Competencies in the Real World

Retail Competency – Two views from the customer side

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Competency is not an abstract concept. In the everyday world, competency shows up daily in situations where snap judgements are made, values are considered, and the resulting behaviour can make or break a successful business transaction. Here’s a tale of two opposite experiences, told by Dana Stoesz, Director of Customer Care, Research & IT for Entegrys.

I recently took my toddler to a restaurant for lunch. We avoid gluten as a family, and this particular restaurant had several gluten-free lunch options. Our server took the time to explain the menu to me and even pointed out that some of the kids’ meals could be adapted to be gluten-free. She listened with interest as I talked about what it’s like to be gluten free as a family. In the end, we decided on a sandwich—a rare treat for someone who is gluten intolerant.

When I asked where they bought it, our server said this particular gluten-free loaf was carried by a local grocery store. She wrote down the name for me and explained how they store it to serve it at its tastiest. When she learned I had to leave shortly, she quickly brought me the bill and processed my payment on the spot. On my way out, I stopped by the kitchen to pass on a message to the manager about Krysti-Anna’s extremely pleasant and helpful service.

Later that day, I stopped at a bulk food store to purchase some gluten-free flour, sold in bulk, that was on sale at 50% off. Only at home did I realize that I had paid much more than the tagged price, so I called the store. The clerk listened, checked into it, and then assured me I had been charged the correct price. After asking a few more questions, I learned that it was indeed incorrectly tagged by the store. The clerk passed me on to a supervisor, “Jeff,” who was hesitant but agreed I should pay the accurate sale price. He said to bring the flour back in before their sale was over for a refund.

I returned to the store on the last day of the sale. Unfortunately, Jeff’s wasn’t working that day. The clerk on duty listened to my refund request and referred me to her supervisor who checked the price on the bulk bin, which had since been corrected. I told him that Jeff said he’d leave a note about the price and the situation. I don’t know the note was ever found. The supervisor did try to phone Jeff and apparently didn’t reach him, so he brought yet another supervisor from the back. They deliberated for several minutes while I waited. Finally, the second supervisor informed me that the prices are handed down from head office and listed correctly in their flyer, and that Jeff didn’t have the authority to tell me that I could receive the price it was tagged at when I bought it. I asked to return the untouched bag of flour for a refund, but he refused.

Typically, this would have been understandable, given it was a bulk item, but under the circumstances it felt inappropriate. I asked if he would be willing to lose a customer over a few dollars. Apparently he was, and I left. At home, I found the store’s website and wrote a note to their head office explaining that I would be looking elsewhere for my gluten-free flour needs, since apparently customers are paying for pricing mistakes at their store.

A woman at the store’s head office responded by email first thing the next day, saying that she was sorry to hear about my negative experience, she would contact the storeowner, and someone would contact me. She did reach the owner, who, as an apology, promised to leave me a small gift card at the front of the store that I could pick up next time I came in. The owner also committed to doing some customer service training with her staff.

So I will go back, if only to claim my gift card and satisfy a sense of justice. But whether I continue shopping there will depend on the outcome of their customer service training. In this case, they were given a second chance by their senior management, who had a good sense of healthy customer relations.

But the health-food store experience reminded me of the great power that frontline staff have in shaping the attitudes, and the loyalty, of their customers. It appears our restaurant server already understands this principle and has decided to use her influence to generate a flock of faithful customers in her workplace. She’ll be happy at work, and her customers will be too.

A fresh look at Adaptability

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Adaptability Is Defined In The Entegrys Competency Dictionary As “Demonstrating personal flexibility and effectiveness with changing environments, tasks, responsibilities and people.”

As someone with a genetic condition that has the potential to be life-threatening, it’s important to me to take good care of my body and to be around to raise my kids. The quickest route to managing this condition is medication. However, like much medication, this one has potential short- and long-term side effects. My husband and I also share a belief that foods and supplements that come from the earth as unaltered as possible are generally better for our bodies, so we are drawn to the more “natural” therapies like high quality supplements, chiropractic and naturopathy.

In the past, I’ve often witnessed a disconnect between traditional medical specialists and alternative ones, to the point where I feel they view me as naive for considering input from one side or the other. Of course the side differs depending on whom I’m meeting with at any given time.

