How to Stop Atrophy of Competency and Experience at Work

Taking a leaf out of Continuing Medical Education(CME)

The rate of velocity of change needed in enhancing one’s professional skills due to change in technologies, new improved manufacturing techniques, new management situations like WFH, new distribution & logistics solutions, multichannel sales opportunities, ever changing accounting regulations, emerging new competitive industries hitherto not seen etc. is creating sweeping changes in keeping people competent and relevant in their work place.  But, many still seem satisfied with our century-old learning, training and recruitment methods that seem just not good enough to me. Neither their past degrees nor their long work experience make them work-fit today!

Imagine you are an engineer who had graduated a couple of years or decades back and the expectation that professional life is going to be normal in the near future with so much of change in the air is not real. Or you are a finance professional who came out of college and completed your financial management or CA degree many years ago with some old world financial regulations. Or you are a supply chain professional who is currently hit with the new shortages in the electronics and automotive industry and is suddenly forced to look for new sourcing solutions. Or a marketing or advertising professional where the basic fundamentals of branding, media investments, marketing technology, analytics and marketing rules are changing with digital virtually taking over the industry.  In my view, the question to be asked is not ‘Are organizations doing enough for me?’ but ‘ Am I doing enough for myself  to stay relevant and be the best in what in I do?’.

I looked at how a few other professions are addressing this tsunami of change that is hitting them over many years. One of them is the medical profession. What was interesting to me was a concept called Continuing Medical Education(CME) which is a prerequisite in many countries for medical professionals to maintain their licenses. This helps medical professionals maintain competence and learn about new and developing areas in their field. The CME activities may take place through online programs, written publications and journals, audio or video content which is developed and delivered by faculty who are experts in their individual clinical areas etc.

In the United States, many states require CME completion for medical professionals to maintain their licenses. Similarly in Canada, specialist physicians who join the Royal College of physicians and surgeons as fellows maintain their knowledge, skills, competence and performance through participating in the Maintenance of Certification Program. For each five-year cycle, fellows of the college are required to maintain 400 credits with a minimum of 40 credits obtained in each year of the five-year cycle.

But, other professions like engineering, manufacturing, production, design, software, architecture, accounting, supply chain, marketing, advertising, management etc. go only by past experience or degrees which is not a true representation of competency or expertise, today. Sometimes, it becomes an entitlement factor when everybody around, including the person,  knows the shortcomings he or she comes with. 

So, I believe it is time to think of Continuing Technology Education(CTE), Continuing Architect Education(CAE), Continuing Manufacturing Education(CMfE), Continuing Marketing & Advertising Education (CMAE), Continuing Finance Education(CFE) etc. etc. which mandates every professional to maintain their license as an engineer, product designer, software technologist, production engineer, civil engineer, architect, management professional, finance professional etc. This will stop the ‘entitlement mindset’ within the individual and in organizations too. This will also drive’ Competency-driven Performance’ that will benefit the organization and individuals too. Our universities, colleges, DOTE( Department of Technical Education), Education Ministry, companies can drive this change and make it mandatory for professionals to complete their Continuous Professional Development(CPD) year after year. 

The pandemic has only accelerated this reality because organizations started looking at people, skills, competency, compensation and the value they were delivering only during such a crisis. But, as they say ‘atrophy’ of cells happen over time and not suddenly.  Similarly ‘atrophy’ of competency and experience must have happened over time and organizations as well as leaders in these firms are as much responsible as individuals themselves in allowing this atrophy to happen. 

Mandatory Continuous Professional Development( CPD) is the only way forward and just like Corporate Social Responsibility(CSR), there must be a Corporate Skills Responsibility (CSKR) budget for organizations which comes with a lot of tax benefits and an audit of numbers to maintain these professional skill licenses. This will force people to improve their individual competency, protecting their future growth, their families & improve their work-fitness while making organizations extremely competitive and valuable.  

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