The aim of the assignment is to investigate what constitutes human competence at work- is very well defined

Home, - Understanding Human Competence at Work

1. Purpose and the Objective of the study

The aim of the study - to investigate what constitutes human competence at work- is very well  defined and has been discussed in Abstract, Introduction, Discussion and COnClusiOn. ‘While defining it in the Introduction, the aim is immediately linked with the results of the study which proposes interpretative approach as an alternative  to the rationalistiC  approachet  for defining what constitutes the competence at work. Realizing the key managerial problem of developing human competence at work in wake of technological development, he points at the critical issue of lack of understanding of the ingredients that form the human competence at work.

The study is more a comparative analysis  between rationalistic approach and Interpretative approach for defining and understanding the competence at work. Identifying the key flaws and limitations in the rationalistic approach which defines competence at a set of attributes such as the knowledge, skills and abiI'‹Y (KSA) to perform work, the author proposes Interpretative approach( Phenomenology) to replace the mostly used r0 tionalistic approach. A5 the objectives and the results of the research are interlinked; one finds it difficult to recognize that it was failure or/ the limitation of the rationalistic approach that triggered the formation of research objectives or it was ’the versatility or presupposition of the Interpretative approach to be solution that contributed to its

2. The theoretical framework

There has been in-depth, vivid and to an extent comprehensive identification and discussions of the theories related to human competence at work. The reader comes a cross to two sets of theoretical framework, that is, rationalistic and interpretative approaches at the very start of the article in the Abstract. There is consistent discussions about the theories and approaches that have emerged historically while defining the human competence at work. He starts with F rcderick Wilson Taylor’s (19 I J) all time famous ”Time and Motion stUdy” which gives the pfinCiple of sCientifiC m6 nagement for improved productivity/

Further, the discussions categorize the Job Analysis as mostly used approa ch for identifying competence; and that was based on scientific principles of the ratJonalisti c research. He gives very little account of Job Analysis, though he calls it very dominant theo ry. The Eim C Ehe cur rent article was finalized ( i n Z000), comprehC'ntiv0 work wat done on the Job Analysi s; and a new broader re rm work analysis‘ was coined  to  replace  Job  Analysis(Sanchez, 1994, Sanchez  8  Levine,  1999).  The very discussion about work and worker  has  remai ned at  the  center  of  the defining  the competence and training and development modules  and  approaches.  The  distinct ion  between work and worker requirement Can be i n uniformity with ’two worlds of taxonomies of human behavior, identified by Dunnette(  t976).  The concept  of  work  and work  orie nted approaches, which forms the core of Sandbergs discussions of theories and theoretical framework in this article, had the obvious link with the Dunnettc‘t work. That has not been hinted.

He follows it with Critique on thrc'c' CatC gorict Of rationaiistic approaches: nor ker oriented, work oriented and multimethod ; and substantiates his criticjue bg gDing I hroug h many Citations. He specifically Criticizes Boyatz is's (1982) generic model of CDlDpetence in management, ( this approach hasbeen cxttnsivcly uscd in USA and UK) bytOncIudingfrOm lhCvvOfkOf48cob?( l989)whocâIIcd these compctcncic S to be' to genc'r iC and abStraCt and; ther cfore, of the limi ted value for

3 Contributing to the Competence Development. With this conclusion, one would argue that do we need a set of competencies for every person7 Generic set of competencles can prpvlde the foundation whfch can be further developed for specific work, pers0n, organization and condition. He termed all the three approaches discussed above as attribute-based phenomenon.

Further, he glues a brief critical evaluation of rationalist approach. Referring Yukl(1994), Attewell(1990), N0rris (199a) and his own previous works of 1991 and 1994, he tires to prove that all nationalistic approaches foEus attributes that define competence. And ail these attributes are abstracts and simplified, which make these approaches as lndlrect as KSAs dp npt clearly define that what the tnB• tents of competence for preformtng work are.

In his discussions for developing rationale, he has not mentioned the rationalistic perspective

derived from human capital theory ( Becker, 197S) which has remained as an important research area for defining competence ( Ellstrom, 1997a

He has succeeded in putting his point while ErltTcizing rationalist theories of *dualistic ontplo that takes the competence into two separate entities of worker and wori‹. This rationale pf dualistic ontology do facilkate the argument, but at the later stage, when he defines Interpretative approach, he says that the competence and the work being experienced are two lnterllnked things, this argument becomes weak. The weakness is because even if we refer work and worker together still they can be distinguished  separateiy. We are able to identify them separately even if they are merged together; then why that cannot be called as duaIist\c ontolo

He gives detailed account of the development of theoretical framework of Interpretative approaches. Starting from Weber (J964/ 1947) whom he has termed as the first initiator of the concept, he Bees through series of citation of Phenomenological soc\ologlsts Schutz (1945, 1é53), Berger and Luckmann (1966), and Giddens f1984, 1993). He calls It as Phenomenology- the condition that person and world are inseparabry linked through persons' lived experience of the wortd (Berger & Luckmann, 1966; Husserl, 1970/1900-01; Schutz, 194S, 1953).

