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Why Performance Measurement for Development Professionals is Critical: Learning from Miller’s Pyramid

Tanya Gupta's picture

According to a training report  no less than $55.4 billion in 2013 was spent on training, including payroll and external products and services, in the US alone. The US and other countries spend a significant amount of money on employee development with the implicit assumption that training is correlated to improved on- the- job performance.   However, what exactly should we measure to ensure that this money is well spent? What is it that we need to measure to determine that employees are performing as expected and thus benefitting from these training expenditures?

Two responses that we often get to this “what should be measured” question are “performance” and “competencies”. The Government Accountability Office (GAO) of the United States defines  performance measurement as the “ongoing monitoring and reporting of program accomplishments, particularly progress toward pre-established goals.”  Performance measures, therefore, help define what success at the workplace means (“accomplishments”), and attempt to quantify performance by tracking the achievement of goals. Competencies are generally viewed as “a cluster of related knowledge, skills, and attitudes” (Parry 1996), and are thought to be measurable, correlated to performance, and can be improved through training.  While closely connected, they are not the same thing. Competencies are acquired skills, while performance is use of those competencies at work. Measurement of both is critical.

#2 from 2013: Challenges for India’s Livelihood Youth Skill Development in Rural Areas

Abhilaksh Likhi's picture

Our Top Ten blog posts by readership in 2013
This post was originally published on July 2, 2013


A critical element in India’s 12th Five Year Plan (2012-2017) is the generation of productive and gainful employment on a sufficient scale. The aim of such planning is to systematically absorb the growing working population in the unorganized sector of an expanding economy. This sector contributes about sixty percent of the country’s GDP. Infact, it employs workers in micro enterprises, unpaid family work, casual labor and home based work on a mammoth scale. In addition, it also absorbs migrant laborers, farmers, artisans and more importantly out of school rural youth.

In the last decade, the Indian economy has witnessed a structural transformation from agricultural activities to manufacturing and services oriented activities. A distinct feature of this transition has been a substantial decline in the absolute number of people employed in agriculture. However, according to the Planning Commission, a crucial factor in the migration of the labor force from rural to urban areas is its temporary nature and occurrence only in lean agricultural seasons. Besides, this large chunk of labor force is not available to participate in the manufacturing or the services oriented activities due to severe lack of appropriate skill sets. According to the Commission, the latter reflects rural distress, driven by the fact, that more than eighty percent of India’s farming households are small and marginal, tilling only less than 2.5 acres of land.

Media & Information Literacy is Gaining Momentum

Johanna Martinsson's picture

In recent years, Media & Information Literacy (MIL) has been increasingly recognized as a critical element in good governance and accountability. This is partly due to the rapid growth in technologies, which has contributed to a changing media landscape and new forms of citizen engagement.  To thrive in this environment, citizens need the critical abilities and communicative skills to effectively access, analyze, and evaluate information.  These skills will help citizens make informed decisions and form opinions that can impact their daily lives and the communities they live in, as well as minimize risks associated with the very same technologies, such as security, safety, and privacy. With its empowering effect, MIL can foster a citizenry capable and aspired to demand better services, hold leaders accountable and engage as active stakeholders in governance reform. Yet, MIL has struggled to gain the momentum needed to become part of the development agenda. However, this might be about to change.

The Wellspring of Ideas: Tacit Knowledge

Maya Brahmam's picture

Tacit knowledge has emerged as the “holy grail” of sorts, with many organizations (including the World Bank) seeking a way to capture and deliver it.  Tacit knowledge is a difficult concept, which I thought was worth exploring a bit.

The origin of this idea has been widely credited to Michael Polanyi, a Hungarian scientist of the 20th century. In his book, Personal Knowledge: Towards a Post-Critical Philosophy, Polanyi examines how individuals gain knowledge and share it, arguing that knowledge is highly personal, saying “into every act of knowing there enters a passionate contribution of the person knowing what is being known.” He goes on to say that we can see personal knowledge (tacit knowledge) at work in the area of skills and connoisseurship and that some types of knowledge have limited capability for transfer – hence the difficulty of this quest for tacit knowledge. A useful analogy for this kind of knowledge transfer is the master-apprentice relationship, where the master’s knowledge is passed along to the apprentice in practical ways. What’s more, there is a wide body of evidence to show that tacit knowledge is substantially correlated with job performance. 

Elephants on the Autobahn?

Tanya Gupta's picture

When it comes to use of social media in development, development institutions remind me of lumbering elephants walking down the autobahn.  In any other sphere, development organizations would not be at such a disadvantage.  We have been building roads for ever.  There has not been any fundamental change in the technology of building roads.  Development organizations learnt slowly but well about development challenges in various sectors and are now legitimate experts in these areas.  All the same the title of “knowledge institutions” is a bit hard to swallow.  The reason, probably somewhat unfair, is that knowledge today, for most people is intimately tied to technology, social media too is viewed as a medium for knowledge, much like the network of roads and highways are a medium for commerce.  
 

Institutional Takes on Communication for Development

I returned from my two weeks of traveling with a more optimist outlook about Communication for Development -C4D- and the way it is being considered and applied around the world. I went first to Lisbon, Portugal, where I was invited to be a guest speaker in a week-long workshop on communication for social change sponsored by the Objectivo 2015 - UN Millennium Campaign in Portugal and hosted by the Lisbon's School of Communication and Media Studies.  The course was directed at Civil Society Organizations managers and program officers. It has been very encouraging to see not only the high level of interest of participants, but also to realize that C4D principles and concepts can be and are applied effectively in the context of more developed countries.

Hard and Soft Skills

Sina Odugbemi's picture

In development practice today, when you ask ‘How do you improve governance systems in developing countries in order to improve the lives of the poor?’ the so-called hard skills dominate the discourse.  But what are these so-called hard skills? At their most mind-numbing these are number-crunching skills derived from a variety of quantitative social science disciplines. Beyond that these are skills in technical analysis and solution-finding.