How to systematize competence development via tailor-made programmes

If you want to work more systematically and strategically with career- and skills development, take a leaf out of global technology and engineering company MAN Energy Solutions’ book. You can also read about their partnership with CfL.


By Pia Fuglsang Bach, Community Manager at CfL, January 2023


Career development is a classic management and HR discipline. However, in many organizations, the topic is only discussed at the annual PDR – and often omitting the important step of linking it to the company's strategy.

Many people even equate career development with management, which unfortunately increases the risk of sending both employees and money in the wrong direction. 

Fortunately, we can learn from companies that work systematically and strategically with career- and skills development. One example is the global technology and engineering company MAN Energy Solutions, which employs approx. 2,000 people in Denmark alone.

New career paths with different programmes

The story goes back to 2019, when MAN Energy Solutions decided to work with new career paths on a global scale - for two main reasons:

  • A need to create increased standardisation and uniformity in the professional development and promotion of managers, project managers and specialists.

  • A desire to put different career paths on an equal footing and attach equal value to them.

To achieve these aims, three types of career path were developed to support professional development: Personal Mastery, Leadership Mastery and Business Mastery.

The first two programmes were offered in Denmark, where CfL was chosen as the so-called National Provider. Working closely together with Senior HR Development Partner Dennis Lillelund, CfL has so far had 150 managers, project managers and specialists on the two programmes. This corresponds to four classes on Personal Mastery and five classes on Leadership Mastery

Targeting different positions 

Dennis Lillelund, who is responsible for selecting the right candidates together with the company's managers and HR Business Partners, explains that the programmes are also used to help determine which career path employees should take – and that not everyone necessarily has to go down the management route.

"The career path programmes equip our managers and employees to hold different positions at different levels. They also include a number of criteria for how we assess the company's talents in terms of collaboration, strategy and goal orientation, customer focus, integrity and self-reflection, etc.," he says and explains:

"Personal Mastery is very much designed to help participants choose a career path and deals with personal development and employees’ motives and preferences for following a particular career path, while Leadership Mastery covers a number of modules related directly to our strategy and criteria for practising good leadership."

"The programmes have given MAN Energy Solutions a much more structured and established way of thinking about career and professional development," says Dennis Lillelund, who is the company's main internal contact and coordinator between participants and CfL.

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The two career path programmes

The content, form of instruction and project work on the Personal Mastery and Leadership Mastery programmes are closely aligned with MAN Energy Solutions’ strategy, where agility, digitalization and sustainability are key elements.

Personal Mastery

Runs over 4-5 months. The course is designed to help participants choose a career path, and for this purpose we use the development tool Decision Dynamics Career Model, which is then followed up with an individual meeting with a CfL consultant. Part of the programme includes a four-day seminar where participants simulate different career paths. The programme also includes e-learning, project work and a weekly check-in meeting, and is concluded with a feedback session with the individual participants’ immediate superior and a CfL consultant. 

Leadership Mastery

Runs over 6-7 months. In this programme, participants work systematically with agile methods and a clearly defined project. The individual feedback meetings with a CfL consultant are based on the tool Reflector Big 5. Included in the programme is a five-day seminar working with classic management disciplines such as motivation and conflict resolution. Participants also work on a personal development assignment and the course is concluded with an exam.

CfL as a valuable partner

In Denmark, the first classes on the two programmes started in 2020; but why was CfL chosen as a partner?

"We have worked with CfL for many years, largely due to the high degree of professionalism across CfL's entire set-up, including the excellent administrative support they offer. In addition, there’s CfL's considerable experience with companies of our size and complexity."

"Over the years, CfL has also got to know our company extremely well, and a lot of valuable relationships have been built up over that period," says Dennis Lillelund and adds:

"CfL has played an active role in developing, implementing and teaching Personal- and Leadership Mastery in Denmark. We are very happy that CfL has been with us as a valuable partner all the way."

Entire management system involved

CfL Chief Consultant Annette Elgaard Bøttger has taught on all the different courses, and she recognizes the importance of long-term relationships. It creates insight and trust, but also the courage to give honest feedback.

However, the success of the programme is primarily attributable to MAN Energy Solutions, which as an organisation has insisted that professional development takes time.

"It takes will to plan such long courses for so many people, and MAN Energy Solutions have committed themselves to dedicating 10-15 per cent of participants' working hours to professional development."

"Another plus is that the entire management system is involved. It is the managers who recommend who should participate in the programmes, and it is the managers who help identify which areas of professional development should be worked on. It puts an obligation on the entire organization and creates great commitment among the employees," says CfL's chief consultant. 

Network and greater business understanding

What, then, are the programme outcomes? Although it is difficult to measure directly, Dennis Lillelund has no doubt that the participants benefit in a number of ways.

"There are, of course, the purely professional competence-oriented benefits. But then there is also the whole network, and gaining greater knowledge of other business areas and colleagues with different backgrounds, goals and aspirations than yourself."

"The career path programmes also prepare our employees to hold positions at higher levels, and in this way there is also greater motivation for participating and completing such programmes," he says, referring to the advantages of the programmes being closely linked to the company's strategy.

This is done in several ways. Firstly, the criteria for selecting and assessing talents are reflected in the strategy. Secondly, the strategy is incorporated into the entire structure of the career path programmes – from the content of the teaching to participants being able to work with their own projects on the courses.

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MAN Energy Solutions

MAN Energy Solutions is a German multinational company with approximately 15,000 employees working in subsidiaries across the whole world. The company provides a broad portfolio of technological and after-sales solutions for propulsion- and stationary plants as well as offering energy optimization solutions for the maritime and industrial sectors. In Denmark, approximately 2,000 employees work in four locations in Copenhagen, Brøndby, Holeby and Frederikshavn.

Striving for the best

Finally, let us return to the collaboration between MAN Energy Solutions and CfL.

"It works well in every way. I think this is largely due to the trust that has been built up and the openness and culture around striving for the best, and the willingness to listen, adjust and adapt in the deliveries. We have ongoing dialogues and meetings where we evaluate the courses and plan future programmes."

Would you recommend CfL to other companies?

"Yes, I would highly recommend CfL to other companies," says Senior HR Development Partner Dennis Lillelund.