Search Results capability

Do Your Staff Have The Capability To Do Their Jobs?

I’ve noticed a trend.

Ten years ago, I selected the term capability as a collective noun for education, knowledge, experience, technical & behavioural competency and track record. I’ve written about this before.

The idea of focusing on scoring capability was new and a bit off the beaten track: interesting but not critical. People spoke about training and development, competencies, skills development, team building, formal education, workshops, seminars, certificates, on the job training, coaching and so on.

But no-one spoke about capability or scoring capability. Performance was scored, training was a possible outcome of a development discussion. The outcome of the training was assumed to be positive.

And we all know what assume stands for.

We have to measure performance and capability to answer a fundamental question: Do your staff have the capability to perform in their current jobs?

And in the recruitment, selection, transfer and promotion space: does this person have the required capability to perform in the role we have in mind for him or her?

The short answer is: we don’t know. We guess, we hope, we think, we estimate, we trust but we don’t measure.

Recently, I’ve noticed that capability is coming of age. From nowhere 10 years ago, the word is creeping into HR and management lexicon. I write this today because an article about tax breaks in the US mentions an increased focus on training and development, not salary increases. Interesting.

I suspect though that the investment will be disappointing while training companies make lots of cash. Why? Because the ROI for millions of training options remains subjective and unmeasured.

It’s time to measure capability per person per job and to implement focused capability development options to improve specific, job-relevant capabilities.

If you’d like to know more, please click here and I’ll contact you. All best.

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Technical Competency: A Badly Executed But Essential Capability

We’re into week 3 of the 5-part capability series in which we challenge ourselves to become more capable. This week:

Technical Competency

Technical competency is the most badly executed and most important category of capability!

Technical competency covers what we can do.

That’s why it’s the most important category. It’s all very well to have a degree or a diploma or 10 postgraduate short courses under your belt. It’s all very well to have 10 years of experience. But the core issue is what you can do.

Amazingly, many organisations don’t check that people can do what they say they can do.

The conversation goes like this: “I see you worked for X company for 5 years, so you must be familiar with Y technology / processing / philosophy / practices?”

The candidate has two choices.

Choice 1: “Actually, although I worked there for five years, I never really worked with Y technology / processing / philosophy / practices.”

Choice 2: “Yes”.

Which do most people choose in the interview situation when you want the job? Obviously, the yes answer can be followed by a more in-depth conversation about Y technology / processing / philosophy / practices. But how do we score it?

Typically, if it’s scored at all it’ll be Management Opinion: 3 out of 5.

What does that mean? It means that the manager is satisfied. But what if that manager is incompetent? Problem. What if he leaves and a new manager reckons it’s 2 or 4?

Replacing Subjective Assessments

So instead of wasting our time with subjective assessments of technical competency, shouldn’t we focus on objective measurement for jobs that matter?

  • Shouldn’t the bus or truck driver demonstrate his driving skills?
  • Shouldn’t the Microsoft Excel user who rated himself as intermediate, show us her technical competencies?
  • Shouldn’t the salesperson be given an opportunity to do a presentation demonstrating her technical competencies?
  • Shouldn’t the individual who has to use VIP Payroll, Qlikview, SAP, Lotus, Abacus, QuickBooks, Oracle, Corel Draw, Flex Cube etc demonstrate his skills?


Creating Capability Scorecards

But whenever I work with a client to compile a capability scorecard, the client has no measurement method for the technical competencies. Most clients tell me they can create one: a simulation, an in-basket, a written test, a scenario, a case study. But we’re all too busy to get it done.

It’s a big hole in our recruitment, development, performance management and succession planning strategies.

We assume competence until it’s too late and the person is in the job.

The work to build a technical competency assessment is once off. Either we can choose an online test or an assessment provider or we can develop our own internal assessment which is likely to be much more relevant to our business environment and industry.

Here’s an example: Microsoft Office is probably the world’s most ubiquitous piece of software (Why can’t they improve Outlook to be a real mail, contact, task and calendar system? Odd!).

And yet, very few people have ever been on a formal Microsoft Office training programme. The investment has to be worth the cost and time. I can only talk for myself and my own incompetence with Excel, Word and PowerPoint. I am completely self-taught and now and again, I will struggle for 30 minutes to find a way to do something probably quite basic. If my experience is representative of most people, that means billions of hours are lost around the world every day because people simply don’t know how to use Microsoft Office properly.

HR and training departments should have a deliberate strategy to build the competency of their staff to use the basic software tools that drive their functional and organisational effectiveness and efficiency.

If an applicant or a staff member fails a technical competency test, it’s not a deal breaker. It simply means that the company knows that that particular competency must be developed for that individual, failing which, we set ourselves up for hundreds if not thousands of lost hours at work.

This should be a no-brainer for any organisation that values and measures productivity.

Next week, we’ll talk about behavioural competency. Until then, be happy for the multiple rain showers if you live in Johburg, spare a thought for our friends in Cape Town. I had dinner in Cape Town recently and part of the discussion was about water tanks and pool covers. Not even the pretty mountain that Capetonians love so much can assist with that problem! It’s OK Cape Town if you pass the medical this time, we’ll invite you to Jo’burg!

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How Education and Knowledge Impact our Personal Capability

Last week I suggested that we should manage capability instead of performance.

So this week, let’s get personal: what about our own capability? Let’s challenge ourselves and our children, friends, colleagues, brothers and sisters to become more capable.

There are 5 steps.