So back to the present. After taking a break from medication to have our children, I knew it was time to get back into treating my condition more aggressively. Yet I found myself avoiding it. I was afraid on one hand to call my doctor and explain that I wanted to find out the impact of a supplement I’d been taking before starting back on traditional medication. On the other hand, I cancelled an appointment I had made with a terrific naturopath because I was afraid of the cost of naturopathic supplements, knowing that the traditional medication would be mostly covered by my health plan. To boot, the naturopath mentioned he wasn’t a fan of the drug I was to take, and that he would want to treat me with supplements until the lifestyle changes he would prescribe had kicked in.

So here I was, paralyzed with fear, afraid to call either practitioner, and feeling like a ticking time bomb in the meantime.

Finally, I got up the courage to call my doctor. He was on leave. In the meantime, the nurse would work with me. I told her the whole story, how I hadn’t yet filled my prescription because I was trying a supplement first to find out its impact on my condition, how I wanted to work with a naturopath, and yet I was afraid of leaving my young girls without a mother and wanted to get my condition in check as soon as possible. She listened. She didn’t criticize me. It was amazing. She did express the same urgency I felt about getting things in check quickly. So together we came up with a solution: take a blood test to monitor my condition, fill my prescription right away and get things under control and begin seeing the naturopath to work on the lifestyle changes he would suggest. She was willing to correspond with him, and she told me she would order tests as often as I needed them. As for my doctor, she explained that he is rather “medical-minded”, but she would advocate for me and explain to him that I’m on a journey. I cried tears of relief after that conversation.

Next on my list was to talk with my naturopath and see if he could be on board with a plan that involved my being on a drug he disliked rather than buying a bunch of supplements from him. So I called him and told him my decision and the reasons behind it, then asked flat out if he was still willing to work with me. He said definitely. He also affirmed my decision to go on the drug in order to get my condition under control quickly, and he told me I didn’t have to apologize for doing so.

Due to the willingness of two medical professionals from completely different streams to be flexible and adaptable, to listen to me, and to respect my own knowledge of my body and my own risk-tolerance, I am now confident and empowered to move forward in making positive changes for my body, and I no longer feel like I have to “hide” the treatment I am receiving from both health professionals.

The human side of Human Resources

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“If a leader demonstrates competency, genuine concern for others, and admirable character, people will follow.” – T. Richard Chase

This quote describes me. Well, sometimes. Other times it just… doesn’t. But it certainly describes who I want to be. All the time. Consistently. And that’s one of the reasons it caught my attention.

In my search for the right quote to share with you as we begin our maiden voyage into the world of blogging, I found some more entertaining quotes, but they drew their wit from poking fun at others–politicians, major corporations. This one caught my attention by exhibiting the character I aspire to, and that our company Entegrys aspires to.

If there’s anything our business represents, it’s getting into the nitty-gritty of regular people’s stuff–their shining strengths, the weaknesses they try to hide–going there with them while treating them with respect and integrity.

We do this knowing that if it was one of us being put under the microscope, we’d find the same mish-mash of stellar performances and glaring deficiencies we’d really rather cover back up.

And isn’t that the nature of Human Resources? We’re so human, yet given the right circumstances, the right motivation, the right encouragement, each of us can give back so much to the employer who’s willing to take a chance on us.

Did I mention we’re working with regular people? I mean receptionists, specialists, middle managers, CEOs. Some of us have climbed higher up the proverbial corporate ladder, but in the end we’re all just regular people.

There’s another big reason the quote above caught my attention. It’s about what we do. Entegrys is about helping companies do human resources right by seeing both the human and the resource.

Especially, we’re about competencies–defining them, measuring them, developing them, and determining which ones are needed to do the job well. We’re so much about competencies that we created a software tool to help you sort through them and assess them.

And then we went a step further and made it financially accessible to anyone from the job hunter looking for work to the CEO of a large corporation.

In fact, you can check it out for free.

Then tell us what you think. Comment on our blog. Share your feedback. Talk about our software. Tell us what features you’re delighted to see and let us know where you think we can do better.

And as you do, keep in mind that our goal for the tone of our blog is to strive to reflect “genuine concern for others” and “admirable character” as together we become better leaders in our own fields who “demonstrate competency” in a way that “people will follow” us.