Develop a Job Competency “Profile”

Job Competency Model “Lite”.
Using a Virtual Resource Panel.
Apply the data to the development of a complete model.

This is an abridged competency model using a virtual resource panel and surveys to use when it is impractical to convene a standard resource panel of job incumbents, managers of job incumbents and other subject matter experts in one geographic location and at one time.

Data is collected and analyzed by a Workitect consultant who provides a summary and recommendations based on data about the job, obtained through a virtual resource/expert panel (VRP), i.e. an on-line, web-based survey containing open-ended questions and questions requiring ratings.

Purpose:

  • Improve an existing model
  • Build a model for a particular job or class of jobs that have similar tasks and competencies
  • Use when it is impractical to convene a standard resource panel of job incumbents, managers of job incumbents and other subject matter experts in one geographic location and at one time

The Output

  • A verbatim printout of all responses to all questions on the survey
  • A summary of the responses, including identification and tabulation of key themes in response to qualitative questions, tabulation of average ratings on all quantitative questions, and suggested competencies for a draft competency model.
  • Suggested non-technical generic competencies for the target job taken from Workitect’s Competency Dictionary. Any technical competencies that are identified are based on language used by panel members in their responses to questions about technical skill/knowledge requirements.

Advantages

  • Requires less time and cost to complete
  • Collect data from geographically dispersed participants
  • Apply the data to the development of a complete model

CONTENTS OF JOB COMPETENCY PROFILE REPORT

  • The Virtual Resource Panel Respondents
  • Main Responsibilities for the Job
  • Performance Criteria and Measures
  • Technical Skill Requirements
  • Trends in Technology, Industry, and the Company
  • Average Importance Ratings for Generic Competencies
  • Generic Competencies Ranked by Importance Rating
  • Relationship of Main Responsibilities to Generic Competencies
  • Competencies Recommended for Inclusion in the Competency Model
  • Most Challenging Aspects of the Job
  • Definitions and Behaviors for the Generic Competencies
  • Main Responsibilities

Sample Report

How it Works

As an alternative to a standard Resource Panel,  this virtual resource panel is an on-line survey allows panel members to provide the same information that they would in a standard session, but individually and at their own convenience and in their own work location. Participants are sent an email with a link to the survey set up in Survey Monkey.

Participants copy the survey link for their project into their internet browser and take about 30 minutes to complete the survey. A consultant downloads the survey responses, reviews and analyzes them, and prepares a synthesis based on themes mentioned by multiple panel members. It may be useful to set the stage for a Virtual Resource Panel by holding a conference call with the participants to explain and sell the project. Later, a second conference call can be held to review the synthesis of the panel members’ input.

Contact us for more information.

Learn more about competencies and competency models.

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Behavioral Descriptors – Options for Job Competency Models

Much of the value of a competency model comes from its behavioral descriptors. There are three main options for Human Resources staff to consider: (1) behavioral indicators, (2) evaluative competency levels, and (3) competency levels describing job requirements.

1. Behavioral Indicators
The majority of competency models use the first and simplest option, behavioral indicators. Behavioral indicators are descriptions of behaviors and thought patterns that are hypothesized to contribute to superior performance. A competency’s definition represents an underlying ability or trait, and the behavioral indicators describe specific ways in which that ability or trait is demonstrated. For example, in a generic competency framework the competency, “Interpersonal Awareness,” has the following definition and behavioral indicators:

Interpersonal Awareness:  The ability to notice, interpret, and anticipate others’ concerns and feelings, and to communicate this awareness empathetically to others.
a) Understands the interests and important concerns of others.
b) Notices and accurately interprets what others are feeling, based on their choice of words, tone of voice, expressions, and other nonverbal behavior.
c) Anticipates how others will react to a situation.
d) Listens attentively to people’s ideas and concerns.
e) Understands both the strengths and weaknesses of others.
f) Understands the unspoken meaning in a situation.
g) Says or does things to address others’ concerns.
h) Finds non-threatening ways to approach others about sensitive issues.

When behavioral indicators are used in a specific competency model, they are sometimes altered or written more specifically, to describe how the behavior is demonstrated in this job. For example, indicator (b) above was rewritten for use in a sales competency model:
“Notices nonverbal behavior and asks questions, when appropriate, to clarify its meaning”

Creating good behavioral indicators depends on conducting and analyzing critical event interviews with outstanding performers. Each behavioral indicator is a theme derived from examples from several interviews. Behavioral indicators can also be taken or adapted from a generic competency dictionary, which includes generic competencies and behavioral indicators previously identified in several competency models.

2. Evaluative Competency Levels
The second option for behavioral descriptors is to use evaluative competency levels. Under this option, several key dimensions are identified for each competency, and each dimension is ranked in order of effectiveness. The highest level describes outstanding performance, and the lowest level describes poor performance. Lyle and Signe Spencer used this approach to develop a generic set of competencies with levels. For example, one generic competency, “Interpersonal Understanding,” has two aspects: (a) depth of understanding of others, and (b) listening and responding to others. Listening and responding to others has these levels:

-1 Unsympathetic
0  Not applicable or makes no attempt to listen
1  Listens
2  Makes self available to listen
3  Predicts others’ responses
4  Listens responsively
5  Acts to help

Each level has more specific behavioral descriptors, which are too lengthy to reproduce here. But, as an example, the behavioral descriptor for Level 4 is, “Reflects people’s concerns, is easy to talk to; or responds to people’s concerns by altering own behavior in a helpful, responsive manner.”

When this approach is used, the levels form a behaviorally anchored rating scale. Whether this kind of rating scale improves the reliability and validity of measurement is open to question, since behaviorally anchored rating scales have generally proved to be no more reliable and valid than other, simpler rating scales.

Rating scales with three or more levels for each dimension of a competency are generally too cumbersome. There are too many behavioral descriptions to read, when assessing someone on twelve competencies, each with two to four dimensions, with each dimension further broken down into four or more descriptors of different performance levels. It may be more useful to specify only the highest and lowest levels, as in the following example of a rating scale used to assess a competency called “Personal Credibility:”

ResearchReport_Chart_1

Creating behavioral descriptors in the form of evaluative performance levels is most useful when performance appraisal is planned as an immediate application. Once the competencies for the job are identified, the content for the rating scales can be determined by meeting with managers of persons in the target job. Key evaluative aspects for each competency can be discussed and identified.

3. Competency Levels Describing Job Requirements
A third option for descriptors is to create levels describing the extent to which a competency is required in a particular job. This alternative is most useful when the multiple competency models are being created within an organization and the Human Resources staff need a way to distinguish the requirements of the different jobs (e.g., to help people within the unit plan career progression paths). 

This approach was used in developing competency models for a variety of jobs in the commercial sales division of a manufacturing company supplying optical fiber for the telecommunications industry. The first step was to agree on a set of generic competencies, including both technical and non-technical ones, to describe the skill requirements for jobs in the commercial sales division. This was accomplished by reviewing, modifying, and adding to a generic competency dictionary. Next, drawing on the generic competency dictionary and other projects involving competency levels, a set of levels for the competencies was drafted. Drafting the levels required first identifying several key dimensions for each competency and then writing behavioral descriptors of several levels. In this case, the internal Human Resources project team wanted three levels specifying basic, intermediate, and advanced demonstrations of each aspect of each competency. The levels for one competency, “Energizing Others,” are shown below:

ResearchReport_Chart_2

As one moves from the basic level to the intermediate and advanced levels, the competency is demonstrated in larger groups and more challenging situations. The behavioral descriptions often target performance outcomes rather than specific behaviors demonstrated to achieve the outcomes.