This week we’re discussing:

Education and Knowledge

This category of capability is less about competence to do something and more about a ticket to the game. If you don’t have a CA, you can’t practice as a registered accountant. If you don’t have the requisite medical qualifications, you can’t practice as a doctor, psychiatrist or orthopaedic surgeon no matter how you rate your skills with a scalpel!

But having the qualification doesn’t make you a good CA or Doctor. A lot more than an education is required to deliver excellent performance and build a great career.

Likewise with knowledge. I can read 50 books about rugby, meet 50 Springboks, watch 50 games (not Ireland again please …) but none of these activities will make me a good rugby player (I was a member of the fighting fifths at school so I know all about not being a good rugby player!).

Education and Knowledge support personal development.

I might read about a tactic and I can try to practise that tactic. I might read about a fitness regime and put it into practise. I might discover an app which changes the way I work. Then I move from Knowledge to Technical Competency as I practise using the app.

But here’s the foundational problem: people don’t read.

Apparently, only 14% of South Africans read! This is vastly different to the US where 72% of adults read books. Australians vary by gender and type (32-65%) and Europeans vary wildly (from 29% (Romania) to 93% (Iceland)). China comes in at 55% (I’m aware of the adage: lies, damn lies and statistics, but a cursory search of the internet revealed these numbers instantly and none are as bad as South Africa. As a proud South African, I welcome any correction).

education and personal capability

We have a reading (education) challenge.

Instead of waiting for government to do something, we must do something, lest we die, waiting.

The University Challenge

In South Africa, our universities are under threat from a minority of politically motivated students and non-students whose goals are not about improving education. What has happened on campuses countrywide over the last three years is entirely unacceptable, made worse by a weak, mumbling excuse for what should have been a critical government response to the crisis. I’ve just finished an excellent book by Jonathan Jansen. “As by Fire” chronicles the experiences of vice chancellors across the country from 2015 to 2016. It’s safe to say that the people screaming obscenities, destroying buildings, removing statues and burning art, were not trying to improve education for all. In fact, Prof Jansen concludes in the final chapter that the universities as we know them may be beyond repair as has happened in other parts of Africa.

Cart before horse?

But let’s ask a different question: what should we do about our education and development?

We can start by taking responsibility for what we choose to study and where. There’s a bit of an obsession to go to university as if it’s a guaranteed ticket to success. Is it? I’m not sure that choosing psychology, sociology, history, anthropology or English are necessarily great choices to build a career in business. They’re possibly courses that we choose because we have no idea about our future career. So a BA is a safe fall back in the event that we “must” go to university but have no idea what to study.

Where does career planning factor?

What if students (and adults) spent a little more time on understanding their strengths and preferences in order to choose a career? From all the CVs I’ve read, it seems that most people don’t so much plan their careers as fall, by accident, into their careers.

We spend more time and money on choosing a car or a holiday than on choosing a career.

What if our colleges and universities built all their curricula to prepare students only for specific careers? What if colleges and universities required compulsory academic, interests, motivation and competency assessments and then advised you which course to take (if any) and for which career that course would prepare you?

I know it’s far better today than 20 or 30 years ago, but should there be a general BA, BSc or BCom? Shouldn’t it be compulsory to pursue a degree/diploma in a specific field: e.g. BA or BCom HR with predetermined curricula that organisations can rely on to provide fundamental work-relevant skills and competencies?

The professions do this well: Law: BA LLB; Medicine: MBBCh; Accountant: BCom Accounting Hons, CA; Architect: BAS. But why do many HR Managers have no HR qualifications having found themselves in HR at some point? Why is there no Sales degree (what is a business without sales?). The crazy fact that so many people ‘fall’ into sales and would never think about sales as a career at school is to ignore the most fundamental purpose of a business: finding, satisfying and retaining customers.

A non-specific university education is expensive, time-consuming and can end with unemployment.

We, the paying students of higher education, need to choose our options carefully and not assume that a degree is a ticket to success, especially when we’re not academically oriented and we don’t know what we want to do with the piece of paper afterwards.

I’d appreciate your thoughts on this, especially if you’re an education expert. Quo Vadimus?

Next week, we’ll talk about the role of experience in capability. Until then, have an excellent weekend!

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Summarise and Score: What Does “Capability Data” Mean To Your Bottom Line?

Correlating Capability and Performance

Four weeks ago, we started exploring a key topic for all organisations: How to improve sales?

Last week, I demonstrated a Capability Scorecard. I developed this scorecard because we talk so subjectively about people. We use anecdotes, feelings, interviews, 360s, assessment tools, simulations, opinions and references to measure people.

But we don’t summarise and score.capability data

We make a decision and we move on. If the decision proves to be wrong, well, that’s life. If the decision proves to be right, excellent. But we don’t often interrogate or store the data for future reflection. Managers move, HR people move and all the intelligence gained during one generation of staff is lost for the next generation of staff.

Maybe we HR and training people, consultants and line managers could learn from finance. Companies can review past financials and compare to the present. Finance runs on a continuous track of data that can be historically analysed at any time. But HR? What do we know about the success of our appointment, transfer and promotion decisions last year?

Capability Data

We might know what our staff turnover rate is. But what does 5, 7 or 9% tell us? Wouldn’t it be far more interesting to have this number broken into 4 numbers:

  1. Capable Performer Turnover: 2%
  2. Incapable Performer Turnover: 2%
  3. Capable Non-Performer Turnover: 2%
  4. Incapable Non-Performer Turnover: 3%

Isn’t that more granular?

  • Should we stress about number 1?
  • And applaud number 4?

But if we have no capability data, we can’t stress or applaud anything. We can guess: I think Joe’s talented, let’s put him on the fast track. Why? He’s a good guy. Why? In whose opinion?

