Hank Rubin defines collaboration as a purposeful relationship in which all parties strategically choose to cooperate in order to accomplish a shared outcome.
The Canadian government determined that collaboration was one of the fundamental principles for the formation of a Canadian Sector Council Program. The problem was then how to create collaboration in sectors where stakeholders traditionally viewed each other as competition or in an adversarial relationship such as union management relations.
Early proponents of the collaborative model developed expertise in process management. This involved developing an industry wide consensus through the collective application of sector knowledge, skills tools, techniques and systems to resolve systemic Human Resources issues..
Early successes lead to a plethora of sector collaborative approaches. As the sector council system matured, The Alliance of Sector Councils (TASC) was created to explore commonalities that would accelerate the adoption of best practices and lessons learned across all sectors.
TASC recently published a document entitled “Accepted Principles and Practices for National Occupational Standards, Certification Programs and Accreditation Programs.”
This article looks at one aspect –National Occupational Standards (NOS). This is important as we move further into our understanding of how the structure of European Qualifications National Standards differs from the Canadian NOS structure.
“Accepted Principles and Practices for National Occupational Standards, Certification Programs and Accreditation programs” was developed to provide sector councils, industry groups, professional associations, and other stakeholders concerned with human resources and labour market issues with practical guidance aligned with common business practices.
The Basic Approach uses the four stages of plan, develop, implement and maintain.
- Planning is the first stage in establishing national occupational standards, certification programs, and/or accreditation programs. The Planning section highlights recommended practices for effective and efficient planning, such as defining the purpose and scope and developing a work plan.
- Development is the second stage in establishing national occupational standards, certification programs, and/or accreditation programs. The Development section highlights recommended practices for effective and efficient development such as management requirements, development needs, and policies and procedures.
- Implementation is the third stage in establishing national occupational standards, certification programs, and/or accreditation programs. The Implementation section highlights recommended practices for effective and efficient implementation, such as marketing, identifying opportunities, and establishing partnerships.
- Maintenance is the process of continually improving national occupational standards, certification programs, and/or accreditation programs. The Maintenance section highlights recommended practices for on-going, effective and efficient maintenance, such as re-confirming validity and use, and development of maintenance policies and procedures.
This basic approach is founded in the following guiding principles that apply to National Occupational Standards, certification, and accreditation and that are or should be consistently applied at all stages of planning, development, implementation, and maintenance.
- Accessible, Equitable, and Fair: All individuals should have equal access to relevant information and the opportunity to participate effectively.
- Coherence and Rigour: Information should be developed and presented in a logical, rigourous, and consistent manner.
- Confidentiality: Ensuring that information is accessible only to those authorized to have access.
- Consensus: A consensus process should be used to make decisions. Consensus is defined as general agreement, characterized by the absence of sustained opposition to substantial issues by any relevant stakeholder and by a process that involves seeking to take into account the views of all relevant stakeholders and to reconcile any conflicting arguments. Consensus implies much more than a simple majority, but not necessarily unanimity.
- Current, Relevant, and Valid: Information should be credible, applicable, and up to date.
- Harmonization: Harmonizing with existing relevant national and international policies, procedures, and requirements helps to ensure consistency and quality. It supports greater labour mobility across pan-Canadian markets and the recognition of foreign credentials. Where harmonization efforts are achieved, effort should be made to establish liaison arrangements with the originating organization in order to keep up to date with changes and notify them of changes being made.
- Impartiality and Independence: Decisions should be based on objective criteria, rather than on the basis of bias, undue influence, or prejudice.
- Openness and Transparency: The process by which stakeholders are engaged and the information provided to stakeholders should be open and transparent. An open and transparent process allows all individuals to participate effectively. In an open and transparent process the roles of stakeholder groups are clearly defined, the process to be followed is clearly communicated, and how the resulting information will be used is shared with all involved. Openness is access to or disclosure of information.
- Representative: Inclusive not exclusive. All individuals with a significant interest in the issue should be involved. Acceptance of the diverse values, interests, and knowledge of the individuals involved is essential.
- Sustainability: Commitment and sufficient resources to continue and prosper.
- Voluntary: The individuals who are affected or interested participate voluntarily and the outcome is voluntarily applied.
All these principles are vital, in my opinion, to a successful national standard.
The problem appears when we look at how all these sector councils have developed National Occupational Standards and how will they integrate and align both internally and externally as the other countries evolve with their programs. There is strength in diversity …………………or is it “we are only as strong as our weakest link?”
Douglas Ross is an advocate for the promotion of integrity as a strategy for performance. © 2009 All Rights Reserved, Douglas Ross, Principle Dynamics Consulting Inc.