Build or Buy a Competency Dictionary?

If you have decided to build competency models and/or include competencies in your HR applications, you will need to choose a method to use in building the models. Whatever method you choose, it will be much easier and faster to be able to draw on a list of specific competencies to include in each model. This list is also known as a competency “dictionary” or “library”. The alternative is to create the competencies as you develop each model. In this blog, we review three options for acquiring or developing a generic competency dictionary.

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Competencies are:
Competencies are the skills and behaviors that outstanding performers demonstrate more often, more skillfully, and with better results than do average performers.
This is an example of a competency:
Empowering Others
Definition: 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.

Behavioral Indicators (specific ways of demonstrating the competency in the job)

  1. Gives people latitude to make decisions in their own sphere of work
  2. Is able to let others make decisions and take charge
  3. Encourages individuals and groups to set their own goals, consistent with business goals
  4. Expresses confidence in the ability of others to be successful
  5. Encourages groups to resolve problems on their own; avoids prescribing a solution

A generic competency dictionary would contain a list of competencies, each described similar to the Empowering Others example shown above. 

Competency Models
A model is a group of related competencies that together describe successful performance for a particular job or role, in a particular organization. Most models contain 8-15 competencies. Here are some examples.

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Options for Acquiring a Competency Dictionary/Library

1. DEVELOP YOUR OWN COMPETENCY DICTIONARY
You can develop your own models and a dictionary that includes using a list of specific competencies that you have developed on your own, possibly drawing on research on existing libraries.

Advantages:

  • Total flexibility on what competencies to select and how to describe them.
  • Out-of-pocket cost less than purchasing from most outside dictionary developers/licensors.
  • Will be tailored to your organization and use your organization’s language. More relevant to the organization’s unique environment.
  • Employees may be more committed to a competency model if they have been deeply involved in its development, and development of the dictionary.

Disadvantages:

  • Lack of research, testing, practical use, and validity.
  • Difficulty in clearly describing behavioral indicators of each competency.
  • May inadvertently reference copyrighted competency dictionaries and violate legal copyrights, incurring dollar penalties and negative publicity for the company. May violate ethics values and rules.
  • High total costs when factoring in amount of staff time and pay of developers.

2. PURCHASE A COMPETENCY DICTIONARY
From a large consulting firm such as Korn Ferry, HRSG, et al.

Advantages:

  • Capitalizes on the experience gained in other competency modeling projects, either in other companies or elsewhere in the same organization.
  • Incorporates research across multiple industries and organizations.
  • Comprehensive, large number of competencies (60 +)
  • Software that may integrate with other HRIS.
  • Efficiency – ensures consistency of competency language across an organization and that all potentially relevant competencies are considered
  • Can provide an excellent starting point in development of an organization’s competency model.
  • Large number of sales representatives to service accounts.

Disadvantages:

  • High initial cost plus high annual renewal fees.
  • Difficult and expensive to customize.
  • Seen by users as too complex or academic, not “real-world”, and difficult to understand and use.
  • Support from vendor to create models and applications, or train organization to build own models is expensive or non-existent.
  • Not tailored to the organization and use the organization’s language.
  • May not be effectively used to create competency models and included in applications.
  • Organizational members may not be as committed to a competency model if they have not been deeply involved in its development.

3. PURCHASE WORKITECT COMPETENCY DICTIONARY

Advantages:

  • Low one-time fee. No annual renewal fees.
  • Capitalizes on the experience gained in other competency modeling projects, either in other companies or elsewhere in the same organization.
  • Incorporates research across multiple industries and organizations. Used by more than 100 organizations of all sizes and industries.
  • Methodology for the building of competency models and development of the dictionary 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 consultants at McBer and Company.
  • Simpler, manageable 35 foundational (leadership, management, and professional) competencies, with definition and behavioral indicators by three role levels (Executive/Director- Manager/Supervisor-Professional/Specialist) and three levels of proficiency (Basic-Skilled-Expert)
  • Practical, tested, flexible (not software), easy to customize and tailor, e.g. modify title, add competencies.
  • Can be integrated into any HRMS
  • Efficiency – ensures consistency of competency language across an organization and that all potentially relevant competencies are considered
  • Can provide an excellent starting point in development of an organization’s competency model,
  • Instruction on how to use dictionary to build models with the help of a dictionary.
    Quick-Start Competency-Modeling instructional program plus 12 model templates, and the Building Competency Models 3-day certification workshop
  • A low-cost integrated talent management package is available. It includes Competency Interview Guides, Competency Development Guides, and 360° feedback assessments for the same 35 competencies.

