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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Conduct an On-Site Building Competency Models Workshop

Building Competency Models workshop has been conducted on-site for Google, Air Canada, the U.S. Department of Defense, and other organizations. This workshop, and others, such as the Creating Technical Competencies workshop and Interviewing for Competencies workshop, are effective at training and certifying individuals and small teams to develop job competency models and HR applications. But, each organization has its own particular needs and situation that are difficult to address in a public workshop, even with an hour of individual consulting help that is a part of the BCM program. Onsite programs can be customized to the special needs of an organization. Consulting assistance can be a larger component, technical competencies can be included, or organizational issues addressed.

Other benefits include being able to:

  • Evaluate, and possibly modify, past or existing model building approaches,
  • Focus on strategy, planning, and implementation of specific applications
  • Achieve synergy; prepare implementation team members to collaborate and support each other
  • Ensure consistency in applying model building methodology
  • Obtain cost-savings; training more people with no travel costs

Here are a few examples of on-site workshops and planning sessions that have been conducted by Workitect:

Google:

This 3-day workshop was tailored and conducted for HR and non-HR staff responsible for rolling out a project for Google Fiber that involved the staffing of a new organization to install a fiber-optic high speed internet and TV service in major cities throughout the USA.

ac_white_stkAir Canada:

Our 3-day Building Competency Models workshop was modified to devote more time to plan the implementation of the various competency modeling approaches, and on the development of three high priority HR applications.

braskemBraskem (formerly Sunoco Chemical):

Tailored a 3-day workshop that combined the essentials of both the building competency models and building technical competencies sessions for the HR staff. The workshop also focused on developing a consistent approach for building models throughout the company.

“Workitect demystified the competency development process and gave us the confidence to move forward with our program.”

Kelly Elizardo
Director, Learning & Development

attachmentFranklin Templeton:

We developed and delivered a 2-day working session to review the essential of building competency models with the company’s HRD staff.  The second part of the program was to build expertise in how to explain and sell the benefits of competencies to clients and to facilitate a consistent process for building models throughout the company.

dod20ig20logoU.S. Department of Defense, Inspector General Office:

We delivered two 4-day on-site sessions for the staff who are charged with building models for their organization. The workshops included both building competency models and building technical models.

“This course is simultaneously practical, comprehensive, and intellectually rigorous. By providing the project methodology and modeling methodology, Workitect has given me all I need to succeed. I am ready to go!”

Deane Williams
Program Manager

Review a typical agenda for an on-site workshop.

To schedule an on-site workshop, contact Ed Cripe at 800-870-9490 or ec@workitect.com.

Editor’s Note; This post was originally posted in April, 2015 and has been updated for accuracy and comprehensiveness.

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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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How to Successfully Implement a Competency Model

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Included in Workitect’s Building Competency Models Workshop and applied in our consulting practice to help organizations develop job competency models and HR and talent management applications, including performance management, succession planning, assessment and selection, and training and development.
 
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When companies select CEOs in their late 40s.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Implications for Human Resources 

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

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

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

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The Strategic Importance of a Competency Framework

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

Definitions – a Review of the Major Components

Competencies are…

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

A Job Competency Model is…

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

A Competency Framework is…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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The Benefits of Competency Based HR Applications

Eliminate HR? No problem? Not so fast.

What value is added when human resource applications are built on a foundation of job competency models?

Career Pathing and Retention

Job Competency Models provide detailed maps for existing employees to follow as they plan their careers and self-development. The model for any given job describes the exact competencies necessary to advance to that job, giving aspirants both secure information and incentive to acquire those competencies. That’s the kind of open opportunity that keeps talented and ambitious people working for you.

Recruitment and Selection

Today you may have all your players in place, but every new day brings the possibility of change. Retirement, outside recruitment, personal difficulties:

These and many other events can leave you with holes to fill–and anxiety about the quality of the people you’ll choose to fill them.

By applying Job Competency Models to the promotion and hiring processes, your senior management can greatly simplify their work. Models identify optimal career paths to look for, simplifying the search for candidates. Models also describe in detail the exact competencies employees will need to perform well in their jobs.

Performance Management

Performance assessments underlie decisions about employee rewards and promotions. Unfortunately many employees feel they have little control over the results of their work. You can counter this perception by linking employees’ rewards to their competent performance in employees’ rewards to their competent performance in defined areas. By doing this you empower workers and encourage cooperative, team-building behavior.