In deciding which type of behavioral descriptors to use – behavioral indicators, evaluative performance levels, or levels describing job requirements – the most important consideration is how the model will be used. Sometimes, when a model will be used in multiple ways, more than one set of behavioral descriptors may be created. For example, behavioral indicators might be needed to support development planning, and evaluative performance levels to support performance appraisal. 

When planning the development of a competency model or models, there are practical considerations that affect the design of the project, the format and content of the competency model, and the success of the project’s implementation. The following seven questions may be useful to Human Resouces professionals responsible for planning and implementation:
1. What HR application should be included in the initial model building project?
2. What will the key users of the model need from it?
3. How should key stakeholders be involved?
4. How extensive should the data collection be?
5. How should research be balanced with intuitive approaches?
6. What format of behavioral descriptors will best suit the application?
7. How can additional, future competency models be accomodated?

This blog addresses question #6. Each question is addressed in Key Questions to Answer before Building Competency Models, Adapted From Practical Questions for HR Professionals Who Are Building Competency Models—a Consultant’s Experience By Dr. Richard S. Mansfield.

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Build Better Job Competency Models

 

Many HR executives are satisfied with the competency models they have developed in their organization and about the impact those models have had on their HR practices and the organization as a whole. Many say that they want to improve the models they have created, and some want to trash what they have done and start over, or build models for the first time.

POPULAR MODEL-BUILDING PRACTICES

For those who have already created models, when asked to describe the process they used, many HR professionals say that the models were created by:

  1. Interviewing the CEO, other executives, incumbents of the position being modeled and their managers and asking for their opinion as to the competencies required by employees to carry out the organization’s strategic plan. The focus of the model is often on managers in the organization, and may be referred to as the leadership model.
  2. Collecting the same or similar information in a meeting or series of meetings or focus groups.
  3. Other means, such as card-sorting, surveys, computer selection, off-the shelf models, adaptations of job descriptions, self assessments by employees, etc.
  4. A combination of the above.

Models created using these methods often achieve their intended purpose. Competencies are incorporated into performance management, selection, training, and other HR applications. But, they are “basic” models. They, and the applications that are developed, are based on the opinions of various people about competencies required for specific jobs. They are not determined using a validated, research-based analysis of superior performers. There is a better way, a way that produces a far greater ROI for a model-building project

A BETTER COMPETENCY MODEL – UNBIASED & ACCURATE

I believe that the best methodology for building job competency models is Job Competence Assessment (JCA), developed in the 1970’s by Dr. David McClelland, a pioneer in motivation and competency research and testing at Harvard, and by consultants at McBer and Company.

The modeling process starts with superior performers in a targeted job being identified, and then studied to identify the personal characteristics, skills, and knowledge that they possess that enables them to be superior performers. The methods used to collect data for the study, such as behavioral event interviews and expert panels, are designed to get beneath mere opinions about superior performance and superior performers. Since each organization has its own culture, mission, and ways of doing business, performance in one organization may require competencies that are different than those required in another organization. This is the reason that off-the-shelf models may not be useful.

An adaptation of the JCA methodology is used in Workitect’s consulting practice and is taught in our Building Competency Models workshop. JCA also influences the content of our products, including the Competency Development GuideCompetency Interview Guides, and Competency Dictionary. A detailed description of the JCA methodology is provided in Competence At Work, a book by Spencer & Spencer and on pages 5-7 of Integrating Key Human Resource Processes, a 10-page booklet that describes competencies and how to create an integrated human resource system with applications for selection, succession planning, career pathing, performance management, and training.

Additional Tips On Building Better Models

Changes in organizations and in the world of work over the past 30 years have affected the practice of competency modeling. These changes suggest that seven practical questions be asked and answered by human resource professionals and others who are planning to develop competency models in their organizations. (PDF)

In summary, JCA is an accurate, unbiased approach to predicting job performance and success. It is characterized by its rigorousness and yet its accessibility to managers and HR professionals with little or no background in statistics and competency research, the JCA methodology enables you to match the right people to the right jobs.

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How Competencies Drive Performance Improvement

It is probably safe to assume that, unless we are mentally or psychologically challenged, each of us wants to improve our performance and the competencies that will help us perform. So why is it so difficult for organizations to achieve high levels of individual and organizational performance? There are many factors that influence performance. The development of competencies is, in a broader sense, also about improving performance. As employees and managers working to build additional competencies, it may be helpful to understand some of the key concepts about performance improvement and management.

“Systems thinking” has been found in recent years to be a good way to analyze and solve human and organizational performance problems. Books such as ‘The Fifth Discipline” and “Improving Performance” have helped foster this belief. We can think about each of us being a human performance system. This graphic depicts the various components of this “system in which we receive inputs, and then utilize our competencies to generate outputs. 

In a business setting, the inputs we receive come from our customers and environment, internal or external. We also need clear direction on what is required, access to resources and minimal interference. As the performer, we need the necessary competencies (which include attitude and motivation). There needs to be appropriate consequences for our output. We should receive positive consequences or rewards, e.g. a pat on the back for “doing it right” and negative consequences for not doing it right. The standards or criteria for evaluating performance must be consistent and sound. Is the same “benchmark” or measurement applied to each person? And, finally, do we receive timely, adequate and appropriate feedback on how we did?

This same system applies to the performance of a group of individuals who make up a team or an entire organization. Only this time, individuals need to work together to produce output, and issues such as group processes, strategy, information flow and work processes must be managed in order for the team to be productive.

The disciplines of “organizational development” and “performance technology” utilize models like these to help analyze human and organizational performance problems, and improve performance. “Performance management” utilizes the same principles, but focuses on specific organizational and human resource processes such as goal setting, performance appraisal and pay for performance. Career planning, succession planning and progress reviews are often included. Relating back to the performance models, you can see the importance of providing clear direction, selecting and developing competent employees, providing appropriate consequences and frequent feedback.

The ultimate goal of organization development, performance technology and performance management is the same – to improve performance. Developing your own competencies, or those of others, is one of the most important requirements of performance improvement. (In fact, it is depicted as the center of both performance models.) Although the focus of our Competency Development Guide book is on developing competencies, understanding the entire human performance system may give you added appreciation for the importance of receiving clear direction on what is expected of you, obtaining feedback of how you are doing, etc.

In summary, developing additional competencies will not guarantee an improvement in performance. Other factors contribute to performance. If you have management responsibilities, pay attention to all of the factors so you’re able to create an environment where people are motivated to utilize their competencies. The ideas and tools contained in the Competency Development Guide can help you develop the competencies you need to manage the performance of yourself and others.

What examples do you have of job competency models or competency-based performance management systems producing substantial improvements in organizational results?

