Use Competency Interview Guides to Conduct Structured Event Interviews

The Premise:
Past behavior is the best predictor of future performance. People have unique and characteristic ways of dealing with work situations. As a result, they develop preferred ways of operating. Because of these preferences, they develop particular abilities and become competent in their use. Some of these preferences, abilities and competencies are significant in predicting job success. People do—in the course of describing experiences and accomplishments—offer valuable information to adequately discern their preferences, abilities and competencies.

A competency-based interviewing protocol can be used to assess the competencies (skills, knowledge, and personal characteristics) of a candidate that have been determined to be required for superior or effective performance in a job. These competencies are usually identified through job competency modeling. Interview guides can provide an easy-to-follow format for structured, behavioral-based interviews. Each Workitect interview guide, with specific questions related to each of  thirty-five competencies in Workitect’s competency dictionary, makes it easy for a hiring manager or interviewer to collect behavioral examples about a candidate’s relevant work experiences and accomplishments. These interview guides can be used with other generic competency dictionaries or lists of competencies. Most of the Workitect competencies (definitions and behavioral indicators) are similar to non-Workitect competencies. For example, most competency dictionaries include a competency similar to Interpersonal Effectiveness and Fostering Teamwork. 

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Related Reading

Blueprint: Competency-Based Assessment and Selection    
Blog: Six Steps to Conducting a Behavioral Event Interview
Website page: Competency-Based Assessment and Selection
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The Purpose

Interview guides are designed to assist in the behavioral interview process. They provide specific questions and probes for the behaviors of a 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.

What is included in a Guide

An interview guide is available for each of the competencies in the Workitect Competency Library/Dictionary . Each guide contains a cover page with tips for conducting an effective interview with a candidate by including “What to Do”:

  1. Prior to the Interview
  2. During the Interview
  3. Following the Interview

Each interview guide then provides the competency definition and behaviors associated with the competency, followed by potential behavioral-based questions and probes for the competency. In addition, positive and negative behavioral indicators are listed to help the interviewer evaluate the candidate’s responses. Finally, the guides provide for space for the interviewer to take notes and provide an overall rating of the candidate.

Selecting Competencies for the Interview

If you have identified competencies for the job being interviewed for using the Workitect Competency Dictionary, determine which competencies you want to assess in the interview process. Usually, only a subset of the total number of competencies for a job is used in an interview – the most critical. There are two “schools of thought” when it comes to which competencies each interviewer assesses. Each interviewer can assess different competencies or multiple interviewers can assess same competencies. The decision depends on how many interviewers there are, how many competencies will be assessed for in the interview, and the preference of the organization.

If you have not identified competencies for the job being interviewed for, look at the key roles and responsibilities of the job (i.e. job description) and identify the critical requirements to the success of the job. Then, using the Workitect Competency Dictionary or another generic dictionary, select those competencies that best match up with those critical requirements based on the definition of the competency and its behaviors.

Conducting the Interview

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 the 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.

DOWNLOAD AN INTERVIEW GUIDE FOR THE COMPETENCY OF “INITIATIVE”.

Learn more about Competency Interview Guides for 35 competencies.

Structured Event Interviews are also used to collect data in step 3 of Workitect’s competency modeling process, as taught in the Workitect Building Competency Models workshop.

Ed Cripe is President of Workitect, Inc., the leader in the development of job competency models and competency-based talent management applications.

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

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


 

 

 

 

 

 

STEP 1 – CONCEPTUALIZING THE PROJECT

The key components of conceptualizing the project are:

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

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

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

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

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

  • Single Job Competency Model
  • One-Size-Fits-All Approach
  • Multiple Job Approach

A project usually focuses on one of these approaches, although it is possible to use a combination of these approaches within one organization.

  – Single Job Competency Model
This approach focuses on a single, narrowly defined job that is important to the organization’s success and has at least 10 job-holders. The jobs covered by the competency model should have similar responsibilities and performance measures. Any requirements for technical skill or knowledge should be similar across the set of jobs. Examples of jobs for which a single job competency model is appropriate include sales representative, customer service representative, project manager, and plant manager.

The single job approach uses extensive and rigorous data collection, to ensure that the competency model contains highly specific behavioral descriptions of what one needs to do and how, in order to achieve superior results. This approach often includes a detailed breakdown of the main responsibilities and tasks and shows how they are linked to the competencies. Compared to the other two approaches, the single job approach is more time consuming and expensive to implement.