Job Competency Modeling provides an excellent base for performance management. As with development and recruitment, employee assessment is based on accurate, detailed information about job performance. To appraise this performance effectively, your managers need:

  • Accurate job-performance standards
  • Clear descriptions of job behaviors required to perform specific job tasks
  • Indicators of both average and superior job competencies

When you use competency models to provide these data, assessments yield useful, practical recommendations. Competecy–based compensation systems also explicitly tie rewards to the development of key competencies. This gives employees greater control over their professional development and offers incentive for excellence to workers and managers on every level.

Training and Development

Competency modeling provides a truly ideal framework for your training programs. Studies show that competency-based training offers a return on investment (ROI) nearly ten times higher than the ROI of traditional training methods. And improvement of your training is central to Workitect’s purpose. We have developed a process entitled the Competency Acquisition Process (CAP) for managing training efforts through increasing levels of competencies. The CAP consists of seven steps, outlined below:

– Identification of Required Competencies: Job Competency Models supply this information, or a simpler, less detailed system can be used for non-critical jobs.

– Assessment: Employees assess their current competencies and compare them to examples of superior performance. Performance assessments by managers are obvious tools as well. Employees and managers then decide which skills to focus on.

– Observation and Study: Employees study examples or models of superior performance. Trainers provide supporting information to aid participants’ comprehension.

– Practice: After acquiring a basic understanding of the concepts involved, participants move to practical, job-related applications of their new knowledge.

– Feedback: Trainers observe participants applying their new knowledge and offer constructive feedback and reinforcement.

– Goal-Setting: Trainers work with employees to set specific goals and action plans for applying new competencies back on the job.

– On-the-Job-Support: Supervisor and peers reinforce and support each individual’s demonstration of newly acquired skills.

When your employees enter this cyclical process of planning their own development and acquiring necessary training, everyone benefits. They take responsibility for their own career paths, their own job security, and you gain an ever more skilled and competent workforce. Improved performance, bonuses, increased productivity, and career advancement spell success for everyone.

Let Us Help You

Workitect has recently helped organizations in Chicago, New York, and beyond to develop competency models, frameworks, and applications for human resources and talent management.  You can learn how to develop your own models and applications by attending our Building Competency Models workshopContact us today to learn more about how we can help you.

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Competency-Based Succession Planning

Businessmen Listening to a Female Ceo Talking in a Meeting RoomFor most employees, the potential to access other, oft-higher positions within an organization is a great incentive to maximizing performance. As an HR professional, it is therefore important that you maintain this motivation and invest in their development through adequate training and coaching. It is equally essential to properly assess employees’ current skills as well as potential for growth.

To do so, there are several “intangibles” to evaluate to determine if an employee can succeed in a new role, typically requiring a new set of competencies. Yet, how does the human resource function attain transparency – the knowledge of what exactly those intangibles are?

In comparing an employee’s performance and potential, a competency model can provide a consistent, objective and valid framework. Once designed, not only such a blueprint benefit your employees by providing them with a “reset button” – that is, a continued opportunity to fulfill career aspirations, but it can also save an organization thousands of dollars in turnover expenses by simply reusing the current employee within a more desired, or better suited, role.

A Measuring Stick for Retaining Optimal Performers

With defining job competencies in succession planning, it’s all about ensuring the right individual is placed in the right job at the right time. However, like many things in life, it is not a perfect science and employees reserve the right to perhaps either change their mind or simply wish to advance differently within an organization.

With the right competency model (i.e., suited to your reality and needs), your organization is equipped with a solid measuring stick for evaluating those previously mentioned employee intangibles, and can therefore help ensure certain desired outcomes, such as:

  • Few people fail
  • One, preferably two, well-suited internal candidates are qualified for each key position
  • Few superior performers leave because of lack of opportunity

The result: A well-prepared, high-performing HR team, an organization that retains optimal performers who already grasp the internal corporate culture, processes and procedures, and employees who are motivated to succeed in making a difference for the company, much thanks to their own individual growth potential.

To learn more, please visit our webpage on Competency-based Career and Succession Planning.

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Using Competencies To Enhance Employee Performance

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

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

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

Following are the key findings of this research effort:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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Collecting Data to Build Competency Models

Introduction

The project plan that is completed in Step 2 (Project Planning) will have included one or more methods of data collection that are appropriate for the project. This blog presents different data collection methods used in building competency models, along with suggestions for implementing each method.

Step 3, Data Collection, includes several general tasks common to most data collection methods.