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Develop SHRM’s Strategic HR Planning Competency in 2017

In SHRM’s HR Competency Model, the Body of Competency and Knowledge includes the #1 functional competency of HR Strategic Planning. The SHRM definition is: “HR Strategic Planning involves the activities necessary for developing, implementing and managing the strategic direction required to achieve organizational success and to create value for stakeholders.”

Several years ago, Workitect developed a competency model for HR professionals in a very large international organization with operations and HR functions throughout the world. The model contained 18 competencies. A guide that provided tips and resources for developing those competencies was also created. Our agreement with that organization permitted us to share the model and resource guide with other organizations.

One of the competencies in that model, HR Advocacy, is an important component of the strategic planning that is usually demonstrated by high performing HR executives and managers. The information shown below in this posting is included in our Resource Guide for Global Human Resource Competencies. The guide was developed to help individuals and managers in HR to plan and manage professional development.

Workitect’s Definition of the HR Advocacy Competency 
Communicates Human Resources vision and capabilities internally and externally; gains commitment from others for Human Resources goals; ensures trusting relationships with others; uses Human Resources goals to help the organization achieve organizational goals.

An employee demonstrating this competency:

Communicates HR

  • Markets the organization as a preferred employer to attract the right candidates with the right competencies.
  • Represents HR internally so that employees, managers and executives understand roles and value of HR in meeting organizational and departmental objectives.
  • Promotes HR objectives and goals to ensure commitment from key stakeholders within the organization.

Building trusting relationships

  • Builds trusting relationships with others to ensure understanding of how HR is a vital asset in all areas.
  • Maintains close relationships with academic institutions and schools.

Negotiating

  • Uses negotiation skills to ensure that HR has adequate physical and financial resources.
  • Creates a voice for HR through mediation and conflict resolution.

Creating a vision for HR          

  • Defines and communicates HR’s vision and roles consistent with helping the organization to implement strategies which attain overall goals and objectives.
  • Enlists commitment by involving others in all stages.

Importance of This Competency

This competency is the third strategic competency of five under the category of Human Resources Leadership, and ensures that Human Resources personnel are advocates for their function.

Advocacy involves presenting Human Resources in the best light and presenting the case for its value in the overall successful operation of the unit and the company at large.

By judicially advocating the function and its programs, we will ensure the best chance of being invited to get involved in the key business and operational issues of our business partners – they will understand the contribution that we can make to their success.

General Considerations in Developing This Competency

You will only be a true advocate for Human Resources if you know for yourself the strengths and outcomes that can be expected from Human Resources programs and as a result of Human Resources involvement. A thorough knowledge and deep sense of commitment to Human Resources initiatives is therefore essential.

Furthermore, your word as an advocate will only be believed if you (and the rest of the Human Resources team) are trusted. Integrity is therefore critical.

Practicing This Competency

As a Team Member
– Look at ways to explain the value of Human Resources programmes and involvement, first to yourself, and then to others.
– Build confidence in explaining the Human Resources strategy, helping the listener to make connections between this and their own strategy.
– Think about ways in which you can enhance the impression others have of Human Resources through your own behavior and communication style.
– Read about the subject of trust in general and think about all the ways you can help others to trust you.
– Be ready to explain and defend the need for resources to be able to achieve your department’s goals.
– Look at ways to involve others in the achievement of Human Resources’ goals – building alliances and developing allies is a smart tactic in any business setting.

As a Team Leader
– Evaluate the extent to which your team are really advocates for Human Resources, both internally to business partners, but also externally to potential employees, sources of employees (e.g. schools, universities) and other outside vendors.
– Demonstrate advocacy in your own internal meetings and the individual sessions with your team members.
– Continually look for opportunities to involve Human Resources in the activities of your business partners, highlighting the value added.
– Use strategy and business plan documents to make sure that you stay on track and continue to look forward, anticipating future needs and changes.
– Be resolute in negotiating for the resources necessary for you and your team to do what needs to be done.
– In looking after the business needs of the other departments, make sure that you do not overlook the needs of your own department – your department must have certain resources to be able to help others.

Obtaining Feedback

– Before implementing an influence strategy, discuss it with others and ask for their feedback and suggestions.
– After an interaction in which you tried to enlist the support of an individual or group, ask a colleague who was present for feedback and suggestions on your influence efforts.
– Before delivering a presentation, review the content with someone whose judgment you trust and ask for feedback and suggestions.
– Ask someone to observe you delivering a presentation and to give you feedback and constructive suggestions.

Learning from Experts

– Look for opportunities to work closely with skilled influencers on tasks requiring the development of influence strategies e.g., planning a presentation or sales call, and leading a group to achieve a particular outcome.
– Observe a skilled influencer using influence skills in situations such as sales calls, speeches, meetings with subordinates, meetings to build relationships. Notice what the person says, how he/she says it, and the verbal and nonverbal reactions of the persons present.
– Interview a skilled influencer about times when this person successfully influenced others. Try to get the sequence of what the person did and thought. Recognise that the person you interview may be reluctant to discuss some influence efforts, particularly those used to influence the person’s current supervisor.
– Observe someone skilled in creating and delivering presentations. Note the content and organisation of the presentation. What ideas could you use in your presentations? Study the person’s delivery of the presentation. Note the person’s verbal and nonverbal behavior. What does this person do that you could do in your presentations?

Coaching Suggestions for Managers

If you are coaching someone who is trying to develop this competency, you can:
– Involve this person in some of your own influence efforts and share your thinking about your goals, plans, and the reasons underlying them.
– Provide assignments requiring the use of influence skills: e.g., developing a presentation to senior management; planning a meeting with another group whose cooperation is needed. Provide suggestions and feedback on the planning and implementation of influence strategies.
– Provide opportunities for this person to work closely with skilled influencers.
– Provide opportunities for this person to observe skilled presenters. Discuss what the person noticed in the skilled presenter’s presentations.
– Help the person plan the organisation and content of a presentation. Share the reasons underlying your thinking.
– Observe the person deliver a presentation and provide specific, constructive feedback, both positive and negative.
– If you are managing several persons who have opportunities to give presentations, debrief each presentation and ensure that each person receives useful, constructive feedback.
– Provide opportunities for presentation skills training.

Sample Development Goals

By September 10, I will read Getting to Yes, by Fisher and Ury and use what I learn to develop a strategy for gaining the cooperation of the Research.
By November 3, I will hold meetings to build relationships with five individuals from other departments, whose support I may need over the coming year.
– Before the October 5 benefits meeting with a new potential benefits provider, I will call the two project managers they are inviting to that meeting to learn what they would like to gain from the meeting. I will then plan and deliver a presentation that addresses these needs and interests.
– By December 15, I will complete a course on Influencing Others.
– By June 10, I will read The Art of Persuasive Communications, and identify a list of ideas to build into my presentation at the next department head meeting.
– By June 5, I will have Cindy Spier videotape me rehearsing a presentation, and I will ask her to provide feedback and suggestions for improvement.
– By July 25, I will complete a course on Presentation Skills.

Obtaining Feedback

– Before implementing an influence strategy, discuss it with others and ask for their feedback and suggestions.
– After an interaction in which you tried to enlist the support of an individual or group, ask a colleague who was present for feedback and suggestions on your influence efforts.
– Before delivering a presentation, review the content with someone whose judgment you trust and ask for feedback and suggestions.
– Ask someone to observe you delivering a presentation and to give you feedback and constructive suggestions.