Whh strong arguments he tned to establish that point of departure should be workers’ lived experience of work rather than considering work and worker as separate entitles. With lhls theoretical framework, he stresses with considerable impact that the Phenomenology based

Interpretative approach is an aiternative way of comprehending the human competence at work

3. Plaæment of study within the research area

The author has succeeded in establishing the need to go beyond the rati¢tnalistic approach for deflntng competence. As discussed earlfer, he has gone through the h1storlcal evaluation pf research that has been conducted to understand the human compezence at work. The key gap that he has pointed out is ratîonalktic approach ta be Indirect, not able to descrlbe Ehe competence dlrecdy; and the framework does not answer to it, tilt the assumptions underlying thèse theories are studied on pntologkal and epistemological ievef. The author is aware of the development ofthe interpretative research and ftnds ït appropriate to flll the gap of separatlng wprk and wprker as described under rationalktic approaches with the *w0rkers’ lived experience ofthe work’. He has been able to give a comprehensive overview of the interpretative approach that is based in phenomenology. In fact, to rny understanding, he is refereeïng to the Interpretative Phenomenologlcol AnslysÏs (IPA), whïch he should have deflned further and given more refërences to research work that has been done in that area. The primary goal of IPA researcher is to investigate how individual make sense oftheir experienœs { Pietkiewicz, Smith, 201s

4. Research Approach

The reader becomes familiar with the Research approach of the study at very outset of the article, when he/she goes through the Abstract; which is very succinct and concise. The author has chosen Qualitative Research method to conduct his research. He has been able to define and justify his research approach very specifically. That is, building his research in phenomenological based Interpretative/ìnterpretive approach.  With key research question  of defining the human competence at work, he finds it neœssary to look to Phenomenology  as against rationalistic approach which, according to him, only gives notion of competence in set of abstract and simplified attributes. The interpretive approach based in phenomenology is hermeneutic but he has not referred it to be hermeneutic; and calls in Interpretative/lnzerpret\ve approach. Phenomenology is philosophy and a research method and aîso a predominant  outlook from whlCh qualltatlve research is sourced.( Maykut & Morehouse, 1

5. Research Methodology

The researcher has been able to report the methodology vew clearly and concretely. He œnducted an empirical Study in the de$tartment of engine optimization at the V¢tlvo Car CPrp¢trati¢tn in Sweden. Out of 50 all male engine optimizers for new model of cars, he chose 20. He chose the¢iretlcal sampling according to theoretical relevance. “Theoretical sampling Is the process of data collection fór generating theory whereby the analyst jointly collects, codes, and analyzes hls data and decides what data to collect next and where to find them, in Order to develop his thertry as it emerges. This process of datd collection ts controlled by the emerging the¢try, whether substantive or fprmat"(Glaser & Strauss's 1967, pp.45). the two criteria of selection he Ehose were maximum variation in formal eduœtion ( qualzfïcatton) and length of time in opt\mlzat1pn ( experience) .

Giving details of method used for data collection. he did initial seminar with the optimizer defining why he was there. For one week, he observed what the optimìzers  were doing and interviewed  them. For Interviews he used audio tape recorder and converted them to transcript- word to word. The interview were for two to three hours to each participant. The interview were with two leading questions about what the optimization meant to them; and what was the competent optimizer to them. These followed with funher unpacking questions.

The transcript he read numerous times till he found that his understanding  completely  matched with was said and what was Intended to be said. He Blso attended the Internal æmlnars whlch occur while he was there. On the idea of conception, he  sorted  the 20 participants  in tp three groups. Llke a trial and error, people kept on shifting from one group to another tïll the three groups of the conception stabilized.

The only key Iimftati¢in was with sample was that it was all male: as there were no woman In the optimization section

6. Presentation and analysis of the results

Formation  of three  groups through iterative process into three competence is at the heart of the data analysis. Key aim of analysis was to capture the variation in ways of conceiving of engine optimization for the optimizers. This resulted in three structured groups. The tabulated form of the analysis is given in the Table 1 in the article.