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

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

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

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

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

Next Blog: Step 2 – Project Planning

 

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Use an Expert Panel to Build a Basic Competency Model

Using Expert Panels, Focus Groups and Job Analysis Interviews. 

Many small and medium-size organizations want to develop competency models and integrate competencies into their talent management and HR systems. Unfortunately, many are constrained by limited budgets to use consultants or purchase competency dictionaries, software, interview guides, etc. In response to this problem, Workitect developed and began conducting a three-day workshop in 2004 to train internal HR professionals to build their own competency models. More than 1,200 people have attended these workshops and have built models using our methodology.

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 The McClelland/McBer Model-Building Methodology

Our methodology for building job competency models is based on the Job Competence Assessment (JCA) methodology developed by Dr. David McClelland, a pioneer in motivation and competency research and testing at Harvard, and by consultants at McBer and Company in the 1970’s.

The modeling process starts with superior performers in a targeted job being identified, and then studied to identify the personal characteristics, skills, and knowledge that they possess that enables them to be superior performers. The methods used to collect data for building the model, such as behavioral event interviews and expert panels, are designed to get beneath mere opinions about superior performance and superior performers. _____________________________________________________________________________

Thirty years ago, we conducted research on job competence assessment and created a generic competency dictionary that has been tested and has evolved into a practical, comprehensive, and affordable dictionary consisting of 35 foundational competencies (leadership, management, and professional). Many organizations are now using this dictionary to build models and applications.

Still, many organizations are finding it difficult to launch a competency-modeling project, often due to a lack of time, staff, or budget. To help these organizations, we have taken material from our Building Competency Models workshop and developed a program to enable a competency dictionary licensee to build basic competency models using focus groups, supplemented with optional job task analysis interviews.

The program consists of these instructional materials:

  1. Overview of Competencies and Competency Models (16 page PDF)
  • What is a Competency?
  • What is a Competency Model?
    • Example of a Competency Model
  • Why Develop Competency Models?

            Integrating Key HR Processes (10 page PDF)
            Competencies 101 (Powerpoint)
            The Case for a Competency-Based HR System (Powerpoint)

  1. Planning a Competency Modeling Project (8 page PDF)
  • Analyzing and Identifying Stakeholders
    • Stakeholder Analysis Table
  • Structure of the Plan
  • Communicating with Stakeholders and Employees

        Worksheet for Planning a Competency Modeling Project (13 page PDF)

  • Scope of the Project
  • Organizational Context
  • Selecting the Approach to Model Building
  • Building Support for the Project
  • Deciding on Data Sources
  • Staffing the Model Building Project
  • Envisioning the Data Analysis and Model Building
  • Reviewing and Revising the Model
  1. Collecting Data & Developing a Basic* Competency Model (14 page PDF)            Using Focus Groups and Job Analysis Interviews
  • General Data Collection Tasks
  • Primary Data Collection Methods
    • Job Analysis Interviews
    • Resource Panels, aka Focus Groups or Expert Panels
      • Instructional manual on facilitating a Resource Panel
      • Alternative Methods
        • Virtual Resource Panel & Job Competency Profile
        • Competency Model Survey

     Resource Materials (separate documents and forms)

  • Competency Requirements Questionnaire
  • Competency Requirements Questionnaire Tabulation worksheet
  • Job Analysis Interview for Jobholders Template
  • Job Analysis Interview for Managers of Jobholders Template
  • Competency Dictionary

*A full model includes the conducting, analyzing, and coding of structured behavioral event interviews.

  • Licensees are expected to attend a future public or onsite workshop to learn how to collect and analyze additional data, including structured behavioral event interviews, and to develop competency-based applications.
  • Guidebook users will be given access to all materials in Dropbox folders.
  • Word versions of some customizable documents and forms are available.
  • Phone or live online coaching from a Workitect consultant is available.

THIS PROGRAM IS AVAILABLE FOR LICENSEES OF WORKITECT’S COMPETENCY DICTIONARY.

Contact Workitect for additional information about this program.