The Capability Scorecard enables an interrogation of our opinions.

And enables a correlational analysis. See Figure 1 below.

Capability and Performance

Figure 1: A graph correlating capability to performance. Each dot, an individual.

The correlation doesn’t suggest causality. It simply says that people who score higher on selected capability factors tend to score higher on performance. And those who score lower, score lower on performance too. In a perfect world, the correlation would be 1. But in our imperfect world, the correlation will always be lower than 1. But that’s ok. We’re building information about people, our most valuable (and expensive) asset.

If we can establish causality between capability data and performance data, what does mean for:

  1. Recruitment
  2. Promotions
  3. Transfers
  4. Succession planning
  5. Training and development choices

It should mean a lot. It means we have the beginnings of a predictive model which assists us to make better people decisions. And if we keep building and correlating the data, we improve the model until one day, we have a clear understanding of what it takes to consistently recruit, develop, transfer and promote capable people who perform.

And that’s good for the bottom line, for morale and for the people themselves.

I’d welcome your comments. If you think I’m smoking my socks, please let me know. Thanks once more for reading this blog. We change track from this series next week. I finish the week in Windhoek and look forward to a family reunion back in Joburg over the weekend. Cheers!

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Design Your Capability Scorecard – Improve Sales by 20-30%

Measuring Capability

Two weeks ago, we started exploring a key topic for all organisations: How to improve sales?

We talked about a simple calculation to understand whether or not our sales force is shooting the lights out. Typically, we could all improve. Maybe a lot.

The question is how?

Last week, I suggested a bunch of questions that sales and HR managers could ask of their sales people.

This week, let’s begin designing a scorecard to enable a somewhat objective scoring of capability.

Taking the same questions: Let’s create 5 categories:

  1. Education and Knowledge
  2. Experience
  3. Technical Competencies
  4. Behavioural Competencies
  5. Track Record
# Category Same Questions from last week A Capability Measure for each Question
1 Education and Knowledge Do they have a certain level of education? Matric, Certificate, Diploma, Degree or Post Grad? Level of education achieved
2 Education and Knowledge Have they attended specific certificated non-sales training that you think makes a difference to their performance? Relevant non-sales training certificates achieved
3 Education and Knowledge Have they attended specific certificated sales training that you think makes a difference to their performance? Relevant sales training certificates achieved
4 Experience How many years of experience do they have in your industry or in a similar industry? Years of experience in your industry or in a similar industry
5 Experience How many years of experience do they have in sales? Years of experience in sales
6 Experience How many years of experience do they have in your company? Years of experience in your company
7 Experience How many prospecting call sessions do they attend monthly? Number of prospecting call sessions attended monthly
8 Experience How many sales appointments do they complete monthly? Number of sales appointments completed monthly
9 Experience How many proposals do they write monthly? Number of proposals written and submitted monthly
10 Technical Competency How well do they present to an audience of a few people or more? Presentation Simulation Score
11 Technical Competency Are they particularly professional in their approach to work? 360 Feedback Score: Professionalism
12 Technical Competency Do they keep their promises and deliver OTIF (on time, in full) most of the time? 360 Feedback Score: Delivery: On time, in full.
13 Technical Competency What technical competencies do they have? Internal Company Sales System Score / Product Knowledge Test Score / Various sales simulation scores etc
14 Technical Competency What software tools are they proficient in using? MS Excel, Word and Powerpoint / PipeDrive / SAP CRM / Fusion CRM / MS Dynamics / FreshSales / Insightly / SugarCRM / amoCRM / Zoho etc competency scores
15 Behavioural Competency Do they adhere to company systems, processes and values? 360 Feedback Score: Company systems, processes and values compliance
16 Behavioural Competency Are they confident, outgoing, impatient, target oriented, happy to ask for the business, not scared of rejection? Job / Person Fit Score for tools like the PPA, PDA and PI
17 Behavioural Competency Do they lead, own their work, handle conflict and frustration, solve problems, build relationships and solve problems? Benchmarking tools like Shadowmatch and ThinkSales
18 Behavioural Competency Are they quick, resilient, responsive, disciplined, altruistic and self-confident?
19 Behavioural Competency Are they co-operatively or assertively involved at work?
20 Track Record Do they have a track record of prior performance? Proof of historical performance
21 Track Record What did previous employers say about them? Ref Check
22 Track Record What do colleagues in the sales team say about them? 360 Score: Colleagues (Sales)
23 Track Record What do staff from other departments say about them? 360 Score: Colleagues (Other departments)
24 Track Record What do clients say about them? Client Survey Feedback Score
25 Track Record What does the boss say about them? 360 Score: My boss

What you’ll also notice is that we’re at the beginning of a process of building data. To collect 25 sets of data multiplied by 50 sales people is hard work! So, next week, let’s finish the scorecard and limit the data overload to create a simple scorecard that measures the capability of sales people and enables the development of a customised training strategy focused on results.

Thanks again. I always enjoy writing the weekly blog. A little late this week as I was preparing for, and interviewing, candidates this week. Have a great weekend! I’m off to the bush for some R&R tomorrow.

Next week: A scorecard with standards and weights to score your people. There’ll be a downloadable excel version for you to try out too. Until next week: Cheers!

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What’s the Difference between Capability and Performance?

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We often confuse capability and performance. You’ll hear it in the language people use. For example: “Anton is a good engineer. He’s very well qualified and experienced.”  So the idea that Anton is a good engineer is based on his qualifications and experience. However, in terms of performance, we might discover that Anton doesn’t deliver on time, to budget or on spec. Is he still a “good engineer”?

