Transforming the Productivity of People in the Built Environment: Emergence of a Digital Competency Management Ecosystem

Transforming the Productivity of People in the Built Environment: Emergence of a Digital Competency Management Ecosystem

Jason Underwood, Mark Shelbourn, Debbie Carlton, Gang Zhao, Martin Simpson, Gulnaz Aksenova, Sajedeh Mollasalehi
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-7998-6600-8.ch017
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This chapter explores how we create and support a digitally enabled, agile, competent, and ultimately, productive workforce and determines the key research questions that need to be addressed if Digital Built Britain (DBB) is to provide return on investment and succeed as the catalyst for evolving the manner in which we conceive, plan, design, construct, operate, and interact with the built environment. The proposed vision is a digital competency management ecosystem where interdependent stakeholders are incentivised to work together in coopetition to create, capture, infer, interpret, specify, integrate, accredit, apply, use, monitor, and evolve competence as a working (data) asset. This needs to be in a consistent, objective, explicit, and scalable manner, with end2end transparency and traceability for all stakeholders that overcome the challenges of competency management. Moreover, a core element must be an ecosystem organised around digital infrastructure of competency frameworks and other knowledge sources of competence, so that competency frameworks are in digital operation and dynamic context.
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A successful evolution within any industry or sector is often seen as a combination of People, Process, and Technology (Arayici, 2011). However, it is difficult to quantify the relevant proportion of investment into People, Process, and Technology suggested by the Construction Sector and Government strategies and reports. The Digital Groundwork report (PlanGrid, Inc., 2019) stated that 50% of industry professionals say that improving digital skills1 will be a key focus for their business over the next three years. However, in the latest NBS Annual BIM Report (NBS, 2020), 63% attribute the barrier to BIM use to a lack of in-house skills/expertise, and 61% to the lack of training; both continuing to remain two of the top three reported key barriers to the successful adoption of BIM and digital transformation over the last decade. The Construction Manager Annual BIM survey 2020, similarly, reports that poor digital skills are holding back the adoption of BIM with 64% attributing the main organisational barrier to the adoption of BIM, or further adoption, to the lack of digital skills (Construction Manager, 2020). Furthermore, when considering the main barrier to productivity in their business, industry professionals most commonly point to a lack of skills amongst employees (40%) and talent shortages (39%) (PlanGrid, Inc., 2019).

When we consider the construction sector is comprised of a significant proportion of micro and small and medium sized enterprises (SME’s) that are essential to the whole built asset life cycle (over 99% (BIS, 2013; Designing Buildings Wiki, 2019)), the development of their digital skills is critical to facilitate the ongoing digital transformation (CLC, 2019). Improving digital skills and the ability to use digital tools of SMEs could add £9.9 billion, i.e. 0.5% of total UK GDP (Oxford Economics, 2020). However, according to the ‘Bricks, Mortar and Digital Transformation’ report, SMEs within the UK construction sector risk being left behind if they do not embrace the digital transformation journey (Zen Internet, 2019).

The implementation of BIM not only demands the use of computer-aided design, modelling, and collaborative tools, but also requires a shift in/or having a flexible mindset (sometimes referred to as metaskills) to embrace these techniques in all construction processes. Therefore, BIM training can either mean ‘learning to use technology’ or ‘process focused’ with the majority based strongly on the PAS/ISO standards (SFT, 2018). Thus, Barley (2019) asks, do we do more than, “give people the process and the technology and call those who reject it luddites or laggards”?

Key Terms in this Chapter

Competency management: Competency and its management concerns identifying, acquiring, assessing, matching, foreseeing, and assuring competency at work, in order to mitigate its demands and supplies including minimising risks.

Skills Gap: Occurs when businesses do not have sufficient staff with the required skills in their existing workforces and willing to move to the next role or job or activity.

Skills Mismatch: Are where individuals are mismatched to their jobs in terms of competences, or qualifications or field of study (discipline). The mismatch can be over-skilled or qualified or under-skilled or qualified for example.