Join LinkedIn’s Competency-Based Talent Management group. This group is for HR, OD, training, and talent management professionals who want to network, share experiences, or seek answers about job competency modeling and competency-based HR, talent management, and leadership development.

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Use a Competency Model Survey to Build a Competency Model

 

PURPOSE
The Competency Model Survey can be used alone or with other sources of data, to build a competency model when an organization chooses not to invest the resources to develop a customized competency model by using interviews and focus groups, as taught in Workitect’s Building Competency Models certification workshop.

PROCESS
The survey is completed on-line by several capable jobholders or managers of jobholders, persons who are highly knowledgeable about the job being assessed. Based on the responses to the survey, our report generator produces a report that includes: (a) a recommended set of the 10-12 Workitect competencies to comprise the competency model for the job and (b) a set of the job requirements that were rated most important for the job.

STRUCTURE
The survey begins with a few initial questions to identify the job, the organization, and the responder’s experience with job. Next are two questions asking responders to comment on the job’s main responsibilities and the most challenging tasks or situations typically encountered in the job. The main body of the survey consists of rating questions about the importance of various general job responsibilities and requirements.

Here are the steps for building a competency model when the survey is used alone:

  1. The project leader of the competency modeling process contracts with Workitect to use the survey to build a competency model for one job.
  2. The project leader identifies at least 2 solid performers in this job and at least 2 managers of persons holding this job and sends these persons the web link for completing the survey and asks them to complete the survey within one week.
  3. When one week has passed and the survey has been completed by at least 2 jobholders and 2 managers of jobholders, Workitect analyzes the data, prepares a report, and sends it to the project leader.
  4. The report includes a set of competencies that are most important for effectiveness in the target job, based on the responses of the survey participants. Each competency has a summary score indicating its importance to the job, and the competencies are listed in descending order of their summary scores, along with a recommendation about which competencies to include in the competency model.
  5. To get buy-in for the competency model, the project leader can invite all or some of the survey respondents to a meeting to review the report and make the final decision about which competencies to include in the competency model.

When the competency modeling project includes other sources of data besides the survey, the competency modeling team reviews the report of the survey results, along with the results from other data sources and determines which competencies to include in the competency model.

ANOTHER OPTION: JOB COMPETENCY PROFILE
This is an abridged competency model using a virtual resource panel and surveys to use when it is impractical to convene a standard resource panel of job incumbents, managers of job incumbents and other subject matter experts in one geographic location and at one time.

Contact Workitect for more information. 800-870-9490 or ec@workitect.com

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Develop a Job Competency “Profile”

Job Competency Model “Lite”.
Using a Virtual Resource Panel.
Apply the data to the development of a complete model.

This is an abridged competency model using a virtual resource panel and surveys to use when it is impractical to convene a standard resource panel of job incumbents, managers of job incumbents and other subject matter experts in one geographic location and at one time.

Data is collected and analyzed by a Workitect consultant who provides a summary and recommendations based on data about the job, obtained through a virtual resource/expert panel (VRP), i.e. an on-line, web-based survey containing open-ended questions and questions requiring ratings.

Purpose:

  • Improve an existing model
  • Build a model for a particular job or class of jobs that have similar tasks and competencies
  • Use when it is impractical to convene a standard resource panel of job incumbents, managers of job incumbents and other subject matter experts in one geographic location and at one time

The Output

  • A verbatim printout of all responses to all questions on the survey
  • A summary of the responses, including identification and tabulation of key themes in response to qualitative questions, tabulation of average ratings on all quantitative questions, and suggested competencies for a draft competency model.
  • Suggested non-technical generic competencies for the target job taken from Workitect’s Competency Dictionary. Any technical competencies that are identified are based on language used by panel members in their responses to questions about technical skill/knowledge requirements.

Advantages

  • Requires less time and cost to complete
  • Collect data from geographically dispersed participants
  • Apply the data to the development of a complete model

CONTENTS OF JOB COMPETENCY PROFILE REPORT

  • The Virtual Resource Panel Respondents
  • Main Responsibilities for the Job
  • Performance Criteria and Measures
  • Technical Skill Requirements
  • Trends in Technology, Industry, and the Company
  • Average Importance Ratings for Generic Competencies
  • Generic Competencies Ranked by Importance Rating
  • Relationship of Main Responsibilities to Generic Competencies
  • Competencies Recommended for Inclusion in the Competency Model
  • Most Challenging Aspects of the Job
  • Definitions and Behaviors for the Generic Competencies
  • Main Responsibilities

Sample Report

How it Works

As an alternative to a standard Resource Panel,  this virtual resource panel is an on-line survey allows panel members to provide the same information that they would in a standard session, but individually and at their own convenience and in their own work location. Participants are sent an email with a link to the survey set up in Survey Monkey.