Capable people can perform poorly. Less capable people can perform well. However, on average, capable people will outperform less capable people.

So it makes sense that we are measuring capability, both of individuals and teams.

Performance is a measure of the past. Capability is a measure of the future. We need both but we must differentiate between the two concepts and measure them separately.

Measuring capability allows us to predict future performance. We define performance in order to understand the required capability.

But we must do justice to these two topics. We can’t dabble in opinions and estimates.

To add real value, we need data. Building capability and performance data is the first step towards improving our recruitment, development, performance management and retention practices.

How do we build data?

Data is the information we gather about potential employees from recruitment onwards. This data is often forgotten and left in the personal files of staff: CVs, assessments, interview panel ratings, development plans, manager ratings and comments, awards and performance scorecards. Collected diligently over time, this data provides a rich seam of intelligence about each staff member.

There are four questions to answer for every person in every organisation:

  1. Recruitment: are we selecting capable people likely to perform?
  2. Training and Development: do we understand how best to develop our people into the most suitable jobs?
  3. Performance Management: has the capability identified in our people at the recruitment and development stages, led to expected levels of performance?
  4. Retention: are we successfully retaining the most capable performers?

measuring capability

Right People Right Jobs understands the importance of capability measurement and development.

We assist our clients in reducing subjectivity, improving performance and increase the percentage of the right people in the right jobs.

Contact us now for a complimentary discussion about your people needs.


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Developing Capability to Covet – The Secret Sauce of Successful Performance

It’s useful to understand the difference between characteristics and capability. A characteristic is a quality or feature of a person that is typical of them and which helps identify them. For example “Frikkie is outgoing and chilled” or “Sibongiseni is assertive and hectic”.

Capability, on the other hand, is a set of characteristics that have been developed beyond their individual definitions. In the form of capability, this set of characteristics now has an impact at home, at work and at play.

For example, one of my clients is an entrepreneur: he’s confident and direct, introverted and task focused, impatient and driven, risk averse and detail oriented. By themselves, just adjectives describing a personality.

Developing CapabilityBut together, they create an impact much greater than the sum of their parts just as mayonnaise is far tastier than egg yolk, lemon juice, white wine vinegar, Dijon mustard, salt and oil will ever be individually!

His confidence and drive led him to start the business while his introverted, task focused, risk-averse, detail oriented personality traits led him to build a business based upon conservative promises, accurate results, professional service and a no-nonsense, right first-time culture.

Consequently, the business is not well-known because marketing is a fluffy and unpredictable ‘science’ as far as he’s concerned. His mantra is ‘deliver, the clients will follow’. I have no doubt he has annoyed many people due to his direct, assertive and sometimes aggressive style. But the people who have used his company’s services know that when he says “X will be delivered on Y date at Z level of quality”, it will be so. And that’s why he’s in business. He developed and combined his personality traits into a tangible capability to start and run a successful business.

Naturally, it’s not just about personality. Other important characteristics to look for in entrepreneurs, leaders, managers and staff (to name but a few in this article) include:


It’s a certainty of life that things go wrong: Clients change the goal posts, new competitors arrive, strikes stop production, politicians forget the economy…

Distinguished University Research Mathematics and Physics Professor James Yorke wrote: “The most successful people are those who are good at Plan B”. But how can we predict who’ll be flexible at the required time?

The answer will often lie in the following traits: Responsiveness, innovation, simplification, problem-solving and conceptual fitness – people with strengths in these traits are likely to be able to be flexible when situations warrant it. They find new ways to solve old problems. They literally change the world. They have a Plan B.

People with good flexibility respond to challenges by automatically working out Plan B to reach their goals despite the setback. There’s no moaning, no blame shifting, no postponing, no excuses. Which leads to the second important characteristic …


The concepts of Accountability and Responsibility are often thrown around loosely and interchangeably, but they measure different things.

A simple example: your staff member misses an important deadline for a client. He was responsible for the deadline, you are accountable. When the client meeting starts, the very worst thing to do is to blame a staff member and tell the client that you will discipline them. The client doesn’t care. Your company failed and you’re accountable for that. Something a few politicians might like to try.


Capability then is a collective noun for education, knowledge, experience, technical and behavioural competency. Excellent capability including strengths of flexibility and accountability lead to outstanding performance at any level.

One of the best examples of outstanding capability is personified by Captain Chesley Sullenberger, the commercial airline pilot who famously – and successfully – landed a passenger jet on the Hudson River in 2009. This incredible feat was achieved through the Captain’s unwavering confidence in his years of experience and training. He didn’t stop to think about what wasn’t possible. He made a decision to be accountable for saving his crew and passengers and backed his capability to follow through.Developing Capability

His incredible execution of an untested Plan B saved the crew and passengers on US1549 and probably a large number of people on the ground as well. They have no idea they could have been in the path of the plane had Captain Sullenberger not been that capable.

How many of your people have built their capability so well that they can execute Plan B out of nowhere? If you’d like to explore this, we can assist you to measure the capability of your people and define ways to improve it for each and every one.

In some cases, we might suggest that you have the wrong people in the job. Moving people into the right jobs is itself, a massive capability, job satisfaction, and performance enhancer.

Thanks for taking the time to read this, it’s always appreciated.

Steve Rogers is a passionate advocate of capability as an indicator of future success. He’s an expert at helping you reduce the guesswork and increase predictability.

Steve and his associates welcome the opportunity to work with you on your recruitment or capability development challenges. To find out more, please email Steve or call him on +27 82 308 7627.

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Performance: Looking to the past. Capability: Looking to the Future

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Do you have the right people in the right jobs?

