Seven Factors to Consider before Building Competency Models

7-FactorsJob competency models describe what superior performers actually do on a job that produces superior results. Armed with this information, selection, retention, training, succession planning and performance management systems can be integrated and designed that will attract, develop and retain top performers.

Superior performance that produces superior results means higher sales, productivity and profits. And everything can be measured. Which explains why many organizations have embraced competency-based talent management. It has provided human resource departments with an opportunity to demonstrate to line management that HR is able to “add value” that improves organizational performance.

However, there are several factors to consider before attempting to develop and implement a competency framework for talent management – factors that can make or break your best efforts.

1. Accept or modify the terminology and educate the users
The language that consultants use to describe competency systems is often confusing, misleading and filled with jargon. It starts with the definition of competencies.

A competency is a “skill, knowledge, motive, attitude, or personal characteristic that causes or predicts outstanding performance”. Most standard dictionaries, however, define competence and competency as “sufficient” or average performance as in “competent to stand trial”. Several HR directors have told me that, with the flip side of “competent” being “incompetent”, they are concerned that the image that competency systems raises for some people is that of incompetence, an implication that people are incompetent until receiving the benefit of competency modeling.

In truth, one of the purposes of competency technology is to help competent people become more competent – in areas where increased competence will produce superior performance. Each of us has strengths and areas where we can improve. Competency modeling just does a better job of identifying the specific competencies that drive superior performance and assessing the degree to which individuals have demonstrated those competencies. Our experience has been that once employees understand the concept and purpose of competency modeling, they accept it

A competency model does a better job of conveying the idea of superior performance because the word model means “something to be copied or imitated”. A job competency model, therefore, is a “blueprint” for all current and prospective job holders to copy, that includes a list of competencies that are required for superior performance. Competencies required for average performance, those required to just survive in a job, can also be spelled out in a job model.

Don’t expect everyone to immediately understand and appreciate the significance of competency modeling. Some may feel threatened by it. Go slow and educate people as you progress.

2. Think in terms of measurable payoffs.
The key question to ask yourself and others in your organization is: “what is superior performance worth?” This is easier to answer for some jobs than others, but there is an answer for every job. It first requires clarity about performance measures.

Since sales jobs have fairly clear measures, let’s look at sales jobs to illustrate the point. In one client’s organization, the average annual sales for all sales people were $3.0 million. The top sales people averaged $6.7 million in annual sales. Superior performance was worth $3.7 million in sales per sales person. Now translate this into the bell-shaped curve that depicts the distribution of performance ratings in many organizations. If you can, in fact, increase the percentage of superior performers and move the curve to the right, you will add economic value. Each sales position that is filled by a superior performer, in the case above, will add $3.7 million of sales per year.

***HR ValueChart4:c

Line executives understand this kind of thinking, where they often do not understand other HR approaches that are seen as having little impact on the bottom line.

3. Consider alternative approaches, including “doing-it-yourself”.
There are several ways to develop competency models. If you are doing more than one model, consider using an integrated approach that utilizes a competency dictionary, a common set of building block competencies, customizable for each job. Each model requires six to ten days of an internal or external consultant’s time, including facilitation of a focus group of high performers, interviews and model development.

Pick an external consultant to get you started who is willing to transfer their methodology to you and train your staff to carry on the work, and/or have them attend Workitect’s three-day Building Competency Models certification workshop.

For a large retail organization, we developed the first two models while training an internal HR manager to do additional models. She also designed and implemented selection and performance management applications based on the models. Structured interview questions were developed for each key position to help hiring managers assess and select candidates with the required competencies. Performance goals and results forms were also developed.

4. Start small, don’t oversell, but start with a critical job
The best way to demonstrate the payoffs of a competency approach is to start with a high impact job or one that is requiring attention, i.e. high turnover, impact on company’s sales, etc. Define the measurable outcomes of doing the model and specify applications.

For example, if you want to do a model of a software developer position, include an application of a selection system and interview guide that will allow you to expand the candidate pool and select superior performing software developers. Other applications can be added, but you should start with at least one visible and measurable outcome for the model. If outcomes and applications are not built in, competency modeling may be perceived as a HR exercise without payoffs.

There is a natural tendency to want to start with a low risk, low visibility position, in order to evaluate the process and the consultant. You are better off doing your homework and thoroughly checking references before selecting a consultant than to waste an opportunity to make an impact that can multiply through out the organization.

The ideal place to start is with the top executive group. Getting that group to develop a model for their position assures buy-in. They may have already gone through a strategic planning exercise that included identifying their organization’s “core competencies”. Developing a model helps them understand the job competency process and align it to the company’s strategy. For example, if innovation is a desired core competency, then a “fostering innovation” competency may be included in most models in order to drive the kind of change needed. An executive model is also needed for a good succession planning system.