Participants copy the survey link for their project into their internet browser and take about 30 minutes to complete the survey. A consultant downloads the survey responses, reviews and analyzes them, and prepares a synthesis based on themes mentioned by multiple panel members. It may be useful to set the stage for a Virtual Resource Panel by holding a conference call with the participants to explain and sell the project. Later, a second conference call can be held to review the synthesis of the panel members’ input.

Contact us for more information.

Learn more about competencies and competency models.

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Behavioral Descriptors – Options for Job Competency Models

Much of the value of a competency model comes from its behavioral descriptors. There are three main options for Human Resources staff to consider: (1) behavioral indicators, (2) evaluative competency levels, and (3) competency levels describing job requirements.

1. Behavioral Indicators
The majority of competency models use the first and simplest option, behavioral indicators. Behavioral indicators are descriptions of behaviors and thought patterns that are hypothesized to contribute to superior performance. A competency’s definition represents an underlying ability or trait, and the behavioral indicators describe specific ways in which that ability or trait is demonstrated. For example, in a generic competency framework the competency, “Interpersonal Awareness,” has the following definition and behavioral indicators:

Interpersonal Awareness:  The ability to notice, interpret, and anticipate others’ concerns and feelings, and to communicate this awareness empathetically to others.
a) Understands the interests and important concerns of others.
b) Notices and accurately interprets what others are feeling, based on their choice of words, tone of voice, expressions, and other nonverbal behavior.
c) Anticipates how others will react to a situation.
d) Listens attentively to people’s ideas and concerns.
e) Understands both the strengths and weaknesses of others.
f) Understands the unspoken meaning in a situation.
g) Says or does things to address others’ concerns.
h) Finds non-threatening ways to approach others about sensitive issues.

When behavioral indicators are used in a specific competency model, they are sometimes altered or written more specifically, to describe how the behavior is demonstrated in this job. For example, indicator (b) above was rewritten for use in a sales competency model:
“Notices nonverbal behavior and asks questions, when appropriate, to clarify its meaning”

Creating good behavioral indicators depends on conducting and analyzing critical event interviews with outstanding performers. Each behavioral indicator is a theme derived from examples from several interviews. Behavioral indicators can also be taken or adapted from a generic competency dictionary, which includes generic competencies and behavioral indicators previously identified in several competency models.

2. Evaluative Competency Levels
The second option for behavioral descriptors is to use evaluative competency levels. Under this option, several key dimensions are identified for each competency, and each dimension is ranked in order of effectiveness. The highest level describes outstanding performance, and the lowest level describes poor performance. Lyle and Signe Spencer used this approach to develop a generic set of competencies with levels. For example, one generic competency, “Interpersonal Understanding,” has two aspects: (a) depth of understanding of others, and (b) listening and responding to others. Listening and responding to others has these levels:

-1 Unsympathetic
0  Not applicable or makes no attempt to listen
1  Listens
2  Makes self available to listen
3  Predicts others’ responses
4  Listens responsively
5  Acts to help

Each level has more specific behavioral descriptors, which are too lengthy to reproduce here. But, as an example, the behavioral descriptor for Level 4 is, “Reflects people’s concerns, is easy to talk to; or responds to people’s concerns by altering own behavior in a helpful, responsive manner.”

When this approach is used, the levels form a behaviorally anchored rating scale. Whether this kind of rating scale improves the reliability and validity of measurement is open to question, since behaviorally anchored rating scales have generally proved to be no more reliable and valid than other, simpler rating scales.

Rating scales with three or more levels for each dimension of a competency are generally too cumbersome. There are too many behavioral descriptions to read, when assessing someone on twelve competencies, each with two to four dimensions, with each dimension further broken down into four or more descriptors of different performance levels. It may be more useful to specify only the highest and lowest levels, as in the following example of a rating scale used to assess a competency called “Personal Credibility:”

ResearchReport_Chart_1

Creating behavioral descriptors in the form of evaluative performance levels is most useful when performance appraisal is planned as an immediate application. Once the competencies for the job are identified, the content for the rating scales can be determined by meeting with managers of persons in the target job. Key evaluative aspects for each competency can be discussed and identified.

