Avoiding the Bad & the Ugly with Competency Modeling

150x150_logo-no_textDo you know what makes for a successful competency model? It’s not so much the broader basics, such as having the right behavioral descriptors or meeting the needs of key users – although these initial thoughts are valid and important. Instead, to truly work toward maximizing the return on your HR investment, you must first consider the relationship between business needs and where a competency framework makes sense.

The nature of your business

What exactly defines the “bad” and “ugly” of competency model building? Essentially, it is the downward spiral that occurs in the very beginning stage, when users do not understand or take into account the nature of the intended application – the factors that shape the data collection and analysis.

For example, for a project to construct a competency model for new staff accountants working in a personal tax sector of a CPA firm, you know the competency model would need to be incorporated within a personal tax training program. When done correctly from the start, only then can adoption and real results take shape.

As a result, aligning competencies within the context of your business is an essential first step, and there are many best practices you can follow. Here are three great examples:

  1. Identify the most critical competencies by avoiding exhaustive lists and by keeping models smaller, thus more manageable.
     
    Try sticking with fewer than 14 competencies to help you maintain organizational focus. Include technical or functional competencies to specifically address the job skills that define superior performance based on your organization’s culture and vision. Anything beyond that becomes a greater challenge to manage, especially in times of performance reviews.
  2. Remember the consequences of having too many irons in the fire.
     
    This is never a good habit to follow, but it is particularly true when it comes to competency modeling. Instead, integrate your competency models into your existing recruiting and talent management processes in order to avoid having to manage a series of silos.
  3. Think of brand competency modeling as a strategic business initiative.
     
    Think beyond your HR function, and position your competency models as strategic initiatives necessary to the success of your organization. Remember that employees are the advocates and sounding board for establishing competencies that make sense on the job. Don’t neglect any feedback.

The solution, not the problem

When you position competency models as business solutions, instead of yet another HR process, they certainly seem far less “ugly”. And by keeping competencies focused on the areas of greatest interest for your organization’s success, the ROI of your competency models can only be increased.

If you wish to learn more on how to connect competencies with your business strategies, browse our website for more tips and tools, or let us come to you to help you build and implement the right model for your business.

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Getting Specific with Behavioral Descriptors

Book - OpenIf you’ve ever used or researched competency models, you probably know that their value is essentially measured with regard to their behavioral descriptors. In other words, the more accurate the descriptors to the roles, functions, objectives and culture, the more value the model has for the organization.

Although these indicators can certainly be – and often times are – adapted from a generic competency dictionary, it’s important to remember that when a job role requires specific abilities, then behavioral descriptors must also be highly customized for the model to have any bearing to the recruiting, retention, management and success processes.

Identifying a superior performer within a specific role

Behavioral descriptors indicate patterns considered to be contributory to superior performance in a given job role. As such, a competency’s definition represents an ability or trait, while the behavioral descriptor indicates the way in which that ability or trait is demonstrated.

For example, let’s say your organization is looking to fill a sales role. In that environment, the competency named “interpersonal awareness” is therefore of great relevance. This is defined as having the ability to notice, interpret, and address customer concerns and feelings. Behavioral indicators for this type of competency that make the most hypothetical sense would include:

  • Thorough understanding of the interests and concerns of the customer
  • Ability to anticipate how the customer will react to a given situation
  • Pro-activity to address customer concerns before they are even voiced (at which point, you have most often reached a critical moment in the customer’s “non-buying” decision)

In light of this example, you can now see why it’s important to equip your HR or managerial professionals with these precise descriptors in order to successfully recruit, evaluate or even train the right candidate for this sales role using competency models, as a generic competency – in our example, “interpersonal awareness” – may not speak as clearly of superior performance to a recruiter or manager as would our bullet points defining this competency.

Turning generic into specific

Whenever a competency is used, particularly when sourcing from a generic document, it is generally defined. But the work of developing competencies doesn’t stop there. These behavioral descriptors must be customized with respect to the role, the organization and the industry.

It is of course very important for an organization that is new to competency modeling to begin the process of developing competency models and indicators with the use of a competency dictionary license. Yet, it’s as important – if not more – to then know how to tailor this information to your needs in order to generate considerable value from such an approach.

As a starting point to companies who are new to competency modeling, Workitect offers a dictionary containing a full list of competency and descriptor options, but we also provide support and training to help you further customize this information accordingly. Throughout the year, we hold a variety of workshops around the country to bring you the tools and educational material required to make truly valuable use of your dictionary. Companies in cost-control mode or those requiring a high level of customization may also be interested in our on-site consulting and training sessions. Our consultants travel to your office, at your convenience, to teach your teams all that they need to know to build, implement, and assess their competency models and talent management processes.

Click here if you’re interested to learn more about our workshops, or here to read more about our competency dictionary.

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