5. “One size fits all” model or multiple models for multiple jobs
Some organizations use a generic off-the-shelf model for all manager positions. The model may have been one developed externally to cover all management jobs in all industries. Or it may have been developed internally by surveying senior executives asking them what they thought were the key characteristics required for success in their organization. Both approaches are inexpensive to adopt.

The prime disadvantage is lack of validity in a specific organization. The externally developed model may miss several key competencies that may really make the difference between superior and average performance in your unique culture. The internally developed list is often based on opinion and false assumptions and not on hard data. There can also be a communications gap. One CEO insisted that his organization hire and develop people “with a fire in their belly”. He didn’t mean finding people with ulcers, but it did take a competency model to validate his opinion and to clearly and concisely describe the qualities of people who were actually successful in that organization.

The opposite end of the spectrum is to do models for every job in an organization, which is costly and unnecessary. Job models are not necessary for every single job in an organization. Jobs can be grouped into like categories or levels. For example, ten different positions in an information systems department may be grouped into three levels.

For another manufacturing company, this is the process that was followed. Models for thirteen key management and professional positions at the plant and headquarters facilities were completed within a relatively short period of time.

6. Maximize the uses and benefits.
There are many possible applications and uses of competency models. Unfortunately, a lot of organizations go to the trouble of developing models, use them for one purpose and put them on the shelf. Here are some ways in which you can take full advantage of competency models. Use them to:

  • Integrate all HR and talent management processes using a common framework to select, train and reward people.
  • Assess internal and external candidates using assessment exercises, interviewing and instruments.
  • Develop a model for high performing teams. Select and train team members, use for team building.
  • Expand hiring and succession pool. Models may challenge assumptions about required competencies and identify alternative sources of talent
  • Retain key employees. Target retention of top performers. Employees who see expanded opportunities for growth are more likely to stay (also impacts morale).
  • Redesign jobs. Analysis of a job during model building can reveal ineffective job design plus suggested improvements from focus group.
  • Certify competence levels. Design certification programs to develop and reward competency development.
  • Design 360° feedback instruments and other developmental tools.
  • Determine staffing of merged organization. Keep the top performers in the key positions.
  • Create the learning organization. Use the models as templates to guide development.

7. High tech or low tech?
Competency technology has evolved to the point where you can now buy software programs to help construct competency models. These programs contain competency dictionaries, i.e. lists of competencies that can be used to analyze jobs. Some companies have designed their own customized programs for the same use. As we move closer to computerizing all paper transactions and making greater use of the intranet, this seems to make sense. The more we can use technology to simplify our lives, the better.

However, the process of developing competency models remains basically a human process. It requires interviewing, collecting and analyzing data, observing behavior, skillful facilitation of a focus group and drafting a model document. Judgment, ability to react and adapt to situations, to deal with conflict and resistance and uncover unexpected opportunities to improve an organization’s performance are required.

Using automated tools to assist in the application of competency technology is a good idea. Employees who can access competency models and developmental opportunities through a computer terminal feel more empowered and more in control of their destiny. Just be careful to not put the cart before the horse. Remember GIGO (garbage in, garbage out)? Develop good models and good systems before computerizing. Concentrate first on practicality and fit, not on technical sophistication.

Conclusion
The downside of outlining all the things one should consider before doing something is that it will have the unintended effect of discouraging the reader from doing the “something”. Hopefully, that will not be the case here because the payoffs for your organization and for you personally of undertaking a competency approach far outweigh the pain you may incur. Thoughtful consideration of the seven tips described above should minimize the pain and maximize the gain. Read more.. Insights: Superior Performers Produce Superior Results

Also included in Workitect’s Building Competency Models Workshop and applied in our consulting practice to help organizations develop job competency models and HR and talent management applications, including performance management, succession planning, assessment and selection, and training and development.
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Competency Modeling – Research or Intuitive Approach

 

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Research Approach

Research approaches to competency model building emphasize systematic data collection and analysis, and a priori decision rules about how much evidence is sufficient to warrant inclusion of competencies and behaviors in the model. Research approaches also emphasize identifying coherent constructs of personal characteristics that are conceptually and empirically separate from each other. The earliest competency models built by McClelland and his colleagues used a research approach. Traditional job analysis, as practiced by industrial psychologists, also uses a research approach.

The principal advantage of a research approach is the validity of the resulting competency model. A research approach can accurately identify the behaviors currently demonstrated by superior performers and the beliefs by jobholders and other subject matter experts about what is currently important to superior performance. Because of its validity, a competency model developed using a research approach can withstand potential legal challenges.

Intuitive Approach

But research approaches are not as useful for identifying what will become important in the future, especially when only a few individuals in an organization have a clear strategic vision. Nor will a research approach generate a competency model that is linked to a leader’s vision of where he or she wants to take the organization.

Intuitive approaches rely heavily on the judgment and insights of the model building team. There may be little, if any, data collection and analysis, and the results of the analysis do not determine what is included in the competency model. Instead, the model building team generates ideas about what to include in the model and, after discussion, reaches consensus on the content of the model. Intuitive approaches are driven more by values than by empirical results.

