Continuous Building of the Non-Teaching Employees Competence

One of the challenges of any public sector organization like the Department of Education is the continuous building of the non-teaching employees’ competence despite the Volatile, Uncertain, Complex, and Ambiguous (VUCA) world that we are living. Indeed, it made us realized that there are concepts and practices in the government that employees need to unlearn, re-learn, and learn in order to continue the delivery of effective and efficient public service.  Face-to-face modality in facilitating capability building need to be un-learned as it is prohibited during the pandemic to ensure the employees’ health and safety.  There is a need to re-learn the competence and the competency level of the non-teaching employees as the basis in determining their competency needs and development interventions. There is also the need to learn the flexible modality in facilitating capability building which includes the synchronous and asynchronous modalities. Synchronous modality allows resource speakers to present their topics and interact with the participants at the same time using video or web conferencing while asynchronous modality allows participants to learn from the topics of the resource speakers at their own pace, place, process, and time.

Continuous building of competence gives us an opportunity to examine, innovate, and explore possibilities of improving the delivery of public services. As defined by Career Guide (2019), competence refers to the skills and characteristics that enable the employee to perform a job. If an employee can perform a required task at a targeted level of proficiency, he/she is competent. To be competent, an employee must be able to react to a situation and follow behaviors he/she has found to succeed in the past. To do this, an employee must have a repertoire of possible actions to take and training in them. Competency grows with experience and training.  Given the existence of CoViD-19, government employees are challenged in pursuing the delivery of effective and efficient public service with observance of the health and safety protocols.

The government needs to examine the level of competence of every employee. According to the Career Guide (2019), there are four (4) levels of competence such as unconscious incompetence (Level 1), conscious incompetence (Level 2), conscious competence (Level 3), and unconscious competence (Level 4). Unconscious incompetence is the stage where employees do not know yet the degree of their incompetence. Employees do not know what they don’t know. This is generally the most challenging, as employees are unconscious of the fact that there are areas that need improvement or things employees need to learn. People in this stage can’t recognize problems as they occur, so they generally don’t ask for help. Conscious incompetence is where employees start to develop an awareness of what they don’t know. This stage can be uncomfortable because employees must acknowledge their shortcomings. However, recognizing their shortcomings also motivates them to move forward and learn the skill so they can move beyond this stage as quickly as possible. Conscious competence, after dedicating themselves to the improvement of skill through formal training, repeated practice, and participation, competence grows and starts to show. At this stage, employees have learned and practiced enough to perform the task with a degree of quality and independence. The task does take focus and attention that makes them slower than it would for someone who is more skilled. There is also a performance risk from distractions and possibly deadline pressure. In other words, if employees lose their focus, their ability to perform the task may suffer.  Unconscious competence, in this final stage, employees have now internalized the knowledge they need to perform a task and perfected their practical skills. Employees also no longer require concentration or active thought. Employees can complete the required tasks with ease and speed. Employees are also capable of mentoring team members who are in an earlier stage of the learning model. Employees have mastered the competency and can do the task with ease. Employees understand the advanced strategies to be successful at the task and are training other team members to help them. 

Assessing the level of competence provides the basis for deriving innovative solutions that help the non-teaching employees in the retooling, upskilling, and cross-skilling of their competence. Moreover, it is an opportunity for them to explore possibilities like improving the work practices, upgrading public service, and integrating alternative like technological solutions. As an important resource in the government, investment on capability building will provide return on investment. Capacitated non-teaching employees will become more effective, efficient, and resilient in the public service despite working in a volatile, uncertain, complex, and ambiguous world.

By Jojie L. Arias