How Competencies Drive Performance Improvement

It is probably safe to assume that, unless we are mentally or psychologically challenged, each of us wants to improve our performance and the competencies that will help us perform. So why is it so difficult for organizations to achieve high levels of individual and organizational performance? There are many factors that influence performance. The development of competencies is, in a broader sense, also about improving performance. As employees and managers working to build additional competencies, it may be helpful to understand some of the key concepts about performance improvement and management.

“Systems thinking” has been found in recent years to be a good way to analyze and solve human and organizational performance problems. Books such as ‘The Fifth Discipline” and “Improving Performance” have helped foster this belief. We can think about each of us being a human performance system. This graphic depicts the various components of this “system in which we receive inputs, and then utilize our competencies to generate outputs. 

In a business setting, the inputs we receive come from our customers and environment, internal or external. We also need clear direction on what is required, access to resources and minimal interference. As the performer, we need the necessary competencies (which include attitude and motivation). There needs to be appropriate consequences for our output. We should receive positive consequences or rewards, e.g. a pat on the back for “doing it right” and negative consequences for not doing it right. The standards or criteria for evaluating performance must be consistent and sound. Is the same “benchmark” or measurement applied to each person? And, finally, do we receive timely, adequate and appropriate feedback on how we did?

This same system applies to the performance of a group of individuals who make up a team or an entire organization. Only this time, individuals need to work together to produce output, and issues such as group processes, strategy, information flow and work processes must be managed in order for the team to be productive.

The disciplines of “organizational development” and “performance technology” utilize models like these to help analyze human and organizational performance problems, and improve performance. “Performance management” utilizes the same principles, but focuses on specific organizational and human resource processes such as goal setting, performance appraisal and pay for performance. Career planning, succession planning and progress reviews are often included. Relating back to the performance models, you can see the importance of providing clear direction, selecting and developing competent employees, providing appropriate consequences and frequent feedback.

The ultimate goal of organization development, performance technology and performance management is the same – to improve performance. Developing your own competencies, or those of others, is one of the most important requirements of performance improvement. (In fact, it is depicted as the center of both performance models.) Although the focus of our Competency Development Guide book is on developing competencies, understanding the entire human performance system may give you added appreciation for the importance of receiving clear direction on what is expected of you, obtaining feedback of how you are doing, etc.

In summary, developing additional competencies will not guarantee an improvement in performance. Other factors contribute to performance. If you have management responsibilities, pay attention to all of the factors so you’re able to create an environment where people are motivated to utilize their competencies. The ideas and tools contained in the Competency Development Guide can help you develop the competencies you need to manage the performance of yourself and others.

What examples do you have of job competency models or competency-based performance management systems producing substantial improvements in organizational results?

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Six Steps to Conducting a Behavioral Event Interview

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Regardless of how you view today’s economy, if your job involves acquiring talent for your organization, you know that interviewing, assessing, and selecting the best candidates for key jobs remains as challenging as ever.

Even more challenging is finding candidates who have been superior performers in their current job and who are likely to be superior performers in a new job. To do so, it is first necessary to have a clear picture of what constitutes “superior performance” and the competencies possessed by superior performers that enables them to be superior performers. Job competency models serve such a purpose. Developing job competencies models utilizes a special behavioral event interviewing (aka BEI) technique

The basic principle of the competency approach is that what people think or say about their motives and skills is not credible. Only what they actually do, in the most critical incidents they have faced, is to be believed. The purpose of the BEI method is to get behind what people say they do to find out what they really do. This is accomplished by asking people to describe how they actually behaved in specific incidents.

More about the Purpose of a BEI

The goal of the behavioral event interview is to identify the competencies needed to do various jobs. Its nearest relative is the searching clinical interview, in which the goal is to identify the individual’s chief characteristics that have lead to maladjustment. In the behavioral event interview the focus is what it takes to do a given job well. Since individuals may adjust to a job idiosyncratically, it is necessary to interview several incumbents and try to determine what characterizes good performers as contrasted with poor performers. In isolating the competencies needed, the interviewer should keep in mind what is measurable. When the interviewer has formulated the competencies that are needed, he or she will test these judgments by finding measures of them and determine if those who perform the job well score higher on these measures than those who perform poorly. When these hypotheses about the competencies needed for a job are cross-validated in this way, the measures can be used to select better qualified people or to train people better for the job.

