Choose from Three Types of Job Competency Models

When planning a competency model-building project, three distinctive types of models need to be considered:

  1.   Single Job Competency Model
  2.   One-Size-Fits-All Model
  3.   Multiple Jobs Models

A project usually focuses on one of these approaches, although it is possible to use a combination of approaches within one organization. The following is an overview and summary of the three types. Links to full descriptions are provided at the end of each section.

  1. SINGLE JOB COMPETENCY MODEL
  • Used for an important, focused set of jobs, e.g.,
    • Sales Rep, Project Manager, Customer Service Rep
  • Requires rigorous data collection, including:
    • Resource panel
    • Key Event Interviews
    • Data from Other Sources
  • The completed model can aid development of training materials

Typical Features

  • Highly specific behavioral descriptors that describe what superior performers do in specific tasks and situations and with whom
  • Detailed linking of competencies to job responsibilities and specific tasks

When to Use

  • Opportunity to gain competitive advantage by improving productivity of people in a key job through selection or training
  • Potential productivity gains justify time and expense of this approach
  • Need to use model as basis for a training curriculum
  • There are several superior performers in the job now
  • Job is expected to continue for at least 3 years

Example: Project Manager job

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  1. ONE-SIZE-FITS-ALL MODEL
  • Targets a broad set of jobs (e.g., all managerial jobs)
  • Model often includes competencies selected for alignment with company’s values and strategic direction
  • Competencies and behaviors are described in general terms that are not job specific

When to Use

  • When line management or HR wants to promote alignment with vision, values, and strategy
  • When simple solutions are preferred
  • When HR wants to quickly implement something that will have broad impact
  • When a training and development program based on the competency model will serve a large group (e.g., mid-level managers)

Example: Executives

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  1. MULTIPLE MODELS FOR MULTIPLE JOBS
  • Identifies a set of “building block” competencies for constructing all job models
  • Each competency model uses some of the building block competencies
  • Often includes technical skills and knowledge
  • Often uses competency levels
  • Competency models may include:
    • A core set of competencies for all employees
    • A set of competencies for everyone in a job family (e.g., Finance)
    • A set of job-specific competencies
  • Competency models are large (16 or more competencies)

       Why have Competency Levels

  • Levels facilitate comparison of jobs —
    A competency may be required at a basic level in one job and at an advanced level in another
  • Levels facilitate assessment of individuals as part of performance appraisal/management
  • Levels allow comparison of individual profiles with job profiles (e.g., for internal selection)

When to Use the Multiple Jobs Approach

  • When competency models are desired for many jobs in one organizational unit
  • When technical skill and knowledge are important
  • When the jobs in an organization are highly varied, and different sets of competencies are required for different jobs
  • When there is a need to match individual skill sets to assignments, for selection, career planning and succession planning
  • When technology or HR software is available

Read more >>>

Blog: Advantages of One-Size-Fits-All and Multiple Jobs Approaches

THE BOTTOM-LINE ABOUT COMPETENCY MODELS
Planning the development of competency models is an exercise in practical problem solving. There are alternative methods for collecting and analyzing data, for deciding what to include in the model, and for formatting the model and its behavioral descriptors. The choices among the alternatives should depend on goals of key stakeholders, the needs of key users, the budget and time available to develop the model, and the preferred styles of the model building team.

What makes a good competency model? The model must meet the needs of its key users. Each competency should be conceptually coherent and different from the other competencies. The behavioral descriptors should be clearly and crisply worded. The model should also be parsimonious; including too many competencies and behavioral descriptors makes a model ponderous to read and use. Finally, a good model is often supplemented with components that will add value for an intended HR application.

Contact Workitect if you want help in building competency models for your organization, or attend our Building Competency Models workshop and learn how to model your own models.

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Are Competency Models Too Complex?

Many organizations are questioning the value of their existing competency models. Over the past few years, multiple clients and prospective clients have expressed their concerns or outright dissatisfaction with their models. Here are comments from several organizations:

“Our current competency models are so long and complex that managers and   employees see them as just another HR program that is unusable and out-of-touch with    the way we do business here.”  Director of Talent Management, High Tech Company

“Competency models have earned such a bad reputation that we are looking for an alternate name to call them.”  CHRO of Consumer Goods Company

“Too academic and theoretical even for us.” Chief Administrative Officer for Educational Institution

Based on detailed feedback from people in these and other organizations, there appear to be several causes of this dissatisfaction and lack of success.

  • Models and applications are not driven by the business strategy and focused on producing superior organizational results. Thus, there is little or no support by top management.
  • When not done correctly,building models with multiple levels of competencies can increase the size of a complete model to 25 – 50 competencies. Adding in multiple levels of proficiencies for each competency can then create textbook-sized models. 
  • People don’t like working with large models that are difficult to comprehend and use, especially when it comes to applying them to selection, development, career planning, and performance management.
  • Models created with a generic competency dictionary created by external consultants often do not capture the unique language and culture of the organization, and fail to resonate with employees. These dictionaries are often large and complex and integrated into a human resource information system, making it difficult and expensive to customize.
  • Too much emphasis on research and validity often leads to comprehensive models that are not practical to implement.

