Using National Occupational Standards to Describe Success
Last week we focused on how you can use competency models to define the world of work. This week, we will focus on how national occupational standards are used to define job success.
National Occupational Standards are an inventory of the skills and abilities (what a person needs to be able to do) and knowledge (what they must know) needed to perform in a given occupation or job. Another way to think of standards is to think of them as one-level competencies needed to work in an occupation. They are “national” because they apply across the country (e.g., Canada) and they are “standards” as they serve as voluntary guidelines or benchmarks for performance in the industry. For example, if I were building a national occupational standard for a commercial vehicle driver, I might describe what they would need to know and do to maintain health and safety, and what they would need to know and do to drive the truck.
Below are some key points to consider when developing national occupational standards
to ensure that you are describing successful performance in a way that is accurate, measurable, and observable.
Tip 1: Identify and consult stakeholders
As the standards are national and may be used by different groups within the industry (e.g., employers, managers, HR, employees, students, trainers/educators, professional and industry associations), it is important to form a steering committee that represents the interests of these groups and also consult additional representatives across the country throughout development to ensure that you capture the diverse aspects of the job.
Tip 2: Develop a framework
Before you start to build your standards, it is important to first develop a framework that will guide how you will build the standards and what they will look like when you are done. You will need to identify the different functional areas (e.g., management, sales, administrative, etc.), subsectors within the industry, and the roles within each subsector. The framework also helps to identify the competencies (skills, abilities and knowledge) that are common across the sector, functional areas, subsectors, and occupations.
Below is an example of what a model could look like for the occupation of Farm manager – Cannabis production.
This allows you to use a modular approach to standards development and create a library of modules that can be grouped together based on the framework.
Tip 3: Consider both “soft skills” and “hard skills”
When developing the standards, it is important to make sure that you describe not only the “hard skills” or more technical ones (e.g., conducts vehicle inspections, maintains vehicle speed) but also the “soft skills” or the competencies that tend to apply to many different occupations (e.g., communication, analytical thinking, collaboration). This will help to ensure that you describe the full range of behaviors needed for success.
Stay tuned for our next Blog on tips for how to structure your competencies.