 Disadvantages

  • Workitect is a small firm with no regional sales representatives. Support is provided by four senior consultants.
  • Integration with an organization’s HRMS (built internally or by vendor) requires IT assistance.
  • May require extra effort to “sell” Workitect and our approach because our name may not be as familiar to executives as are larger consulting firms that also provide executive search services.

Call 800-870-9490 or email edward.cripe@workitect.com for more information.

You are invited to join a LinkedIn group that I manage, Competency-Based Talent Management https://www.linkedin.com/groups/3714316 Our members would welcome your involvement in the group.

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Use this Tool to Interview and Select Candidates with People Skills

 

People Skills = Interpersonal Effectiveness 
The ability to notice, interpret, and anticipate others’ concerns and feelings, and to communicate this awareness empathetically to others.  Behavioral indicators:

  1. Understands the interests and important concerns of others
  2. Notices and accurately interprets what others are feeling, based on their choice of words, tone of voice, expressions, and other nonverbal behavior
  3. Anticipates how others will react to a situation
  4. Listens attentively to people’s ideas and concerns
  5. Understands both the strengths and weaknesses of others
  6. Understands the unspoken meaning in a situation
  7. Says or does things to address others’ concerns
  8. Finds non-threatening ways to approach others about sensitive issues
  9. Makes others feel comfortable by responding in ways that convey interest in what they have to say

Importance of this Competency
Interpersonal Effectiveness is a fundamental interpersonal skill. It has two key aspects: (1) noticing what people are feeling, especially when they are not stating this explicitly and (2) showing by your responses to others that you care about their concerns. Interpersonal Effectiveness is essential in influencing, selling, team leadership, and people management. If you are aware of other people’s concerns, interests, and feelings, you are in a position to address them and, in so doing, to gain people’s support for what you would like to accomplish.

Conduct Structured Behavioral-Event Interviews
Include competencies in this important talent management application

Competency Interview Guides provide an easy-to-follow format for structured, behavioral-based interviews. Each Guide, with specific questions for each of 35 competencies, makes it easy for the hiring manager or interviewer to collect behavioral examples about a candidate’s relevant work experiences and accomplishments. The benefits of using these guides include:

Selecting the best candidate. Provides interviewers with questions that measure key competencies that drive superior performance.

Flexibility. Use a guide for each competency in a competency model. Use for individual, team, or panel interviews. Coordinate and centralize interview records in a HRIS.

Customizable. Edit, add, or delete competencies

Systematic. Each question targets a specific competency and the behaviors that indicate the presence of the competency in a person.

Clear Standards. Evaluations and scoring of interview responses provide detailed job-related documentation, helping to reduce potential bias.

Effective. Different interviewers identify strengths and improvement opportunities for each candidate, prioritize the most important criteria, and make an objective decision.

Complete. Includes instruction on how to conduct the interview, and forms to collect and analyze interview responses.

Download the Interview Guide for
Interpersonal Effectiveness
User’s Guide
Summary & Scoring Form

More tools to improve the talent assessment and acquisition process
COMPETENCY INTERVIEW GUIDES
One for Each of These 35 Competencies

Make these guides available to all HR and non-HR interviewers in your organization with a license that includes a Competency Dictionary license. Contact me for details and cost. Call 800-870-9490 or email ec@workitect.com
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SINGLE COPY PURCHASE

Use a Competency Development Resource Guide to develop Interpersonal Effectiveness.

You are invited to join a LinkedIn group that I manage, Competency-Based Talent Management https://www.linkedin.com/groups/3714316 Our members would welcome your involvement in the group.