Learning from Experts

– Look for opportunities to work closely with skilled influencers on tasks requiring the development of influence strategies e.g., planning a presentation or sales call, and leading a group to achieve a particular outcome.
– Observe a skilled influencer using influence skills in situations such as sales calls, speeches, meetings with subordinates, meetings to build relationships. Notice what the person says, how he/she says it, and the verbal and nonverbal reactions of the persons present.
– Interview a skilled influencer about times when this person successfully influenced others. Try to get the sequence of what the person did and thought. Recognise that the person you interview may be reluctant to discuss some influence efforts, particularly those used to influence the person’s current supervisor.
– Observe someone skilled in creating and delivering presentations. Note the content and organization of the presentation. What ideas could you use in your presentations? Study the person’s delivery of the presentation. Note the person’s verbal and nonverbal behavior. What does this person do that you could do in your presentations?

Coaching Suggestions for Managers

If you are coaching someone who is trying to develop this competency, you can:
– Involve this person in some of your own influence efforts and share your thinking about your goals, plans, and the reasons underlying them.
– Provide assignments requiring the use of influence skills: e.g., developing a presentation to senior management; planning a meeting with another group whose cooperation is needed. Provide suggestions and feedback on the planning and implementation of influence strategies.
– Provide opportunities for this person to work closely with skilled influencers.
– Provide opportunities for this person to observe skilled presenters. Discuss what the person noticed in the skilled presenter’s presentations.
– Help the person plan the organization and content of a presentation. Share the reasons underlying your thinking.
– Observe the person deliver a presentation and provide specific, constructive feedback, both positive and negative.
– If you are managing several persons who have opportunities to give presentations, debrief each presentation and ensure that each person receives useful, constructive feedback.
– Provide opportunities for presentation skills training.

Sample Development Goal

-By September 10, I will read Getting to Yes, by Fisher and Ury and use what I learn to develop a strategy for gaining the cooperation of the Research Division.
– By November 3, I will hold meetings to build relationships with five individuals from other departments, whose support I may need over the coming year.
– Before the October 5 benefits meeting with a new potential benefits provider, I will call the two project managers they are inviting to that meeting to learn what they would like to gain from the meeting. I will then plan and deliver a presentation that addresses these needs and interests.
– By December 15, I will complete a course on Influencing Others.
– By June 10, I will read The Art of Persuasive Communications, and identify a list of ideas to build into my presentation at the next department head meeting.
– By June 5, I will have Cindy Spier videotape me rehearsing a presentation, and I will ask her to provide feedback and suggestions for improvement.
– By July 25, I will complete a course on Presentation Skills.

External Resources

Books

The Art and Science of Persuasive Business Presentations, by Nils Randrup, Copenhagen Business School Press, 2002. ISBN: 8763000695

The Art of Persuasive Communication, by Richard Storey, Gower Publishing, 1997. ISBN: 0566078198

Building Trust: A Manager’s Guide for Business Success, by Mary Shurtleff, Crisp Publications, 1998. ISBN: 1560525142

Building Trust: In Business, Politics, Relationships, and Life, by Robert Solomon, Fernando Flores, Oxford University Press, 2001. ISBN: 0195126858

Contented Cows Give better Milk: The Plain Truth about Employee Relations and Your Bottom Line, by Bill Catlette, Saltillo Press, 1998. ISBN: 1890651044

Getting It Done: How to Lead When You’re Not in Charge, by Roger Fisher, John Richardson, Alan Sharp, HarperBusiness, 1999. ISBN: 0887309585

Getting Things Done When You are Not in Charge, by Geoffrey Bellman, Simon & Schuster, 1993. ISBN: 0671864122

Getting Past No: Negotiating with Difficult People, by William Ury, Random House Business, 1992. ISBN: 0712655239

Getting to Yes, by Roger Fisher, William Ury, Bruce Patton, Arrow, 1997. ISBN: 0099248425

The Human Equation: Building Profits by Putting People First, by Jeffrey Pfeffer, Harvard Business School Press, 1998. ISBN: 0875848419

Human Resource Champions: The Next Agenda for Adding Value and Delivering Results, by David Ulrich, Harvard Business School Press, 1996. ISBN: 0875847196

Influence: Science and Practice, Robert Cialdini, Longman, 2000. ISBN: 03210111473

Influence Without Authority, by Allen Cohen, David Bradford. John Wiley, 1991. ISBN: 0471548944

The Meaning and Role of Organizational Advocacy: Responsibility and Accountability in the Workplace, by Jane Galloway Seiling, Greenwood Press, 2001. ISBN: 156720371X

Success in Sight: Visioning, by Andrew Kakabadse, Frederic Nortier, Nello-Bernard Abramovici, International Thomson Business Press, 1998. ISBN: 186152160X

You Can Negotiate Anything, by Herb Cohen, Bantam, 1993. ISBN: 0553259997

Online and Self-Study Courses

Presentation Success: How to Plan, Prepare, and Deliver Effective Presentations. American Management Association Self Study Course. www.amanet.org/selfstudy/b13821.htm

Successful Negotiating. American Management Association Self Study Course. www.amanet.org/selfstudy/b1416x.htm

Interpersonal Negotiations. American Management Association Self Study Course. Tel.: 800-262-9699. Stock # 95053CYI.

How to Negotiate. American Management Association Self Study Course. Tel.: 800-262-9699. Stock # 801332CYI.   Includes 6 audio cassettes.

Consultative Selling. American Management Association Self Study Course. Tel.: 800-262-9699. Stock # 80200CYI. Includes 4 audio cassettes.

Value Selling: How to Sell to Cost-Conscious Customers. American Management Association Self Study Course. Tel.: 800-262-9699. Stock # 80194CYI. Includes 4 audio cassettes.

How to Deal with Differences in People, by Tony Alessandra. Six audio cassettes plus Progress Guide and Behavioral-Style Evaluation. Order through Nightingale Conant, 800-525-9000. Code 1431AS

Negotiating Strategies for the Real World, by William Ury. Six audio cassettes plus workbook. Order through Nightingale Conant, 800-525-9000. Code 691AS

How to Gain Power and Influence with People, by Tony Alessandra. Six audio cassettes. Nightingale Conant, 800-525-9000. Code 370AS.

The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, by Stephen Covey. Six audio cassettes. Nightingale Conant, 800-525-9000. Code786PAS.

The Art of Influencing People Positively, by Tony Alessandra. 45-minute video. Order through Talico, 904-241-1721. Code TI-201.

WHAT TIPS AND RESOURCES HAVE YOU FOUND TO BE HELPFUL IN COMMUNICATING AND “SELLING” HUMAN RESOURCES VISION AND CAPABILITIES?

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Resources For Developing Competencies

Here are some resources you can use and actions you can take in order to develop a competency:  
Observation of outstanding performers
can be useful in developing recognition and understanding of the competencies. To use this type of developmental activity, you must have someone to observe who is adept at the competency, and the competency must be, of course, one that is demonstrated through observable behavior, such as providing motivational support.