The Basic Technique

One of the best methods of getting the information to assess the competencies needed for a job is to elicit very detailed behavioral descriptions of how a person goes about doing his or her work. Sometimes this may be done by asking a number of job incumbents to write out critical incidents, following a technique first popularized by Flanagan (1954). However, these incidents may not be detailed enough to figure out just what the person was thinking and doing. Therefore, it is usually better to interview a few incumbents in depth. This permits a more thorough exploration of each episode reported until all the relevant behaviors have been elicited. To distinguish this technique from Flanagan’s well-known critical incident approach, it should be referred to as the behavioral event interview technique. The interviewer should realize at all times that the purpose of the interview is to get raw behavioral data which can be used to conceptualize the competencies that are required for doing the job well.

Above all, the interviewer must avoid being caught up in the interviewee’s concepts of
what it takes to do his or her job. Every person has some ideas about what he or she is like and how he or she does things. In some cases these ideas may be accurate but often they are not, and the interviewer must avoid asking questions that simply elicit the interviewee’s concepts. The interviewer must keep pushing for the behaviors — the thoughts and actions — that the interviewee demonstrated on a given occasion.

Use of a tape recorder is recommended to save every detail of the interview for future uses, such as developing case materials and other learning aids. Its most immediate use is to help you reconstruct your interview notes when you do your summary writeup. However, there is no substitute for good note-taking, especially if you have a mechanical failure. Don’t expect to use the recorder like a crutch and your notes will be all you will need to write up the interview, saving you the time you would ordinarily have to spend listening to the interview all over again.

How to Conduct the Interview

Step 1. Explanation

Everyone will want to know why he or she is being interviewed. Your explanation might go something like this:

“I’ve been asked to try to figure out what competencies it takes to do your job. The best
approach seems to be to ask a person who is doing a job how he or she does it. You are the obvious expert in what it take to be (whatever the person does). We’re just going to talk for awhile about some examples of how you do your job”.

Optional, depending on the interviewee’s curiosity and/or your mandate:

“This is part of a program which should lead to better selection and training for the job. If we can identify the competencies needed for a job, we can select people who have those competencies needed for the job or train job incumbents to develop the necessary competencies to a fuller extent”.

At this point you should get the permission of the interviewee for you to tape-record the interview. You can explain it this way:

“With your permission, I would like to record parts of this interview to help me with my notes.
Everything you say will be kept confidential and will not be shared with anyone else in
(interviewee’s organization). But if there is anything you want to say off the record or don’t want me to record, just let me know and I’ll turn off the tape”.

Step 2. Duties and Responsibilities

It is a good idea to break the ice by getting the interviewee talking about what he or she does in a general way, that is, about what his or her duties and responsibilities are.

“Let’s begin by taking about what your responsibilities are in your job. I really know nothing about what it takes to be a good (policeman, naval officer, manager, etc.). What do you do? Where do you work? Whom do you work with? What are your hours? Whom do you report to? Who reports to you?”

The objective here is to get the interviewee talking in as free and relaxed a way as possible about his or her job. Sometimes interviewees have difficulty getting started, but most of them find it easy to talk about their work and they like telling others what they do. It is wise not to push the behavioral event approach on them too soon; lead into it gradually.

Often in the course of describing their work, interviewees will say things that puzzle you or that you want clarified. For example, a police captain may say, “Well, I supervise the lieutenants”. Here he is simply quoting a job description to you and your problem is to find out what he means. So you say “Could you explain a little more what you mean by ‘supervise’? Do they write reports for you to read? Do they come in to talk with you first thing in the morning, or when they leave? Do you observe them working with the patrolmen? What is the chance you would get to know they were doing something wrong or to give them some direction? It helps most if you can describe an actual case where you supervised someone”.