It’s a simple enough question, but it gets complicated very quickly when you take the time to analyse it. So often, when looking for a person to fill a specific job, we focus on things that are not particularly relevant. Professional organisation memberships, qualifications, years on the job. Or we use unmeasurable concepts like “must be passionate about our industry”. But can we link these to performance? Do they predict performance? Maybe.

How do we improve “maybe” to “predictive”? Simple really: we need data and once we have the first tranche of data, we need to build more data and better data and constantly test old and new hypotheses until we reach the point that more often than not people with certain capabilities are successful and people without those capabilities are not successful.

I’ve always liked to use sport as an analogy for work because sport is popular but more importantly, at the end of every season, there is a champion in every sport and tonnes of data about the players, the coaches, the games and to the second video footage, analysis and slow motion replays.

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The Same, But Different

Let’s look at Hashim Amla. What are the capability attributes of his job? He must be focused, persistent, patient. He mustn’t get tired or despondent, he needs to be steady without losing concentration. How about Seabelo Senatla of the Blitzbokke. He needs to be strong, quick, fit and agile. He must be able to suddenly counter-attack and revert to defence all in 15 seconds.

Two different sets of capabilities, two different jobs in 2 different sports.

Take another example: two medical professionals, one working with a terminally ill child, and one an emergency response paramedic. Do they need to have the same capabilities simply because they’re both medical employees? No. Working with a terminally ill child requires the normal medical qualifications and experience but with an added dose of sensitivity, caring and awareness of the emotional impact the disease is having on the child and his or her parents and siblings.

different capabilitiesWhereas the paramedic’s key focus is to save a life under pressure. He must be decisive, quick, dexterous, focused, calm and steady whilst watching the clock and the vital signs, all in the space of a few seconds or minutes. His or her bedside manner is unimportant.So, when it comes to jobs, we need to be very specific about the capabilities of the people we put into key positions. To do this properly, we need data in the same way as the team owners and sponsors do in sport.

What Do We Mean By Data?

Quite often, when we initially assess the capabilities of potential employees, we look at CVs, ref checks, assessments and interview results, before deciding who makes the cut and who doesn’t. Sometimes, that first cut may not be very accurate, but it’s the start of the journey towards gaining a better and deeper understanding of the human resources of a team or company.

Amazingly, most recruitment data is heavily assessed during the interview process and filed and forgotten afterwards. Yet the recruitment data is the 1st tranche of data relevant to the career journey of the employee. If the individual is successful, we should reflect on the data. If the individual is unsuccessful, we should reflect on the data. In either case, line managers and HR practitioners should be constantly learning about the data that predict performance.


There are 6 categories of capability, namely:

• Knowledge and Education
• Experience
• Technical Competencies
• Behavioural Competencies
• Physical, Mental and Emotional Health (more pertinent to some industries)
• Track Record


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Capability is not a quick fix as an indicator or predictor of performance. But it tells us more about the future than performance does. As such, if we want to understand the future and the potential for our organisations to be successful, then we need to understand our current capability as individuals, teams, divisions and organisations. Do we have the capability to achieve the business plan? If we don’t think so, what can we do to improve the capability to improve our performance?

The building of capability data is a foundational step towards improving the ROI on recruitment, development, performance management and retention spend.

Steve Rogers is your expert to assist you in putting the right people in the right jobs. When you work with Steve and his associates, you reduce the guesswork and increase predictability.

Steve and his associates would welcome the opportunity to work with you on your recruitment, development, performance improvement and individual people issues. Please email Steve or call him on +27 82 308 7627.

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Understanding Capability: The Role of Behaviour Profiling

behaviour is a key factor in determining job success

Behaviour is a key factor in determining job success.

Tools to Understand Capability

Part 2: Behavioural Assessment

Last week, we discussed CVs and the need to inspect the content and quality of a CV more closely and objectively.

This week, we move from the track record of the individual to a less directly observable capability factor – especially at the point of recruitment: behaviour.

Behaviour is a complex topic with important input variables such as intelligence, EQ, maturity, experience, attitude and achievement.  The intelligent, emotionally mature, experienced, and unassuming achiever behaves differently to others with less of those qualities. Our upbringing and access to opportunities, our family and friends, teachers and mentors – and some luck – all have an impact on how we behave.

But when we read a CV, we can’t measure a lot about behaviour, especially if we don’t understand the behavioural components of the job we want the individual to perform.

So we use the interview to assess the individual. How did they dress? Were they late? How did they behave? Were they boastful? Did answers to questions come easily? Were the answers substantial? And most importantly, did I get a ‘good feeling’ about the candidate, and did my colleagues also like him or her?

As you can imagine, this is a minefield.


What if the interviewer is unskilled?

What if the interviewer is racist, sexist, follows unspoken class rules, plays the ‘old boy/girl’ network game, looks for personal reasons to like a candidate: e.g. looks, interests, personal background such as school, neighbourhood, language, and sexual orientation?

In an increasingly multicultural world, with users of social media ready to pounce on the prejudiced utterances of its citizens, people have to be more and more cognisant of their own biases and competencies before they assess other people.

One of the ways we can reduce  subjectivity is to use assessment tools. There are hundreds available: both psychometric and non-psychometric. Unsurprisingly, these tools generate fans and detractors. The tools can get it wrong, because humans are humans. People can answer assessments honestly or dishonestly. People try to beat the assessment, to create a result they think will be positive for the purpose in question. People can be stressed out by the assessment and perform poorly simply because of the stress. People can misunderstand the assessment and perform poorly.

Some people even ask their family or friends to complete an assessment for them!

