Developing an Effective Experience Design Competency Model
Designing and testing new business models in the real world takes talent — unique talent that requires a mashup of the kind of education that would typically be found in a design and a business school. While an increasing number of schools offer this dual major, most people have backgrounds in one or the other. The work we do at BIF requires cross-disciplinary thinking and approaches. So, recruiting, motivating, and retaining this distinctive talent is our priority. Here’s our approach.
BIF’s experience designers drive our unique business model design process, so we set out to assure that experience designers have a clear, navigable career path. The career path and expectations are transparent, so people know exactly what is expected of them as they progress within BIF.
From the outset, our experience designers have questions: What are the specific capabilities they need at the time they are hired? How will they be expected to evolve each of these skills? As their capabilities change, will their position? Change to what? How long will that take? Will people be provided with opportunities to develop and hone their skills? What are the associated financial benefits?
We set out to answer these questions by creating a competency and career progression framework.
BIF makes an important promise to all our staff: “For as long as you fully commit to BIF’s mission-driven work, we promise that when you leave you will be a stronger professional, a better person, and more relevant to the market than when you joined us.” According to BIF Co-Founder and Chief Catalyst Saul Kaplan, “Our new competency development model was designed to help us deliver on this promise to our staff and to develop the talent we need to provide our value proposition—to help leaders design and test new transformational business models.”
Our new framework allows for increased productivity, commitment, and employee retention. Thanks to an Organizational Effectiveness grant provided by The Hewlett Foundation, and in collaboration with our friends at XPlane, we produced a visually compelling document that details BIF’s four levels of promotion and the average time an experience designer would take to progress through each of these roles.
In order to offer experience designers a tool by which they could gauge their progress, we created a framework of four categories: individual, project, team, and organizational. Three core competencies are embedded within these categories. How each competency looks at the four promotion points is further refined and stated in specific detail. See “Individual Competencies,” below.
This framework will be used at annual review meetings as a springboard for conversations on the competency level an experience designer has achieved, as well as areas to focus on in the upcoming year. At the start of each project to which they are assigned in the upcoming year, experience designers can use the framework to map which competencies they will be likely to develop or refine through work on the given project.
As we use the framework on an ongoing basis, we will look at three areas to determine its efficacy. First, at annual reviews and project onboarding meetings, we will ask experience designers to give us feedback and reactions on the framework. We want to know to what degree experience designers are applying what they have learned so we can be assured that assigned projects are offering opportunities for experience designers to gain experience in the competencies they need.
Finally, we’ll know how well the framework succeeds by tracking our employee retention rate, with the goal of lower turnover. We launched the Competency and Career Progression Framework last week to overwhelmingly positive response, so we anticipate results to match our goals. We’ll share as we now embark on this process.