Step 3. First Behavioral Event

Hopefully this questioning about duties will lead to a critical event which you can ask the interviewee to describe in detail so that you can get a better idea of how the job is done and what characteristics it takes to do it well. You may say something like:

“To get a better idea of what supervision consists of, can you think of an instance where
you were able to help someone do his or her job better, or keep him or her from making a mistake? I need an example of just how you operate”.

It is hard to generalize about just how you will hit on the first incident since it should come up naturally in the course of discussing various responsibilities. But once you have got the interviewee talking about a particular event, you should push hard for behavioral detail.

“Now let me get the setting straight. Let’s begin at the beginning. Where were you? What time of day was it? What had you been doing when this came up? What was in your mind?”

You may want to ask what kind of day it was (raining?) or how the interviewee was feeling, to recreate the whole scenario. Here you become an investigative reporter, pushing to get clear in your mind just what happened. Asking for time, place and mood often helps the interviewee recall the episode, since all the person has left in his or her mind usually is some memory of how it all turned out which he or she told you first anyway. You should have in mind the following questions as the interviewee begins to tell the story:
– What led up to the event?
– What was the person thinking? (of the individual he or she was interacting with, of the       situation,etc.)
– What did the person do, and why?
– What was the person feeling, wishing?
– How did it all turn out?

You are interested in the interviewee’s:
– Perceptions of the people and the situation
– Thoughts
– Acts
– Feelings
– Conclusions for future reference

Try to get the interviewee to begin at the beginning and take you through the story as it unfolded. Otherwise you may get confused about what happened and who did what. This may be difficult because the interviewee will usually start by remembering the outcome of an event. Just say, “That’s exactly what I had in mind. Now let’s start at the beginning so that I can understand what happened”. As the interviewee tells you all this, you are learning things about him or her, and you should ask questions that will verify or double-check inferences you are beginning to draw about his or her competencies. In all questioning, however, be sure that you are giving the interviewee plenty of reinforcement for what he or she is telling you. You are not the FBI. You should laugh with the interviewee, tell stories of your own if necessary to keep the flow of talk informal and pleasant, constantly reinforce him or her for the help he or she is giving you in clarifying what goes on
in this job.

Your objective is to get the interviewee to tell you little vignettes, scenarios of things that happened to him or her. Some people need a lot of encouragement and stimulation to really get into the process of telling a story.

Step 4. Further Behavioral Events

You may find it easy in talking about an event in the area of supervision to move on to an example of when things didn’t go well:

“That helps me understand much better what supervision involves. Now, can you think of an instance in which you feel you didn’t carry out supervision as well as you might have? That will help me also, because it will identify the characteristic one ought to show in such situations”.

If the interviewee can’t think of one, you can make a few suggestions (“Did you ever have to fire somebody?” “Did you ever have problems with any of your subordinates?”) and if the interviewee still blocks (an unusual occurrence!) you can go to some other area (“Well, can you think of a time when things didn’t go well on the job?”). Again, when the interviewee comes up with and event, ask first for time, place and setting, and then go into detail.

In all, it is best to try to get detailed descriptions of three events where the interviewee was effective and three events where the interviewee was ineffective. but there is nothing magical about these numbers. The crucial question is whether you are learning what it takes to do this job well.

Occasionally you will run into someone who blocks when you ask him or her for an example of something that went particularly well or poorly. The interviewee just can’t seem to think of anything important. In that case, don’t keep pressing him or her; your main goal of getting the interviewee to talk about how he or she performs on the job may only be interfered with as he or she gets more frustrated or annoyed about not being able to do what you want. Then you should use other approaches to get the interviewee to talk, such as asking the person to take you through what he or she did yesterday or probing in detail, or just how he or she goes about supervising someone through an example.

Remember, the goal is to get the interviewee to talk about the way he or she does the job.
Any method of doing that is legitimate.

