Helm News: HR Support – Uncomplicating competencies

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“What gets measured gets done.”

That’s great, but can you measure the ‘how’ as well as the ‘what’?

How we work is as important as what we achieve. Whilst it is difficult to measure how we work in the traditional sense, we can use competencies to measure the behaviours that bring about individual and organisational success. Using competencies in support of an organisation’s vision and core values can help achieve strategic objectives by bringing them off the page and into our daily conversations, building a picture of how we work; that is, the “how” as well as the “what”.

What is a competency?

A competency is a measurable characteristic that is related to effective job performance. It is a collection of related skills, behaviours and attitudes and other personal characteristics working in concert to produce effective job performance. Defining competencies creates a common language about what effective job performance looks like. Using them in a competency framework provides line managers and employees with a structured guide to identify, feedback, measure and develop the competencies that will work towards individual and organisational success.

What is a competency framework?

A competency framework provides explicit definitions of what skills, behaviours and attitudes will be expected, valued and rewarded in an organisation. Using these definitions and considering the frequency at the same time builds a full picture of effective performance and provides objectivity to recruitment decisions, performance management discussions, training and development investments, pay review and promotion decisions and succession planning. On a daily basis, a competency framework helps line managers and employees give feedback about individual and team performance using a common language.

Building on the axiom, ‘what gets measured gets done’...

“What gets measured and fed back gets done well, what gets rewarded gets repeated.”

(John E Jones)

Repeated effective performance facilitates individual and organisational success. Competencies help you measure effective performance, feedback on it and make the reward decisions that will make sure it is repeated.

If you would like to understand more about how our HR Consultancy team can help you put in place your competency framework, please contact us.


Planned Change to State pensions

The Queen’s Speech at the start of the 2012/13 Parliamentary session confirmed that the Government intends to combine the Basic State Pension and the State Second Pension (S2P) into a single ‘Foundation Pension’ set at £140 per week for a single person.

It has been announced that the Government will legislate for this single tier pension approach in this parliamentary session with the new system introduced early in the next parliament.

The state pension age will also increase to 67 between 2026 and 2028.

Pensions – Trustees, are you fulfilling your duties?

The Pensions Regulator’s 2012 Scheme Governance Survey questions whether adequate resources are available to pension scheme trustees. Particular concerns are expressed about the governance of smaller schemes.

The Regulator feels that the frequency of trustee meetings is a strong indicator of good governance but says that its research shows that one in five trustee boards for DC schemes with fewer than 100 members meet less frequently than once a year (some do not meet at all!).

The survey found that large defined benefit schemes were generally governed well but highlighted concerns about trustee training, communication with members and knowledge of DC charges.

Most larger schemes provide training and support for their trustees, but three quarters of small DC schemes had not had any training for trustees in the last 12 months.

Trustees’ awareness of the charges incurred on DC investments is worryingly low with one-in-six schemes not confident that the charges incurred by members offered value for money. A further 16% could not provide any assessment!

If things go wrong, trustees could be held personally liable for breach of trust if they have not given adequate attention to their duties.

  • It is essential that employers allocate resources and trustees spend sufficient time on scheme governance.
  • Trustees of schemes of all sizes should meet at least once every six months.
  • Trustees should be familiar with the guidance issued by the Pensions Regulator and should, as an absolute minimum, undertake the online training available (the regulator’s ‘Trustee toolkit’).
  • Communication with members should be regularly reviewed. Explanatory literature must be accurate and up to date and should be accessible and user friendly.

For an audit of your current governance arrangements, assistance with any aspect of scheme management, a review of your scheme costs or advice on inexpensive bespoke training for trustees, please contact us.


Group Risk- Fixed Protection and Life Assurance

With effect from 6 April 2012 the lifetime allowance (LTA) reduced from £1.8 million to £1.5 million. Anyone affected by this reduction in the LTA could register for ‘fixed protection’ which allowed them to retain a LTA of £1.8 million.

If someone elected for fixed protection and remains a member of a registered scheme, they must adhere to the following HMRC conditions:

  • They cannot start a new arrangement other than to accept a transfer of existing pension rights.
  • There can be no benefit accrual.
  • There are restrictions on where and how a transfer of benefits can take place.

If any one of these conditions is broken, fixed protection will be lost and HMRC must be informed.

For a money purchase or defined contribution arrangement, benefit accrual happens if after 6 April 2012:

  • A person pays a contribution to the registered arrangement.
  • An employer pays a contribution to the arrangement for the member.
  • Someone else, other than you or your employer pays a contribution to the arrangement.

For defined benefit or cash balance arrangements, benefit accrual will occur if at any time in a tax year from 2012/13 onwards, the value of a persons uncrystallised rights (i.e. benefits not yet taken) has gone up by more than the 'relevant percentage'. An increase to a pension in payment (crystallised rights) will not cause benefit accrual to occur.

All of this raises the question as to what is the right type of scheme for the Company’s group life assurance benefits (which traditionally have been written under registered pension scheme legislation) to ensure that an employee does not inadvertently lose any protection in place. An exception to the 'no contribution rule' is that contributions may continue to a life assurance policy providing death benefits started before 6 April 2006 but the payment of a benefit could unintentionally trigger a tax liability.

Should you wish to discuss the most appropriate approach for your organisation, please contact us.


Employee Profile – Laura Brown

Laura Brown's Profile photoLaura is Head of Group Risk at Helm Godfrey.

Her role consists of managing the Group Risk, Healthcare and Flexible benefits portfolio of our corporate clients. She provides bespoke and innovative solutions to her clients believing that one size does not fit all.

Laura has many years of experience of working with a broad range of organizations to meet their risk benefit needs.



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