  1. Developing key communication points about the project, to be shared with persons from whom data will be collected
  2. Identifying a set of generic competencies from which competencies will be selected or adapted
  3. For each data collection method, developing a protocol with standard questions and procedures for recording responses
  4. Training or preparing data collection staff
  5. Selecting participants for each data collection method
  6. Communicating with participants to invite their participation
  7. Scheduling data collection activities
  8. Implementing the data collection method (e.g., holding interviews, resource panel)

General Data Collection Tasks

1. Developing Key Communication Points

In order to get the support of people from whom you are gathering data, you need to be able to explain what you are doing and why. For this purpose it is useful to outline some communication points that you can use in emails, presentations, and conversations with the participants and other project stakeholders. The communication points should include:

  • A description of what you are developing (the competency model and the initial application of the model
  • The name(s) of the project sponsor(s)
  • How the competency model and application will be used in the organization
  • How this will benefit the organization
  • Main project steps and timeline
  • How people were selected to participate
  • What the participation involves for each data collection method
  • Assurances of anonymity and/or confidentiality where applicable

You can draw on these communication points to develop specific communications as needed.

2. Identifying a Set of Generic Competencies

Because so much competency modeling has been done over the past 30 years, it is not necessary to develop a new competency model from scratch. Consultants and researchers who have done extensive competency modeling work have prepared dictionaries of generic, or frequently occurring non-technical competencies. Each competency in the dictionary usually contains a definition and a set of conceptually related behavioral indictors.  For example, the staff of Workitect has developed several developmental resource guides that include generic competencies. Selecting or adapting a set of generic competencies streamlines the process of competency modeling.

To identify a set of generic competencies for a particular project, the project leader selects relevant competencies from a generic competency dictionary and reviews these with the project sponsor and other appropriate staff. The goal is to identify a set of competencies that will encompass all personal characteristics and skills relevant to the jobs under consideration and all other jobs for which will competency models may be built. Sometimes it is desirable to adapt the names of the competencies and the language used in the definitions and behavioral indicators to reflect language and concepts used in the organization.

If it is important to identify technical competencies, you can consult one or more subject matter experts within the organization to help identify and draft a set of technical competencies for use in the competency modeling project. The technical competencies should also be reviewed and revised with the project sponsor and other appropriate staff.

Identifying a set of generic competencies is especially important when the Multiple Jobs Approach is being used. The generic competencies are common building blocks used to construct each competency model. These generic competencies ensure use of a consistent conceptual framework across jobs.

The generic competencies are also useful when using the Single Job Approach and the One Size Fits All Approach. For example, if a resource panel is used as one of the data gathering methods, the panel members may be asked to rate the importance of each of the generic competencies to the job under consideration.

3. Developing a Protocol for Each Data Collection Method

A protocol is a document developed to guide the data collection process. It always includes questions for participants. It may also include instructions for the interviewer or facilitator about points to explain and procedures to use to collect and record data. The purposes of the protocol are to (a) ensure consistent communication about the project, (b) maximize the chances of full, honest participation from participants, (c) ensure that all planned questions are asked (d) ensure consistency when the data gathering method will be used with more than one person or group, and (e) ensure consistency of capturing or recording data by the interviewers or facilitators. Interview guides, resource panel outlines, and survey forms are all examples of data gathering protocols.

4. Training or Preparing Data Collection Staff

If two or more persons will be conducting interviews or facilitating resource panels, it is important that these persons use a consistent process. Most of the methods we will discuss do not require special training for staff who have had experience interviewing and facilitating groups. But it is important to hold a meeting of the interviewers or facilitators and to walk through the planned process and ensure that everyone is clear about the procedures for asking questions and for capturing participants’ responses.

5. Selecting Participants for Each Data Collection Method

The first thing to consider in selecting participants is who will provide the most useful data. Also important is the breadth and credibility of the participant sample taken as a whole. If the job has incumbents in several regions or business units, you should try to select participants from all of these regions or business units.  In addition, ensuring diversity among the incumbents selected is important.

6. Communicating with Participants to Invite Their Participation

Before communicating directly with participants, it is important to communicate first with their management. You may need to prepare a draft communication for the project sponsor to send out for this purpose.

Use the communication points described under Task 1 to prepare appropriate communications for the participants. Most likely, you will use an email for this purpose, but you may also need to prepare and deliver one or more brief presentations about the project.

7. Scheduling Data Collection Activities

This is a necessary step that requires little explanation. If you are conducting interviews, you should allow at least 15 minutes between interviews and, if possible, hold them all in a room booked for that purpose.

8. Implementing the Data Collection Method

This process is taught in Workitect’s Building Competency Models workshop.

Specific implementation procedures will be discussed in subsequent blogs on each data collection method.

Q – Which step is the most difficult one to carry out?

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