The Can-Do/Will-do Model™: What Employees WILL Do

There’s what we CAN do, and then there’s what we WILL do . . .

I have a friend who is an incredible artist. In high school, her teacher would hang her work up and down the halls. Other teachers paid her to do paintings to decorate their homes or give as gifts. Her self-portrait looked like a photograph. So, when she went to college, what do you think she studied? Pulling a 180, she studied physical therapy. Her choice seems out of the blue for some, but it’s just that: her choice, and it’s related to the Can Do/Will Do™ model, your employees’ performance, and your hiring practices.

What could you be when you grow up?

The truth is, while she enjoyed art, it wasn’t what she wanted to do for a living and decided to keep it as a hobby instead. She had the ability to make fantastic works of art, but she wasn’t willing to do it every day. She had other interests and skills. Her choice to study one thing even though she was highly skilled in something else is an example of how the Can Do/Will Do Model™ is applied to work performance.

What will you be when you grow up?

The Can Do/Will Do model is used in industrial organizational psychology to illustrate the six traits that affect employees’ ability and willingness to do a job: knowledge, skills, abilities, values, motivations, and personality. The first three—knowledge, skills, and abilities—determine what employees can do. The latter three—values, motivations, and personality—determine what employees will do. The Can Do/Will Do Model is most useful when hiring, educating, and training employees. To understand it’s impact, though, you need to understand each attribute on its own.

As an example, we’ll apply the attributes to a truck driver:

  1. Knowledge is defined as the concepts, principles, and mental processes committed to memory. Truck Drivers know what kind of cargo they are hauling. They know where the brake pedal is. They know how tall the truck is. Knowledge can be taught to employees through education.
  2. Skills, simply put, are how to do things. They are related directly to a task and include a physical component. Truck drivers know how to do a pre-
    trip inspection, how to safely complete a right turn, and how to perform straight backing. Employees can learn skills through training.
  3. Abilities are physical and mental traits that are unlikely to change as the result of education or training. For example, no one can change how well a truck driver is able to see, but vision is obviously a critical part of the job.
  4. Values are the principles and believes upon which a person bases decisions. Does a driver value safety? If the answer is no, he or she will be more likely than others to have an accident.
  5. Motivations are the activities and rewards that attract a person. Truck drivers must cope with long, solitary hours on the road. To many of us, this sounds terrible, but there are people who would prefer this over working with clients in physical therapy like my friend wants to do.
  6. Personality is the measure of how a person will typically interact with situational demands or other people. If someone cuts a truck driver off, what will the truck driver do? Is he or she likely to get mad, or will he or she remain calm and collected?

What does it all mean?

Employees may have all of the knowledge, skills, and abilities necessary to do a job, but have values, motivations, and a personality that don’t mesh. It isn’t hard to connect the dots between the Can Do/Will Do Model™ and hiring. What good are talented employees who won’t do the work or take the job seriously? It’s equally important to understand which attributes can be changed. As mentioned before, knowledge and skills can be changed via education and training respectively. Abilities, values, motivations, and personality, though, usually don’t change, let alone because of an employer. You can cut down on losses and save time in the hiring process with clearly defined job descriptions and a model for the will-do traits of an ideal employee.