Sign up to receive the Workitect E-Newsletter. Get valuable news, insights and practical knowledge sent to you every month. Workitect Blueprints keeps you informed about key issues facing today’s organizations—from producing superior leaders to creating superior organizations. Sign up here!

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The Format and Content of Customized Competency Models

In a previous blog, we discussed the value of tailoring job competency models to an organization’s vision, mission, and shared values.
– The job duties of a position may differ by industry or business strategy, thus requiring different competencies for similar jobs.
– Tailored models permit an organization to imbed certain competencies in each model that reflect the vision, mission and shared values of the organization.

Companies that build their own models and external consultants who build models use a variety of formats. Effective models are written in a way to be easily understood by all users, in language that is used by the organization.

Most models developed by Workitect consultants include these sections:

  1. Overview of the Competencies by Cluster
  2. Definition and Behavioral Indicators of each Competency
  3. Overview of Most Important Responsibilities
  4. Major Responsibilities and Performance Measures

Options

  • Links between Responsibilities and Competencies
  • Technical and Knowledge Requirements
  • Future Scan – Potential Changes Affecting the Job in the Future
  • Recommendations on ensuring that incumbents have each competency, through selection, development, and/or training

This is an example of an Overview of the Competencies by Cluster

EXAMPLES of CUSTOMIZED COMPETENCY MODELS

Executive Team Model

Account Representatives Model

 

Web Host Managers Model

OTHER JOBS

Project Manager

Sales Consultant

Controller (Finance)

Branch Manager

RELATED WORKITECT BLOGS

Criteria for an Effective Competency Model

Using Resource / Expert Panels to Build Competency Models

Conducting Job Analysis Interviews

Behavioral Descriptors – Options for Job Competency Models

Build a Basic Competency Model Instruction

Read more about competencies and competency models. Contact Workitect for help in building competency models tailored to an organization.

You are invited to join a LinkedIn group that I manage, Competency-Based Talent Management https://www.linkedin.com/groups/3714316 Our members would welcome your involvement in the group.

Sign up to receive the Workitect E-Newsletter. Get valuable news, insights and practical knowledge sent to you every month. Workitect Blueprints keeps you informed about key issues facing today’s organizations—from producing superior leaders to creating superior organizations. Sign up here!

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The Right Way to Plan a Competency Modeling Project

Project Planning is Step 2 of Workitect’s process for building a job
competency models.

The key steps in planning a project to develop competency models and competency-base applications are:

  • Conducting a stakeholder analysis, identifying the people in the organization who have the most at stake in the development and implementation of competency models, and determining how and when they should be involved.
  • Preparing a draft project plan
  • Holding initial project planning meeting with project team to:
    • Review and revise draft project plan
    • Develop detailed plan with timeline and assigned responsibilities
    • Identify and agree on participants needed for each data collection activity
  • Creating and implementing a communication plan for people directly involved in the project and for all employees.

WORKSHEET FOR PLANNING A COMPETENCY MODELING PROJECT
This is a helpful checklist of key questions and issues related to the key steps that need to be addressed when launching a model-building project. It includes these sections.

  1. Scope of the Project
  2. Organizational Context
  3. Selecting the Approach to Model Building
  4. Building Support for the Project
  5. Deciding on Data Sources
  6. Staffing the Model Building Project
  7. Envisioning the Data Analysis and Model Building
  8. Reviewing and Revising the Model

In working through this worksheet, you may find that some questions are difficult to answer without a better understanding of areas such as the methodology for data gathering, data analysis and model building, and developing HR applications based on competency models. This information is covered in steps 3-6 of the six-step process that is used in our consulting practice and taught in our Building Competency Models workshop. It can also be found in the Resources & Support section of the Workitect website. Additional self-instruction material is included in Workitect’s quick start Building a Basic Model program that is available to licensees of the Workitect Competency Dictionary

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Possible ways to address several of these questions and issues are described below:

STAKEHOLDER ANALYSIS
After conceptualizing an approach to the project, a good first step in planning to think systematically about the stakeholders who will be affected by the competency-modeling project that you are considering. Possible stakeholders include:

