Ensuring staff are competent in their work is one of the fundamentals of any management system (see ISO 9001 6.2.1, ISO 14001, 4.4.2 and BS OHSAS 4.4.2) and of any successful business. So how do you ensure this happens?
Ideally it starts at the recruitment stage and there is a well designed job description or specification. Within that one would expect to see the essential skills required to carry out the job and the desirable skills that would enhance the candidates profile or be development opportunities for the successful candidate. During interview one can assess whether the candidate has the essential skills to ensure that they will be productive, and the willingness to gain the additional skills that will allow them to grow with the organisation. So that seems quite straightforward for those new to business or hiring additional staff.
What about those who have an established workforce but need to review the competence? Often we find that loyal staff have been with a business since the start without any formal development plan and in the main, they do great work, however, sometimes when it comes to junctions in the organisation’s growth it is unclear where they fit or what assistance they may need to do a fantastic job. An example is of a lady who started off as a receptionist, became the MD’s PA and then effectively carried out an “Operations Manager” role, scheduling production to meet the customers’ needs, ordering materials and organising most of the company. She was well rewarded and appreciated, but when the company was taken over, her role was unclear. She had many skills but most of them had been learnt on the job, so no formal training and no formal training certificates. The new people could not know her skills based on the information held on file.
If the company had kept the records required by ISO 9001 6.2.2 e) then things might have been different. It requires the organisation to “maintain appropriate records of education, training, skills and experience”. Many companies do not maintain records of skills or experience as they feel it is very difficult to know what to write down and how. So what should they do?
Back to ISO 9001! It tells us that we need to “determine the necessary competence for personnel performing work affecting conformity to product requirements”, so the start is there. What is needed to get the job done? Now what is required is to find out whether the people in place meet the competence levels. The easiest way to do this is through an appraisal, staff development review or similar. Thus it is possible to compare what is required by what is in place already, and update the skills and experience within the records.
Staff development processes need not be difficult exercises, they can be as simple as a three or four question sheet and a conversation, for which both parties have prepared.
1. What have you done over the last period?
2. What have you learnt?
3. What do you contribute to the organisation?
4. What needs to change for you to contribute to its objectives successfully over the next period?
Use the information to update the records in terms of what has been learnt, and from the final question collect the training needs and determine how best to satisfy them, be it external or internal training. For Management Systems Training details contact Cath Macneil on 01236 879162.
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