Tailor job competency models to your organization’s vision, mission, and shared values

 

OFF-THE-SHELF COMPETENCY MODELS ARE NOT EFFECTIVE

We often get requests from organizations wanting to acquire off-the-shelf generic competency models. Can a generic off-the-shelf competency model be effective?  Don’t jobs with the same title require pretty much the same competencies in all organizations? Yes and No. I have yet to build a model for a sales job that didn’t include “influencing others” or “persuasive communications” as a competency. But, top performing sales people in one organization may have a team selling approach requiring the “fostering teamwork” competency, while it not being important in a different organization. And how is it possible for someone who is successful in one company to go to another company in what appears to be an identical position, and not be successful?

The job duties of a position may differ by industry or business strategy, thus requiring different competencies. Each organization has its own culture and “way of doing business”. Even a small difference could be critical.

Tailored models also permit an organization to imbed certain competencies in each model that reflect the vision, mission and shared values of the organization.

 

Workitect consultants only build models that are tailored to an organization, and teach internal consultants how to build their own tailored models in our Building Competency Models workshop, next scheduled for November 7-9.

Learn more about Workitect’s model building methodology and competency dictionary that is used to facilitate the building of models.

Our 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 the 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 building the model, such as behavioral event interviews and expert panels, are designed to get beneath mere opinions about superior performance and superior performers. Therefore, subjective data derived through group discussion, voting, or card-sorting are not components of our process.

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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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Are You Including the Right Competencies In Your HRIS?

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

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

INCLUDING COMPETENCIES IN A HRIS

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

HOW TO DEVELOP A “TAILORED” MODEL

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

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

THE RIGHT COMPETENCIES TO INCLUDE IN A HRIS

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

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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.

_____________________________________________________________________________

 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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The Best of Best Practices for Competency Modeling

Competency modeling has been taking place for more than four decades. In our consulting practice, our consultants have encountered companies using a number of different approaches to building models. Some approaches have been very effective, reliable, and valid and some ineffective, unreliable, and not valid. Unfortunately, these practices have produced negative results and low expectations for competency-based approaches to human resources and talent management. People contemplating the building of models or improving existing models should first educate themselves about what have been found to be effective practices.

Listed below are recommendations for three of the best references for successful competency modeling. The first two are referenced by SHRM in the development of the SHRM Competency Model. The third is a book that describes the original research for competency modeling. Each reflects Workitect’s methodology for building job competency models. It is taught in Workitect’s Building Competency Models certification workshop.

Doing Competencies Well: Best Practices in Competency Modeling. (2011) Campion et al. Personnel Psychology, 64

This article presents a set of best practices for competency modeling based on the experiences and lessons learned from the major perspectives on this topic (including applied, academic, and professional). Competency models are defined, and their key advantages are explained. Then, the many uses of competency models are described. The bulk of the article is a set of 20 best practices divided into 3 areas: analyzing competency information, organizing and presenting competency information, and using competency information. The best practices are described and explained, practice advice is provided, and then the best practices are illustrated with numerous practical examples. Finally, how competency modeling differs from and complements job analysis is explained throughout. http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/j.1744-6570.2010.01207.x/full

The Practice of Competency Modeling
(2000) Shippmann et al. Personnel Psychology. 53

The purpose of this article is to define and explain a trend that has caused a great deal of confusion among HR researchers, practitioners, and consumers of HR-related services: competency modeling. The Job Analysis and Competency Modeling Task Force, a work group jointly sponsored by the Professional Practice Committee and the Scientific Affairs Committee of the Society For Industrial and Organizational Psychology, concluded a 2-year investigation into the antecedents of competency modeling and an examination of the current range of practice. Competency modeling is compared and contrasted to job analysis using a conceptual framework (reflected in a 10-dimension Level of Rigor Scale) that practitioners and researchers may use to guide future work efforts, and which could be used as a basis for developing standards for practice. The strengths and weaknesses of both competency modeling and job analysis are identified and, where appropriate, recommendations are made for leveraging strengths in one camp to shore-up weaknesses in the other. http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/j.1744-6570.2000.tb00220.x/full

Competence At Work: Models for Superior Performance
(1993) Spencer & Spencer, Pub. John Wiley & Sons

Competence at Work provides a brief history of the competency movement in industrial/organizational psychology and goes on to define “competency”. It provides analysis of 650 jobs, based on 20 years of research using the McClelland/McBer job competence assessment (JCA) methodology, an accurate and unbiased approach to predicting job performance and success. The book includes generic job models for entrepreneurs, technical professionals, salespeople, service workers and corporate managers. It defines JCA and describes in detail how to conduct JCA studies. It provides practical how-to instructions on how to adapt the methodology to the needs of an organization. Readers learn how to conduct the Behavioral Event Interview, a crucial technique involving detailed questions that enable an interviewer to accurately evaluate an individual’s performance potential in job-related situations. Describes how to analyze the accumulated data to develop competency models. Suggests future directions and uses for competency research. http://www.wiley.com/WileyCDA/WileyTitle/productCd-047154809X.html

In future blogs, we will examine some of the twenty best practices listed in the first article (Doing Competencies Well) and describe ways to implement that practice, with examples from organizations that have done it well. 

What practices, if any, are missing from the list of 20 best practices?

Which ones are the most important?

Edward Cripe is the President of Workitect, the leader in the development of job competency models and competency-based talent management and HR applications. Contact Ed at ec@workitect.com

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