  • Job incumbents in the jobs for which competency models will be built
  • Managers of job incumbents
  • Upper management (two or more levels above the job holders)
  • HR leaders who work with job incumbents or their managers
  • Internal or external consultants who work with job incumbents or their managers
  • The senior leader of HR
  • Internal customers of job incumbents
  • Informal leaders who can influence any of the above groups

In thinking about stakeholders, try to answer these questions:

  • Apart from this project, what are the most important needs, agendas and concerns of this individual or group?
  • How can you learn more about the most important needs, agendas or concerns of this individual or group?
  • How can this project address a need, agenda, or concern of this individual or group?
  • What will be the likely response of this individual or group to the project you are contemplating: support, resistance, or neutrality?
  • For each stakeholder, what can you do to build support or reduce resistance?

STRUCTURE OF THE PROJECT PLAN
After conceptualizing an approach to the project, the next step is to develop a project plan, which should include a set of tasks and a timeline. The format of the finished plan might have the following structure.

The project tasks are broken down into five groups. Project Launch activities might include:

  • a meeting with the project sponsor(s)
  • a meeting of project team to review and refine the project plan
  • training or preparing project team members to conduct interviews, resource panels and focus groups and to perform individual data analysis tasks

Data Gathering activities include:

  • Gathering and reviewing company documents relevant to the project, (e.g., existing job descriptions, organization charts, mission and values statements, performance appraisal forms, the organization’s strategic plan)
  • Identifying participants for each of the main data gathering activities (e.g., interviews, resource panel, focus groups)
  • Developing protocols for each data gathering activity (e.g., interview guide, questions to pose to resource panel and focus groups
  • Conducting each data gathering activity

Data Analysis and Model Building activities include:

  • Transcribing interviewers’ notes or tapes and notes on flip charts from resource panels and focus group
  • Individually analyzing interview notes or transcripts from each data gathering
  • Meeting to review and compare the results of individual
  • Preparing a draft competency model
  • Reviewing and revising the draft competency model based on feedback from the sponsor and other stakeholders

Application Development activities include:

  • Designing the application
  • Developing the tools and materials to support the application
  • Preparing a training or educational session on use of the application
  • Implementing the application

Communications activities include:

  • Preparing a draft email message to be sent by the organization’s senior leader explaining the purpose and benefits of the project to job incumbents and managers of job incumbents in jobs for which competency models will be built
  • Meetings with managers of job incumbents to explain the project
  • Preparing communications inviting participation from individuals selected for data gathering activities
  • Regular meetings with the project sponsor(s) to provide updates on project activities
  • Preparing periodic email communications to key stakeholders regarding progress with the project
  • Developing a presentation of the competency model(s) and application
  • Delivering the presentation to key stakeholder groups, such as upper management, managers of the job incumbents, and the job incumbents

COMMUNICATING WITH STAKEHOLDERS AND EMPLOYEES
When launching and implementing a competency-modeling project, the leaders of the project have to clearly and comprehensively communicate with two audiences:

1.  All employees, and
2. The managers and employees who will be directly involved in the project

       ALL EMPLOYEES
When any new project is undertaken within an organization, particularly one initiated by the human resources department, people have a natural tendency to get suspicious, concerned, or just curious. Employees who understand the project, it’s scope, each person’s involvement in it, and it’s potential benefits will help turn suspicion into support, and will go a long way toward making the project successful.

If your organization has access to an internal or external employee communications expert, use that expertise to help you plan and implement an effective communications effort.

Here a few points that can be covered in communicating the project. Ideally, the initial announcement should come from the senior sponsor and include:

  • The business need for creating this model at this time.
  • The name of the senior sponsor for the project.
  • Names of people on the project team.
  • How will the model be used, the application, and when will it be implemented.
  • Who is involved in creating the model- particularly jobholders and managers of job-holders.
  • Who to contact with questions

      PEOPLE DIRECTLY INVOLVED
In addition to receiving the same communications provided to all employees, the people involved in various aspects of the project should receive clear and complete information about their specific role.