Step 5. Characteristics

It is often useful at the end of the interview to ask the interviewee what characteristics he or she thinks a person ought to have to do his or her job well. This serves the double purpose of establishing good relations by asking the interviewee’s opinion and also of giving you some further insight into what he or she thinks is important. For example, if none of the good incumbents thinks to mention interpersonal skills, you may want to infer that incumbents in this job can get along without caring much about interpersonal relationships.

Step 6. Summary and Writing

After the interview is over it is a good plan to sit down quietly for an hour and summarize what you have learned. This may include a brief characterization of the person you have just interviewed. It also helps you define things about which you are still unclear. In other words, it is a time to make your budding hypotheses explicit so that you can check them in later interviews. If you have the time, this is the best point to write up the entire interview, while your memory is still fresh.

Reference: Spencer, L. M. & Spencer, S. M. (1993). Competence At Work. New York: Wiley, 114-134

FUTURE BLOGS

THREE PITFALLS TO AVOID IN INTERVIEWING
FIVE COMPETENCIES TO HAVE IN MIND
COMPARISONS OF JOB ANALYSIS TECHNIQUES
COMMON INTERVIEW TECHNIQUES
FOUR COMMON INTERVIEWING STYLES
FEATURES OF THE BEI TECHNIQUE
ADVANTAGES OF THE BEI TECHNIQUE

Note: This information can also be found in the Research & Support section of the Workitect website.

The BEI technique has been adapted and taught in Workitect’s Building Competency Models workshop and Interviewing for Competencies workshop as the Structured Event Interview.

The methodology is also applied in Workitect’s set of 35 Competency Interview Guides.

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Interviewing and Assessing “Strategic Thinking” Competence

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What is a Strategic Thinking Competency?

Definition: Analyzing an organization’s competitive position and developing a clear and compelling vision of what the organization needs for success in the future.

 Behaviors:

  1. Understands the organizations strengths and weaknesses as compared to competitors
  2. Understands the industry, market and product/service trends affecting the organization’s competitiveness
  3. Develops distinctive strategies to achieve and sustain competitive advantage; translates strategies into clear goals and objectives
  4. Communicates a clear vision that energizes others to accomplish what the organization needs for success in the long term; consistently restates and reinforces that vision and direction
  5. Focuses on ways to build the organization’s capabilities for the future

Using a Competency Interview Guide

Download the complete interview guide for Strategic Thinking.

Use a Competency Interview Guide to assist in the behavioral interviewing process. It provides specific questions and probes for the behaviors of the competency. In addition, positive and negative behavioral indicators are listed that will help evaluate the candidate’s responses. While the process described below is designed for multiple interviewers seeing each candidate, it can be completed with only one interviewer.

Prior to the interview:

  • Review the candidate’s resume.
  • Review the assigned the competency(s) and the behaviors that comprise each competency.
  • Select the specific questions you feel comfortable asking each candidate. Note: Not all the questions need to be used – select at least two questions.

During the interview:

  • Greet the candidate and spend a few minutes building rapport; talk about areas the candidate is interested in.
  • Transition into the formal interview.
  • Ask the selected questions and use follow-up probes to get complete examples of the:
    • Situation that the candidate encountered;
    • Actions that the candidate took;
    • Results or outcome of the actions taken.
  • Give the candidate time to think about past examples/experiences when answering the questions.
  • Ideally get at least 2-3 examples for each question.
  • Use this guide to take notes and evaluate the candidate.

Following the interview:

  • Check off appropriate behavioral indicators and summarize key observations and notes. Rate the candidate on each assigned competencies in the space provided at the bottom of each page.
  • Note any observations for competencies not assigned and be prepared to discuss.
  • After completing, interviewers should meet to discuss and reach consensus on the final ratings for each candidate and complete the Candidate Interview Summary.
  • Make the hiring decision.

Examples of Behavioral Questions and Probes

1a. Think about the organization you work for now. What are some strengths and  weaknesses of the organization as compared to its competitors?
1b. What industry and market trends are affecting the organization’s competitiveness?