The main advantage of intuitive approaches is that they can produce competency models that include all of the elements that the model building team and upper management believe are important in the model. Intuitive approaches are also less expensive, since they do not require collecting and analyzing data.

The chief disadvantage of intuitive approaches is that they risk creating competency models that describe behavior appropriate for a desired future state, rather than for the current reality. In addition, the lack of methodological rigor in constructing the models makes them vulnerable to legal challenges.

Balancing Research & Intuitive Approaches

Few competency models today are constructed with a pure research approach or with a pure intuitive approach. Most HR staffs want to collect and analyze data as part of the model building process. But they also want the freedom and flexibility to add competencies and behaviors to the model to ensure that it reflects the organization’s values and strategic direction, and to demonstrate responsiveness to the concerns of key stakeholders. Finding the right balance between research and intuitive approaches depends on the values of the internal HR team, the preferences of external consultants (if they are involved), and the extent to which the team feels a need to be responsive to the desires of upper management and other stakeholders in the model building process.

One method for balancing research and intuitive approaches is to use a research approach to develop a draft competency model and then to review the model with key stakeholders. If one or more of the key stakeholders urges a change in the model, the internal HR team may decide to make the change (e.g., by adding a competency to ensure that the model is more closely aligned with the chief executive’s values).

This method was used in building a competency model for managers of consultants in an information services consulting firm. When we reviewed the initial competency model with one of the senior executives of this firm, he suggested that we add a competency called “Managing Through Processes.” The firm had grown rapidly through acquisitions and by hiring staff from many other organizations, and it needed to integrate and control this diverse talent. The consulting staff was being taught to manage projects using a few standard methodologies. The addition of the proposed competency, which had not been evident in critical interviews with outstanding performers, supported the organization’s expansion strategy.

Another hybrid method involves using an intuitive approach to develop a prototype competency model and then collecting data and revising the prototype model based on analysis of the data. This methodology, developed by a colleague, Susan Ennis, was used in developing a leadership competency model for a large financial services company. The CEO of this company wanted to change the company’s culture to ensure continued competitiveness in a faster-moving marketplace. In the future, this organization would need to develop products and services more quickly, to form more business partnerships with other organizations, and to demonstrate more teamwork and open communication.

The external consultants, working with a team of internal HR staff, used an intuitive approach to develop a prototype model that reflected the values and behaviors that leaders would need in order to implement the desired cultural changes. The intuitive approach involved reading speeches to clarify the CEO’s values and strategic direction and helping the HR staff to articulate their own views of the current leaders’ strengths and weaknesses. We integrated this information with our knowledge of generic competencies for senior leaders to produce an initial draft version of the competency model. The behavioral indicators for this model were mostly drawn from a set of generic competencies that we had distilled from our experience creating many other leadership competency models. Then, over a one-week period, we held a series of telephone conference calls with an HR team to revise and refine the prototype model. Since the prototype model had to be shared with the CEO and other senior leaders, it was critical that the model be credible. In addition, the HR team believed that the model should have no more than ten competencies.

After using a purely intuitive approach to develop the prototype model, we shifted to research to validate and refine the model, interviewing 12 outstanding senior managers. The HR staff selected a sample of high-performing senior managers who were also thought to demonstrate at least two of the competencies in the prototype model. Since one purpose of the interviews was to clarify the behaviors by which the prototype competencies were demonstrated, some of the interview questions were designed to elicit critical events involving demonstration of specific competencies that the interviewee was thought to possess. For example, if a senior manager was thought to possess the competency “Influence Skill,” she might be asked to describe a situation in which she needed to get another person or group to provide resources or support for an initiative.

Another purpose of the interviews was to reveal competencies and behaviors that were contributing to effectiveness but were not part of the prototype competency model. For this purpose we developed several questions to elicit more general critical events. For example, one prompt was, “Tell me about a time when you believe you demonstrated leadership within the work unit that you manage.”

We tape recorded and transcribed the 12 interviews. We analyzed them by coding each interview for each competency and behavioral indicator in the prototype competency model, and for a set of additional generic competencies not included in the prototype. The coding enabled us to tabulate the frequency of demonstration of all of these competencies.

The results of the coding analysis led us to recommend some changes in the prototype model, including the addition of one competency: “Motivating and Energizing People.” The HR team, after much discussion, decided to include the new competency, even though this meant having one more competency than the desired ten in the final model.

This topic is included 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

Also included in Workitect’s Building Competency Models Workshop and applied in our consulting practice to help organizations develop job competency models and HR and talent management applications, including performance management, succession planning, assessment and selection, and training and development.
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Developing the Competency of Fostering Diversity

Group of Multiethnic Diverse Mixed Occupation PeopleFrom Workitect’s Competency Development Guide, a 280-page resource guide for developing thirty-five competencies. This competency is also Functional Area Competency #11 in SHRM’s Body of Competency and Knowledge.

