NOTE: this is the fifth in an intermittent series of posts about the professional values I did my best to live by and communicate as expectations to court staff in order to provide excellent public service.[i]
One of the basic keys to providing excellent public service is the competency level of court staff members in the performance of their duties. What does competency mean?
Competency is the sum of the knowledge and skills required for effective performance in a job. In other words, in order to be competent, we need to know what to do and how to do it. Thus, it is crucial that we hire and retain the most competent staff possible, dedicate ourselves to regularly enhancing our knowledge and skills (using self-study, court-sponsored training, and educational opportunities outside of the court), match employee capabilities to appropriate work, and measure performance to provide feedback which recognizes excellence and enables improvement.
Competency covers two areas: technical/operational and behavioral.
- Technical/operational (the what): Math skills, computer software skills, knowledge of laws and procedural rules, writing skills, knowledge of the Code of Conduct, and accounting skills are examples. Each job has its own set of technical requirements.
- Behavioral (the how): Emotional intelligence, physical and mental health, and interpersonal skills (e.g., communication) are examples. Behavioral requirements apply in varying degrees to all jobs.
These two areas form the basis for being capable of doing a good job. Importantly, technical/operational and behavioral knowledge and skills can be improved through training and other forms of development.
Each job has its own competency requirements, defined in official position descriptions. Improvement of knowledge and skills is the responsibility of each employee, of groups and teams of employees, and of the organization itself. Routine assessment of our competency levels and continuous efforts to enhance such levels are key to improving ourselves. When we improve, the results are higher performance and morale as we all grow together.
Competency is a critical element of all our other office values, with particular linkage to quality, integrity, teamwork and cooperation, innovative practices, and effective communication. Achieving a high competency level, both individually and as an organization, enables us to achieve high performance and effective results for the public. Competency, then, is fundamental to our providing excellent customer service and fulfilling the public’s trust in us as public servants.
[i] I previously wrote about the values of Public Service & Accountability, Teamwork & Cooperation, Quality, and Diversity & Inclusion.