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How to implement a CMS and the critical steps involved

A new approach to an old problem

I have been involved in the development of competence since the mid eighties and have specified and implemented a number of Competency Management Systems with large companies during the last 15 years. I would like to share with our readers some of the challenges and pitfalls that face organisations when embarking on this task for the first time; and to explain why some organisations never get it right.
Communication: If the systems in an organisation are to be effective, then evidently we must have clear and unambiguous communication with our employees. Unfortunately extensive studies have shown that often when we believe we are communicating effectively the reality is very different. There are a number of possible reasons for this dilemma. One of the most important is called "perceptual bias”; here the receiver selectively filters or distorts the incoming information only hearing what they want to hear!

The second may be deliberate withholding or distortion of the information by the person(s) delegated to communicate the information as it is seen to be damaging to themselves and their own promotional prospects.
Apart from the more obvious issues of not trusting the sender of the communication, we have the important barrier of "information overload” where there is just too much detailed information to be taken in by the recipients.
The communication has got to be clear and unambiguous and not "sent from on high”; that is, the communication must be conveyed by someone who is very "visible” to the recipient, as research shows that the effectiveness of communication is inversely proportional to the distance between the sender and the receiver.

Buy-In: If the Competence Management System is going to deliver the results that you want it to you will have to have the full support of the Senior Management Team. The commitment of the CEO has to be visible to all the workforce; and this might be accomplished through an official statement as well as the usual meetings with the Senior Management Team. The "top down” approach has to be matched by an effective program of gaining support from those at a lower level in the hierarchy. This has to be tackled in a number of ways and must be kept up until the communication is known to have been effective.

Is your organisation ready?

As we have already seen, communication is an issue which cannot be ignored if the Competence Management System is to be totally successful. We have to devote a considerable amount of time and effort to this part of the project, after all this is about organisational development and the management of change and when ignored or neglected it is likely to thwart the very best of Competence Management Systems.

How to succeed with the project
The CEO and members of the senior management team (SMT) need to understand the tremendous benefits to the organisation that a fully implemented CMS can deliver. To achieve the level of management support needed for the project, a sound business case must be prepared based on a cost-benefit analysis. The SMT will be charged with drawing up the strategy for the project. It is imperative that everyone in the team has a clear understanding of the "upfront” costs and the way in which the project will be "rolled out” within the organisation.

The SMT will require a full presentation of the project including the overall project plan, timelines and milestones. The business case should also inform the SMT of the maintenance costs for the CMS when it is embedded within the organisation.
At a very early stage, a Competence Management System Steering Committee needs to be established within the organisation. This must be "headed up” by a SMT member such as the VP. It is not recommended that any attempt is made to show all the employees within the organisation the CMS overview at too early a stage.
It is better to introduce the concept of competence and how it can be developed within the organisation and the benefits to individuals through departmental meetings and training sessions, preferably with the help of trained facilitators.

Indeed it is wise to conduct communication sessions with supervisors and team leaders first so that any suspicions about the motives for the project are allayed and the support of this group of employees is secured early on. Any misconceptions about the programme need to be cleared up at this point because inevitably discussion will take place informally outside the official communication sessions and the support of supervisors and team leaders is imperative. It is during these communication sessions that training and development and the investment of the company in the individual need to be emphasised. It is recommended that value added to the individual is emphasised and that this is a "win-win” situation for both employee and employer. Indeed these communication sessions need to stress the importance of the involvement of the individual employee and the sense of ownership and responsibility that they will have for their own development and the improvement in promotion and career possibilities. Achieving this aspect of the communication process will greatly help to ensure that the project is a success.

The steering committee

This Committee has to be seen as providing tangible support and resources to the project; in this way the project will not be seen as the sole responsibility of any one individual or department. There are several advantages in this approach including reducing the negative impact of internal politics which can result in "blame stories” being concocted as means of explaining lack of progress in the implementation stages of the project. However it is advisable that a "champion” is identified in the organisation, and this person is a major stakeholder; and has much to gain from the success of the project. This person could be the Plant Manager or Operations Manager who has the greatest number of employees benefiting from the successful implementation of the CMS. Normally it might be anticipated that a disproportionate amount of assistance would be required from the IT and HR departments but with the latest user friendly Competence Management Software like Sentrico™ this should be greatly reduced. The IT Department and HR will of course have to be involved at a very early stage and the HR department will probably be the custodian of the CMS; whilst the IT Department will be responsible for its installation and overall maintenance. Many organisations use the company intranet for their IT support but increasingly web based systems are gaining in popularity as they can be used 24/7 and support global business practice.