Importance of Fostering Diversity

Diversity has a serious and direct impact on business results. Successful organizations are able to tap into the brainpower of talented and diverse workforces in order to serve a diversity of customers. Innovative thinking and problem solving is more likely to come from teams comprised of people with different cultural and demographic backgrounds, i.e. people with different points of view. Organizations need to optimize the use of talent at all levels with behaviors that reflect that talent comes in different packages, i.e. color, sex, age, etc.

Fostering Diversity is closely related to three other competencies in Workitect’s Competency Dictionary – Global Perspective, Fostering Teamwork and Interpersonal Awareness.

Definition of Fostering Diversity: Working effectively with all races, nationalities, cultures, disabilities, ages and sexes; Promoting equal and fair treatment and opportunity for all.

An employee demonstrating this competency:

  1. Proactively seeks information from others who have different personalities, backgrounds, and styles. Includes them in decision-making and problem solving
  2. Communicates and cooperates with others who have a diversity of cultural and demographic backgrounds
  3. Makes it easy for others to feel valuable regardless of diversity in personality, culture, or background
  4. Includes in conversations people with diverse cultural backgrounds, and invites them to be part of informal work-related activities, such as going to lunch or attending company social events
  5. For a manager or team leader, hires and develops people with a diversity of cultural and demographic backgrounds.
  6. For an employee, helps recruit and orient employees with a diversity of cultural and demographic backgrounds

General Considerations in Developing this Competency

Learning to value the diversity of people requires that you first understand your own values and beliefs. Those beliefs contribute to making you who you are and contribute to your worldview. It is important to recognize that other people may not agree with your beliefs or understand them. One of the best ways to learn about the value of diversity, and to foster it, is to work on a team of members with diverse backgrounds. Push yourself beyond your current environment and interactions to develop sensitivity to issues of diversity, contributing to a less ethnocentric self. Doing so can help you more fully understand, appreciate, and maximize the talents of others.

Both managers and non-managers are able to develop and demonstrate ‘fostering diversity’. Executives and managers, however, have the ability to make a greater impact, by ‘managing diversity’ – through staffing decisions and personal behaviors that motivate others to value and foster diversity.

Practicing this Competency

  • Learn more about your own cultural values and background to gain a better appreciation for how they may impact your decision-making style, values, and reactions to different views.
  • Actively solicit input from a wide variety of people and functions. Learn about the backgrounds, experiences and education of team members.
  • Draw together diverse groups when discussing issues, solving problems, and developing opportunities. Look at issues and opportunities from other people’s viewpoints before making a decision.
  • Slow down or use easier vocabulary when communicating with nonnative speakers so they can more easily follow and offer their own thoughts.
  • When asking someone to explain a point of view different from your own, be sure to say that your intention is to understand the person’s viewpoint, not to have him or her justify it.
  • Seek to understand diversity from a global, not just a national, perspective, if appropriate to your business and location.
  • Remember that some people want their national, philosophical, or other differences to be recognized openly, while others do not.
  • Partner with an individual whose background and experiences are different from your own and contract to both learn and teach one or two skills that will improve your performance in some way.
  • Build a support network with colleagues who are interested in more effectively leveraging diversity. Explore ideas with each other and implement them.
  • Learn more about other cultures and their values through travel, books, films, and conversations with those who have experienced other cultures, and by attending local cultural events and celebrations.

Obtaining Feedback

Ask subordinates, colleagues and your coach to describe their perception of the degree to which they see you “fostering diversity”. What are you doing that is positive and what are you doing that is not positive, or may in fact be sending the wrong signal? Ask for ongoing feedback and help. Also, how can you accelerate your fostering of diversity in your workplace? How can you all, as a group, do more to create a more diverse team?

Learning from Experts

Ask people from a variety of backgrounds for help in understanding their experiences, perspectives, and culture. Try to understand the individual as a person, and not just as a representative of a particular group. Looking at the person either as an individual only or as a representative of a group usually leads to wrong assumptions.

Establish relationships with people who are different from you. Although it is a natural tendency for people to surround themselves with others similar to them, connecting with people of different backgrounds will help you learn about the unique perspectives and contributions others have to offer.

Many large organizations have a diversity officer, usually in the human resources department. Meet with that person and ask for their advice. Interview managers and executives who have created diverse, successful teams. Observe what they do and determine how they achieved success.

Coaching Suggestions for Managers

If you are coaching someone who is trying to develop this competency, you can:

  • Model the “fostering of diversity” in everything you say and do. Adopt a learner, versus judger, mindset. Utilize the differences in team members to accomplish organizational goals, and challenge assumptions and practices that limit opportunities.
  • Encourage the person to push beyond their current environment and interactions to develop their knowledge of, and sensitivity to, issues of diversity. Doing so can help the person more fully understand, appreciate, and maximize the talents of others.
  • Encourage participation in company or community programs that focus on learning about and valuing different cultures, races, religions and ethnic backgrounds.
  • Observe the assumptions the person appears to make about people and ideas. Such assumptions may be based on both external, easily identifiable differences, as well as on more subtle, invisible differences. Share your observations.