2. Think about a product or service provided by your organization. What are some specific competitive strengths and weaknesses of that product or service within the marketplace?

3. Give me an example of a time when a product or service you were offering was not as competitive as it should be. How did you know this and what did you do about it?
What was the situation? What action(s) did you take? What was the result?

4. Give me an example of when a product or service you were offering was one of the best in the marketplace. How did you know this and did you do anything to keep it the best?

  • What was the situation? What action(s) did you take? What was the result?

Download the complete interview guide for Strategic Thinking.

Learn more about Competency Interview Guides for 35 competencies.

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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 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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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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Develop Results-Driven Leaders

Results-Driven TeamResults Orientation is a competency that is defined as focusing on the desired end result of one’s own or one’s unit’s work; setting challenging goals, focusing effort on the goals, and meeting or exceeding them. A person demonstrating this competency:

  1. Develops challenging but achievable goals
  2. Develops clear goals for meetings and projects
  3. Maintains commitment to goals, in the face of obstacles and frustrations
  4. Finds or creates ways to measure performance against goals
  5. Exerts unusual effort over time, to achieve a goal
  6. Has a strong sense of urgency about solving problems and getting work done

Importance of this Competency

Results Orientation enables an individual to set and achieve challenging goals. People with this competency keep their goals and performance measures firmly in mind, so that they accomplish more in a shorter period of time. This competency is also an advantage after downsizing, because staff of a leaner organization must accomplish more work and become more productive.

General Considerations in Developing this Competency

One of the best ways to develop this competency is to work closely with a manager or team leader who demonstrates it. These people set challenging but achievable goals and milestones, regularly checking their progress against goals. They also demonstrate a sense of urgency about achieving goals. You may also find it helpful to read one of our guides that address goal setting. In addition to the ideas below, examine the time management readings and listed under Analytical Thinking in Workitect’s Competency Development Guide.

Practicing this Competency

  • Prepare a set of personal work-related goals for the next two weeks. List what you will do in specific terms.
  • The next time you are in charge of a meeting, prepare an agenda that includes specific objectives. Keep the group on track to ensure that you meet all objectives for the meeting.
  • Find ways to measure your own work or a team’s work. First identify the most important outcomes you are working toward with each key task. Develop a way to measure each key outcome. For example, if you are in a Sales group, you might measure number of cold calls, number of customer meetings, number of proposals, and number of sales closed per week. Once you have identified the measures, graph each measure to track trends over time. For example, one graph might plot number of customer meetings held per week.
  • If you are on a team, push the team to identify specific goals with deadlines and specific team members accountable for their completion.

Obtaining Feedback

Prepare a set of goals for your own work or for a team of which you are a part. Show the goals to someone whose judgment you respect. Ask if the goals represent the right balance between being challenging and being achievable. A good set of goals should be challenging enough to provide positive motivation and realistic enough to be achievable with some extra effort.

Learning from Experts

Interview someone who has achieved impressive results. Ask this person what he/she does to achieve results. Ask the person to describe in detail what he/she did to achieve one or two impressive results. Ask about planning, setting goals, and dealing with obstacles.

Coaching Suggestions for Managers

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

  • Model this competency by publicly setting challenging but achievable goals for your unit.
  • Ask the person to prepare a set of personal work-related goals for the next 3-6 months. Review the goals with this person and provide feedback and suggestions. Set up a procedure for the person to regularly meet with you or keep you informed about progress toward the goals.
  • Provide assignments which involve having the person work closely with someone who is strong in Results Orientation

Sample Development Goals

– By January 16, I will prepare a set of personal work-related goals for the first quarter and review these goals with my manager.

– By February 1, I will develop 3-6 key measures of my work progress. I will plot each of these measures on a graph displayed in my cubicle.

– By March 4, I will ensure that the Distribution Reassessment Team has developed a set of goals for the second quarter and an action plan with specific tasks, milestones, and accountabilities.

– By June 30, the team will meet all of its goals.

