National Occupational Standards

National Occupational Standards (NOS) describe the outcomes, behaviours and underpinning knowledge associated with best practice when carrying out key activities across a wide range of occupations. Indeed, there are NOS for most occupational areas, from sector specific occupations, such as financial adviser, policing and property management, as well as those crossing many sectors such as customer service, marketing and management.
NOS are developed and maintained by Sector Skills Councils (SSCs) and Standards Setting Bodies (SSBs). These work closely with practitioners, professional and educational bodies within their sectors to agree the standards. Benson Payne are delighted to have worked with many such SSCs and SSBs, including those responsible for each of the occupations used as examples above.

Developing NOS – involves consulting and partnership

The development of NOS requires the close involvement and support of expert practitioners and the further key stakeholders involved with the particular occupational area. Such stakeholders include the professional and trade bodies, and also the providers of relevant training and education services.

The development often includes occupational mapping to determine the scope of the occupation, together with functional mapping to agree the activities for which standards are required. Agreeing the standards requires working closely with representatives of the occupation, often involving workshops, one-to-one discussions and on-line consultation, to ensure the widest possible participation. This includes ensuring that the requirements of each of the devolved administrations within the UK are fulfilled.

Using the standards to enhance individual and organisational performance

Traditionally the components for vocational qualifications, NOS remain the basis for qualifications that attract public funding in the UK. In addition, organisations able to map their in-house learning programmes to particular NOS then have the opportunity to attain formal recognition for their programmes.

However, NOS have a much, much wider range of uses. They are the building blocks for a host of personal and organisational development applications, as is illustrated below.

The standards:

  • Can inform an organisation’s Competency Framework through selecting those NOS of relevance to the functions undertaken across the organisation.
  • Can inform individual role descriptions and the associated person-requirements for that role, particularly important in Recruitment and Selection.
  • Allow individuals to appraise their own performance against the agreed outcomes, behaviours and knowledge associated with best practice. Equally, an organisation’s formal Performance Management processes can be informed by the requirements of the standards.
  • Enable Training and Development programmes to be focused upon specific, identified needs, thereby ensuring that it is relevant and cost-effective. In turn, the standards can inform the content of particular programmes, ensuring that these address relevant skills and knowledge.
  • Allow planning at two levels:
    • at a personal level, where individuals can identify the competencies required of those roles to which they aspire, and therefore better plan their development towards realising their next career steps,
    • at an organisational level, the competencies facilitate Succession Planning, allowing organisations to map the overall competencies required against the capability profile of their workforce.

Enable recognition of achievement, as the standards offer individuals the opportunity to demonstrate their ability and to attain awards which are recognised nationally. Organisations can utilise this to motivate their people and Manage Talent which helps with retention of valued staff.

Benson Payne are firm believers in the value of competency based standards, and work extensively with SSCs and SSBs in developing and maintaining NOS. We also work with organisations as they implement and realise the full potential of NOS which are of relevance to them. Our aim is always to enhance both individual and organisational performance.