Sample Development Goals

By February 1, I will partner with an individual whose background and experiences are different than my own and contract to both learn and/or teach several skills that will improve my performance in some way.

By October 1, I will interview Dave Murphy about the things he has done to build a successful, diverse team.

By March 1, I will fill at least one of our three openings with an individual who will expand the diversity of our team.

By May 1, I will create a support network with colleagues who are interested in more effectively leveraging diversity. At least two ideas will be explored and implemented by July 1.

At the next staff meeting on October 15, I will ask for everyone’s ideas on increasing and leveraging diversity within our group.

Resources for Developing this Competency are listed in the Fostering Diversity page of the Competency Development Guide.

Let Us Help You

Organizations can provide every employee with the content of the Competency  Development Guide, and customize it to their needs, through the purchase of an intellectual property license.

Workitect is a leading provider of competency-based talent development systems, tools and programs. We use “job competency assessment” to identify the characteristics of superior performers in key jobs in an organization. These characteristics, or competencies, become “blueprints” for outstanding job performance. Competencies include personal characteristics, motives, knowledge, and behavioral skills. Job competency models are the foundation of an integrated talent management system that includes selection, performance management, succession planning, and leadership development. Contact our experienced consultants to learn how we can improve all areas of your talent management processes.

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What will key users of a competency model need from it? 

Business People Using a Laptop --- Image by © 2/Ocean/Corbis

The planning of a competency model requires identifying the most important stakeholders and users and considering how they will want to use the model.

People in the job often want to use a competency model to provide a recipe for success. These users are asking, “What could I be doing differently that would make me more effective?” They are likely to value very specifically worded behavioral indicators that describe what to do, with whom, and in what circumstances. A matrix linking the competencies to major job tasks is also helpful to job incumbents.

Supervisors can use the same detailed information to assist in coaching jobholders. Since part of a supervisor’s job is also providing detailed feedback about effective and less effective behaviors, descriptions of less effective behaviors associated with each competency are beneficial. For the same reason, supervisors may find it useful to have a matrix linking the competencies to key performance criteria and measures. Because supervisors are also in charge of hiring for the position, they need a competency model that includes all of the important skills and qualifications required for the position, including technical skills and educational credentials that are baseline requirements for all jobholders. Here is an example of such a model, one developed for a Marketing Representative position in an insurance company.

Human Resources professionals who will be using a competency model have a different set of needs. HR staff may need to build a shared conceptual framework of competencies and a common language for describing the competencies. They can then facilitate matching skill profiles to different jobs through selection, promotion, and career-path planning; and the creation of training and development programs for people across a broad range of jobs. HR staff also need easy ways to compare the requirements of different jobs in the organization. It is useful for the human resources staff to be able to say which competencies are required for a job and the level at which the competencies need to be demonstrated, to achieve effective performance. Since Human Resources staff often need to communicate and explain a competency model, competency models that are clear, simple, and written with powerful language are preferred.

Key Question to Answer before Building Competency Models                                 

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?  (covered in this blog)
  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 accommodated?
Included in Workitect’s Building Competency Models Workshop and applied in our consulting practice to help organizations develop job competency models and HR and talent management applications, including performance management, succession planning, assessment and selection, and training and development.
 
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Do your executives and managers need a Global Perspective?

Twitter1252X626_WorldTo maintain global competitiveness, changing circumstances are demanding global strategic visions and new organizational structures that are conceptualized, articulated and implemented by managers.

What is a “global perspective”?

It is the ability to recognize and address issues that are outside of our national perspective. Issues are viewed without any pre-set biases or limitations. It requires being objective, and utilizing a broad framework in making judgments in domestic and international activities. It is an ability to see the “big picture”.

A person demonstrating this competency:

  1. Has global experience: considers problems and opportunities from a global perspective
  2. Understands group strategy, the role of the local business: “walks the talk”
  3. Is culturally aware and demonstrates ability to conduct business in local terms
  4. Understands and takes into account global and local impacts on day-to-day activities
  5. Aligns global strategy and tactics with local considerations
  6. Keeps abreast of global influences on the local business
  7. Role models for staff on global initiatives
  8. Aligns and manages local interests with global considerations
  9. Is proactive – prepares locally to support global activities
  10. Is empathetic and sensitive to global issues, but may lack international experience

General Considerations in Developing this Competency

In order to develop this competency, one must first set aside any and all negative, preconceived notions, biases, and ideas. This will allow the individual to fully understand and appreciate the inherent differences that exist within all cultures. Once this is done, the individual should begin to acquire information and knowledge about other cultures, in an effort to conceptualize the mores, norms, values and business practices of those given cultures.

