutions use. The things taught in theory can instantly be implemented into practice, and by practical working, the individuals can find out the ways of working that best suit them.
  • Literature, podcasts and webinars are great tools for competence development since they are easily available for everyone. Online courses are also a flexible and easily accessible way of learning and maintaining skills. The variety and selection of different online courses are constantly evolving, and nowadays almost anything can be taught and learned online.
  • Taking part in seminars, conferences and online events are also great ways to gain the most recent knowledge about different topics.

The best tools for developing competence at the organizational level

The competitiveness of an organization is often related to its knowledge capital and ability to innovate. Organizational culture is something that has a great impact on the organization’s ability to innovate, transfer information and have the readiness to change in an unstable market situation.

Developing an organization’s knowledge and building organizational culture begins with recruiting. Whenever recruiting, it is beneficial to pay attention that the candidates selected for the job share the same values as the organization finds important. A reward system is something that has a great effect on building an organization that keeps on learning. If the employees are rewarded for sharing, creating and utilizing new information and learning new things, this will guide the organization’s competence in the desired direction.

An effective knowledge management system plays a key role in the development of any organization’s competence. The aim of using one is to replace the organization’s informal ways to transfer information, such as social networks, with an effective way of managing this information.

The most commonly used strategies for organizing information in an organization are personalization and codification. Personalization involves creating a visualization of the organization that shows what kinds of expertise each member of the organization has. Codification means that the experts document their own competence and store it in a Transactive Memory System, from which it can be achieved by others. Other ways of storing organizational competence are all kinds of instructions and process descriptions written by the experts. In order for an organization to be able to improve its competence, the individuals need to have access to the information within the organization. It can be beneficial to give all individuals access to all information there is. When people can access information from other areas than their own, it can lead to new innovations being made.

Other efficient tools for organizational competence development and transferring knowledge are for example discussion sessions, teamwork and encouraging the individuals to form broad and varied networks.

Job rotation is an effective way to transfer knowledge within an organization from one unit to another. Through job rotation and on-the-job learning, the tacit knowledge in the organization that is often difficult to document into information management systems can be efficiently transferred.

Staff turnover should also be taken into account when considering competence development. Through staff turnover, a great amount of tacit knowledge is transferred outside of the company. This tacit knowledge is often one of the companies’ greatest competitive advances because it is not visible outside of the organization and therefore cannot be copied by competitors.

Many organizations often arrange different kinds of training events or allow participation in external training events for their staff. In order for this training to be as effective as possible, they should…

  • contain practical demonstrations, since they allow the transformation of both explicit and tacit knowledge simultaneously.
  • be targeted to the whole group/team at the same time. Training a team is more efficient than individual training because it will improve the team’s ability to transfer and share information within the team. This can be taken into account also in online training.

Online courses are an efficient, cost-effective and impactful way of training organizations. They can be used to train the entire staff or specific units. Online courses are a flexible way of learning since they can be studied at any time and place, which means that work shifts don’t need to be covered because of training at a specific place and time. Online courses can also be used as a part of traditional classroom courses to complement them.

The company’s HR system is essentially related to staff development. Records about the employees’ course attendance and participation in courses are saved in the system, from which they can be found when needed. Ideally, the information will be transferred to the HR system directly from the online learning platform.

Developing an organization’s competence should be a crucial part of the organization’s strategy. The greatest results will be achieved when competence development is done in systematic ways and with tools that support strategic goals. Competence development on an organizational level is proactive, long-term and goal-oriented work, which aims to improve the company’s competitiveness, increase its market value and support its attractiveness as an employer. When a company is an attractive employer, it will attract the best, most competent individuals, which will improve the entire organization’s competence. Competence development is a dynamic process that can never really stop – it is a process that is constantly evolving and continuing.

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