We must stay a step ahead of the demands of the future
Service, business acumen and change readiness are among the competencies the administration must focus on developing in coming years.
The season for staff development dialogues is upon us. Some units have already started, and the rest will follow suit in the coming months. One recurring topic in these dialogues is competency development. And there’s a good reason for this: To keep pace with our constantly changing reality, we must continually develop our employees’ competencies.
We usually think of competency development as a way of strengthening our employees’ career opportunities. Having an opportunity to develop yourself encourages motivation and commitment – and that’s an asset both for the individual employee’s well-being and for the organisation!
But it’s not sufficient to focus solely on the employee’s own wishes with respect to competency development. We also have to be extremely conscious of the needs of the organisation – now and in future. As the organisation develops, we will face new demands. We can only meet these by lifting the general competency level of the administration as a whole. This is the action area I have previously referred to as an employee competency boost.
Four core competencies for administrative employees
The deputy directors, the administrative centre managers and I have discussed what competencies we expect the organisation will need in coming years, and we have agreed on four general competencies we must work to promote among administrative employees:
- Service: We must involve the users of our services and be responsive to their wishes and needs. We must simplify and streamline our rules and work processes to ensure that our users get fast, professional service.
- Solutions: We must demonstrate mental and professional flexibility in our work in order to find solutions with and for our users. To do so, we must be willing to learn new things and adapt to changing needs and opportunities – on the foundation of our professional administrative competencies. We must also assume shared responsibility for making sure that tasks don’t get stuck on their way through the organisation. In other words, we must keep our eye on the ball even when it’s in the hands of one of our co-workers.
- Cohesion: We must demonstrate business acuity, understand AU’s core tasks and help one another to provide cohesive service across administrative units. We must also work to strengthen our links to the academic organisation in order to create the best possible framework for research and teaching, not least during periods of change.
- Change: Through strong administrative and organisational competencies, we must support the management and implementation of changes in the organisation and in work processes, both locally and across the university.
Now we’ve outlined a path to our destination. So we must also take a close look in the mirror and consider where we are today – and where we need to take action in order to start moving in the right direction. It is a question of developing our competency profile, both individually as employees and managers and collectively as units. This is a locally anchored process which will take place in close dialogue between management and employees.
We will use the staff development dialogues, ongoing discussions in the liaison committees and day-to-day management to identify local needs for new competencies and any development activities that might be needed. The results of this process will be translated into concrete plans for both individual employees and groups.
I would like to emphasise that competency development is much more than simply participating in a course. For example, an employee might act as an ‘apprentice’ in a development project, benefit from peer-to-peer training from a co-worker, or temporarily swap jobs with a colleague with different administrative job responsibilities. Feedback – both between manager and co-worker and between co-workers – is another effective and rewarding way to learn new things.
I am looking forward to hearing more about the needs and solutions you identify as relevant to precisely your needs when we follow up on this issue in the administrative management team. Your good ideas about competency development are welcome, both in local discussions in your unit as well as right here on the blog.