Practicing the behaviors of each competency is the most direct method of competency development and is an essential part of any competency development strategy. This method provides the skill practice that is needed for competency development. You can use this method in conjunction with any of the others (e.g., by first reading about or observing effective behaviors). If possible, try out the behaviors in relatively safe situations (e.g., off the job) before trying them in critical, high-stakes situations on the job.

Self-Study Courses
Self-study courses can provide the same advantages as readings. In addition, many self-study courses include video providing an opportunity to observe others demonstrating the competency, audio which make it possible to learn about the competency while driving your car, and a variety of exercises to increase your understanding and use of the competency. Self-study courses may also include tests, which allow you to check your understanding.

Courses
Courses provide a block of time away from the job, when you can focus on development of specific competencies or skills. Most courses provide a variety of methods (e.g., readings, videos, observation, and practice). Courses can provide opportunities to practice skills in a safe environment and to receive expert coaching. A few external courses that are offered in several geographical locations are listed. Your organization’s training staff can help you find other courses. Directories such as “The Corporate University Guide to Management Seminars” published annually by The Corporate University Press (124 Washington Avenue, Point Richard, CA 94801), provide extensive listings of courses.

Readings
Readings help provide a conceptual framework for understanding a competency.
This framework may be especially useful in developing the following competencies:

  • Establishing Focus
  • Motivating Others
  • Fostering Teamwork
  • Managing Change
  • Managing Performance
  • Strategic Thinking
  • Influencing Others

Readings can also provide ideas on how to practice or learn competencies.

Interviewing Outstanding Performers
Interviewing outstanding performers is an easier tool to use than observation, because you do not have to be present with the outstanding performer when the competency is being demonstrated. You simply ask the person to discuss how he/she demonstrates this competency and how you can go about using this competency in your situation. It is helpful to ask the outstanding performer to talk about specific times when he/she used a competency. Interviewing outstanding performers helps to develop your understanding of the competencies. In using this method, you need not be limited to people in your own organization. Consider friends, neighbors, and people you know through professional and community organizations.

Seeking Feedback
Seeking feedback from others provides you with an accurate self-assessment. Feedback is especially important when the competencies require developing and refining a high level of skill. Ask others to observe while you try to demonstrate the competency, and ask them for feedback and suggestions. Try to arrange situations where others can observe you (e.g., conducting joint sales calls or selection interviews, managing a meeting). Let the observer know in advance what behaviors you will try to demonstrate. Ask for feedback afterwards.

Another option is to utilize feedback instruments. A 360 degree feedback instrument, Soundings™ Leadership Competency Assessment, provides feedback on 159 behaviors that make up thirty-five competencies from subordinates, co-workers and managers.

Additional Resources and Developmental Actions
Workitect’s Competency Development Guide contains additional actions that can be taken to develop a competency. An example for the competency of Managing Change can be found here.

In preparing your plan to develop a competency, consider all of these types of activities. The more different types of activities you include in your plan for developing a competency, the better your chances of success. At the same time, emphasize the activities that you are most comfortable with. And there are a variety of planning forms in Workitect’s Competency Development Guide that will facilitate the entire process. This is one of them:

WHAT RESOURCES AND ACTIONS HAVE YOU FOUND MOST HELPFUL IN
DEVELOPING COMPETENCIES?

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Include Competencies in a Succession Plan

 successionplanningSuccession planning is an ongoing system of identifying competent employees who are ready to move into key jobs in the organization and/or those who, with specifically identified development, will be ready to assume key jobs at some stated point in the future. Job-person matches are made between existing employees and future jobs they might assume. These future jobs are usually higher level posi­tions. But, succession planning may be for key jobs above, at the same level, or even below the job an employee now holds. Increasingly, succession planning is for lateral job moves (e.g., to a different function, project team, or geography).

The usual criteria for a succession planning system successful include:

  • One, preferably two, well-qualified internal candidates are identified as ready to assume any key job should it become vacant.
  • A record of successful promotions (or other job placements).
  • Few superior performers leave the organization because of “lack of opportunity­”

Competency-based succession planning systems identify the competency re­quirements for critical jobs, assess candidate competencies, and evaluate possible job-person matches. Career path “progression maps” identify key “feeder” jobs for lateral or higher level “target” positions within a job fam­ily or across job families.

The table below shows seven generic levels for line, staff function, and team/ project management. Jobs at any given level are feeder positions for higher rungs on the job ladder, and for lateral moves to positions in other job families.

A competency-based succession planning system assesses how many em­ployees in which feeder jobs have (or have the potential to develop) the compe­tencies to perform well in key target jobs. There are two ways of doing this.

  • The first is to compare the competencies of people in the feeder job with the competency requirements of the target job.
  • The second is to compare the competency requirements of the feeder job and the target job.

                  Generic Organizational Structure: Feeder Jobs and Levels

Line Staff Team/Project
1. Individual Contributor: Seasoned professional New hire 1. Individual Contributor: Seasoned professional New hire 1. Individual Contributor: Seasoned professional New hire
2. First Line Supervisor: Homogenous work group 2. Lead professional: Integrates other professionals work 2. Team/Project Leader: without permanent reports
3. Department: Manages several work units managed by subordinate supervisors 3. Function Manager: (finance, human resources) for a small business unit 3. Project Manager: Coordinates Project/Team Leaders from several work groups
4. Several Departments: Manages plant, region, several departments, function managers 4. Several Functions: (e.g., finance and administration) 4. Large Project Manager: Manages other Project managers
5. Business Unit: President or General Manager 5. Top Function Manager: for a business: VP Finance, VP Marketing 5. Major Product Manager: Coordinates all functions – R&D, marketing, manufacturing, HR
6. Division: Manages many business units (e.g., Group VP of large firm) 6. Corporate Executive VP: (e.g., Chief Financial Officer) 6. Mega Project Manager: $100+ million (e.g., NASA, military weapons acquisition)
7. Major Corporation CEO: Large complex multi-division organization

ORGANIZATIONAL ISSUES

The issues that indicate a need for competency-based succession planning systems include:

  • Promotion or placement outcomes are poor; too many people promoted or transferred to new responsibilities fail or quit. Typical examples are promoting the best salesperson to sales manager or the best technical professional to supervisor and then finding he or she lacks essential in­terpersonal understanding and influence skills.
  • There is a need to redeploy technical/professional staff people to mar­keting or line management jobs-or managers back to individual con­tributor roles in an organization that is cutting middle management. “Lean and mean” organizations offer fewer vertical promotional or ca­reer path opportunities, with the result that more succession planning is In downsizing organizations, the key placement question may be which managers have kept up with their technical and professional com­petencies so they are able to return to individual contributor roles.
  • Organizational changes require employees with different competencies. Globalizing firms need employees with the competencies to function in different parts of the world. Privatizing organizations need to determine which government bureaucrats have enough achievement motivation to be­come entrepreneurs and businesspeople. Stagnant firms need employees with innovative and entrepreneurial competencies to survive in markets with shorter product life cycles and fast-moving foreign competitors. Downsizing firms need to decide who stays and who is let go, that is, which employees have the competencies to fill demanding “same amount of work with fewer people” jobs in the new, smaller organization.
  • Mergers, acquisitions, and reorganizations require the surviving firm to decide which existing employees are needed for (which) jobs in the new structure. Mergers of similar firms often result in an organization with two marketing departments, two sales forces, duplicate staffs in many functions; merger efficiencies come from elimination of the double As with downsizing organizations, the question of who stays and who goes is determined by which employees have the competencies to succeed in the firm’s future jobs.

