How the DEVELOP system supports your career development

Tuesday, 5. December 2017

By Uta Schwertel, IMC AG, Saarbrücken, Germany

The DEVELOP project is creating new tools to assess and train work place competencies and aid the career development of an employee in large organisations. [1] The project team has completed a first prototype of the DEVELOP Personalized Learning Environment, the project’s major solution to offer career guidance to employees. The system will be demonstrated to the interested public on 7th December 2017 at Online Educa Berlin. [2] With this article, we want to invite you to join us for a brief walk-through of the DEVELOP environment, showcasing important features and expected benefits for users of the DEVELOP system.

DEVELOP’s competency-based approach to support career development

The development of an employee’s career is tightly correlated to his or her increase of competencies in certain areas over a certain time. In addition to subject-matter competencies (e.g., programming in C++ ), more general transversal (transferable) competencies (e.g., Leadership, Communication, Critical Thinking etc.) are widely considered as a major component to successfully progress your career. [3] DEVELOP therefore concentrates on making users aware of their current transversal competencies and recommending to them ways to acquire new or to improve existing competencies relevant for a certain career goal. More specifically, the system offers tools to assess the transversal competencies of a user (e.g., online questionnaires, simulations, etc.) and to determine (missing) competencies required for a certain career goal (e.g., becoming a team leader). Based on that the system calculates career plans for an employee consisting of personalized recommendations (e.g., pointing to a specific learning activity such as an online course on leadership) which guides the employee to achieve a certain career goal.

To exemplify how DEVELOP gives career guidance to an employee we will walk you through the system with three characters – Jane, Roger and Rajesh, all in a different stage with respect to planning each of their career developments.

Scenario 1: Jane uses DEVELOP to discover her strengths and receives initial guidance to progress her career

Jane is a Team Leader and keen to progress her career but is not sure where to start. Jane’s manager recommends her to sign up to the company’s DEVELOP Personal Learning Environment (PLE) to receive initial guidance and recommendations. As Jane is a first-time user of the PLE, the system is not yet personalised towards her. In particular, the system has no evidence about Jane’s competencies nor about her career goals. The system therefore guides Jane to the Your Competency Profile page. Here, she is presented with various competency assessments she can complete which will help to build an accurate picture of her (transversal) competencies.  


Assessments Overview Page

Figure 1: DEVELOP provides assessments helping to determine a user’s competency profile

To start with, Jane completes two competency assessments provided by the DEVELOP system – The Personality Assessment and the Leadership Simulation Assessment. The Personality Assessment is a standardized test to give evidence about her personality traits. It can contribute to gaining insight in an individual’s competencies [4]. Jane answers questions such as “I am always prepared.”, “I get stressed out easily”, “I have a rich vocabulary”, etc. on a scale from 1-5. When the personality assessment has been completed, her results are displayed and detailed explanations of personality traits such as extraversion, agreeableness, conscientiousness, etc. are presented. After that, Jane clicks back to the Competency Profile page of the PLE and sees that the DEVELOP system has automatically updated her profile to reflect the results of her first assessment of transversal competencies.

Competency Profile
Figure 2: Jane’s updated competency profile after taking the personality assessment

Jane is pleased and decides to share her personality assessment results with her manager to discuss several insights with him. Jane then decides to start a further assessment – the Leadership Simulation game.

Leadership Game Scene
Figure 3: Scene taken from DEVELOP’s Leadership Game used to assess leadership competencies

The leadership game focuses on the “Leading and Deciding” transversal competency cluster and assesses the participant’s proficiency level and potential in an interactive simulation-based way. [5] Jane completes the game (taking around 30-40 minutes) and is enthusiastic about the fun and realistic way she has to solve various leadership issues in a virtual team environment. The leadership assessment comes with a detailed report about her results that relate to the “Leading and Deciding” competency cluster.

Competency profile update
Figure 4: Jane’s updated competency profile based on the results of the leadership assessment.

Jane continues to complete further assessments in the system and checks her updated competency profile. With the help of the DEVELOP system Jane gets a much better understanding of her competencies, her strengths and weaknesses. Jane can now investigate with a much higher level of insight potential and suitable career developments recommended by the DEVELOP system. She is also in a much better position to discuss with her manager about her interests and potential.

Scenario 2: Roger uses DEVELOP to support him to systematically work towards a new career goal

Roger is a Software Developer and has already completed several competency assessments in the DEVELOP system. With some knowledge about his competency profile, Roger navigates to DEVELOP’s Career Goal page where the system helps Roger with displaying job roles that match to his competencies. Job descriptions and related competencies are managed by the DEVELOP system.  Roger selects Software Architect as a new job role that he aspires to.

Career Goal Recommendations
Figure 5: DEVELOP recommends suitable career goals to Roger

Once Roger has chosen the career goal, the DEVELOP system recommends several Learning Activities to him. Taking part in these learning activities will help Roger to acquire new competencies and thus to fill competency gaps for the selected new job role. The recommended learning activities are automatically calculated by DEVELOP’s novel AI planning engine. [6]

Personalized Learning Activity Recommendations
Figure 6: Personalized recommendations for Learning Activities helping Roger to fill identified competency gaps

Roger chooses several activities and adds them to his Learning Activities Plan.

Learning Activities Plan
Figure 7: Roger starts learning interventions listed on his Learning Activities Plan

On his Learning Activity Plan Roger selects an eLearning activity “Decisiveness 1” to improve his basic decisiveness-related competencies. He starts the activity, works on it for a few days and finally completes it. When the DEVELOP system records the Learning Activity as completed, the competencies and proficiency levels associated to that Learning Activity are updated in Roger’s competency profile. Roger then returns to DEVELOP’s homepage to view his updated competency profile.