Practicing this Competency

Acquire as much knowledge as possible through various media sources, such as the internet, periodicals, and television. Immerse yourself in different cultures by traveling, or joining groups and/or organizations with a variety of cultures. When given the chance, listen to other people’s experiences and viewpoints as they pertain to a specific cultural group, then experience this same group and see in your experience what was similar or dissimilar.

Obtaining Feedback

Ask persons from different cultures how knowledgeable you seem in regards to different geo-social, geo-economic, and geo-political issues. This will be your best gauge to assess your progress.

Learning from Experts

Identify people within your organization who are from other cultures. Discuss both business and social topics with them. See things from their perspective. Look for differences in the way they would handle and interpret different situations. Ask experts in international business to help you understand the interaction between world events, global business and your business. Spend time with natives of foreign countries, discussing the differences and similarities of your respective backgrounds.

Coaching Suggestions for Managers

If you are coaching someone who is trying to develop this competency, you can:

  • Assign the person to work on projects with others from diverse backgrounds, countries and cultures. Build in international travel, where possible. Provide pre and post project briefings and debriefings regarding cultural opportunities and pitfalls.
  • Help the person develop a proactive plan for developing a global perspective.
  • Give the person feedback on his/her behaviors and performances where there was an opportunity for the demonstration of a global perspective.

 Sample Development Goals

By July 1, I will attend a meeting of the local World Trade Organization or international chamber of commerce – to learn and network.

By end of the third quarter, I will complete a Spanish (or other foreign language) class.

By the end of this month, I will subscribe to and read The Economist on a regular basis.

Each week, I will read about and/or learn about a different culture. This may include going to lunch with someone from a country/culture different from mine.

Resources for Developing this Competency
Resources for developing this competency, including books, workshops, courses, and e-learning programs, are listed in Workitect’s COMPETENCY DEVELOPMENT GUIDE, which includes similar information for the additional thirty-four competencies that are contained in Workitect’s COMPETENCY DICTIONARY.

Questions for conducting a structured behavioral event interview in order to assess and select for this competency are included in a set of thirty-five COMPETENCY INTERVIEW GUIDES.

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How to Successfully Implement a Competency Model

Businessmen Listening to a Female Ceo Talking in a Meeting Room --- Image by © Ocean/Corbis

From “Practical Questions in Building Competency Models”, written by                    Dr. Richard Mansfield, senior consultant and instructor for Workitect’s Building Competency Models workshop.

The planning of a competency model requires identifying the most important stakeholders and users and considering how they will want to use the model. Here are some possible users and uses:

People in the job often want to use a competency model to provide a recipe for success. These users are asking, “What could I be doing differently that would make me more effective?” They are likely to value very specifically worded behavioral indicators that describe what to do, with whom, and in what circumstances. A matrix linking the competencies to major job tasks is also helpful to job incumbents.

Supervisors can use the same detailed information to assist in coaching jobholders. Since part of a supervisor’s job is also providing detailed feedback about effective and less effective behaviors, descriptions of less effective behaviors associated with each competency are beneficial. For the same reason, supervisors may find it useful to have a matrix linking the competencies to key performance criteria and measures. Because supervisors are also in charge of hiring for the position, they need a competency model that includes all of the important skills and qualifications required baseline requirements for all jobholders.

Human resources professionals who will be using a competency model have a different set of needs. HR staff may need to build a shared conceptual framework of competencies and a common language for describing the competencies. They can then facilitate matching skill profiles to different jobs through selection, promotion, and career-path planning; and the creation of training and development programs for people across a broad range of jobs. HR staff also need easy ways to compare the requirements of different jobs in the organization. It is useful for HR staff to be able to say which competencies are required for a job and the level at which the competencies need to be demonstrated, to achieve effective performance. Since HR staff often need to communicate and explain a competency model, they prefer competency models that are clear, simple, and written with powerful language.

Because HR staff want others throughout the organization to use the model, they need to ensure buy-in to the model by key stakeholders. All key stakeholders should be consulted or included in generating data to build the model and in reviewing draft versions of the model, to ensure that it is complete and accurate.

HR staff must also ensure that the competency model can withstand potential legal challenges, which are more likely if the model will be used to guide selection and hiring of staff. Using a rigorous, systematic process of data collection and analysis is the best protection against possible legal challenges.

HR staff may be interested in acquiring not just a competency model but the technology and training to build other competency models in the future. If so, the project plan should include training of HR staff and their participation in all phases of the project.

When competency models are needed for critical jobs, especially leadership positions, the organization’s top executive is an important stakeholder. Top executives often want to use competency models to drive organizational change. Top executives want competency models to be aligned with the organization’s strategy and most important values. It may be important to include competencies describing needed leadership skills, such as “Change Management” or “Business Partnering,” as well as desired values, such as “Integrity” and “Customer Orientation.”

It may also be important to include competencies that reinforce changes in the organization’s structure, work processes, and culture. For example, for organizations that are moving away from hierarchical structures with supervisors to flatter structures in which much work is done by self-directed work teams, competencies in areas such as coaching and team facilitation become important.

