by E. Sprague | Dec. 30, 2020 | 5 Min Read

How to Build Capability in the Workplace

Capability in the workplace

This article is written by our featured guest writer, Erin Sprague.

You have a business model; you have value you want to deliver; you have different teams to make that delivery happen. But, are your teams as effective as they could be? Are you incorporating organizational capabilities in your corporate training strategy? To answer these questions, we need to boil things down to the basics: what is a business capability model?

If you’re not familiar with capability models or want to better leverage your organization’s existing model, read on to learn how to build capability in a team.

In this blog, we discuss the different types of capability models, how incorporating organizational capabilities in your corporate training strategy can help to inform training priorities and measure impact, and how you can get the conversation started in your organization.

Let’s jump in!

What is a Business Capability Model?

A capability model is a way for a company to pinpoint critical skills, knowledge, and behaviors in their employees. Business capability models help grow and leverage talent, define individual success, and enable your company to achieve its organizational performance goals.

Different organizations, departments, and professionals may use a variety of terms when referring to Capability Models. Some examples may include competencies, skills, abilities, behaviors, knowledge, and many more. Regardless of their name, these are important capabilities in business strategy that you need to identify and begin implementing.

A capability-based strategy can take on multiple identities within an organization. Let’s take a look at some of the most common capability-based strategy examples.

Organizational Capabilities

Organizational capabilities enable a company to deliver on business-critical tasks and solutions (e.g., data analysis, AI, Logistics and Supply Chain, etc.).

Functional Capabilities (aka Professional Capabilities)

Functional capabilities or professional capabilities are the specific skills that an individual needs to perform effectively in a given role. For example, sales capability in the workplace might include prospecting, influencing, persuasion, forecasting, etc.

Personal Capabilities

Personal capabilities are critical for individual development and professional success. Some employees may intuitively be more emotionally intelligent and inclusive than others.

Ultimately, a capability model is a way to figure out what your employees need to be most successful and then employ the best training models.

What is Capability Building?

Basic skills and operations training (think: how-to guides, job aids, and workflow charts) may not be enough to help your organization achieve long-term priorities and goals. These training types won’t address critical skill gaps within your employee population. Integrating capability-building training programs into your organization will allow you to grow and retain your talent instead of resorting to outside sources to fill skill gaps.

Creating a business capability model will help you identify the necessary capabilities that teams can lean on to reach their goals. Then, you can start facilitating capability development training as a standard for your employees.

A capability model and training capability in the workplace can help you:

  • Identify the most important skills for the team members you support.
  • Understand how individual functions fit into the larger business model.
  • Enable employees to have an owner mindset, promoting self-guided learning and development.
  • Increase leader confidence by growing their ability to coach and provide meaningful and relevant feedback.
  • Pinpoint talent gaps and weaknesses to quantify any potential risk to the organization.

Now that we have a baseline understanding of business capability models let’s talk about how to build capability in a team environment.

How to Build Capability in a Team

As learning professionals, we’re often asked to create training solutions for processes that don’t exist. So we iron out operational workflows and processes, then simultaneously fall into developing a multi-year learning strategy. We end up working with a lack of direction or clarity from the business function on what that strategy should actually be supporting.

As learning leaders, we need to partner with the business to help them clarify a vision for their team’s present and future capability needs and use that vision to build our learning strategy (instead of making things up as we go!)

Thankfully, that’s what a business capability model does and why it can be so effective! If done correctly, your business capability model will act as a road map for each team member within their specific function.

First, you can use a capability model to conduct an initial function-wide employee capability assessment. The assessment will allow team members and leaders to indicate their primary strengths and areas of opportunity across each capability within the model, providing you with valuable individual and organizational trends related to strengths and opportunities within these core capabilities.

Next, you can use the assessment findings to craft a content and capability development training plan for your employees. This allows you to target the important skills needed for the team.

In terms of value, there are multiple benefits to this approach:

  • The organization will recognize the relevance of your corporate training content related to functional goals and priorities.
  • Team leaders and team members will be more excited to take and complete capability building training programs because they will connect these programs to their individual development needs.
  • Learning leaders will have greater confidence in making future learning recommendations.

Kirkpatrick Model of Training Evaluation

It isn’t enough to just implement a capability model and then execute various capability development training programs. You also want to measure the learning impact; this will help you understand if training is engaging, effective, and being used by the employees.

At this stage, it might be valuable to consider the Kirkpatrick Training Model. This model provides four key training evaluation criteria:

1. Reaction

Are the employees engaging with, enjoying, and finding the material valuable?

2. Learning

Are the employees learning and understanding the material?

3. Behaviour

Are the employees using and integrating the training into their day-to-day role?

4. Results

Are you reaching goals or intended outcomes that you desired from the training?

You want to leverage opportunities to empower employees to take initiative and self-direction at work.  So, as you create and implement your business capability model, these four questions will help you evaluate your model’s effectiveness. The goal is to be able to answer “Yes” to all the questions.

How to Build Capability in the Workplace

As with many new initiatives, getting started is the hardest part. If you want to get started ASAP, here are some quick tips and potential actions to keep in mind.

Interview Top-performers

Ask them to help map out what skills are most important to their individual success and achievement (e.g., what systems, behaviors, knowledge, and skills contribute to their performance?).

Collaborate and Challenge the Model

Be ruthless and keep it short (think 5-6 capabilities max), as too much detail and too many capabilities can be de-motivating for employees.

Think Long-term

You should be thinking about how your functional capabilities play into the long-term business vision.

Does incorporating organizational capabilities in your corporate training strategy without any support seem daunting?  You can always partner with an employee training consultancy like Unboxed Training & Technology to help you map out the project. They will use best-in-class examples from similar organizations to ensure your team prioritizes skills that will grow your competitive edge.

Erin Sprague is a seasoned sales professional, career coach, and learning & development leader. She has a passion for connecting the dots between capability analysis, feedback from business leaders, and sales results, in order to create training & development programs that allow learners to thrive, and drive results for the organization.

A native of Western Michigan, Erin is a recent transplant to Washington, D.C after spending 15 years in Chicago, Illinois. She has worked for companies large, (Hilton, Kraft Heinz), medium (Groupon), and small (Trustwave), always in or alongside sales teams. She has delivered consistent results for these companies – driving participation, engagement, performance, and high satisfaction across trainees.

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