Resources

Books

Getting Results: Five Absolutes for High Performance, by Clinton Longenecker & Jack L. Simonetti. New York, NY: Jossey-Bass, 2001.

Goals and Goal Setting, Third Edition: Achieving Measured Objectives, by Larrie Rouillard. Menlo Park, CA: Crisp Publications, Inc., 2002.

Performance Management: Changing Behavior that Drives Organizational Effectiveness, by Aubrey Daniels & James Daniels. Tucker, GA: Performance Management Publications, 2004.

Process Reengineering in Action: A Practical Guide to Achieving Breakthrough Results, by Richard Y. Chang. New York, NY: Jossey-Bass, 2000.

Root Cause Analysis: Improving Performance for Bottom-Line Results, Third Edition, by Robert J. Latino & Kenneth Latino. Boca Raton, FL: CRC Press, 2006.

The Answer to How Is Yes: Acting On What Matters, by Peter Block. San Francisco, CA: Berrett-Koehler Publishers, Inc., 2002.

The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, by Stephen Covey. New York, NY: Simon & Schuster Ltd., 2005.

Your Brain at Work: Strategies for Overcoming Distraction, Regaining Focus, and Working Smarter All Day Long, by David Rock. New York, NY: HarperCollins Publishing, 2009.

 

External Courses

Building Better Work Relationships: New Techniques for Results-oriented Communication. Three days. American Management Association. Tel. 877 566-9441.http://www.amanet.org/training/seminars/Building-Better-Work-Relationships-New-Techniques-for-Results-oriented-Communication.aspx

Getting Results Without Authority. Three days. American Management Association. Tel. 877 566-9441.

The Fundamentals of Structural Thinking. Four days. Robert Fritz, Inc. Tel. 800 848-9700.

Directory of Resource Providers

This same level of information is available for 34 additional competencies that are a part of Workitect’s Competency Dictionary. Workitect helps individuals and organizations to develop competencies and competency models. We customize guides and provide licenses for the use of development guides throughout an organization. Contact us to learn more about the range of tools we provide. 

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Modernizing competency models for millennials

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

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

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

The power of a growth-focused culture

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

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

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

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

The humanization and modernization of the model

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

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

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

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

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The Competent New Human Resources Manager

HumanResources_WordCloud_v2 copyYou most likely already know that competencies help define the basic skills employees need to perform their job duties. But did you know that new managers in the human resources function must also exhibit certain competencies in order to exercise proficiency with their own job functions? These include human resource knowledge, understanding of adult learning principals, time management and leadership skills.

If your organization doesn’t have a competency model in place to facilitate the growth and development of new management, here’s how to address the issue.

The competency connection

It’s essential for your new management – especially those who will be heavily involved in training and development – to work closely with your Human Resources staff to implement training at all levels across the organization. Duties can range anywhere from advising on employee development trends to conducting needs assessments to address employee strengths.

The point here is that not only will your new managers be required to use competency-based approaches in their role, but those same competency initiatives must be in place to decide if the new manager is even the right fit for handling these important, previously noted tasks.

Beyond human resource knowledge…

The benefits of a well-trained new manager can extend well beyond basic human resource knowledge or understanding best practices for encouraging employee participation during the development process.

Consider what the following more advanced skill sets competencies can bring about with new management training:

  • Polished verbal communication skills when it involves facilitating focus groups, seminars or workshops
  • Empowerment of management, where company goals are actively supported
  • A catalyst for driving corporate change – management who can draw more willing participation from employees at all levels
  • A motivator – leading to increased productivity and cost reductions. Management committed to corporate effectiveness as a means of self-improvement

Wish to learn more? Click here to discover how a competency approach can successfully facilitate the development of new management within your organization.

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Using Competencies To Enhance Employee Performance

In the late ’90s, the American Compensation Association (now WorldAtWork) sponsored a research study titled “Raising the Bar – Using Competencies to Enhance Employee Performance”.  The results were published in a 76-page booklet, which is out of print. What is interesting is that most of the findings are still relevant and insightful today. 

