Stakeholders involvement in the competency modeling process


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


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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Develop competencies to fulfill basic professional needs

In today’s environment, employees and managers can no longer just think of a career ladder concept when assessing performance and growth opportunities within an organization. Mastering the skills needed for one role does not guarantee success in another function. For instance, a waitress can excel at her job, yet lack the necessary competencies to take on the role of manager.

Instead, HR professionals should focus on developing sets of competencies for each role within the organization in order to promote opportunities for mobility and advancement. By laying out the critical requirements for each role, employees gain autonomy in pursuing other opportunities by working toward developing the competencies required to accomplish their own aspirations. This type of framework puts employees in control of their career path, thus helping drive motivation to perform beyond current responsibilities and specific-job requirements.

Competencies to fulfill basic professional needs

It is safe to assume that every one of us wants to feel like we contribute to our organization’s goals. We seek to improve our performance and the competencies that help us become experts at what we do – or aspire to do. The need for professional recognition is a key driver to performance. Yet, there are many factors outside of an employee’s performance within a specific job function that influence career opportunities and often times, employees resent the fact that although they are performing as expected or beyond, they are not given a chance to access other roles that are more in line with their goals.

One can say that organizations prefer to preserve top-performers in the role they excel at, but the reality is that they often do not provide a sufficiently clear framework for employees to know – and as a result develop – the competencies they need to access other functions. Employees therefore peak in their respective job and have nowhere to go from there, leaving them motivated to either leave the organization or maintain an average performance, instead of going above and beyond.

Building a model for organizational success

A competency model is a set of 8 to 16 competencies with definitions, which define the underlying abilities of each. The more complex the job, the more competencies can be identified. The key is keeping in mind not only what is required to do the job, but also what is necessary to achieve the organization’s primary objectives to succeed.

Once the competencies have been determined, your HR team, along with your management officials, must create clear and concise definitions for each of them. A competency dictionary makes it easier to start as it provides a starting point for discussion and help you customize each definition to your company’s needs, but you can also write them from scratch. Whichever approach you use, remember to use the language of your organization.

With a customized and detailed competency model, you not only offer your employees a tool by which they can develop and grow within your organization, but you also facilitate performance reviews and promote a unified culture and workforce that work together to achieve the same goals.

Of course, it then also becomes necessary to implement a process by which you can evaluate employees on these very competencies and assess their degree of success. Our decades of research and data gathering have allowed us to develop several tools that help you accomplish every one of these steps.

You can also attend our workshops to learn to create and implement these models in house. These practical events allow you to share your concerns and experiences with industry peers and experts so as to help you get over some of the hurdles of performance management.

For more information, contact us or consult the different sections of our website for more information on developing models for your success.

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Your Competitive Edge depends on your Employees

3D_pyramidThe business of human resources is changing. Given the accelerated rate of turbulence in almost every aspect of the economy, HR professionals have to work harder than ever to maintain the knowledge, skills, insights and experience that prove relevant for the companies and competitive markets within which they work.

As the HR function is expected to effectively measure these characteristics during the crucial selection process, it must also seek an exact combination of these factors – knowledge, skills, insights, motives and experience – in every candidate in order to fill a role successfully and thus support the company’s viability and growth.

But in today’s changing workforce, this means getting more specialized, and this isn’t always easy if your HR processes are not keeping up with your evolving environment.

It’s not business as usual

As the future role of HR has begun to undergo change, competencies are now being used as an effective and highly accurate way to refocus an organization on what is really important to its success specifically, as well as what it takes for the workforce to be successful in achieving both their and the company’s main objectives. In other words, it is no longer a process that seeks to find a candidate who can ‘do a job,’ but now one that needs to determine if the prospective employee can do the job in a manner that consciously accomplishes the top business goals.

A customized technical competency model highlights specialized skills and proficiencies required within each job role, in addition to the behaviors, motives and self-traits sought out by the corporate culture. According to the United States Office of Personnel Management, implementing such a model further supports the future and success of the HR function within the business context, as it:

  • Provides a strategy that binds organizational culture and individual performance
  • Serves as a tool to explicitly define technical roles within the context of the overall business and market
  • Aligns individual performance with that of the organization, as well as with the industry within which it operates

An aptly tailored competency model that includes a set of technical skills for each role can prove to be the mechanism by which organizations link the specialized aspects of a particular job to the bottom line results desired by management. The outcome: a selection and recruitment process that is adapted to the evolution and goals of the organization, and a workforce that understands and works toward the same objectives.

Click here to learn how technical competencies can help your HR team gain a competitive edge.

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Are technological advancements undermining your HR processes?

man_using_clear_touchscreen_sqWith rapidly advancing technologies, the majority of industries are faced with the double challenge of 1) staying informed and current and 2) effectively integrating new systems, processes and software into existing job functions.