When an organization’s top executives take an interest in a competency model, they are likely to want it written with powerful, high-impact language that can inspire and motivate. Top executives are also to want the competency models to provide a clear, consistent message for all employees. One way to do this is to have a common set of core competencies that are the same for all employees.

Included in Workitect’s Building Competency Models Workshop and applied in our consulting practice to help organizations develop job competency models and HR and talent management applications, including performance management, succession planning, assessment and selection, and training and development.
 
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Selecting a HR Application for a model-building project

Competencies 4-c [Converted]Competency models have many potential uses – for diverse areas including selection, assessment, development, performance management, training, and planning career paths. Some organizations do not always feel a need to have an initial application in mind when building a competency model. To some, competency models are a novelty, and they want to build one first, and only afterwards think about how to apply it in the organization.

Too often, 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 Human Resources (HR) application in mind when building a model and build the implementation of that application into the initial project plan. It is a important component of Workitect’s Worksheet for Planning a Competency Modeling Project and Building Competency Models workshop.

There are three important reasons for doing this:

1) The nature of the intended HR application can shape the data collection and analysis. For example, in a project to construct a competency model for sales professionals, the competency model would need to be incorporated into a sales training program. Since the training program was to be built around the selling process, it was important to understand how the selling process worked for different types of projects. A day- long resource panel focused on defining the sales processes for both simple and complex sales situations. When the competencies were identified, they were linked to steps in the two sales processes.

2) The planned HR application can shape the format of the model, especially its behavioral descriptors. For example, if the model will be used by managers to assess jobholders’ demonstration of the competencies, as part of a performance appraisal, it is important to include behavioral descriptors of less effective behaviors as well as effective ones.

3) To ensure 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.

Read more in “Seven Key Questions to Answer before Building Competency Models”.

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How to break the Competency Curse

Woman Thinking iStockphotoHow One Manager Found New Opportunities at Work

When good workers suffer from “the competency curse,” they can end up being pigeonholed into tasks they do well, instead of a track that allows for growth.

At first glance, I thought that the title of an article in the Wall Street Journal was taking a shot at competencies. One of the expected outcomes of job competency modeling is that people are given the opportunity to develop competencies, which in turn provides opportunities for career advancement. So competencies should not be a “curse”. Fortunately, this article does not take that position. It is about a person who is so competent in her current position that the organization feels that it cannot afford to move her to another higher level position. In other words, being too competent can restrict your career opportunities.

In this article, Danielle Blimline faced that problem and took some very interesting steps, including making a “presentation” to her manager, Chris Currier, to convince him to move her to a different and higher level position. She first started by obtaining some advice from a career consultant who helped her develop a solution to her problem.

The Solution

Danielle planned a conversation with her boss to ask for a chance to contribute more. She developed a 10-slide presentation about her experience and her goals, including a slide about the pros and cons of her “available options”—staying in her current job, moving up to a new position or quitting. “It was a ‘go big or go home’ moment,” she says. But “I was having a hard time” phrasing the message, she says. “How do I tell him this is not working for me?” Her challenge was to rephrase her pitch in a positive way,

The Implementation

Mr. Currier had been impressed by her “unflinchingly positive demeanor” during his first few months working with her, but he had wondered whether she was burning out on the job.

After Danielle launched into her presentation, she saw Mr. Currier suddenly sit up in his chair, his brow furrowed. “He was a little defensive for a second,” she says. She worried that she was making a negative impression. Mr. Currier says he was trying to figure out where Danielle was going with her slide presentation. “These are sensitive topics. We were walking on eggshells,” he says.

Danielle responded by re-emphasizing that her goal was positive. “This meeting is about me. I’m not criticizing you,” she says she told him. “I don’t want to keep recycling” oft-used skills, she explained. “I want to build something better. That’s my sweet spot. That’s what makes me happy.”

Mr. Currier thought “the presentation was extremely well thought-out,” he says, and Danielle’s delivery was “unique, in the ability to articulate in a very succinct manner where she wanted to go,” he says. They agreed that he would look for potential mentors for her in the company. “I had several conversations within the first hour” after the meeting, exploring options, he says.

The Outcome

She was promoted to managing a 10-member team on a large high-profile account. Her new boss praises her “motivation, attitude and commitment,” adding, “she has been an integral part of our success so far.” Danielle calls it “the most ideal job I’ve had. I’m doing something I’ve never done before. I like to be challenged, and figure out how to make things work better.”

To learn more about competencies, competency models, and how an employee can acquire competencies to advance his or her career, click here.

Have you or others in your organization been faced with a “competency curse” problem? How have you or your organization dealt with it or solved it?

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When companies select CEOs in their late 40s.

CEOGenerational changes are occurring  in the executive suite as more companies hire chiefs in their late 40s.                        

Generation X is moving into the corner office, bringing a different style to the way companies are run. So begins a recent article in the Wall Street Journal. Here are a few of the highlights from that article and possible implications for HR professionals.