Updated Competency Profile
Figure 8: Roger’s updated Competency Profile after completing learning activities

He is happy to see his progress and is motivated to complete further learning activities to systematically develop and monitor his competencies relevant for becoming a Software Architect.

Scenario 3: Rajesh uses DEVELOP’s integrated Social Learning Tool to improve his leadership competencies

Rajesh is a UX Designer and already knows his next career goal. He aspires to become a Team Leader within his department. The DEVELOP system makes him aware that he lacks certain competencies in the area of leading and deciding, and recommends suitable learning activities to teach him these respective skills. One of the recommended activities is a practical assignment called “Powers of Persuasion 1”. Its goal is to progress his persuasion competency, which is part of the “Leading and Deciding” competency cluster. The practical assignment works with the “Getting to Yes” negotiation method to teach the basics of negotiation skills.  

Practical Assigment as Learning Activity
Figure 9: Description of a practical assignment supported by DEVELOP’s Social Learning Tool

Rajesh starts the Learning Activity and is directed to DEVELOP’s Social Learning Tool – an innovative tool to support the training of transversal competencies [7]. Guided by the tool, Rajesh works on several learning tasks in an informal, self-directed way and shares his experiences with his colleagues.

Social Learning Tool - Example of tasks
Figure 10: Social Learning Tool – Example of tasks belonging to a social learning activity to train persuasion competencies

In our example the tasks of the learning activity have been defined and structured by a Learning & Development expert and consist of activities related to 1) exploring the “Getting to Yes” negotiation method, 2) planning negotiations, 3) applying the principles in real world negotiations and 4) reflecting on experiences. Rajesh starts the first task. He collects and studies resources to explore the “Getting to Yes” method in a self-directed way and documents his experiences in the tool.

Social Learning Tool Contributions
Figure 11: Social Learning Tool – Contributing activities or resources to a task

Rajesh invites some of his colleagues to also participate in this learning activity and contribute to the different tasks. Thus, a motivating discussion and experience exchange between his colleagues develops. In addition to the tasks predefined by an expert in the Social Learning Tool, Rajesh can define his own tasks in a private space and self-report on his activities and experiences. The tool also allows Rajesh to later publish his private space so that others can contribute to his findings. Publishing and sharing his additional informal learning activities helps Rajesh to document how his competencies progress. In our example Rajesh adds an activity where he documents his experience on the negotiation principle “Focus on Interests, Not Positions”.

Social Learning Tool - Tasks defined by an employee
Figure 12: A user has defined their own tasks (green field) for a learning activity and shares the task with colleagues to contribute

When Rajesh is satisfied with his contributions to the tasks, he can mark the Learning Activity as completed in the DEVELOP PLE system and his competency level is automatically adapted in the PLE (with a certain confidence level). The Social Learning Tool will, in later releases, also allow for tutor assessments leading to a higher confidence level for the acquired competencies. The Social Learning Tool thus supports Rajesh in embedding the learning activities into his everyday working processes and thus, building and documenting competencies required for his aspired career goal in the workplace.

What about privacy?

To calculate career path recommendations, the DEVELOP system uses data which is sensitive and private (e.g., results of competency assessments). To respond to this, the DEVELOP team is conducting a privacy and ethical impact assessment (PIA+) throughout the project and is developing recommendations on how to implement it within the system. One example for the impact of this analysis is a new user’s data is private per default. Another implication for the DEVELOP system is that privacy issues are made transparent to a user where they are relevant (in the context of an activity) and the system always offers the user to opt out of a certain activity if he or she does not consent. 

Privacy Statement
Figure 13: User is informed about privacy issues and has to consent before taking an assessment.

Further examples of privacy-relevant scenarios and how the issues are solved in the DEVELOP system can be found in [8].

What are your requirements for an innovative career development tool?

DEVELOP’s aim is to create an innovative tool to aid an employee’s career development in large companies. You are invited to share your expert opinion to further guide us in the creation of this DEVELOP tool. If you are interested, please fill in this survey to help us to further develop and improve this system. If you would like to receive demo access to DEVELOP's tools please register here.

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[1] DEVELOP team creates tools to support personal career development, Uta Schwertel, IMC AG, Germany (DEVELOP Blog Article, June 2017)

[2] Join DEVELOP at OEB Conference 2017 in Berlin! (DEVELOP Event Announcement, November 2017)

[3] Why Transversal Competency Assessment is Important for an Employee’s Career Development, Mirjam Neelen, Trinity College Dublin, Ireland (DEVELOP Blog Article, September 2016)

[4] Personality as determinant for competencies,  Alec W. Serlie (GITP, The Netherlands) & Mirjam Neelen (Trinity College Dublin, Ireland) (DEVELOP Blog Article, June 2017)

[5] Facing Crossroads in Your Career: How DEVELOP and its game-based assessments can give directions, Simone A.W. van Noord and Alec W. Serlie, GITP BV, The Netherlands (DEVELOP Blog Article, October 2017)

[6] Recommending Career Plans Through AI Planning,  Kevin McAreavey, University of Bristol, UK (DEVELOP Blog Article, July 2017)

[7] Potential of Social Learning for Career Development, Diana Dikke, IMC AG, Germany (DEVELOP Blog Article, April 2017) 

[8] Telling stories about privacy and ethical risks in learning technology development, David Barnard-Wills, Trilateral Research Ltd., UK (DEVELOP Blog Article, May 2017)