Safety Bytes: IOSH’s Competency Framework


Safety Bytes: IOSH’s Competency Framework

Posted on 05 January 2022

In a recent Safety Bytes video, Irwin and Colton recently met with IOSH to discuss their new Competency Framework, a transcript of the meeting with Duncan Spencer – Head of Practice is detailed below.

Why is the new competency important?

The competency framework is required, because we need a map for professionals to be able to say, where is my skill set compared to other people in my profession? And what do I need to change about my skill set in order to be able to progress my career? So a competency framework enables people to be able to do that benchmarking.

In 2016, we created something called Blueprint, which 10,000 of our members have used. But now, we feel that such as the changing nature of the workplace, that we need to reflect those changes in a much more detailed provision.

How will it help Health and Safety professionals?

It will enable them to do two things. Firstly, to be able to benchmark where their skills currently are, and whether that operates for them well, in terms of am I in line with my peers, or are my peers overtaking me? That's an important question.

But also, for those people who are ambitious and want to follow a career path, it will also enable you to look at what's next? If I want to go for the next job in the career structure, or maybe two jobs at once and go for a big leap, then I've got to make sure that I develop the skills-- not for my job now, here, present, but the job that I want in the future. And so a competency framework will also enable you to be able to identify those additional skills that you need.

If you look at something like leadership, for example, leadership isn't just restricted to somebody who's in a head of health and safety, or director of health and safety position. Leadership should be, and can be delivered by anybody, wherever they are within their career. And these are skills that you perfect over time.

So hence, the IOSH competency framework does assign the same competencies to every stage of a professional's career. It's just that we will ask different things of that person at those different stages.

Are technical skills becoming less important?

I don't think you can say that the pendulum is swinging away from technical skills. Because technical skills are always going to be needed. It's the foundation of any OSH professional's role. And indeed, there are new skills within our competency framework that haven't been there before. There are new skills around sustainability, for example, and human capital. And we haven't addressed that fully as a membership body before.

I do think it’s true to say that what employers are now demanding of OSH professionals is changing. We’re working in this hugely rapidly changing business environment, that everybody is having to flex. Everybody is having to change.

Effectively, people are now looking for professionals that not only have the technical skills, but they also have the core skills, and the behavioural skills as well. They need to have people who can also make changes happen in the workplace. And that’s exactly what the IOSH competency framework is designed to do, to help professionals to answer that need.

How can the framework help when recruiting?

One of the design criteria that we used for the competency framework was to take into account what employers were actually looking for. One of the things that I was made aware of by a member from our focus groups, was a story where she advertised for two positions she had vacant within her team. And she had something like 80 or 90 different applications for that. And she interviewed 20 people, but then never recruited a single person.

And when you unpack that, and you say, well, why was that? And why having so many people saying I can do this job, did nobody end up being successful?

Well, there are a number of things that sit-in and around that. First of all, there is a piece around, so what do you put into your advertisement? If you’re going to attract the future leader, if you’re going to attract the people that are forward thinking, who are going to be able to take your organisation forward, who are going to be able to influence, who are going to be able to make changes within the workplace, then you are looking for something different from the CV. You are looking for something different from that individual. It is not just the technical skills around can you write a policy, a procedure, and a risk assessment, and so on. You want to know much more about what can that person achieve? What can that person do for this organisation?

So that’s one of the reasons why we ended up with a competency framework, which is roughly a 50/50 split. Yes, the technical competencies are really very important, and will remain so. And we’ve had to expand some of those, because there are new competencies we haven’t covered before, like sustainability and human capital.

But we had to redress that balance and do much, much more than we’ve ever done before around core skills and behavioural skills. Because what we want to know is, do people have negotiating skills? Do they understand financial things? Can they work in a team? Can they show some leadership? Can they influence in different forms of communication— and so on and so forth, because it’s these skills that everybody needs, regardless of their profession, if they are going to make it in the modern business world.

We had to produce a competency framework which was fit for the future. And so consequently, that’s why it is so detailed, and why we’ve gone for the split in the way that we have.

And I think that will help everybody. It’ll help the employer, because they can use the competency framework to be able to define exactly what they want in a job description. It’ll help the recruiter to be able to help the employer to identify the skill sets that they actually need from those individuals. And it will help our members and others, because they will also know what those competencies are about. They will already have benchmarked themselves against those things, and have tried to get achievements in and around those areas in order to be able to progress their career set.

So it means that everybody then starts to speak the same language. And hopefully, we’re going to be able to raise the calibre of the profession and the ability of people to be able to contribute to their organisation’s success.

For more information on IOSH’s competency framework see

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