Within the context of an organization, and even more so in terms of human resources and job performance management, this modern reality can prove to be an even greater challenge, as the workforce naturally habituates itself to its acquired skills, while monetary investments needed to provide coaching on new developments seem to grow exponentially.

Even with a renewed workforce of students entering the job market, the tasks and responsibilities pertaining to a job are often not as expected, and the skills required to execute them therefore aren’t as perfectly aligned to the candidate as originally conceived.

So how can companies hope to find, attract, retain, and ‘update’ their workforce with the right technical competencies in their HR processes?

Not your average pyramid scheme

A competency model can be conceptualized as a pyramid, from personal competencies (or soft skills) at the base, to industry-specific and sector-specific skills in the middle, and task-specific competencies at the upper tier.

Competencies considered to be industry-specific are technical competencies pertaining to a very specific domain, role or industry; let’s think, for instance, of standards and certifications, core technologies and processing methods, etc. Because they are so technical, it can be extremely challenging for a ‘generalized’ HR function to both identify and update these competencies over time.

The benefit of dictionaries

Aside from the obvious benefit of providing a starting point and uniform language for the development of a competency model, a competency dictionary is often a crucial source of up-to-date industry-technical skills that will help you optimize your recruiting process and the performance management of your existing workforce.

You can also learn to identify, plan, and implement technical competencies into your competency model at our 1-day Creating Technical Competencies workshop.

Contact us for more information.

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Managing Role-Specific Technical Competencies

Health care professionals in lab.With the continuing evolution of the business environment, it has become necessary for companies to adopt a competency framework that is not only sufficiently solid and accurate to provide guidance to your workforce and HR staff, but also flexible enough to account for regular updates – and even additions – to role-specific skills.

In other words, your talent management or competency model should seek to identify the required technical, functional and professional skills for a given role, as well as be easily adaptable to change within your organization.

Let’s get technical

Technical competencies refer to the technical proficiency required for an employee to perform as expected within a job function.

In addition to supporting your hiring process, including a set of technical competencies provides opportunities for continuous learning and growth, which can be perceived as a real performance motivator for employees and a great talent management and retention strategy for your company.

Set it but don’t forget it: A dynamic process

There is no doubt that when executed skillfully, a set of well-defined and current technical competencies help you hire the right people for the job and, in turn, allow employees to become vital contributors to the success of your organization. After all, when you have a match between the employee’s competencies and those required to effectively perform the task at hand, it’s nothing short of a recruiting success!

However, in times of reorganizations or when a transition occurs within the workplace, it becomes necessary to assess the previously established competencies required to perform a task to ensure that they not only remain relevant to the updated role, but that the employee assigned to the task has retained and adapted to the revised position.

Because technical competencies are so job-specific, there are no competency dictionaries or libraries from which to draw competency definitions. You can however learn how to establish and manage technical competencies by collecting and analyzing the right data at different levels in specific jobs at our interactive 1-day Creating Technical Competencies workshop that can be scheduled on-site at your facility and can be combined with our 3-day Building Competency Models certification workshop.

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The Cost of Higher Quality Decision-Making

How do successful human resource teams manage to do more with less, thus earning their respective title? Less staff, less outsourcing… all thanks to higher quality decision-making, which drives lower costs. Sounds easy enough, right? It doesn’t have to be complicated.

Here’s a little insight to how having an integrated talent management approach can help manage costs and promote resiliency.

Foster resiliency, foster freedom

We all ideally want to achieve that sense of purpose in our careers – after all, our “job” is simply an aspect of identity, while our “career” serves as an aspect of our lives. When the concept of resiliency is fostered by the HR function, both parties (HR and employees) are provided the freedom to make choices and act on them, thus allowing everyone involved to feel ‘in control’ of their professional life. This, in turn, assists in boosting productivity and overall performance.


Some tips for promoting resiliency include:

  • Engaging employees via communication regarding the influence they hold in daily tasks and their career paths.
  • Re-framing stress into opportunities for growth & development (i.e., incentives).
  • Cultivating creativity by involving employees in the process of any organizational change.

Research has shown that the more an individual views their job as a calling rather than simply a set of tasks, the more committed they are in the workplace. By fostering resiliency and applying tips, such as those mentioned in the above bullet points, you allow your employees to adopt a sense of freedom and true purpose – and a better chance they will stick around in the face of high-stress situations or corporate change.

Sharing a common language

Along with cultivating a resilient staff, successful HR organizations understand how to remain focused on the business’s objectives in order to effectively identify the skills needed for the job, both present day and well into the future.

Before adopting a talent management program, it’s important to recognize what it means for the HR function to ‘share a common language’. An integrated talent management system shares a communicative architecture, contrasting from a typical system where:

1)     Selection decisions are made via one set of criteria

2)     Performance is appraised on a second set of criteria

3)     The training function teaches a third set of skills

Using a more integrated approach, for example a selection decision, is based on the understanding of not only on how employees should be identified, but how their skills align with the company’s vision and culture.