When considering this business approach it is recommended that a web-based system like Sentrico™ is considered because unlike many other systems it is not installed on a remote server and remains under the complete control of the organisations own IT Department. Naturally when using a host organisations server we have to consider the security of the system particularly regarding Data Protection legislation.

There is often a temptation to take on too much too quickly, to try and cover as many jobs as possible, but the best way is to launch a pilot instead. In this way the organisation has a chance to learn and be successful with each of the jobs that form part of the project. The organisation has the opportunity to practice double loop learning; that is they learn what went well or not, and how long it really took. This learning process is valuable because it is then possible to plan accurately and allot suitable and adequate resources. The most important aspect of the learning process is the acceptance of the organisation that the transition is not just desirable but achievable and readily understood. Following the successful pilot the programme can be rolled out to the rest of the organisation. The success of the pilot will encourage others who may have had their doubts about the efficacy of the project; in particular the heads of departments, managers and team leaders referred to earlier will feel empowered and confident.

Financial Performance Indicator or ROI

Some of the measures which organisations put in place lack clear business indicators but with CMS it is possible to quantify the improvements by the Return On Investment or ROI. Unfortunately many organisations are unable to evaluate the savings and economies that are made when the CMS is operating. Individuals are expected to contribute to team performance, which in turn contributes to departmental and organisational KPIs or key performance objectives. However a Competence Management System like Sentrico™ has the facility to monitor and provide management reports on the progress an individual is making towards achieving these KPIs. As the employee gains competence they will be more efficient and effective in their duties and the overall team performance will improve. Everything that an organisation does that does not add value for the client is "waste”; most organisations waste huge amounts of money by incorrect work, rework, rectifying mistakes and dealing with customer complaints and warranty claims. A CMS that is effective will very quickly pay for its self with dividends. The list that follows is not exhaustive but will give some idea of what other benefits can be expected.

Benefits to the organisation

Savings to the training budget by eliminating training that is unnecessary or is inappropriate at that time. Training that is specific and the effectiveness of which can be measured as it is targeted to meet the requirements of the organisation.

Training and development that can be measured and meets Kirkpatrick’s 4th Level of evaluation of effectiveness (most training courses do not exceed the 2nd Level). With a system like Sentrico™ we are able to show the tangible benefits of training and the impact on the "bottom line”.

Just-in–time or JIT delivery of the training intervention; all too often the training is carried out without due regard to its timing and this reduces its impact as it lacks relevance to the individual and more importantly they are unable to practise the skills they have learnt about in a real work situation. The elimination of all training that is not relevant to the organisation, and increased relevancy of the training carried out to the individual.
Human Resource Planning and Recruitment – Recruiting people for an organisation means understanding the sort of person required for the job. By taking a competency based approach to HR planning, the exact competencies required can be analysed and matched with what is available within the organisation.

Appraisal to Performance Management – A Competency Management System like Sentrico™ can monitor employees ‟development throughout any given time period and help to maintain a Performance Management system by emphasising formal and planned development”.

Improved training vendor responsiveness and performance with much greater levels of accountability as the training can be designed to satisfy the requirements of the organisation as accurately specified using the company standards of competence. This could lead to a reduction in course length and the time the employees are away from their workplace.
Training – A Competency Management System can provide a snapshot of the training requirements within the organisation at any given time and provide a simple solution to increase the focus on training and enable the rewards of developing the versatility and employability of human resources to become apparent. Industry, for example, requires rigorous selection processes; a Competency Management System can assess if an individual is capable of performing a specific job role.

External Influences – A Competency Management System can help to demonstrate the competence of individual employees and the overall competence of the workforce to "hallmarked” standards. It can also assist with Quality Management standards e.g. ISO9001 and 14001 or approval by an industry body such as OPITO.


I have explained the pitfalls and the difficulties that can be anticipated in the process of installing a Competence Development System into an organisation. I have also described the very real and tangible benefits to those organisations that make the successful transition. Perhaps it is time to ask a few pertinent questions at this point, such as:-

"In an increasingly global marketplace how can we remain competitive?”

"If our competitors are more efficient and use more competent employees to produce their products or provide their services will we survive?”

"Can we afford not to do anything about the competence of our employees, and will delay prove to be an error of judgement with very serious consequence?”

As we have seen with Deepwater Horizon, Buncefield recently and Piper Alpha, Flixborough and Bhopal in the past the competence and behaviour of the workforce at all levels is of paramount importance to achieving safety; an effective CMS is a major factor in achieving a safe working environment and zero "lost time injuries”.