STEPS IN DEVELOPING A COMPETENCY-BASED SYSTEM

  1. Identify Key Jobs. Identifying these jobs in the organization’s struc­ture – or the structure it wants for the future usually includes identifying the firm’s strategy, its critical value-added target jobs, and key feeder jobs to these target jobs. Most organizations will have some variant of the seven levels shown in Table 1 for line, technical/professional, or functional staff, and team/project manager job families. Vertical progression in a job family is:
    – Individual contributor, often divided into two subgroups: new hire and seasoned professional
    – First-level functional supervisor, managing a homogeneous group of individual contributors (e.g., a move from engineer to chief engineer or programmer to software development team leader). For functional technical/professionals and project job families, this level may be a lead professional who acts as a temporary team leader, assists and integrates other professionals’ work, and mentors junior employees, but does not have any permanent reports.
    – Department, function or project managers, who manage supervisors or lead professionals of several work groups
    – Multiple departments or functions managers, who manage several other department, function, or project managers (e.g., a plant or re­gional manager, or director of finance and administration)
    – Business unit general manager, such as CEO of a small firm (less than $20 million in annual revenues); top functional manager, such as Mar­keting or Finance Vice President of a medium-size firm ($20-$200 million revenues); or manager of a major project
    – Division general manager, such as CEO of a medium-size firm ($200 million revenues); top functional executive in a large firm ($200+ million revenues), or mega-project manager
    – CEO of a large, complex multidivision organization
  2. Develop Competency Models for Critical Target and Feeder Jobs. Fre­quently this involves development of competency models for each of several steps in a job family ladder. BEIs conducted with four superiors and two aver­ages at each level are analyzed to identify competencies required for a supe­rior performance at the level and also to pinpoint how the competencies change or grow as an employee advances up the ladder.
  3. Create a Formalized Succession Planning Process. This process should be an annual cycle that requires management at each level to conduct assessments and engage in discussions about the talent within their organizations including performance and potential of their direct reports and other high potential people within their groups. In addition a mid-year update meeting can be help to identify progress since the last formal session. During the annual session the management team classifies people, in terms of their performance and potential, as:
  • Promotable, either:
    • Ready now, or
    • Developable (i.e., could be ready in the future if they develop specific competencies to the level required by the future jobs for which they are candidates)
  • Not promotable :
    • Competent in their current job, and/or
    • Have potential to transfer laterally to some other job
  • Not competent in their current job and not a fit with other jobs in the organization as it will be in the future. These people are candidates for early retirement or outplacement.

4. Develop a Human Resource Management Information System. Succession planning for more than a few positions all but requires a computerized human resource information system to keep track of the competency requirements of all jobs, competencies of these people assessed, and evaluation of possible job-­person matches.
5. Develop a Development/Career Pathing System (Optional). Succession planning systems create demand for competency-based development and ca­reer pathing systems. Once employees understand the competency require­ments for higher jobs and the gaps between their competencies and those required by the jobs they want, they ask for training or other developmental activities to close the gap. Similarly, once an organization is aware of the com­petencies it needs to be successful and the gaps between these needs and the capabilities of its existing or projected staff, it seeks selection or developmen­tal programs to close these gaps.

Workitect consulting services are available to create competency-based succession planning and talent management systems.

Reference: Competence At Work, by Lyle Spencer and Signe Spencer; 1993, John Wiley & Sons.

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Six Steps to Conducting a Behavioral Event Interview

sr-woman-interview

Regardless of how you view today’s economy, if your job involves acquiring talent for your organization, you know that interviewing, assessing, and selecting the best candidates for key jobs remains as challenging as ever.

Even more challenging is finding candidates who have been superior performers in their current job and who are likely to be superior performers in a new job. To do so, it is first necessary to have a clear picture of what constitutes “superior performance” and the competencies possessed by superior performers that enables them to be superior performers. Job competency models serve such a purpose. Developing job competencies models utilizes a special behavioral event interviewing (aka BEI) technique

The basic principle of the competency approach is that what people think or say about their motives and skills is not credible. Only what they actually do, in the most critical incidents they have faced, is to be believed. The purpose of the BEI method is to get behind what people say they do to find out what they really do. This is accomplished by asking people to describe how they actually behaved in specific incidents.

More about the Purpose of a BEI

The goal of the behavioral event interview is to identify the competencies needed to do various jobs. Its nearest relative is the searching clinical interview, in which the goal is to identify the individual’s chief characteristics that have lead to maladjustment. In the behavioral event interview the focus is what it takes to do a given job well. Since individuals may adjust to a job idiosyncratically, it is necessary to interview several incumbents and try to determine what characterizes good performers as contrasted with poor performers. In isolating the competencies needed, the interviewer should keep in mind what is measurable. When the interviewer has formulated the competencies that are needed, he or she will test these judgments by finding measures of them and determine if those who perform the job well score higher on these measures than those who perform poorly. When these hypotheses about the competencies needed for a job are cross-validated in this way, the measures can be used to select better qualified people or to train people better for the job.

The Basic Technique

One of the best methods of getting the information to assess the competencies needed for a job is to elicit very detailed behavioral descriptions of how a person goes about doing his or her work. Sometimes this may be done by asking a number of job incumbents to write out critical incidents, following a technique first popularized by Flanagan (1954). However, these incidents may not be detailed enough to figure out just what the person was thinking and doing. Therefore, it is usually better to interview a few incumbents in depth. This permits a more thorough exploration of each episode reported until all the relevant behaviors have been elicited. To distinguish this technique from Flanagan’s well-known critical incident approach, it should be referred to as the behavioral event interview technique. The interviewer should realize at all times that the purpose of the interview is to get raw behavioral data which can be used to conceptualize the competencies that are required for doing the job well.

Above all, the interviewer must avoid being caught up in the interviewee’s concepts of
what it takes to do his or her job. Every person has some ideas about what he or she is like and how he or she does things. In some cases these ideas may be accurate but often they are not, and the interviewer must avoid asking questions that simply elicit the interviewee’s concepts. The interviewer must keep pushing for the behaviors — the thoughts and actions — that the interviewee demonstrated on a given occasion.

Use of a tape recorder is recommended to save every detail of the interview for future uses, such as developing case materials and other learning aids. Its most immediate use is to help you reconstruct your interview notes when you do your summary writeup. However, there is no substitute for good note-taking, especially if you have a mechanical failure. Don’t expect to use the recorder like a crutch and your notes will be all you will need to write up the interview, saving you the time you would ordinarily have to spend listening to the interview all over again.

How to Conduct the Interview

Step 1. Explanation

Everyone will want to know why he or she is being interviewed. Your explanation might go something like this:

“I’ve been asked to try to figure out what competencies it takes to do your job. The best
approach seems to be to ask a person who is doing a job how he or she does it. You are the obvious expert in what it take to be (whatever the person does). We’re just going to talk for awhile about some examples of how you do your job”.

