National Visions and Contexts

In France, there is an increasing move towards assessing professional behaviour

In France, assessing professional behaviour is increasingly common, whether during annual assessments in businesses, in further training, where professional posture is studied and even, recently, in temporary organisations with the creation of a « certificate of competence ».

So it is now agreed that this is a central theme in Human Resources Management in businesses, and also in integration into working life.

What is still in question nowadays is how to grasp this topic without affecting the character of the individual. This question is covered by employment law and is a particular bugbear of the unions (several cases have turned up in court recently). This situation means that this European « Behavioural Skills » project is highly relevant in France.

The CRIF, operating in the field of integration into working life, cannot ignore this dimension, but it is vital to handle it with professionalism, in other words with all possible objectivity and respect for the individual, and with a single aim - to promote “the employability” of its trainees.

In Italy, the concept of behavioural skills at work is not mentioned by the systems and mechanisms of training for qualifications. This means that no development or evaluation strategies have been defined at national level.

The concepts that come closest to behavioural skills are:

  • “cross-disciplinary skills” which are generic and not job-specific; these include the ability to communicate, an aptitude for problem-solving, etc.
  • “key skills” referring to a specific job; these may also often be considered or identified as technical
  • “know-how” represented by abilities and knowledge of an operational nature, as required to carry out work-related activities successfully.

Vocational training is managed at regional level. The Marche Region has not defined specific training programmes for most qualifications. Training agencies, of which COOSS is one, are thus free to construct their training projects which are accredited at the end of the course by the mandated regional or provincial body.

The debate is different for the professional profiles of HEALTH AND WELFARE WORKERS and FAMILY ASSISTANTS, which COOSS has selected to study and analyse behaviour skills on one hand, and to try out and approve educational tools on the other. In fact, these two profiles have already been translated to regional level by a training standard in terms of knowledge, aptitudes and skills to be acquired.

This is where there is a challenge for COOSS to succeed, in spite of these legislative obligations and this fixed framework, in setting up an articulated, structured system for developing behavioural skills for these two professions.

For COOSS and the sector of services for the individual, the quality of the relationship between operator and user is essential. Behavioural skills can, then, become a strategic lever for reinforcing the efficiency of services, integrating the technical and non-technical skills of the workers.

The OPC-SFC is the ideal context for identifying, experiencing, and assessing these basic skills which, and this is particularly so for the caring professions, make the difference at work.

In Romania, the terminology regarding these skills is neither uniform nor homogenous. Several categories of competences are mentioned, including behavioural skills. Sometimes, these categories overlap.

The skills sought by employers can be divided into technical (hard skills) and non-technical (soft skills or behavioural skills).

  • Technical skills refers to specific skills which can be acquired by learning. They are easier to assess than non-technical skills and are accredited by diplomas or certificates shown in the candidate’s CV.
  • However, there are no certificates to attest to soft skills, or behavioural skills. These refer to aspects such as the candidate’s behaviour, reactions, and even external appearance (clothing, gestures, etc.).
  • Cross-disciplinary skills, however, are defined by the training and education system in Romania, in the Methodology of the National Higher Education Qualifications Framework, and fall in a different category.

Only technical skills are mentioned anywhere in the Romanian legislation on vocational training, with one order, one law, and two decrees.

With regard to the National Qualifications Authority (ANC), although none of its 27 projects mention behavioural skills, it has produced a document presenting an overall classification of skills which include behavioural skills.

Finally, the “Report on the phase of production of the national vocational training plan for 2014” of the State Employment Agency (ANOFM) only mentions technical training courses.

Although the current legislation in Romania does not mention behavioural skills and does not make their acquisition compulsory, doctorate theses and studies are focusing more and more on the need to work on these skills. The number of openings in Human Resources Management is increasing (HR, Advice HR, HART Consulting). They present behavioural skills (definitions, explanations, need) and offer a shop window on businesses or companies which provide advice and training in response to the requirements of the job market (training to acquire behavioural skills).

In spite of the absence of a formal national framework for behavioural skills, the needs and demand expressed by the stakeholders in the employment market (employers and workers) are such that responses are growing fast. Employers have had research carried out to identify the behavioural skills they consider to be essential.

Projects such as OPC-SFC are necessary to enable workers and job seekers to obtain specific soft skills required by employers and to provide a better match of offer and demand on the job market in Romania.

In French-speaking Belgium, even though the tools for the purpose are not available, training and guidance operators have always been aware of the importance and added value of going beyond hard skills and giving their trainees the soft skills required for them to integrate in long-term employment and make a difference at work.

The skills are obvious and overlap. Increasing globalisation is affecting the world of work, causing fast and frequent changes, the introduction of new technologies and new approaches to the organisation of businesses. Employees must both bring their specific professional skills up to standard and acquire general skills enabling them to adapt to change.

The skills are therefore mentioned in the job descriptions, sometimes using different terms for the same concept. Work has undergone structural changes: technical, economic, and social. These changes have led to a change in the organisation of the work and the requirements in terms of content, tools, methods and social forms of work. This therefore has consequences for the qualifications and skills of workers and their initial and further vocational training.

It has been clear for some time that the importance attributed to skills in businesses and in the public employment sector means that where standards previously focused purely on the core business, soft skills are now more and more often taken into account as well.

In fact, given the condition of the job market, diplomas and certifications, although always constituting a vital standard, are no longer sufficient to differentiate between and decide on candidates. Recruiters are not content with training and diplomas; they are also looking at the ability to work as part of a team, awareness of specificities, initiative-taking, and the ability to carry a job through to completion, plus behavioural skills. Should this development be ignored?

It is often argued that soft skills should lie at the centre of decision-making, whether in terms of recruitment, assessment, career management or professional guidance.

However, all the characteristics and components of soft skills must be considered, as they are increasingly seen as predicting professional success. [1]

In its Notice No. 99 of 22 February 2008, the Conseil de l’Éducation et de la Formation – education and training council (Belgium – French-speaking community of Wallonia-Brussels) recommends that vocational training should, among other things, “organise the mobilisation of these skills and make them operative, but without their becoming factors for social control and social selection of workers." In the same Notice, in order to escape from the limbo of concepts and definitions linked with the notion of skills, the Council proposes clarification based on Professor’ Bunk’s model.

The 2010 Bruges Communiqué and its speedy translation into regional plans led in the Belgian partners to the creation of tools making it possible to "give the people the means to act”, “adapting to an environment in perpetual development” and “managing change”. [2].

This was the point when the concept of behavioural skills saw the light of day. Behavioural skills, like all skills, can be worked on and acquired by training, as soon as they are contextualised in a working situation. They can then be observed throughout the training process.

With a constant care to develop tools to identify and manage skills and make these tools available to as many people as possible, each of the operators has set up tools to observe and develop behavioural skills throughout training (frames of reference, observation tables, integration in training standards, etc.), which are put forward for the transfer into the framework of the OPC-SFC project.

The individual work, the actions carried out and the tools implemented have shown that these soft skills as a whole make a difference to employment. The Belgian partnership has hypothesised that these skills can be worked on, starting with guidance and moving on to training leading to qualifications, and that it is possible to anticipate and observe progress in trainees and interns.

[1Cross-disciplinary skills in technical jobs - Vincent Ledoyen – Le Forem

[2The Walloon Region, in particular, emphasises in its regional policy declaration for 2009-2014, the importance of including “training in general and interpersonal skills” when offering training to job-seekers.