3. Competency Levels Describing Job Requirements
A third option for descriptors is to create levels describing the extent to which a competency is required in a particular job. This alternative is most useful when the multiple competency models are being created within an organization and the Human Resources staff need a way to distinguish the requirements of the different jobs (e.g., to help people within the unit plan career progression paths). 

This approach was used in developing competency models for a variety of jobs in the commercial sales division of a manufacturing company supplying optical fiber for the telecommunications industry. The first step was to agree on a set of generic competencies, including both technical and non-technical ones, to describe the skill requirements for jobs in the commercial sales division. This was accomplished by reviewing, modifying, and adding to a generic competency dictionary. Next, drawing on the generic competency dictionary and other projects involving competency levels, a set of levels for the competencies was drafted. Drafting the levels required first identifying several key dimensions for each competency and then writing behavioral descriptors of several levels. In this case, the internal Human Resources project team wanted three levels specifying basic, intermediate, and advanced demonstrations of each aspect of each competency. The levels for one competency, “Energizing Others,” are shown below:

ResearchReport_Chart_2

As one moves from the basic level to the intermediate and advanced levels, the competency is demonstrated in larger groups and more challenging situations. The behavioral descriptions often target performance outcomes rather than specific behaviors demonstrated to achieve the outcomes.

In deciding which type of behavioral descriptors to use – behavioral indicators, evaluative performance levels, or levels describing job requirements – the most important consideration is how the model will be used. Sometimes, when a model will be used in multiple ways, more than one set of behavioral descriptors may be created. For example, behavioral indicators might be needed to support development planning, and evaluative performance levels to support performance appraisal. 

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?
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 accomodated?

This blog addresses question #6. Each question is addressed 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.

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Build Better Job Competency Models

 

Many HR executives are satisfied with the competency models they have developed in their organization and about the impact those models have had on their HR practices and the organization as a whole. Many say that they want to improve the models they have created, and some want to trash what they have done and start over, or build models for the first time.

POPULAR MODEL-BUILDING PRACTICES

For those who have already created models, when asked to describe the process they used, many HR professionals say that the models were created by:

  1. Interviewing the CEO, other executives, incumbents of the position being modeled and their managers and asking for their opinion as to the competencies required by employees to carry out the organization’s strategic plan. The focus of the model is often on managers in the organization, and may be referred to as the leadership model.
  2. Collecting the same or similar information in a meeting or series of meetings or focus groups.
  3. Other means, such as card-sorting, surveys, computer selection, off-the shelf models, adaptations of job descriptions, self assessments by employees, etc.
  4. A combination of the above.

Models created using these methods often achieve their intended purpose. Competencies are incorporated into performance management, selection, training, and other HR applications. But, they are “basic” models. They, and the applications that are developed, are based on the opinions of various people about competencies required for specific jobs. They are not determined using a validated, research-based analysis of superior performers. There is a better way, a way that produces a far greater ROI for a model-building project

A BETTER COMPETENCY MODEL – UNBIASED & ACCURATE

I believe that the best methodology for building job competency models is Job Competence Assessment (JCA), developed in the 1970’s by Dr. David McClelland, a pioneer in motivation and competency research and testing at Harvard, and by consultants at McBer and Company.

The modeling process starts with superior performers in a targeted job being identified, and then studied to identify the personal characteristics, skills, and knowledge that they possess that enables them to be superior performers. The methods used to collect data for the study, such as behavioral event interviews and expert panels, are designed to get beneath mere opinions about superior performance and superior performers. Since each organization has its own culture, mission, and ways of doing business, performance in one organization may require competencies that are different than those required in another organization. This is the reason that off-the-shelf models may not be useful.

An adaptation of the JCA methodology is used in Workitect’s consulting practice and is taught in our Building Competency Models workshop. JCA also influences the content of our products, including the Competency Development GuideCompetency Interview Guides, and Competency Dictionary. A detailed description of the JCA methodology is provided in Competence At Work, a book by Spencer & Spencer and on pages 5-7 of Integrating Key Human Resource Processes, a 10-page booklet that describes competencies and how to create an integrated human resource system with applications for selection, succession planning, career pathing, performance management, and training.

