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
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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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Getting Specific with Behavioral Descriptors

Book - OpenIf you’ve ever used or researched competency models, you probably know that their value is essentially measured with regard to their behavioral descriptors. In other words, the more accurate the descriptors to the roles, functions, objectives and culture, the more value the model has for the organization.

Although these indicators can certainly be – and often times are – adapted from a generic competency dictionary, it’s important to remember that when a job role requires specific abilities, then behavioral descriptors must also be highly customized for the model to have any bearing to the recruiting, retention, management and success processes.

Identifying a superior performer within a specific role

Behavioral descriptors indicate patterns considered to be contributory to superior performance in a given job role. As such, a competency’s definition represents an ability or trait, while the behavioral descriptor indicates the way in which that ability or trait is demonstrated.

For example, let’s say your organization is looking to fill a sales role. In that environment, the competency named “interpersonal awareness” is therefore of great relevance. This is defined as having the ability to notice, interpret, and address customer concerns and feelings. Behavioral indicators for this type of competency that make the most hypothetical sense would include:

  • Thorough understanding of the interests and concerns of the customer
  • Ability to anticipate how the customer will react to a given situation
  • Pro-activity to address customer concerns before they are even voiced (at which point, you have most often reached a critical moment in the customer’s “non-buying” decision)

In light of this example, you can now see why it’s important to equip your HR or managerial professionals with these precise descriptors in order to successfully recruit, evaluate or even train the right candidate for this sales role using competency models, as a generic competency – in our example, “interpersonal awareness” – may not speak as clearly of superior performance to a recruiter or manager as would our bullet points defining this competency.

Turning generic into specific

Whenever a competency is used, particularly when sourcing from a generic document, it is generally defined. But the work of developing competencies doesn’t stop there. These behavioral descriptors must be customized with respect to the role, the organization and the industry.

It is of course very important for an organization that is new to competency modeling to begin the process of developing competency models and indicators with the use of a competency dictionary license. Yet, it’s as important – if not more – to then know how to tailor this information to your needs in order to generate considerable value from such an approach.

As a starting point to companies who are new to competency modeling, Workitect offers a dictionary containing a full list of competency and descriptor options, but we also provide support and training to help you further customize this information accordingly. Throughout the year, we hold a variety of workshops around the country to bring you the tools and educational material required to make truly valuable use of your dictionary. Companies in cost-control mode or those requiring a high level of customization may also be interested in our on-site consulting and training sessions. Our consultants travel to your office, at your convenience, to teach your teams all that they need to know to build, implement, and assess their competency models and talent management processes.

Click here if you’re interested to learn more about our workshops, or here to read more about our competency dictionary.

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