Published: 7 Dec 2021

Competence, awareness and communication are vital in maximising the principles behind ISO 9000:2015 to help people become high achievers, says Jessen Yeoh, a principal auditor and advisor. 

The competence and behaviour of the people within any organisation inevitably has a major impact on its overall success.

Therefore, it is vital to ensure your people are properly engaged with your organisation, and that they understand and accept its purpose, vision, mission, values and policies. 

Engagement of people is the third principle of quality management. According to ISO 9000:2015 Clause 2.3.3.1 and 2.3.3.2, “Competent, empowered and engaged people at all levels throughout the organisation are essential to enhance the organisation’s capability to create and deliver value. Recognition, empowerment and enhancement of competence facilitate the engagement of people in achieving the organisation’s quality objectives.” 

Competence and awareness 

ISO 9001:2015 clause 7.2 (Competence) requires an organisation to determine the competence of people carrying out work under its control, and understand how that affects the performance and effectiveness of the quality management system (QMS). It must ensure these people are competent, based on appropriate education, training or experience. 

In addition, ISO 9001:2015 clause 7.3 (Awareness) specifies that an organisation needs to ensure those people are aware of the quality policy and the relevant quality objectives. They also need to understand their contribution to the effectiveness of the QMS, as well as any implications of not conforming with the requirements. 

Therefore, people’s engagement levels will increase if they are competent in what they are tasked to do and if they display good, positive attitudes and behaviours (see the ‘high achiever’ quadrant in figure 1, below).  

Figure 1.

People who are competent but do not display good, positive behaviours and attitudes are hard to work with (see the ‘difficult’ quadrant in figure 1). On the other hand, incompetent people with a good attitude have the potential to be trained and developed to become high achievers (see ‘potential’ quadrant in figure 1). Meanwhile, I am sure that no organisation will tolerate incompetent people with a poor attitude continuing to work for them (see ‘Dismissed’ quadrant in figure 1). 

Searching for high achievers 

So how can an organisation engage its people and move them from the ‘difficult’ or ‘potential’ quadrants to the ‘high achiever’ quadrant, where they are highly competent and display good behaviours and a positive attitude?  

The answer is in ISO 9001:2015 clause 7.4 (Communication). The organisation needs to communicate with its people by offering training and education; sharing experiences and lessons learned; and being proactive about providing counselling and mentoring. 

Leaders at all levels need to establish two-way communication channels with their teams to improve their people’s competencies and change their behaviours. These leaders should determine and analyse the personal competencies and behaviours the organisation requires, and then assess and analyse the gaps between what is available and what is needed (ISO 9004: 2018 Clause 9.2.4).  

Leaders at all levels need to establish two-way communication channels with their teams to improve their people’s competencies and change their behaviours.

After completing this, they should implement appropriate actions to improve competence and cultivate new behaviours. These may include (ISO 9004: 2018 Clause 9.2.2): 

  • promoting knowledge sharing, personal development and career planning; 
  • utilising people’s competence fully; 
  • establishing a skills and behaviour assessment system; 
  • reviewing employees’ job satisfaction levels; 
  • providing mentoring and coaching opportunities.  

To maintain high standards of competence and good behaviours, leaders should continuously review and evaluate the effectiveness of the actions taken.  

Transformational behaviours 

During more than 20 years of coaching organisations to improve performance and reduce risks, in regions including South East Asia, China and Australasia, I came across many people who were originally in the ‘difficult’ or ‘potential’ quadrants. However, their performance, attitudes and behaviours were transformed so they moved into the ‘high achiever’ quadrant. I would also include myself in this category. 

Transforming and moving people to become high achievers needs a partnership approach, with intentional two-way communication between the leaders and their people. Leaders need to invest time and resources; their people need to be ‘teachable’, and willing and ready to learn and change.  

Characteristics of a high achiever 

High achievers engage with and take ownership of their work and results. If provided with the necessary information, they like to be given authority and freedom to make decisions for their own work. They understand the importance of their role in creating value for stakeholders. To transform employees into high achievers, leaders at all levels should create a positive work environment; define clearly the objectives to be achieved; delegate authority and responsibility; and introduce reward and incentive schemes to recognise excellent performance and celebrate success (ISO 9004:2018 Clause 9.2.3).  

It is the responsibility of leaders at all levels to provide opportunities for their people to develop necessary competencies and apply the skills and experience required to perform their duties. Positive behaviours can be cultivated in situations where people understand their roles and responsibilities and are aware of how their behaviours and actions contribute to the attainment of objectives. Effective communication is essential to acquire the necessary competency and to nurture a positive behaviour.  

In short, ISO 9001:2015 clause 7.2 (Competence), clause 7.3 (Awareness) and clause 7.4 (Communication) are interrelated. For an organisation to enhance the engagement of its people and develop high achievers, all three elements need to be put into practice.