Optional, depending on the interviewee’s curiosity and/or your mandate:

“This is part of a program which should lead to better selection and training for the job. If we can identify the competencies needed for a job, we can select people who have those competencies needed for the job or train job incumbents to develop the necessary competencies to a fuller extent”.

At this point you should get the permission of the interviewee for you to tape-record the interview. You can explain it this way:

“With your permission, I would like to record parts of this interview to help me with my notes.
Everything you say will be kept confidential and will not be shared with anyone else in
(interviewee’s organization). But if there is anything you want to say off the record or don’t want me to record, just let me know and I’ll turn off the tape”.

Step 2. Duties and Responsibilities

It is a good idea to break the ice by getting the interviewee talking about what he or she does in a general way, that is, about what his or her duties and responsibilities are.

“Let’s begin by taking about what your responsibilities are in your job. I really know nothing about what it takes to be a good (policeman, naval officer, manager, etc.). What do you do? Where do you work? Whom do you work with? What are your hours? Whom do you report to? Who reports to you?”

The objective here is to get the interviewee talking in as free and relaxed a way as possible about his or her job. Sometimes interviewees have difficulty getting started, but most of them find it easy to talk about their work and they like telling others what they do. It is wise not to push the behavioral event approach on them too soon; lead into it gradually.

Often in the course of describing their work, interviewees will say things that puzzle you or that you want clarified. For example, a police captain may say, “Well, I supervise the lieutenants”. Here he is simply quoting a job description to you and your problem is to find out what he means. So you say “Could you explain a little more what you mean by ‘supervise’? Do they write reports for you to read? Do they come in to talk with you first thing in the morning, or when they leave? Do you observe them working with the patrolmen? What is the chance you would get to know they were doing something wrong or to give them some direction? It helps most if you can describe an actual case where you supervised someone”.

Step 3. First Behavioral Event

Hopefully this questioning about duties will lead to a critical event which you can ask the interviewee to describe in detail so that you can get a better idea of how the job is done and what characteristics it takes to do it well. You may say something like:

“To get a better idea of what supervision consists of, can you think of an instance where
you were able to help someone do his or her job better, or keep him or her from making a mistake? I need an example of just how you operate”.

It is hard to generalize about just how you will hit on the first incident since it should come up naturally in the course of discussing various responsibilities. But once you have got the interviewee talking about a particular event, you should push hard for behavioral detail.

“Now let me get the setting straight. Let’s begin at the beginning. Where were you? What time of day was it? What had you been doing when this came up? What was in your mind?”

You may want to ask what kind of day it was (raining?) or how the interviewee was feeling, to recreate the whole scenario. Here you become an investigative reporter, pushing to get clear in your mind just what happened. Asking for time, place and mood often helps the interviewee recall the episode, since all the person has left in his or her mind usually is some memory of how it all turned out which he or she told you first anyway. You should have in mind the following questions as the interviewee begins to tell the story:
– What led up to the event?
– What was the person thinking? (of the individual he or she was interacting with, of the       situation,etc.)
– What did the person do, and why?
– What was the person feeling, wishing?
– How did it all turn out?

You are interested in the interviewee’s:
– Perceptions of the people and the situation
– Thoughts
– Acts
– Feelings
– Conclusions for future reference

Try to get the interviewee to begin at the beginning and take you through the story as it unfolded. Otherwise you may get confused about what happened and who did what. This may be difficult because the interviewee will usually start by remembering the outcome of an event. Just say, “That’s exactly what I had in mind. Now let’s start at the beginning so that I can understand what happened”. As the interviewee tells you all this, you are learning things about him or her, and you should ask questions that will verify or double-check inferences you are beginning to draw about his or her competencies. In all questioning, however, be sure that you are giving the interviewee plenty of reinforcement for what he or she is telling you. You are not the FBI. You should laugh with the interviewee, tell stories of your own if necessary to keep the flow of talk informal and pleasant, constantly reinforce him or her for the help he or she is giving you in clarifying what goes on
in this job.

Your objective is to get the interviewee to tell you little vignettes, scenarios of things that happened to him or her. Some people need a lot of encouragement and stimulation to really get into the process of telling a story.

Step 4. Further Behavioral Events

You may find it easy in talking about an event in the area of supervision to move on to an example of when things didn’t go well:

“That helps me understand much better what supervision involves. Now, can you think of an instance in which you feel you didn’t carry out supervision as well as you might have? That will help me also, because it will identify the characteristic one ought to show in such situations”.

If the interviewee can’t think of one, you can make a few suggestions (“Did you ever have to fire somebody?” “Did you ever have problems with any of your subordinates?”) and if the interviewee still blocks (an unusual occurrence!) you can go to some other area (“Well, can you think of a time when things didn’t go well on the job?”). Again, when the interviewee comes up with and event, ask first for time, place and setting, and then go into detail.

In all, it is best to try to get detailed descriptions of three events where the interviewee was effective and three events where the interviewee was ineffective. but there is nothing magical about these numbers. The crucial question is whether you are learning what it takes to do this job well.

Occasionally you will run into someone who blocks when you ask him or her for an example of something that went particularly well or poorly. The interviewee just can’t seem to think of anything important. In that case, don’t keep pressing him or her; your main goal of getting the interviewee to talk about how he or she performs on the job may only be interfered with as he or she gets more frustrated or annoyed about not being able to do what you want. Then you should use other approaches to get the interviewee to talk, such as asking the person to take you through what he or she did yesterday or probing in detail, or just how he or she goes about supervising someone through an example.

Remember, the goal is to get the interviewee to talk about the way he or she does the job.
Any method of doing that is legitimate.

Step 5. Characteristics

It is often useful at the end of the interview to ask the interviewee what characteristics he or she thinks a person ought to have to do his or her job well. This serves the double purpose of establishing good relations by asking the interviewee’s opinion and also of giving you some further insight into what he or she thinks is important. For example, if none of the good incumbents thinks to mention interpersonal skills, you may want to infer that incumbents in this job can get along without caring much about interpersonal relationships.

Step 6. Summary and Writing

After the interview is over it is a good plan to sit down quietly for an hour and summarize what you have learned. This may include a brief characterization of the person you have just interviewed. It also helps you define things about which you are still unclear. In other words, it is a time to make your budding hypotheses explicit so that you can check them in later interviews. If you have the time, this is the best point to write up the entire interview, while your memory is still fresh.

Reference: Spencer, L. M. & Spencer, S. M. (1993). Competence At Work. New York: Wiley, 114-134

FUTURE BLOGS

THREE PITFALLS TO AVOID IN INTERVIEWING
FIVE COMPETENCIES TO HAVE IN MIND
COMPARISONS OF JOB ANALYSIS TECHNIQUES
COMMON INTERVIEW TECHNIQUES
FOUR COMMON INTERVIEWING STYLES
FEATURES OF THE BEI TECHNIQUE
ADVANTAGES OF THE BEI TECHNIQUE

Note: This information can also be found in the Research & Support section of the Workitect website.

The BEI technique has been adapted and taught in Workitect’s Building Competency Models workshop and Interviewing for Competencies workshop as the Structured Event Interview.

The methodology is also applied in Workitect’s set of 35 Competency Interview Guides.