The project demonstrated the connection competencies make with business strategy, the techniques organizations use to build competency models, and the similarities and differences among com­petency-based human resources applications. Competency-based talent management applications were relatively new; many respondents said it was too early to judge whether competencies ful­filled their potential as a means to improve employee performance and, ultimately, enhance business results. However, respondents’ attitudes toward competencies were largely positive, and a large majority of respondents wanted to expand the role of competencies within their organizations.

The nature of the sample, which lim­ited the ability to draw widespread conclusions about the workplace in general, it was still possible to identify im­portant conclusions based on the data. Based on our own research and experience in the field, surprisingly, most are still valid in 2015.

Following are the key findings of this research effort:

• Competencies are used to “raise the bar” on employee performance. Respondents said “raising the bar” is a key objective of competencies, as opposed to using competencies to establish a baseline for perfor­mance. Also, respondents tailor their HR applications to focus on individual performance. Competencies are defined thoroughly (often using high performers and functional experts as a primary source of input), and they often are supported with scaled levels to illustrate in­creasing levels of proficiency. This provides individuals with detailed road maps for increasing their capabilities incrementally.

For staffing applications, competencies are used to hire, place and promote people with the right capabili­ties to help the organization gain competitive advantage. For training and development, competencies are used to identify gaps in each participating employee’s capa­bilities so these gaps can be remedied. For performance management, competencies and results are assessed side by side, reminding employees that how they do things is as important as what they do. For compensation, both competencies and results impact base pay decisions to reward performance and competency development.

Competencies are used to focus on an organization’s culture and values. Many respondents indicated they use competency-based applications to communicate values to the work force and to build the proper culture for success. While these issues may ap­pear somewhat removed from the bottom line, it appears that many organizations recognize the importance of culture in achieving competitive advantage.

Business strategies drive competencies. Competency information comes from multiple sources, and strategy plays a key role in development. The most frequent source of information is senior management and strategic plans. The next most common sources of information are high performers and functional experts. These sources of information often are used in com­bination.

Competencies focus on how performance re­sults are achieved. Competencies are behavioral mod­els that are built upon skills, knowledge and personal attributes. Furthermore, all attributes of competencies should be observable and measurable, and they must contribute to enhanced employee performance and, in turn, organizational success.

Today’s competency applications are evolu­tionary, not revolutionary. This finding is supported by several observations. First, it appears that many competency-based approaches are treated as add-ons and they are not leading to radical adjustments in HR processes. Sec­ond, with regard to specific HR applications, managers continue to make the lion’s share of performance man­agement and compensation decisions. Furthermore, with the exception of the use of behaviorally anchored rating scales, base salary adjustments under competency-based systems are largely made in a traditional fashion. Finally, for staffing purposes, competencies are rarely used when checking references or as the sole basis for rejecting candidates.

Competencies provide a framework for integrating HR applications. Integrating HR applications is a desired outcome for many organizations. Many respondents have more than one competency-based HR application. Those who have applications in place for more than a year desire to expand compe­tencies into additional HR areas. Lessons learned in one area of competency-based HR should be applied to other competency applications.

Compensation is the least common and new­est application. Compensation is the least cited appli­cation in this study, performance management is the most cited application, and staffing and training and de­velopment are in between. Staffing applications tend to be oldest, followed by performance management, train­ing and development, and compensation applications. This may imply that staffing applications represent starting points for many organizations that are interested in competencies. Compensation is seen as an application that can be added once other applications are in place. One reason for why staffing applications are older may be historical; David McClelland and McBer’s early work with competencies was to examine them for selec­tion purposes.

These findings should not be interpreted as a prescrip­tion for the order in which to install competencies.  Many organizations start competencies in different areas of HR and then gradually work their way to other areas. In fact, many organizations also work on more than one application at once. The key is not the order in which applications are developed, but how these applications ultimately are in­tegrated and linked to business strategy.

Additional findings and other relevant studies will be published in future blogs.

 

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