To learn how you can begin taking the first steps to successfully do more with less by fostering resiliency and building an effectively integrated talent management system, please visit our webpage.


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Developing Technical Competencies

Technical womanThe demand for and interest in technical competencies has significantly increased in the past few years.  When the concept of competencies first emerged, the focus was largely on the behavioral factors that led to successful or exceptional performance in a job.  The original positions targeted were generally leadership jobs.  The models were created to identify and describe what differentiated the best managers from the rest.

The positions targeted for development of competency models have evolved to include a variety of individual contributor roles where there is much more emphasis on technical knowledge and skill requirements.  We have found that technical competency models can be created using similar approaches to those we use in developing traditional behavioral (non-technical) with a few notable differences:

  • For technical competencies, we are much more reliant on the expertise of incumbents and their managers to identify both the competencies and the behavioral indicators.  While we may have an in-depth understanding of what the influence competency involves and the typical behavioral indicators, our understanding of an engineering competency called “uses technical models and tools” is very limited.   We use resource panels made up of incumbents and managers to identify the technical competencies and create definitions for each.
  • While using levels with behavioral competencies is common, we seldom see a technical model that doesn’t have levels.  The 4 levels are typically labeled Basic Proficiency, Intermediate Proficiency. Full Proficiency, and Expert.  Again, we rely on the SMEs to write the definitions of the levels as part of the resource panel activities.
  • Finally, we work with the managers of the department to determine the technical competencies required for each job and the needed proficiency level.  This builds consensus among the leaders about the technical requirements for each job.  We also find that it defines the difference between jobs, e.g. the difference between an engineer 1 and an engineer 2, which is welcomed by the jobholders.

Technical competencies models can be used to define the essential levels of knowledge and skill that technical professionals need for effective performance.  However, when it comes to determining what differentiates the best technical professionals from the rest, we find those answers lie within what we traditionally have labeled as the behavioral competencies.

We teach people how to create technical competencies and a technical competencies dictionary in our Creating Technical Competencies workshop.

Author: Dick Gerlach

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Selecting for Success: Succession Planning

Talent Management PuzzleThe challenge with any corporate succession plan is ensuring its adaptability to the dynamic nature of the actual succession process, as well as the shifting demands of a given position. Translation: gaining a baseline assessment of your internal candidates, truly understanding the talent pool, avoiding the myths associated with the process, and implementing the right competencies once the requirements for a position have been determined.

Of course, as with any plan, the hardest part is execution. Have you tested your selection process recently?

The myths surrounding succession plan failure

There is a common misconception of how to go about the business of succession planning, and top management and board members are often quick to assume that they cannot truly find a viable successor from inside their organization. This often leads to several myths, including:

  • External candidates are more exciting and/or promising
  • The successor has to be ready “now”
  • What worked in the past will work in the future

In such scenarios, it is frequent to observe that failure with succession planning has nothing to do with the competencies of employees, but with the company’s establishment and assessment of these very competencies.

Look far and wide

The first step is, of course, to identify the competencies of the top performers in each job, ensuring that the competencies match the responsibilities of the job. Once the requirements for a given position have been determined, you must gain a baseline assessment of your internal candidates. Avoid focusing on favorites or those who have been high performers in their current role – this is not always indicative of how they will do in the future.

Instead, look wide and deep to better understand the talent pool within your organization. It is critical to create and continually refocus a succession plan on the moving target – that being the knowledge, skills and abilities (competencies) the successor for any role will need in order to succeed. It is only at this point that you can begin to make decisions about candidates.

You can read more about this topic in the article “Succession Planning: How To Do It Right” on

To learn more on how we can help you design a competency-based succession plan, please visit our webpage.

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Key Questions to Answer before Building Competency Models

HumanResources_WordCloud_v2 copyWhen 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. There are key questions to answer before building competency models, including “what HR application should be included in the initial model-building project?”.

Some organizations build a competency model but never get around to applying it. And a competency model alone provides little value to anyone. It is essential to have a particular HR application in mind when building a model and build the implementation of that application into the initial project plan.

There are three important reasons for doing this.

  1. The nature of the intended application can shape the data collection and analysis.
  2. The planned application can shape the format of the model, especially its behavioral descriptors. Having a clear idea of the model’s intended application shapes both the data collection plan and the format in which the model was presented.
  3. Ensuring that money and other resources will be available for the application. If the initial application is not part of the budget for the model-building project, there is a chance that financial support will no longer be available when the competency model has been completed. The organization receives little benefit from its investment, until the model is applied in a way that enhances productivity.

From “Practical Questions for HR Professionals Who Are Building Competency Models

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