Modernizing competency models for millennials

Group of businesspeople having a meeting.Competency models are defined as blueprints of what an organization seeks from its workforce, based on its top-level objectives. As a result, competency models are typically used as a hiring tool to find those employees who meet the exact criteria set forth by the employer: culture fit, soft skills, abilities, interests, etc.

Yet, it appears that the roles have changed, and employers must now adapt to the expectations, styles and demands of new generations. More specifically, Millennials are known to demand a better work-life balance, as well as greater flexibility and diversity in their role. The benefits of this new reality can be argued at length, but what’s important for employers to understand is that Millennials are not afraid to move on to bigger and better things if they are not entirely pleased with your offer and current work conditions. In fact, 60% of Millennials leave their companies within three years of hire, at a cost of $20,000 per person for the organization[1].

This prompts the following question: Should an organization adapt to the output potential of its workforce, or should it focus on seeking only those employees who can deliver on its pre-established objectives?

The power of a growth-focused culture

The answer to the above question is ‘neither’. Knowing that each generation has different views and expectations of the workplace, employers – mainly managers and HR professionals – must instead seek to create a plan of action that will ensure that all employees, no matter their generation, work together to achieve the organizational goals for which they were hired in the first place.

This can be achieved by developing a talent management system that will:

  1. Define the goals and key culture elements sought by the organization
  2. Identify the skills and competencies required for each role within the organization
  3. Determine the skills and competencies that are lacking in the current workforce
  4. Develop a training and coaching program that will seek to bride that gap between steps 2 and 3

It is important to note that it’s the organization’s responsibility to ensure that such a program is communicated appropriately to its workforce. Without clearly defined benefits of following such an approach, even the best of programs may be set for failure, particularly with Millennials who are recognized for demanding a higher level of transparency and feedback.

The humanization and modernization of the model

A PwC & University of Southern California study has revealed that most organizations still embrace old models of talent management, which are inconsistent with Millennials’ expectations of the workplace.

Competency models are one of those systems often perceived as ‘old-school’ by many young leaders, mainly due to the fact that they are highly technical and focus primarily on current skills, instead of an individual’s potential for growth and development. In other words, they are considered too mechanical and impersonal, not factoring in the oft-overlooked benefits that a different perspective can bring to an organization.

Yet, competency modeling has also evolved over the years, and many experts in the field have since adopted a more modern and human approach. In fact, implementing competency models that match the needs of both the organization and the workforce fosters unity, a crucial element to motivation, teamwork and performance. It’s simply a matter of giving employees an active role and the freedom to understand the importance of that role in achieving the organizational goals. By using competency models to establish a clear path from hire to development to promotion, with explicit expectations at each step, employees are put in control of their professional success, all the while facilitating the performance assessment and succession planning process for managers.

At Workitect, we offer a wide array of tools and training opportunities to help you customize your competency model to your workforce. For more information, contact us or visit…

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The importance of application in competency model building

22571540_sModern technology and the arrival of a new generation, the HR function is evolving rapidly, particularly with respect to recruiting, retention and talent management. At the heart of these processes is competency model building and implementation; that is, a system designed to group a series of competencies, which together describe the skills and behaviors required to achieve the level of performance within a particular role, in a given organization.

Competency models serve many purposes, the most important being able to define characteristics to not only hire the right employees for the job and the company culture, but also to promote efficient mobility within the organization.

HR professionals and managers can no longer view these models as a novelty, meaning an organization simply cannot build a model without an initial application in mind, only afterwards contemplating how it should be used.

More than a job description

Competency models allow an organization to implement talent management systems that integrate staffing, performance management, succession planning, and development in a way that both increases the percentage of outstanding performers in the workplace and drives results.

Common types of applications include:

  • Precise identification of superior performers in an organization, and what they actually do
  • Performance appraisals using relevant behavioral descriptors
  • Addressing specific technical competencies on an individual in the context of a given role
  • Training and assessment programs designed around an actual job function

The above list is by far nowhere near exhaustive, but because of models’ many uses, it is essential for HR to have a particular application in mind when building a model. In fact, determining the application before implementation allows for more precise and purpose-driven data collection and analysis, as well as ensuring that a budget and necessary resources are made available from design to implementation.