A BETTER WAY – KEEP IT SIMPLE

Organizations have avoided these problems by creating concise competency models that are tailored for each organization and contain information that is most helpful to each employee. These models include:

Short descriptions of each job or job role, in simple non-theoretical language that is easy for all employees and executives to understand and apply. Each description includes:

1) Job Responsibilities, Tasks, & Performance Measures

2) Critical Abilities and Attributes (aka competencies) needed to perform the tasks in a successful or superior manner.

3) Compilation of these competencies (typically 8-14), including competencies required to support the company’s mission, values, & strategy; with behavioral indicators for each competency (observable, measurable ways to demonstrate the competency)

Example – Project Manager position


Blogs

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

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

Build Better Job Competency Models

Obtaining A Customizable Competency Dictionary

Learn how to build competency models the right way (workshop)


Workitect WebsiteCompetency Models
Competency Management System

References: Competency Models Are Failing. Why?

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Step 5 of Model Building Process – Completing the Competency Model(s)

Previous blogs have described steps 1 through 4 in Workitect’s competency modeling process. Step 4, Data Collection, was covered in these blogs:

Collecting Data to Build Competency Models
Secondary Data Collection Methods
Conducting Behavioral Event Interviews
Using Resource/Expert Panels to Build Competency Models                                     General Approach for Analyzing Data to Build a Competency Model

STEP 5 – BUILDING THE MODEL (S)

After you have coded and analyzed data gathered from resource panels, interviews, and other methods, you are ready to build (write and complete) the competency model. If you are constructing one competency model, the process includes the following steps:

  1. Select a set of 8 to 15 competencies to include in the competency model.
  2. Select or create behavioral indicators for each competency.
  3. Identify 3 or 4 competency clusters and group the competencies within these clusters.
  4. Create a definition for each competency.
  5. Prepare a draft competency model.
  6. Have the sponsor and key stakeholders review the draft competency model.
  7. Revise the draft model to accommodate reasonable suggestions from the sponsor and stakeholders.

The first three of these steps are usually done at a meeting of the analysts. Each of the steps will be described in detail in the sections that follow.

1. Select a Set of 8 to 15 Competencies to Include in the Competency Model

Why Should a Competency Model Have 8 to 15 Competencies

For most jobs, at least eight competencies are needed to capture the skills and personal qualities that contribute to superior performance. The more complex the job, the more competencies can be identified. But when there are more than 15 competencies, a competency model becomes difficult to use. For example, a competency assessment tool assessing 16 competencies with five items per competency would have 80 items – perhaps too many to rate in a reasonable amount of time. If the users of the competency model have a low tolerance for complexity, the number of competencies should be at the low end of the 8 to 15 range. If the users have a higher tolerance for complexity (for example, among engineers or scientists), the number of competencies can be at the high end of the same range.

Ways to Limit the Number of Competencies

For complex jobs, such as middle and senior management positions, it is often possible to identify 20 or more competencies that contribute to superior performance. But to ensure that the competency model is useful, it is necessary to limit the number of competencies. One way to do this is to remove and set aside competencies that would also be present in “feeder” jobs for the position under study. For example, when building a competency model for middle managers of engineers, you might remove Analytical Thinking and Managing Performance. Analytical Thinking would be needed in lower level engineering positions, and Managing Performance would be needed in first-level engineering management positions. Competencies removed in this way could either be eliminated completely from the competency model, or could be separately acknowledged as part of a set of “baseline” competencies for the position. It may be useful to identify and build applications for a set of baseline competencies, if many of the job-holders lack these competencies.

A second way to limit the number of competencies is to eliminate ones that appear less important in comparison to the others. For example, you could eliminate generic competencies that received fewer votes from the Resource Panel. If you conducted and coded Structured Event Interviews, the less important competencies include both ones occurring with low frequency among superior performers and ones occurring with similar frequency among outstanding performers and persons judged to be somewhat less effective.

A third way to limit the number of competencies is to combines ones that are conceptually related. For example, Interpersonal Awareness and Building Collaborative Relationships are conceptually related, because it usually takes some Interpersonal Awareness to build relationships. When combining competencies, you can retain one of the competency names while incorporating a few conceptually related behavioral indicators from the other
competency. The following pairs of competencies have conceptual similarities.