Let’s assume for a second, the assessment is completed correctly and does provide an accurate answer. We then rely on the HR executive, psychologist, or trained user to interpret the result. If they are incompetent, we may lose perfectly good candidates, or hire less capable people due to poor analysis. Finally, and sadly, many assessments are simply ignored: the assessment is a requirement in the recruitment process, but trained users have moved on and the new users don’t support the use of the tool. They just don’t stop using it as “it’s always been done”!

As I said, a minefield.

But with a little training and practise, in combination with the other factors of capability, there’s no reason why many of these tools can’t provide very useful and informative insights to the human being inside the applicant.

What is true is that we should never use any particular tool as the only (or even main) deciding factor for employment.

When I first returned to South Africa, I had the good fortune to join a company called Praendex SA (now The Confidant Group). They provide training and consulting services with the Predictive Index (PI), a tool invented by Arnold Daniels in the US in the fifties (more about the Predictive Index here: I write ‘good fortune’ because the licensee of the tool in South Africa, Ben Venter, is very particular about the correct interpretation of the tool for clients. So my first exposure to this kind of tool was led by a person who cared deeply about the meaning and application of the tool for business people.

This is an important issue. Too many people in my experience learn how to use a tool only to the point of finishing a 2- or 3-day course. Once the course is finished, application and practise may be delayed. The result is that the tool users have forgotten a lot of what they learnt on the course, and haven’t practised to make ‘perfect’. Naturally, when a good tool is misinterpreted and the individual doesn’t perform against expectation, the tool – not the user – is blamed.

Personally, I think the tool providers should require ongoing assessment of the capability of the users of their tools to ensure that quality is maintained. I’ve heard some interesting misinterpretations over the years, which negatively impact on the reputation of the tools among business people.

There are a number of other tools in the market similar to PI: The PPA (, the PDA (, and other DISC-based tools such as Discus ( The point of this blog is not to promote any particular tool or to compare the tools but rather to argue for the application of these tools by companies when they recruit, develop, promote, and retain people. These tools are also useful to understand why conflict is occurring, why teams are strong or falling apart, why some people struggle to get along with other people, and so on.

The starting point is this: we can look at the CV of a person and assume that that person will fit our environment perfectly. So we recruit, transfer, or promote them. Some time after appointment, the complaints or compliments start.

The conversation might be, “Joe is such a great guy: he takes charge. He’s outgoing. He gets things done quickly – and he doesn’t get too bogged down in the detail”. The listener might say “Great, pleased to hear that!” But actually, he has no idea why Joe is such a great guy in this particular job, when his last boss made no such comments.

We put it down to life.

That’s a pity and a waste, because if the speaker and the listener had had the benefit of one or two good behavioural tools, the conversation might have run along different lines. Something like, “You were right about Joe. That behavioural job analysis we developed together was on the button.  Joe’s profile is a perfect fit.” The listener might then say, “Great, I thought Joe would work better there. His last job required a greater level of task focus, less people work, more patience, and more detail. I think the move will do him good.”

This conversation is enabled by simple tools applied correctly.

In very broad language, there are 4 basic drives that describe one’s level of assertiveness, extroversion, patience, and attention to detail. Of necessity, the large amount of detail behind these terms will not be covered in this blog. (The websites that cover these are listed in the paragraphs above, and the footer below.)

I can help you to identify the tool best suited to your needs.

Behaviour Factors Made Practical

Suffice it to say that a nurse should be co-operative, fairly friendly, patient, and detail-oriented. On the other hand, an army general on the battlefield should be assertive, task focused, impatient, big picture-oriented, and not risk averse.

How do we know this?

The tools provide the answers. There are 2 sides to each tool: the job analysis and the person analysis.

Once the KPIs for a job have been defined, the trained user runs a behavioural assessment of the job with the relevant managers, top performers and HR. The assessment is based on these KPIs. The result of the assessment is discussed and finalised in the form of a profile graph and report.

Then the existing incumbents or applicants are profiled, and their results compared to the job analysis.

There are 3 broad results:

1. The first possible outcome is a behavioural fit to the role. This means that the individual will find it quite easy to work in the role, because the behavioural requirements suit his own behavioural profile.
2. The second is a partial fit. The individual fits parts of the behavioural profile. Our question then is: are the differences critical to performance, or can the individual still be successful?
3. The third is a misfit. For example: an introverted salesperson with a high requirement for detail, certainty, and structure will probably find a hard, commission-based sales role tough to manage long term. Every day will be an effort:

  • To engage strangers to sell them something
  • To make prospecting calls
  • Making small talk and building rapport
  • Building new relationships frequently, and
  • Asking for the order.

Each of these key aspects of a hard sales role are hard work for an introverted and risk-averse person.

Starting in 2 weeks’ time, I’ll write a weekly case study to illustrate this in detail for different jobs in different industries.

Behaviour Analysis – The Takeaway

In summary, we ignore behaviour at our peril.

When the assertive, dictatorial, task-oriented, impatient, pedantic, risk-averse and detail-oriented leader comes crashing down on his or her people on a regular basis, a climate of fear is built – peopled with sycophantic staff keeping out of trouble.

This is no way to build a high performance culture.

Conversely, the co-operative, outgoing, friendly, patient, big picture-oriented, no-detail kind of leader can be equally disastrous.

So what is right?  There are a number of leadership styles, depending on the industry, size, nature, and location of the organisation. The leader of an advertising agency is no doubt very different to that of a mine.

So choose and apply the tools. Don’t rely on gut feel. And ensure the users of those tools are competent. If you need any assistance, please contact me, it’d be my pleasure to assist you.