He tharo ughly analy2Cd his transcript both repetitively and minutely and also crosschecked it.

To validate his data, he went through three validity and reliability checks of communicative validity, pragmatic validity and reliability as interpretative awareness. While collecting data he was able to demonstrate the communicative validity by a) creating an interactive understanding with the optimizer about research, researcher and work itself, b) the broad leading questions malting it possible for optimizers to put their point of view i'n tata and c) follow-up questions for complete understanding to reach at same meaning what was said.

Similarly, pragmatic validity was achieved through a)detaiIed observations and comparing what was done with what was said, b) making clarity of conversation and c) further observations into the reactions to specific interpretation of the conversation done by optimizers.

Reliability as interpretative awareness was authenticated through thorough orientation of data towards optimizers’ conceiving their work. This was done both with observation and interview.

To strengthen the data analysis further, the author replicated the retultt in two ways; 1) random sample of ten transcripts and 2) presentation of the results to the optimizers.

Tha detailed analyses resultsd in three qualitatively diffe/e nt conceptions: 1) optimizi ng scparate qualities, 2) optimizing interacting qualities and 3) optimizing from the customers viewpoint. And to three conceptions, he links the hierarchy of compe tenC e of 1) least 2) more than first and 3) most compra hensivc respcc tiveIy.

While discussing the 'possible SourCet Of variation in COnCept1Ons Of cnginr’ optimization ‘ he examined the criteria of formal education and length of years in optimization and found that the re was no strong link of conception with both formal education and the years of e xperience. As per data given in table  Z, if we critically ano IyzC' we found the fOlIOwing result:s

The experience difference bCtwCc n cance ption 1 and conception 2 is 13.5%. [{5.5- 4.8)/(5 .5•4.8f2)x:t00]

The experience difference bctwC en conception 2 and conception 3 is 86%.

Why this much difference should be considered as in5ignifiC dnt? The value additi on of the experience with the level of the difference cannot be ignored totally. This Should have taken in account while shaping the results 6 nd the finding.

While considering the formal educ ation at criterion for the conception, Ehe r escr eacher ha s not considered the qualitative difference in schooling and its impact on the actual competence ( R umberger, 199a

Under the heading of ’Discussion- Towards a new understondi'np of Competence’, he gives his key findings: a) human competence is not a specific set of attributes and b) worker conception of their work constitutes human competence. He also gives three main aspects of competence, those according to him were not known previously. These are 1) attributes do not have fixed meaning 2) conception of wark stipulate which attributes are developed and maintained and c) workers’ conception of work lead to hierarchy of conception. From the retultt, he also gave two form of competence development: changing present conception to different conception of work and; developing and deepening the present conception.

The changing i n what reSpeCt, at what ratC', in whiCh direCti on and with vv hat? Time, i ncrcased on- job learning, training, interaction, motivation or some other faCtDF5 ? ThDLJgh all these questions might have been out of scope of the research but retCarch being Phenomenological, should havC taken care of these to a certain degree.

A5 for as the attribute's arC Concerned, to whom ha has referred a5 abst ra ct and simplified under rationalistic approach, they do exist! Thcte attributCs may havC different names or varyi n8 definition what does a certain attribute means to a certain person, but it is there, box h in the frame of  reference and in the frame of delivering the work

Under the heading of ’Implication for Concept Development‘ he sett the future directions for the managers as unde r:

The way the competence is defined and described as a initial point for training and development

Transformation from attributes to conception of work

Changing the conception of work for competence development

He gives two guiding principle for development of competence: 1) Take workers‘ conception of work as a point of departure and 2) organize encounters between worker and their work developmental triggers.

The researcher says that the predefining a research object it unavoidable-  and agrees to predefine the competence  in terms of conception of  work. The paradox, which he has admitted, 1s that he finds predefined competence necessary for the research, the questions that he poses to rationalistic approach for attributes to be predefined and abstract is valid for his own research also.

In the limitation and suggestions for  further Research, the author has been very  open and generous in admitting the limitations of the work. He agrees that competence is context dependent and the current study cannot be gene ralized until and unless further work it conducted. He also suggest that other tools like videos, recording people talking at work and otherwise would have added further dimension and accuracy. The sample size 20 out of 50, he concedes, might not have given all correct results. He suggests that there is requirement for further research that measures the variations in concept Gonswhch happen and thewaythesevariationstanbedrivento improvecompetenceat

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