In general, younger Chief Executive Officers (aka CEOs) tend to:

  • Be more dedicated to keeping products and services relevant for the rising millennials projected to comprise 75% of the workforce by 2025.
  • Take more risks
  • React faster to sudden business shifts. Are more nimble and agile.
  • Favor a flatter organizational structure so they can make decisions faster
  • Be tech savvy and focused on technology

AND…they are more focused on talent management and development. According to    the article, Gen X CEOs:

  • Spend more time wooing and keeping younger staffers.
  • Delve deeper into hiring and retention.
  • Place more emphasis on human capital for long-term competitive advantage.
  • Look for better ways to balance work-life needs for all employees.
  • Emphasize setting of the culture of the organization.

Here are a few relevant quotes by contributors to the article:

  • “Talent acquisition and retention is a huge component of what we [new CEOs] need to think about. That is where you get to set the culture.”
  • “Businesses gain a greater recruiting advantage from their organizational culture than higher salaries or fast promotions.”
  • “Managing talent is a critical focus for the new CEOs because the contemporary economy heavily depends on service and knowledge workers, and corporate loyalty has faded as people change jobs more often.”
  • “Millennials, people in their mid-teens to mid-30s, have a different expectation of what they’re looking for in employers,” favor greater flexibility about where and when they work, and “their hearts want to be engaged.”

Featured in the article are new CEOs younger than 50 in McDonald’s, Harley Davidson, Microsoft, and Aqua America.

Implications for Human Resources 

Competencies and competency-based applications can be used to set and communicate an organization’s culture and values. Many organizations recognize the importance of culture in achieving competitive advantage. Executives can identify a competency framework that best reflects the characteristics of current and future employees, characteristics that are a good “fit” for the organization’s culture.

Human resources can build a competency architecture, models, and applications that are customized to the organization’s unique culture and strategy and that provide a framework for selecting, developing, and retaining talent. This can be accomplished with a methodology that doesn’t require complex software or off-the-shelf models. If a generic competency dictionary is used to facilitate the process, it should be seen by employees as practical, comprehensive, easy to work with (no more than 40 competencies), and written and organized in a way that is easily understood by all.

Workitect’s competency system is a blueprint for designing competency-based talent management applications that address the interests of the Gen X CEOs and employees described in this article.

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The Strategic Importance of a Competency Framework

A business cannot excel and meet its strategic objectives without having a high percentage of superior performing employees at all levels. Consequently, talent management and development has become a critical challenge for organizations. Many organizations have embraced the concept of competence, competencies, and job competency models as a framework for the development of integrated talent management applications. Successful implementation of competency-based applications for assessment and selection, training and development, and performance management, raises the level of performance throughout an organization.

Definitions – a Review of the Major Components

Competencies are…

The skills and behaviors that outstanding performers demonstrate more often, more skillfully, and with better results than do average performers. Read more >

A Job Competency Model is…

A group of 8-12 competencies that together describe successful performance for a particular job or role, in a particular organization.  Read more >

A Competency Framework is…

A set of 25-40 non-technical competencies that reflect the organization’s culture and values, and have been determined to be essential to carrying out it’s vision, mission, and strategy. The competencies are described in a dictionary to ensure that skills and characteristics are described with the same competency names in the models and applications that are developed.

3_Step_Ident&ApplyCompetenciesCreating and Implementing a Competency Framework – Case Study

This company developed a comprehensive competency framework for its organization. Workitect provided consulting assistance for the project. Several of their HR staff received training for their role in the project through attendance at our Building Competency Models workshop.

A competency model was developed to identify what drives top performance in management/leadership roles today, and to recognize what will be required from our leaders in the future in order to achieve the organization’s strategic plan. The model established expectations for all managers and leaders going forward.

The Competency Framework established a common language to describe what superior performance looks and feels like. This enabled all employees, but especially those in leadership positions, to gain greater understanding of the requirements of their jobs, identify and maximize their strengths, and enhance their performance against their development needs. It also provided a link between behavioral expectations of success and the corporate strategy. The reason is that appropriate behavior leads to successful performance, which in turns helps the business reach the overall strategic objectives.

The Competency Framework was a key resource to align HR systems and programs to the overall corporate strategy. It provided a structure and consistency of approach that allowed the Human Resource function to better support leaders, and ultimately all employees, by improving the way behavior and superior performance was linked. It also helped create clearer development models and contributed to the way individuals integrate into our culture.

Having a Competency Framework enabled the HR function to better support the business by providing the following benefits:

  • A way to communicate and reinforce our core values and visualize the increasing importance of new strategies and ideas
  • Consistency in the use of competencies; avoidance of duplication and simplicity of approach
  • Alignment of HR policies and processes around a common language
  • Measures of individual and organizational capability
  • Role Clarity

 Contact us or visit our Competency System web page to review an edited version of the actual HR Implementation Guide.

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