      When informing people who will be on a resource panel or will be interviewed:

  • The communications can be from senior sponsor or a senior person on project team.
  • Reiterate purpose for the project.
  • Explain why they were selected.
  • Explain how they are to participate, either on the panel or in an interview.
  • Attach key questions they will be asked (for them to consider before their session).
  • Stress that their individual comments will be held confidential; only a summary of all comments will be published.
  • Inform them of the person they can contact with questions. 

     When distributing the model or application:

  • Communications should be from senior sponsor.
  • Summarize the history of the project to this point.
  • List the people who participated in creating the model/application.
  • Explain the implementation plan and timeline.
  • Inform them of the person they can contact with questions.

In summary, do not underestimate the importance of this step. A competency-based human resource system, implemented properly, should have a very positive impact on employees’ job satisfaction. It makes it more likely that people will be assessed fairly and accurately, and be afforded opportunities based on objective criteria (a picture of what superior performers really do that makes them superior performers). Poor communications of a model-building project leads to a diminishing of this positive effect and can actually lead to a negative result.

Practical Questions for HR Professionals Who are Building Competency Models

When planning the development of a competency model or models, there are practical
considerations that affect the design of the project, the format and content of the competency model, and the success of the project’s implementation. The following seven questions may be useful to Human Resouces professionals responsible for planning and implementation:
1. What HR application should be included in the initial model building project?
2. What will the key users of the model need from it?
3. How should key stakeholders be involved?
4. How extensive should the data collection be?
5. How should research be balanced with intuitive approaches?
6. What format of behavioral descriptors will best suit the application?
7. How can additional, future competency models be accommodated? 
Contact us at 800-870-9490 or ec@workitect.com if you have questions or want additional information.
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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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Benefits of an Integrated Competency Based HR System

ATTEND WORKITECT’S BUILDING COMPETENCY MODELS CERTIFICATION  WORKSHOP ON NOVEMBER 7-9 AND LEARN HOW TO CREATE TAILORED COMPETENCY MODELS AND AN INTEGRATED COMPETENCY-BASED HR SYSTEM.

There are many bottom-line benefits of a competency-based HR system. Employee motivation leads to increased productivity and higher profits.  But the real values of an integrated human resource system are more complex–and more powerful.  Focusing on competencies will renew your company.  You’ll uncover startling energies and synergies that can give you the responsive, competitive edge you need.  Here’s what you can expect:

Enhanced Management:  With corporate goals clearly defined and a system of employee rewards in place that supports those goals, managers feel empowered.  They communicate more effectively with subordinates and with each other. Work proceeds more efficiently.  Quality measures go up.

Motivated and Committed Employees:  By involving employees in building your new competency-based system, you  ensure their early engagement with it.  And because the new system rewards employees for overcoming real, daily challenges, workers develop a sense of appreciation and commitment.  Less time is lost to wasteful activities.  Employees put creative energy into completing their tasks.

Increased Organization Effectiveness:  As all levels of your organization align with company goals, overall effectiveness increases dramatically.  And the focus on adding and refining key competencies augments this increase continuously.  Individual employees become more effective and, as a whole, your company becomes more dynamic, more competent.

Easier Cultural Change and Organizational Improvement: 
A competency-based, integrated human resource system supports your company’s strategic direction.  Necessary change becomes simpler when both management and employee goals are defined in terms of the company’s success.  With little incentive to cling to older methods or attitudes, both management and employees participate more willingly when change is necessary.

Increased Resilience to Market Pressures:  Your company responds to outside stresses not as threats but as challenges.  At every level, the goal is not individual survival but group adaptation.  By linking employee well-being to corporate health, you tap the creativity and motivation you need to stay competitive.

Cost Savings and Increased Productivity:  An integrated human resource system cuts redundancy and waste.  It gives overlapping and competing departments incentive to cooperate and coordinate their work.  Individual employees see that they benefit by finding more efficient, effective ways to do their work.  Less time and material are wasted.  Productivity goes up.

Read a white paper on Integrating HR & Talent Management Processes.
Learn more about creating an integrated competency system for your organization.
Contact Workitect for information about our services and products.

Editor’s Note: This post was originally published in September, 2012 and has been updated for accuracy and comprehensiveness.

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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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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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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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