Competency development in times of crisis

5 Trends in Flemish Organisations

Starting in the second half of 2008, Flanders was confronted with its most serious economic crisis in decades. In 2009, the economy contracted by 3.9%. The economic crisis also had implications for the way in which organisations develop their employees’ competencies. Budgetary cut-backs in training programmes compelled companies to look for new, more creative ways to develop their employees’ competencies and thus to guarantee their continued effectiveness.

This article focuses on the consequences that the recent economic crisis has had on the development of employee competencies in Flemish organisations and the measures that these organisations have taken to keep their workforces trained and competent. Authors Ine Willemse, Sara De Hauw en Kirby Van Laere of Vlerick Business School have based their article on the longitudinal panel study of 21 organisations that they have been conducting in the framework of the Steunpunt WSE (Policy Research Centre Work and Social Economy) since 2007.

All of the organisations emphasise that, even in times of cost-savings, investing in developing employee competencies remains a priority.

Developing Employees still a Priority

All of the organisations that the authors have surveyed emphasise that investment in employee competency development is a long-term engagement. Even in times of budget cuts, cost-savings and lean business, investing in developing employee competencies remains a priority.

Nevertheless, the economic crisis has clearly had an impact on the way in which the organisations manage their competency development programmes. The article presents 5 trends in the ways Flemish organisations are approaching competency development:

  1. looking for creative and cost-effective ways to develop competencies,
  2. stimulating competency development across departmental boundaries
  3. tailoring the approach to the individual employee,
  4. making competency development a strategic choice,
  5. creating a learning culture in the organisation.

Positive Benefits of the Crisis

The economic crisis has prompted a number of evolutions in the ways in which the organisations in the authors’ study develop their employees’ competencies. By accelerating a number of issues, the crisis has obliged organisations to revise – or at least to question – their existing competency management systems. However, the organisations view some of the changes brought about by the economic crisis as a positive evolution in their competency development practices. So, their main challenge at this point lies in formalising and incorporating these changes to make sure that their benefits continue after the crisis has passed.

Related article:

Willemse I., De Hauw S., Van Laere K., De Vos A. Competentieontwikkeling in tijden van crisis. Vijf trends in Vlaamse organisaties. Over.Werk. 21 (2): 48-53, 2011.

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