Next week, we’ll talk about different aspects of behaviour: our habits, task efficiency, and attitude.

Until then, have an excellent week as 2016 approaches the halfway mark.

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Understanding Capability: The CVS

CVS system for simple resumes

The CVS system for simple resume analysis

Tools to Understand Capability

Part 1: The CVS

Last week, we defined the idea of capability: Capability is the flip side of the performance coin. One needs to be capable in order to perform. Whatever the job. Mechanic, accountant, soccer player, comedian, parent, student, even politicians.

While performance management is a dirty bureaucratic word for many people, the fact is that any company that doesn’t measure, can’t manage effectively. This doesn’t mean that a tedious measurement bureaucracy is necessary. Performance management can be efficient if managers focus on the core issues. Most importantly, performance and capability measures must not be confused with one another.

The most famous assumption is that the MBA is the ticket to the top. Many can testify against that. The MBA is a fantastic opportunity to improve your capability, but it isn’t a reason to be promoted. It may improve your capability to perform.

The HR and Training functions are the custodians of capability improvement.

They assist people managers to define the capability requirements for each job. Once done and tested, they define, build, select, outsource, and implement capability development solutions.

If they use external partners, these partners should describe how their solutions will build the capability to perform.

However, some organisations are susceptible to the charms of the slick marketer whose executives and training/marketing materials look professional and substantial. So we are persuaded to think that the largely canned materials on offer will sort out our training needs. But how will we know for sure, if we don’t define the capability requirements for each job and then score the people in those jobs to establish the nature of the gap between individuals and their jobs?

Furthermore, we should correlate individual capability improvement to individual performance improvement to test whether or not our training activities are worth the money and time spent on them. More on this in a later blog.

That’s why the capability scorecard makes sense. It is a reasonably objective way to assess the current potential of people to deliver the objectives for their roles.

Over the next three weeks, I’ll introduce three tools I use to understand applicants, existing employees, and students (for career planning purposes).

The first is the CV Summary (hereafter the CVS). The second is the 4-factor job-person fit tool. The third is a team-person fit tool.

I’ve found these three to be very useful, quick, and inexpensive tools to get a basic understanding of a few job-person fit variables. Naturally, the tools do not form an exhaustive list. There are hundreds of tools available to managers and psychologists, and to try to do justice to more than a few will become a perennial blog post series all by itself!

So let’s begin.


CVs are the most frustrating documents. Some people think a CV is an autobiography, a chance to cover their achievements in primary school – but not their achievements in their last or current job! That’s odd! Why will First Team Cricket in Grade 7 be more important than ‘Delivered the following Objectives in F16’

So while people wax lyrical about their home address, how many kids they have, their school achievements, marital status, and hobbies, they’re thin on substantial content about their work.

A CV Should Tell a Story (A Short Story)

The other thing I hate about CVs is the idea that we should go backwards: last job first, first job last. It means we have to start reading the CV on page 5 (or page 15 if we’re unlucky). It makes no sense. I like to read a CV like a book: from the beginning to the end. Piet started work here as the Tea Maker, stayed for three years, left as Head Tea Maker. After joining the company’s internal training programme, he became an Apprentice. Later he joined ABC as a Technician. Within two years, he was Team Leader, and four years after that, Shift Supervisor. Then he left and became Junior Manager: Warehouse for DEF Co. He went back to college and got his N6. His company promoted him to Manager: Warehouse and Operations. Etc.

That’s a cool story. So why tell it backwards?

My other major hate (and I promise to stop hating after this) is CV length. Why – oh why? – do people think that sending a company recruiter or a consultant a 15-page tome with a 2-page cover letter is a good idea? If I ask for it, perfect. But when you’ve got 10, 100, or 1000 CVs to scan, long is not going to work.

Besides, it’s not necessary.

I remember reading the CV of a well-known South African consultant in the 90s. He has a DBA from Harvard, consulted worldwide, led 2 organisations, and started his own highly-rated business with many CEOs relying on him for leadership advice. He sold the business years later and still consults today in his seventies.

His CV? Three quarters of a page.

But it speaks volumes in very few words.

And yet Joe from purchasing takes 15 pages to describe his career to date. Wragtig! Not to mention including a copy of every one-day course he ever attended.

The CV Snapshot

All of this got me thinking. How can I reduce the volume of a typical CV? Can I create a format that allows me to get the basic facts onto one page – a single page that enables the comparison of two to three candidates or staff members quickly? I turned to a spreadsheet for this task. After a number of iterations, I ended up with a one-page summary that shows the following:

  1. A list of qualifications
  2. A list of other relevant training undertaken
  3. A list of relevant certifications / software competencies etc
  4. A list of extramural activities (beyond socialising, watching TV, reading romantic novels, and church …)
  5. A diary of the individual’s career to date, showing start date, end date, employer, industry, last job, age at start and finish, tenure, achievements, and reasons for leaving.

Here’s an example of a CV in the CVS format (names and details changed):

CV Summary example 1

CV Summary example 1

At a glance, I can get a feeling for the individual’s level of education, competencies, work diary, average tenures, consistency, career ladder progress, and stage of life.

The individual above has consistently applied herself academically, extramurally, and at work. Average tenure is good. Se has shown more interest in management as against pure finance. She has the entrepreneurial temperament to take the leap into a new and, by definition, risky venture. (More about ‘entrepreneurial temperament’ over the next 2 weeks.)

Here’s another:

CV Summary example 2

CV Summary example 2

‘Gavin’ has a Matric and a post-school management certificate. He chose property as his industry, and he has consistently stayed in that environment in different areas for over 13 years. All good. The problem for Gavin is that his career seems to have cruised at the same altitude for most of that time. And recently, he has moved away from management back to being a specialist salesperson.