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Competencies and Competitiveness

best-practicesSeveral years ago, the WorldAtWork association sponsored a research study titled “Raising the Bar – Using Competencies to Enhance Employee Performance”.  The results were published in a 76-page booklet. The findings are still relevant and insightful today. 

Competencies connect with business strategy, the techniques organizations use to build competency models, and the similarities and differences among com­petency-based human resources applications. Competency-based talent management applications are not new; but it may still be too early to judge whether competencies ful­fill their potential as a means to improve employee performance and, ultimately, enhance business results. But attitudes toward competencies are largely positive, and a large majority of organizations want to expand the role of competencies within their organizations.

Following are the key findings of the original research effort. Based on our own research and experience in the field, most are still valid in 2016.

• Competencies are used to “raise the bar” on employee performance.
HR executives say “raising the bar” is a key objective of competencies, as opposed to using competencies to establish a baseline for perfor­mance. Also, many HR executives tailor their HR applications to focus on individual performance. Competencies are defined thoroughly (often using high performers and functional experts as a primary source of input), and they often are supported with scaled levels to illustrate in­creasing levels of proficiency. This provides individuals with detailed road maps for increasing their capabilities incrementally.

For staffing applications, competencies are used to hire, place and promote people with the right capabili­ties to help the organization gain competitive advantage. For training and development, competencies are used to identify gaps in each participating employee’s capa­bilities so these gaps can be remedied. For performance management, competencies and results are assessed side by side, reminding employees that how they do things is as important as what they do. For compensation, both competencies and results impact base pay decisions to reward performance and competency development.

Competencies are used to focus on an organization’s culture and values. Many organizations use competency-based applications to communicate values to the work force and to build the proper culture for success. While these issues may ap­pear somewhat removed from the bottom line, many organizations recognize the importance of culture in achieving competitive advantage.

Business strategies drive competencies. Competency information comes from multiple sources, and strategy plays a key role in development. The most frequent source of information is senior management and strategic plans. The next most common sources of information are high performers and functional experts. These sources of information often are used in com­bination.

Competencies focus on how performance re­sults are achieved. Competencies are behavioral mod­els that are built upon skills, knowledge and personal attributes. Furthermore, all attributes of competencies should be observable and measurable, and they must contribute to enhanced employee performance and, in turn, organizational success.

• Competency applications are evolu­tionary, not revolutionary.  First, it appears that many competency-based approaches are treated as add-ons and are not leading to radical adjustments in HR processes. Sec­ond, with regard to specific HR applications, many managers continue to make the lion’s share of performance man­agement and compensation decisions. Furthermore, with the exception of the use of behaviorally anchored rating scales, base salary adjustments under competency-based systems are largely made in a traditional fashion. Finally, for staffing purposes, competencies are rarely used when checking references or as the sole basis for rejecting candidates.

Competencies provide a framework for integrating HR applications. Integrating HR applications is a desired outcome for most organizations. Many HR functions have more than one competency-based HR application. Those who have applications in place for more than a year usually desire to expand compe­tencies into additional HR areas. Lessons learned in one area of competency-based HR should be applied to other competency applications.

Compensation is the least common application. Performance management is the most cited application, and staffing and training and de­velopment are in between. Staffing applications tend to be oldest, followed by performance management, train­ing and development, and compensation applications. This may imply that staffing applications represent starting points for many organizations that are interested in competencies. Compensation is seen as an application that can be added once other applications are in place. One reason for why staffing applications are older may be historical; David McClelland and McBer’s early work with competencies was to examine them for selec­tion purposes.

These findings should not be interpreted as a prescrip­tion for the order in which to install competencies.  Many organizations start competencies in different areas of HR and then gradually work their way to other areas. In fact, many organizations also work on more than one application at once. The key is not the order in which applications are developed, but how these applications ultimately are in­tegrated and linked to business strategy.

Additional findings and other relevant studies will be published in future blogs.

Read more…….to learn more about the benefits, and how to create an integrated HR system, download Competencies & Competitiveness.

Also in “The ROI of Competency Technology” – What is superior performance worth in your organization?

15-performanceworth4c-2

“Workitect’s competency modeling process gave us a solid foundation to select and develop high performing branch managers and customer service reps. Their consultants worked well with all levels – from executive to front-line employees. They were professional, easy to work with, and good at sharing their expertise and organizational insight with us.”  Director, Organizational Learning

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Three Approaches To Competency Model Building

Man in front of three doors, doubtful. Rendered at high resolution on a white background with diffuse shadows.

When deciding how to approach a competency model building project, it is useful to consider three distinctive approaches:

  •   Single Job Competency Model
  •   One-Size-Fits-All Approach
  •   Multiple Job Approach

A project usually focuses on one of these approaches, although it is possible to use a combination of these approaches within one organization.

Single Job Competency Model

This approach focuses on a single, narrowly defined job that is important to the organization’s success and has at least 10 job holders. The jobs covered by the competency model should have similar responsibilities and performance measures. Any requirements for technical skill or knowledge should be similar across the set of jobs. Examples of jobs for which a single job competency model is appropriate include sales representative, customer service representative, project manager, and plant manager.

The single job approach uses extensive and rigorous data collection, to ensure that the competency model contains highly specific behavioral descriptions of what one needs to do and how, in order to achieve superior results. This approach often includes a detailed breakdown of the main responsibilities and tasks and shows how they are linked to the competencies. Compared to the other two approaches, the single job approach is more time consuming and expensive to implement.

Data Gathering for the Single Job Approach

Usually, in the single job approach, data are gathered in multiple ways. For example, job analysis interviews may be used with job holders to identify main responsibilities, break each main responsibility down into tasks and sub-tasks. A resource panel, comprised of several job holders and several managers of jobholders, may be used to gather the same type of information, as well as information about performance criteria and measures and about changes in the business and organizational context that have implications for new and emerging competency requirements. In order to develop highly detailed behavioral descriptions of the competencies, the Single Job Approach almost always includes structured behavioral interviews with superior performers in the job, in which these persons are asked to provide detailed accounts of how they approached several key tasks or work situations.

Advantages of the Single Job Approach

A competency model built using the Single Job Approach has high face validity and high credibility with job holders and their managers. The model provides a recipe for superior performance. The specific behavioral descriptions of the competencies are useful when developing training programs. The rigor of the methodology ensures that if the organization wishes to use the model for selection, there will be a strong legal justification for doing so.

Disadvantages of the Single Job Approach

Because this approach targets a single, narrowly defined job, the competency model and HR applications built on it affect a relatively small number of employees. As noted earlier, the Single Job Approach is relatively expensive and time consuming to implement, especially if competency models are desired for multiple jobs.

When the Single Job Approach is Appropriate

This approach is most appropriate when:

  •   There is an opportunity to gain competitive advantage by improving the productivity of people in a key job
  •   The potential productivity gains from applying the model justify the time and expense of building it
  •   There is a need to use the competency model as a basis for developing a training program or curriculum
  •   The organization currently has several superior performers in the job
  •   The job is expected to continue to exist in the organization for at least three years.

More about the…..

The One-Size-Fits-All Approach
Multiple Jobs Approach
Advantages of One-Size-Fits-All and Multiple Jobs Approaches

Reprint: Building Competency Models – Approaches for HR Professionals

As taught in Workitect’s Building Competency Models workshop.

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