Reskilling: In terms of re-skilling, the main context is migration – planning the transition and moving to a new activity, role, job, discipline, profession, sector which may require new competences and unlearning. It terms of transition it often concerns both stocks (personal, social and institutional resources) and flows (moving in, moving through, and moving on).

Skills Surplus: Are characterised by a relatively high supply and low demand for a given skill (often identified by high unemployment). One can’t consider skills gaps or shortages without considering surplus.

Competency Analytics: A set of technologies and methodologies for competency management. It is a decision support system for bi-directionally mediating competency supply and demand. It enables the analysis of competency state and evolution in order to facilitate the match of competency supply and demand, the fulfilment of competency needs by competency development, competency planning, migration and assurance.

Competency(ies) (in Ecosystem Context): A competence profile; a set of competences associated with a person, team, task, role, project, profession, service, process, practices, courses, publications, and policy ( Zhao, 2017b ).

Upskilling: Upskilling concerns the progression from one competency profile to another. When considering Professional Upskilling the key questions is ‘upskilled to do what to what level, why, where, when, with what, with whom etc.? This may concern learning new competences or ways of working.

Skills Shortage: Are where businesses have difficulty finding suitably skilled individuals from the potential pool of available recruits or talent pool at the going rate of pay and working conditions. They can be broadly defined in terms of an inadequate supply of workers in high-demand occupations and/or inadequate supply of skills required to perform the tasks associated to such occupations.

Competency Assurance: Set within the context of competency demand and supply mediation and is primarily concerned with understanding people@work risks more dynamically within an organisation or ecosystem where the need, existence, extent, currency, validity, and meaning of competency can be understood and securely shared at a granular level and relevant to the next in line work activity, HRM/people processes (e.g. workforce planning), individual development/career planning, CPD, re-certification/licensing, or in response to a specific competency assurance request (Carlton, 2018 AU106: The in-text citation "Carlton, 2018" is not in the reference list. Please correct the citation, add the reference to the list, or delete the citation. ).

Skill: The functional ability the person or agent has to perform activities and actions.

Digital Competency Management Ecosystem: A digital community platform of inter-dependent stakeholders in cooperation within or across sectors and occupations. It is an electronic-market of services facilitating and mediating supply and demand of data, information and knowledge about competences, professions, trades and roles, disciplines, learning opportunities, qualifications, best practices, standards, regulations and policies. It concerns structural innovation.

Competence/Competence Frameworks (CF) or Models: Are designed with respect to an organisation, function, or occupational activity. CF are textual descriptions, but they are designed along conceptual dimensions, e.g. knowledge, skills, abilities (KSA) or other attributes such as behaviours, etc. Therefore, a CF can be a collection of competence dimensions or KSAs with relationships, levels, and other attributes such as importance, currency, roll-up rules. Competence Frameworks are typically designed to deliver a breadth of outcomes relating not only to training, but also talent management, professional development/CPD, appraisal, performance review, organisational design, and development, etc.

Capability: The complex combination of an appropriate set of competences in order to achieve a specific organisational objective(s). It emphasises the key role of strategic management in appropriately adapting, integrating, and in re-configuring the internal and external organisational skills, resources, and functional competences in a changing environment (Teece et al., 1997 AU105: The in-text citation "Teece et al., 1997" is not in the reference list. Please correct the citation, add the reference to the list, or delete the citation. ).

Competence(s): ‘A capability demonstrated in an activity at work (who can do what, why, how, where, when, with whom, with what’). It is an ability to conduct an activity or perform a task for a professional duty1. Competence has multiple dimensions, expressed in such terms as duties, abilities, skills, experience, expertise, aptitude, knowledge, education, qualifications, behaviour, values, interests and attitudes’. Competence is multi-dimensional, multi-faceted and context dependent and increasingly many competences overlap sectors, disciplines, professions, and roles in the dynamic world of work. But, they all refer to, implicitly or explicitly, to activities at work ( Zhao, 2017a , 2017b ).

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