Maybe this is what happened:

Gavin has always been a specialist, with less interest or capability to manage people. But he was successful in the sales role, and found himself promoted. Who wouldn’t accept a promotion? The rise in status. The money. The office.

The Peter Principle

In 1969, Dr Laurence J. Peter and Raymond Hull wrote a book called The Peter Principle. In it, they describe how people are promoted to their level of incompetence. And there they remain. There are many salespeople making fabulous incomes, who have poor management skills. But it’s common to take our best worker and promote them.

So, for years, Gavin may have moved from management role to management role (which explains his relatively poor average tenure – see top right of the graphic above), blaming his employers and other circumstances for his situation, until eventually – after losing a decade of his career – he realises his optimal role is in the field. He excels as a salesperson.

Without the CVS, I might not have picked up the trend of his career cruising at the same altitude. Glancing through a CV, I would have seen the word manager multiple times in multiple property-related industries. ‘Good’ I might have said.

But looking more closely, with most of the 1250 words excluded, the skeleton of the CV shows itself.

Gavin also hasn’t helped himself by not furthering his education. If he had studied a BCom, that might have opened doors. Maybe he has achieved more, but left it off the CV. Not clever. As you can see from the summary, the words ‘None Listed’ are common. Given that the CV is a sales document, why would you leave off your best features? That’s like BMW not letting you know that the car has traction control, ABS, and a hybrid engine.

Now, we might still employ Gavin. His CV doesn’t say ‘Don’t Recruit’. But it does say ‘Look more closely at the detail’.

Questions would include:

  • Will Gavin stick for more than 1.6 years? How long do our best people stick in our organisation?
  • If Gavin has been passed over for 10 years, why would you promote him now into your organisation?
  • Should we ask Gavin to take a few assessments which may reveal cognitive, behavioural, EQ, intelligence, or other psychological strengths and weaknesses?
  • What do Gavin’s past employers say about him?
  • Can Gavin provide evidence of past performance? (This should be easy to do for a sales role.)
  • What does Gavin say about his career to date?
  • What do Gavin’s social media profiles say about him?
  • How strong were his Matric and Management Certificate results?
  • Why hasn’t he studied further?

There may be good answers for all of these questions.

But without the CVS, it’s harder to ask the questions, because the clues are hidden in those 1250 words … and the craziest part is that those words have been carefully crafted – for hours – to look good!!

Mind the Gap

understanding gaps in a CV lets us make good decisions

In a more traditional CV, it can also be harder to spot the gaps. Once exposed in the CVS due to the date calculation, I’ve seen gaps as big as 10 years pop up. Often the gaps that pop up are between three and 12 months. Gaps are OK. But only sometimes.

What are good reasons for gaps? Maternity? Fine. Studying? Fine. Took a break? Fine. Unemployed? Retrenched? Fine. But let’s understand it.

Proving Competence

An important area of any CV is the technical competencies section.

Often labelled ‘skills’ on the typical CV, this is a candidate’s opportunity to showcase their worth to a potential employer. But in many cases, it’s wasted. For instance, people often declare MS Office as a competency. But what does that mean? Can you use Word, Excel, Powerpoint, Access, and Outlook at an Expert level?


OK, so what does it mean?

Anything, really.

The employer should know what they want from their candidate. MS Office is an incredible armoury of tools. But most of us hack it. How many people spend 30 minutes or more each time they need to do something new, fiddling with footers and headers or sections in Word? Or animations in PowerPoint? Or ‘If’ Statements in Excel?

Isn’t that incredibly inefficient when relatively inexpensive training options exist online and in traditional classroom environments?

So what do we want?

In today’s online world, there’s a course for everything. For example, type the search ‘MS Office 2016’ into the search bar on, and you’ll discover courses from $20 to $50 a shot. Not bad.

Anyone with an internet connection can study today.

Excuses are harder to justify – unless, of course, you’re expecting the government to provide … A naïve assumption at best.

When we measure competence, we cut through the resumé jargon and clarify exactly what skills a potential candidate offers the company.

Dancers and Bulldozers

The CVS is a useful tool to understand – at a glance – if the recruiter or manager is dealing with a dancer or a bulldozer.

What?! I hear you frown.

Dancers try different moves. A bit of banking. Some retail. Manufacturing. And – hey, hospitality – why not? Within those sectors, dancers try different functions: some technical work, sales, service, ops. Dancers can be very useful in environments that require broad experience.

The bulldozers go straight – because they can! They start at the bottom as an apprentice or intern, and build a deep, long career in a few companies in the same industry (or similar). They have extensive networks and deep knowledge of the industry. Not much surprises them. Mining, manufacturing, banking, IT, engineering, medicine, law, accountancy, and public service are typical sectors where people bulldoze a long career.

Hospitality, consulting, financial services, retail, service- and sales-focused organisations might be more suitable for the dancer. (Of course, I recognise that you’ll find dancers and bulldozers in any industry.)

CVs made Simple

Simply put, the CVS is a tool that enables one to reduce 1200+ words and too many pages (with too many verbs, and adjectives like ‘excellent’ and ‘managing’) to a one-page, quick-glance snapshot that helps managers and recruiters to sum up a CV quickly.

So, instead of retyping a CV, rather CVS it.

I use the CVS for recruitment and performance management projects. The feedback from managers is always good.

If you’d like to try the template, feel free to download it here. You can download the key to the different fields here.

If you have any questions, send them to me. I’d love to help.

Until next week (person/job fit tools), have a great week!

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