2. Select or Create Behavioral Indicators for Each Competency

If a generic competency framework has been used, you can review the behavioral indicators for a competency and either use the entire set or select the behaviors which seem appropriate for the job being studied. Behavioral indicators are specific ways of demonstrating the competency in the job. If you want to create new or additional behavioral indicators, be sure that each one clearly describes a behavior that would clearly facilitate effective performance. Behavioral indicators should not describe people’s perceptions of the job-holder (e.g., “is widely respected”). Start each behavioral indicator with a verb. This is an example of behavioral indicators for the competency of Empowering Others:

Definition of Empowering Others: Conveying confidence in employees’ ability to be successful, especially at challenging new tasks; delegating significant responsibility and authority; allowing employees freedom to decide how they will accomplish their goals and resolve issues.
Behavioral Indicators 

  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

If you conducted and analyzed Structured Event Interviews you may want to create some new behavioral indicators based on behaviors that did not fit any of the existing behavioral indicators in the generic competency framework.

3. Identify 3 or 4 competency clusters and group the competencies within these clusters

Clustering the competencies helps people remember the competencies. It is difficult to read and understand a list of 12 competencies but easier to deal with three clusters of four competencies each. The cluster names should be conceptually clear, as in this example:4. Create a definition for each competency

If you are using a generic competency framework, you can use the definitions from it, but you will need to create definitions for new competencies. You may want to revise the wording of the generic competencies, so that the definitions have high impact and use the language of the organization. This is especially true if you are developing a one-size-fits-all model that will be widely used in the organization.

Creating competency definitions is best done by persons who have reviewed the evidence from the data analysis and who are skilled at written communication. Here is an example of a competency definition that was created with the assistance of a professional writer.

Resilience: Complexity and change test the individual and the organization. When things don’t go as planned, leaders must stay focused and productive to bring others along with them.

5. Prepare a Draft Competency Model

 Since key stakeholders in the model (e.g., job holders and their managers) will need to “buy in” to the competency model, it is useful to create a draft version of the competency model and have them review it. Here is a possible format for the draft competency model.

Page 1:     The competency clusters with the competency names under each cluster
Page 2:     The competencies with definitions, grouped by cluster
Page 3:     Competency 1 followed by its definition and behavioral indicators.
Page 3.1   Competency 2 followed by its definition and behavioral indicators
etc.

6. Have the sponsor and key stakeholders review the draft competency model.

Review the draft competency model with the project’s sponsor first. If the sponsor approves, send the draft competency model to be reviewed by some of the people participated as Resource Panel members or interviewees. It may be desirable to reconvene the Resource Panel or to hold a conference call with panel members after they have had a chance to review the competency model.

7. Revise the draft model to accommodate reasonable suggestions from the sponsor and stakeholders.

The stakeholders often provide valuable input. For example, they may want to include a competency that you had eliminated because you thought it was less important than the ones you included. Try to accommodate reasonable suggestions, but resist making changes that violate the principles explained in this workbook.a

ADDITIONAL STEPS TO BE COVERED IN FUTURE BLOGS

A. Special situations in building competency models:
– Working with Competency Levels
– Working within a framework of Core Competencies
B. Prepare version(s) of the model(s) to be used in application(s)

_____________________________________________________________________________

Source/Reference:

Step 5 of Workitect’s six-step model building process as taught in the Building Competency Models certification workshop and practiced by Workitect consultants in the development of job competency models. Instruction on developing competency models is also contained in the Quick-Start Competency Modeling program that is included with Competency Dictionary licenses.

Simplify the Development of Competency Models.
Use Customizable Tools to Simplify Implementation
Purchase Separately or as a Set 

Utilize a comprehensive set of tools developed by Workitect. Each component is written in language that “makes sense” to people at all levels in an organization. You’ll save, time and money and have the confidence that your applications are based on tested, research-based content.

Each tool is derived from the 35 competencies in Workitect’s Competency Dictionary, and the competency models that are created. The Competency Development Guide and eDeveloper™ focus on ways to develop each of the 35 competencies. The Competency Interview Guides describe an interview process and interview questions for each competency. The 360° survey instrument provides assessment feedback for each competency.

©2018, WORKITECT, INC., ALL RIGHTS RESERVED
No part of this work may be copied or transferred to any other expression or form without written permission or a license Workitect, Inc. – 800.870-9490 – consult@workitect.com

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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

_____________________________________________________________________________

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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Are You Including the Right Competencies In Your HRIS?

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

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

INCLUDING COMPETENCIES IN A HRIS

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

HOW TO DEVELOP A “TAILORED” MODEL

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

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

THE RIGHT COMPETENCIES TO INCLUDE IN A HRIS

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

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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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Use an Expert Panel to Build a Basic Competency Model

Using Expert Panels, Focus Groups and Job Analysis Interviews. 

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

_____________________________________________________________________________

 The McClelland/McBer Model-Building Methodology

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

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

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

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

The program consists of these instructional materials:

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

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

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

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

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

     Resource Materials (separate documents and forms)

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

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

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

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

Contact Workitect for additional information about this program.

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

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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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