Additional Tips On Building Better Models

Changes in organizations and in the world of work over the past 30 years have affected the practice of competency modeling. These changes suggest that seven practical questions be asked and answered by human resource professionals and others who are planning to develop competency models in their organizations. (PDF)

In summary, JCA is an accurate, unbiased approach to predicting job performance and success. It is characterized by its rigorousness and yet its accessibility to managers and HR professionals with little or no background in statistics and competency research, the JCA methodology enables you to match the right people to the right jobs.

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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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How to include Technical Competencies in Competency Models

 

Technical iStock_000017398954MediumYou do not need a technical competencies dictionary in order to include technical competencies in your job competency models.

Identifying the Competencies                                                                                        In Workitect’s model-building methodology, technical competencies are determined through interviews, expert panels, and other methods as described in our “Developing Technical Competencies” blog, and as taught in our Building Competency Models and Creating Technical Competencies workshops. The purchase of a separate technical competency dictionary is not required.

One Method: The Technical Job Requirements Interview
One of the interview methods is the “technical job requirements interview”. This is a one-hour interview that can be used to identify the technical skills and knowledge needed in a single job or in a set of jobs with the same or similar responsibilities (e.g., Sales Representative, Customer Service Representative, Plant Manager, Financial Analyst). The interview can be conducted either with jobholders or managers of jobholders. The interview includes questions about (a) the technical qualifications and experience expected when someone is hired into the job, (b) the most important job responsibilities, and the technical skills and knowledge required to perform each main responsibility.

This interview can be used with superior performing jobholders or managers of jobholders. In either case the interviewees should be persons who have held the role for a minimum of 6 months and preferably at least a year. This interview takes about one hour to conduct. At least two of these interviews should be conducted for each job for which technical skill/knowledge requirements need to be established.

Describing the Competency in a Model
When it is determined that superior performers in a position require a high level of technical expertise in a specific field, the technical competency (or competencies) can be included in the competency model in these possible ways:

  • The identified competency can be listed under the Technical Expertise competency in our dictionary and described by job level and level of proficiency.
  • Include it as a separate competency without levels, with details of the competency described in a Major Responsibilities section. Example: Web Host Manager model.
  • List it in a separate section in the model. Example: page 14 in this Project Manager model.
  • Describe in levels and by major responsibilities totally customized to the organization and industry. Example

Example of Technical Competencies with Levels and Behavioral Descriptions

Microsoft Excel Skill: The ability to use Microsoft Excel to develop plans and analyses, and to prepare reports displaying the results of analyses in tabular and graphical format.

Levels General Descriptions of Levels Behavioral Descriptions of Levels
Basic Proficiency • Has completed a basic training course, if one is available.

• Has begun to apply skill/knowledge.

• Has completed Excel I course.

• Has prepared at least one analysis using Excel, with supervision.

Intermediate Proficiency • Has developed some breadth or depth of knowledge and skills, but has not mastered all areas needed for full proficiency.

• Has significant experience and practice applying knowledge and skills across many relevant areas.

• Has completed at least one Excel course beyond Excel I.

• Has prepared at least 6 analyses and reports using a variety of functionality.

 

Full Proficiency • Fluently applies the skills and knowledge in all applicable tasks performed in his/her organization.

• Has extensive experience and practice applying this skill area across all relevant areas.

• Has provided technical leadership of the full range of applicable tasks performed in his/her organization.

• Has completed at least 4 courses in Excel.

• Fluently uses look-up tables, queries, formulas for financial applications, pictures and drawings, pivot tables and what-if analyses;

• Has led the preparation of complex analyses and reports.

Expert • Has developed training materials and had extensive experience teaching this skill/knowledge area to others.

• Has cutting-edge knowledge of state-of-the-art application of this skill/knowledge area outside of the organization.

• Has developed new tools or technology for this area.

• Has developed and delivered advanced courses in Excl

• Develops applications for Excel, using Visual Basic

• Is recognized and sought out as an Excel expert within the company.

Learn more about Workitect’s consulting services, workshops, and products, including competency dictionary, interview guides, and development guides.

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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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