Six Steps to Building Competency Models Step 1: Conceptualizing the Project

The 6-step process infographic shown below is used by Workitect’s consultants to build job competency models for organizations, and is taught in the Building Competency Models workshop.
This blog will describe Step 1: CONCEPTUALIZING THE PROJECT


 

 

 

 

 

 

STEP 1 – CONCEPTUALIZING THE PROJECT

The key components of conceptualizing the project are:

  • Thinking through the need
  • Clarifying the need through discussions with the sponsor and other key stakeholders
  • Developing an approach
  • Gaining the sponsor’s support for the approach

A. Thinking through the Need
In thinking through the need, it is helpful to consider the following questions:

  • What is the business need for the competency model(s)?
  • What HR applications will be built using the competency model(s) to address the business need?
  • What is the organizational context?
    • What business or organizational changes have occurred?
    • What other competency models exist or are planned?
    • Has the organization developed a mission or values statement?
    • What is the organization’s strategic plan or direction?
    • What aspects of the organization’s culture should be taken into account when considering this work?
    • What HR applications and programs are already in place for selection, professional development, assessment, and performance management?
    • Who will sponsor this work? What are the sponsor’s needs and concerns?
    • What other key stakeholders will be affected by the competency model and its applications? What are their needs and concerns?

B. Clarifying the Need
You probably will not have answers to all of the above questions and it is likely that the sponsor and other key stakeholders will have perspectives and concerns that you have not thought of. By talking with your sponsor and with some other key stakeholders, you can clarify what is needed. In addition, sounding out key stakeholders and demonstrating interest in their needs, you will begin to build support for the project.

C. Developing an Approach
There are three main approaches to competency model building. Developing an approach involves selecting one of the approaches and adapting it to the needs of the organization. The three approaches are:

  • 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.

  – One-Size-Fits-All Approach
In the One-Size-Fits-All Approach a competency model is developed for a broadly defined set of jobs that may have very different responsibilities and knowledge requirements. Most often, the competency model is developed for one level of jobs, such as managers, associates, or senior leaders.

The competency model often includes competencies selected for alignment with the company’s values and strategic direction. Thus competencies may have names like “Fostering Teamwork” or “Results Orientation.” The competencies are often described in general terms that are not job specific, since the competency model covers a broad range of jobs which may have significantly different responsibilities.

  – Multiple Jobs Approach
In the Multiple Jobs Approach competency models are developed simultaneously for a set of jobs (e.g., all professional jobs in marketing; all R&D jobs, or all the job in a small organization). This approach is appropriate whenever competency models are needed for several jobs within an organization. The approach is especially useful when it is important to specify technical skill/knowledge requirements.

This approach is also appropriate when HR staff plan to apply the competency models for career planning and succession planning, which involve matching employee assessments to the requirements of multiple jobs. Because the administrative management of multiple competency models can be complex, many good technological solutions have been developed for this purpose. Some involve purchasing or leasing software, while others involve purchasing a license to use web-based applications that reside on third party servers. Technology facilitates competency assessment, development planning, and internal selection.

D. Gaining the Sponsor’s Support for the Approach
Before you can begin a competency-modeling project, you need to have your sponsor’s support, first for the general conceptual approach and later for a project plan that specifies the time, money and other resources that will be required. Before developing a detailed plan, it is useful to ensure that the sponsor supports your general conceptual approach. Therefore, you need to share your approach with the sponsor and check to see if you have your sponsor’s support. You can do this in an in-person or telephone meeting.

Next Blog: Step 2 – Project Planning

 

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Are You Including the Right Competencies In Your HRIS?

A Competency is an underlying personal characteristic of an individual expressed through behaviors that lead to superior performance.  Example: Empowering Others – conveying confidence in employees’ ability to be successful, especially at challenging new tasks; delegating significant responsibility and authority; allowing employees freedom to decide how they will accomplish their goals and resolve issues.

A Competency Model describes the responsibilities and performance measures, and the 8-20 competencies needed for effective or superior performance, in a specific job or role in a specific organization. Examples:
Marketing Representative
Project Manager
Account Representative
Executive Staff
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INCLUDING COMPETENCIES IN A HRIS

When a company considers or purchases human resource information system software, the software usually comes with a pre-loaded list of competencies that are integrated into the HR applications in the system. The competencies that are selected for inclusion in the system usually come from several different sources:

  1. Off-the-shelf competency models or pseudo models, such as job descriptions (mistaken for competency models), for job categories. For example, there are many different existing profiles or models of a generic manager job or sales representative job.
  2. Competency dictionaries or libraries compiled by an HRIS company’s staff from existing lists of competencies, usually based on the experience of a consulting firm, writer, or academic institution.
  3. Surveys and brainstorming sessions within a company, tabulating opinions about competencies required within the organization for effective or superior performance.

The problem with using these sources is that the competencies and models are:

  •  Not created with a proven research-based methodology
  •  Not tailored to the organization 

As a result, the applications may include competencies that will not lead to effective or superior performance. In fact, selecting and developing the wrong competencies may lead to failed performance.

The rationale for developing competency models customized to the organization is further explained in “Doing Competencies Well: 20 Best Practices in Competency Modeling”.* The 17th best practice is:

         Using Competencies to Develop A Practical “Theory” of
         Effective Job Performance Tailored to the Organization
Competency models explain the nature of effective performance in an organization.      They describe what really matters in terms of job performance and how to be successful. In this way, they are not only much more than lists of KSAOs (Knowledge, Skills, Abilities, Other Characteristics) or job descriptions that result from job analysis, but instead are more of a theory in the following ways (Whetten, 1989):

  • They explain why the KSAOs matter in terms of creating effective job performance, connecting with organizational goals, and so on.
  • They usually include a description of the process (how effective performance occurs) as well as the content (what is effective performance).
  • They are internally consistent in that performance on one competency should not conflict with performance on another competency. They should reinforce each other in clear ways.
  • They predict and explain successful performance in a wide range (hopefully all) of job domains.
  • They may inform judgments with respect to likely outcomes (e.g., who will get hired, promoted, or rewarded).
  • They are provocative and promote thought and discussion about effective job performance. As such, they should yield more insight than a list of KSAOs.

HOW TO DEVELOP A “TAILORED” MODEL

  • Identify the Superior Performers
    In specific job or role, based on:
    Performance measurements/results
    Ratings by supervisors, subordinates, peers, and/or customers
  • Collect Data
    Behavioral Event Interviews
    Resource/Expert Panels
    Expert system data base
  • Create Model
    Identify Job Tasks & Job Competency Requirements, “Competency Model”

The complete six-step process that is used in our model-building work and taught in our Building Competency Models workshop is shown below.

THE RIGHT COMPETENCIES TO INCLUDE IN A HRIS

Include competencies that have been identified, through an objective model building methodology, to be possessed by the effective and superior performers in your unique organization. Review the competencies that are already included in the HRIS software. If they don’t match up with the ones that are included in your competency models, ask that they be included. The competencies may be contained in a competency dictionary that you used to build the models.

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