You can read more on effective competency model building here, or contact us to see which tools or training programs are suited to your organization.

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Stakeholders involvement in the competency modeling process

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There’s no doubt that for a company’s processes and tools to be cost-effective, senior management must be involved in their development, albeit to varying degrees. The creation and implementation of competency models are no exceptions. But just how involved should a company’s stakeholders be in the talent management process?

First step: Determining the key stakeholders

A company’s key stakeholders are the individuals who hold a vested interest in the decision-making process of an organization, as well as in its results. This therefore involves everyone from the actual owners of the company to upper-tier management, including the Board of Directors.

Just as these same individuals are responsible for the success and growth of the company they manage, they cannot turn a blind eye to their most important asset, their employees, particularly with respect to hiring and retaining a workforce that is so detrimental to their top-level objectives.

The why and how of senior management’s involvement

Simply put, HR is tasked with creating a model that addresses the company’s objectives and direction so at the end of the day, there is a pressing need to ensure that this model is aligned with the proper behavioral queues for the organization.

Key stakeholders are not only invaluable resources to the competency modeling process, they are also the source of the resources HR needs to build and implement an effective model that adheres to both the company culture and mission.

Having key stakeholders involved in the competency modeling process allows for:

  • Increased trust in the model within the organization
  • Complete transparency and consensus
  • Considerable value added in the data collection and validation process
  • Unique insight that might otherwise be missed or not considered

Of course, despite these benefits, involving senior management requires careful planning and a significant investment of time into a project that may be regarded to be “HR’s job”. As such, obtaining a commitment and true engagement in this process is not always easy.

To learn more about how HR can plead the case for competency modeling, or to better understand the different steps required to build an effective model tailored to your organization, visit our website or sign up to attend our upcoming workshop.

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Research for Building Competency Models

iStock_000003902282_DoubleOne of the main concerns we hear about implementing competency models within an organization pertains to their reliability and validity; that is, how accurate and precise are these models in terms of effectiveness? The fact is that it all depends on how they are developed, as well as how they will be used: performance management, recruiting, career development, etc.

Building competency models requires that a certain level of data collection and analysis be conducted collectively by HR and senior management. After all, how else can an organization begin to understand the behaviors displayed by what is considered ‘superior performers’ if proper research is omitted? But just how is validity achieved? How much evidence is considered ‘sufficient’?

A sufficient research approach

Research approaches to competency model building emphasize a systematic data collection and analysis. However, it must remain of great priority in deciding specifically how much evidence is considered sufficient for the inclusion of competencies in the model.

Developing a competency model is a multi-step process. Just as specific steps are required to finalize and apply a model, another set of steps must be in place to determine validity, thus, sufficiency, namely by:

  • Using a broad panel of incumbents (focus groups, employees, surveys, etc.) to test the model in order to increase the probability that all competencies have been captured and make sense to both those doing the job and those determining objectives for these jobs.
  • Analyzing the qualitative and quantitative data collected to determine if there is concrete correlation between the competencies identified and the objectives of the model.

Fact checking and validation

Aside from withstanding any potential legal challenges, the main advantage of a research approach is in fact achieving validity. A fact-checked research approach can identify behaviors currently demonstrated by superior performers, as well as employees’ beliefs regarding what is important to superior performance.

HR professionals can be taught how to collect, code, and analyze the data needed to build an effective model using resource panels, job analysis interviews and structured event interviews. They can learn how to:

  • Plan a competency-modeling project
  • Build models for multiple jobs
  • Use resource panels to collect data
  • Conduct structured key event interviews
  • Analyze and code interview transcripts, and write job models
  • Develop HR applications for talent management, assessment, selection, succession planning, development and performance management, and implement competency-based systems to produce bottom-line results

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Click here to learn more about a Building Competency Models workshop, or access a library for additional information about building competency models for your organization. The next public workshop is scheduled for July 18-20, 2017 in Washington, DC. The workshop can also be conducted on-site for organizations.

If you are contemplating the building of models, or have already built models, what kind of rigorous methodology research has been

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