Competence management at the heart of the Boskalis survey department

A strong focus on competence management is at the foundation of Royal Boskalis Westminster and is seen as a vital way of differentiating itself from competitors.

IJves Wesselman, Manager for the Boskalis survey department, which comprises some 140 surveyors, explains: “Competence management has always played a key role, even before the term competence management was coined! When I joined the company in the nineties Boskalis was already the market leader in the dredging industry and there was and is, a firm emphasis on getting the knowhow and right people on board as a way of distinguishing the company from others. We want to make sure we have competent people in our survey pool whether they are our own people or from Atlas Professionals. We want to have the right tools, hardware and the right people to carry out the job efficiently.”

Boskalis’ survey department has an extensive training programme in place to make sure its people have the company’s values instilled in their daily work practice. This starts with junior surveyors who embark on a graduate programme outlining the company’s core values. “Competence management is vital to make sure our junior surveyors have the correct tools and knowledge to carry out the project in line with our core values, which in turn leads to the satisfaction of our clients. They are then evaluated and undergo further training courses. Our senior surveyors attend a more in-depth programme and training concerning leadership skills.

Maintain quality standards

“These courses, which focus on competences, are very important to us. Boskalis is a global company active in 90 countries with projects running from Christchurch, New Zealand to northwest Canada. However, our surveyors are similar to other employees in dredging or offshore, they rarely see each other. Meanwhile, it is important to maintain the quality standards throughout our operations – hence the competence management programme.”

Boskalis looks beyond a CV, he stresses. “A CV often focuses only on technical skills. Yes, we know someone is an expert in hardware or a certain software programme but soft skills are also important. For example, communication skills are important when dealing with clients, management and your multinational and multicultural team.

“Although a contractor may have a full CV, this would not necessarily show the true level of responsibility that person has had or what someone is capable of. At Boskalis we may have certain expectations from a CV and when employing that person these expectations are not always met, both in a positive or negative way. Essentially, we aim to avoid surprises! Good surveyors are scarce, we want to maximise their potential and get the best people on the project with the most suitable capabilities.”

More than a CV

Working with Atlas and its new Competence Assurance programme means that Boskalis knows that the professionals have the right technical skills but it also tells the company more about that person’s soft skills. “These are even more important the more senior a person gets.”

Additionally, he says, when hiring people based on CVs alone, it can often be a case of hiring the ‘usual suspects’. Competence assurance can help highlight other people who potentially have the required qualities. IJves thinks that the CV will always play a role, especially when making initial assessments about technical skills, but when Boskalis wants to know who is the best surveyor for a particular project, Atlas’ Competence Assurance programme is vital.

“It is important to get reliable information and Atlas’ programme helps this. We want to mitigate the risks as much as possible. Competence assurance enables Boskalis to really see what an individual has really done. Everyone can be an expert with the software programme but give a person an empty database and then you see what they are made of.” Competence assurance is also an important way a contractor can show their capabilities to us, he adds.

Boskalis is happy to see that Atlas’ surveying professionals are competence assured. “And we can see that this is taking on a more important focus in the industry.”

Right first time

Given the challenging market conditions in the oil and gas sector, we have to work as efficiently as possible and mitigate the risks, IJves says. “There is no room for failure, it has to be right first time. A decade ago when the sky was the limit, this was not always the case.” Our clients are asking for competence assurance more and more, he adds.

Boskalis and Atlas have worked together for over 15 years and IJves is very positive about the competence assurance initiative. “We have 140 of our own surveyors but we will always need to supplement them with agency staff and we want to maintain the same quality level. Ideally, we don’t want to see any difference between the Atlas and Boskalis surveyors and we strive to have the Boskalis standard wherever we are in the world. I see the Atlas Competence Assurance programme as a big leap forward in maintaining our quality standards.”