Einstein must have been right

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What if Albert Einstein lived today and we could ask him for advice? I believe that today his immortal formula E=mc2 might look something like the following:            Expertise = management x (of) competency2                                     […]

What if Albert Einstein lived today and we could ask him for advice? I believe that today his immortal formula E=mc2 might look something like the following:

           Expertise = management x (of) competency2                                  
In a world where robots and artificial intelligence are slowly replacing humans in transaction processing, expertise is becoming more important, particularly as it relates to an organization’s business services.
I believe in the formula invented by Herr Einstein and find that both factors of the above equation can be applied to BPO delivery operations. Take a standard competency model, for example.   When applied as an integral part of the target operating model, it helps answer the question: do my people have the appropriate competencies to do the job?  A good competency model indicates what skills and proficiency levels are required of a person working in a selected job family and grade.
Imagine two people supporting an Order-to-Cash (O2C) process. One person is responsible for the application of cash, routine and repetitive work, basically involving processing a large amount of records. And the other employee deals with debt collection for a portfolio of large business customers. Before employee number two makes the call, he or she must understand the customer’s business cycles and pay patterns. And to take customer intimacy to the next level, they should also know which football team the customer supports (the guy is from Manchester!) and the names of his children (his daughter is taking her A levels at the moment). With such different skill sets required for each of these roles which are focused on the same business process, it is clear why a carefully calculated competency model is required rather than simply recruiting for “two O2C Accountants”.
The competency model should be supported by a learning and development (L&D) strategy. Since we know who is needed in the organization and we are able to identify gaps through the competency assessment, the HR department should be able to offer appropriate training and tools for managers to use when planning the development of their team members.
Continuing with the Einstein analogy, the 70/20/10 model works very well in this scenario. When creating an individual development plan for employees, let’s not forget that 70% of learning should come from experience, duties, and tasks; 20% from other people; and 10% from lectures and workshops. It is important for the L&D strategy to support the business. Training should not only be looked at as a benefit for employees, but more importantly it must deliver a return on investment! Managers cannot be sitting comfortably in an “HR Department” restaurant and picking items from a menu: assertiveness for a starter, management and leadership for the main course, and some journal vouchers and reconciliation for dessert. We need to remember that in our formula E=mc2, c should stand only for the competencies we need to be successful with our strategic goals.

In my last post I mentioned that the Capgemini Global Enterprise Model (GEM) distinguishes 3 types of centers, one of which is the Expertise Centre. Let us look at the definition and distinctive elements:

  • Expertise Centrefocused on advanced service line expert skills with value adding professional services. Processes in scope are high-end and based on horizontal and vertical knowledge. As operating costs might be of less importance than process outcomes, a location can be onshore, near shore or offshore (usually a tier 1 city), depending on access to subject matter expertise.

The creation of an Expertise Centre is a journey, which takes time and requires organizational and mindset changes. Typical challenges often faced along the way include:

  • An existing grading model that assumes individuals above a certain grade (e.g. team leader level) should manage people,
  • The organization’s other HR policies do not support an Expertise Centre concept i.e. there is no definition of an expert, or roles and required competencies are not described and promotion criteria and processes are not in place.
  • Managers believe that a measure of their success is based on the size of the team they manage, hence being an expert and not running a team feels as a downgrade for them.

Some time ago Capgemini BPO decided to implement expert career paths, where an expert was defined as someone who has a unique point of view and up-to-date knowledge of a particular business process or domain. The description also indicated that the individual should have extensive professional experience (min. 6 years) that they make use of in practice. As a result, Capgemini’s Competency Model includes roles such as Procurement Process Manager, HR Process Transformation Consultant, Cash Collection Expert, Delivery Excellence Lead and many others.

In Capgemini’s Polish Centre, as many as 5% of employees are qualified as experts and another 5% aspire to become experts while working as specialists. It turns out that for many employees who have not considered a people manager role, a new chance for career development has emerged. And now subject matter expert roles have been widely accepted as fully fledged and important roles in the organization.

The right management approach and focus on knowledge and competencies bring benefits to everyone. Employees have more alternatives and can grow within their chosen fields. The company has engaged employees who stay longer and can also offer the market more sophisticated and better paid services. The firm also anchors its business, as it is much more difficult to transfer out processes based on expertise. And finally the customers receive professional and good quality support, having a real business partner on the delivery side. 

Einstein was right: E=mc2. Quod erat demonstrandum.

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