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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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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Develop the HR Competency of “Promoting the Organization’s Culture & Values”

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VALUES AND CULTURE PROMOTION is one of eighteen competencies in Workitect’s competency model for human resources professionals working in a global environment. It is one of five competencies in the HR LEADERSHIP COMPETENCIES cluster. Resources for developing the competency are listed in the 166-page Resource Guide for Developing Global HR Competencies.

Definition: Effectively communicates core values and behavioural standards; monitors and facilitates internal communications; disseminates necessary information to appropriate parties; develops the organization’s image within local community.

An employee demonstrating this competency:

     Communicating the firm’s culture and values

  • Articulates the firm’s culture, values and goals and inspires others with that vision.
  • Utilizes HR team and senior employees to establish role models for others behaviours and attitudes.
  • Assures the development of clear and focused letters, newsletters, memos, etc. to inform employees of programmes and organisational objectives
  • Monitors internal communications to ensure that the firm’s goals, mission and values are represented.

    Internal Communications

  • Manages internal communications to help employees understand their roles and responsibilities in meeting and exceeding the expectations of customers, owners and employees.
  • Educates management and employees to understand their role and responsibility for internal communications.
  • Analyses, categorizes and circulates information to others.
  • Assures that information is communicated at a level appropriate for the audience.
  • Oversees that all employee have access to relevant company and customer communications.

    Community Relations

  • Works with management team to promote the organisation as a reputable and respectful employer in the local community
  • Pro-actively develops relationships with organisations in the local community to provide humanitarian assistance when needed.

Importance of This Competency

This competency, the first strategic competency of five under the category of Human Resources Leadership, revolves around the organisation’s values and culture, and places the Human Resources function clearly at the helm in promoting these success characteristics.

General Considerations in Developing This Competency

The most obvious way to begin to develop this competency is to ‘walk the talk’ and demonstrate our company’s values and culture in your day-to-day interactions. If you are seen to demonstrate these characteristics yourself, then you will be able to start to practice the skills and other behaviours that will help you to communicate and educate others in their importance, value and application – you will be seen as a credible source of information on these issues.

Practicing This Competency

    As a Team Member

  • Look for ways to incorporate values and culture characteristics in your daily interactions, and be consistent in their implementation.
  • Look for ways to reinforce these characteristics in other communication pieces (e.g. employee newsletters, notice boards, etc.).
  • Review other internal communication documents (e.g. memos and letters) to make sure that the message is consistent with these characteristics.
  • Look for ways to make information more accessible and relevant to employees.
  • Provide feedback and examples to your team leader of situations in which the culture and value characteristics are being demonstrated (or not demonstrated).
  • Look for humanitarian opportunities in the local community for the company and employees to connect with and support.

    As Team Leader

  • Make sure that you demonstrate the value and culture characteristics with your own team (ask your team for feedback) – practice what you preach!
  • Recognize and encourage behaviors in your team members that demonstrate these characteristics.
  • Identify opportunities to coach other managers and supervisors in ‘walking the talk’ – coach and provide feedback where necessary.
  • Review internal correspondence and communication materials to make sure that all written materials also ‘walk the talk’.
  • Look for additional methods of increasing communications within the firm, encouraging ‘two-way’ communications and open dialogues that move beyond curt email messages.
  • Encourage relationships with local organizations and other activities and behaviors that demonstrate value and culture characteristics within the context of the larger, local community.

Obtaining Feedback

  • After sending out a significant report or memo, contact people and ask for feedback on it. Try to find out how many people read it and remembered it and what they thought of it.
  • If you use voice mail or e-mail as part of your work, ask co-workers about how effectively you use these communication vehicles and what you can do to improve your effectiveness in communicating.
  • Ask colleagues for specific feedback on the degree to which they believe you effectively model organization’s values and culture.

Learning from Experts

  • Observe the communication behavior of a skilled leader. Look at the frequency, style, and format of this person’s communications. If possible, ask this person about his/her thinking in planning particular communications.
  • Before sending out an important communication, ask for suggestions from someone strong in communication skills.

Coaching Suggestions for Managers

  • If you are coaching someone who is trying to develop this competency, you can:
  • Model this competency by sharing information and by crafting clear, concise messages addressing the needs of the audience.
  • Provide assignments that involve drafting memos, reports, or other communications. Provide constructive feedback on the communications.
  • Help this person think through the communication vehicles and messages needed by a department or team of which he/she is a part.
  • Assign this person to a team or task force headed by someone who demonstrates a high level of attention to communication.

Sample Development Goals

  • By June 12, I will make recommendations to the Planning Team on ways we should communicate the new operational plan to the Division.
  • By July 1, I will distribute a memo to all department heads summarizing the work of the Waste Reduction Team. A week later, I will call six of the department heads and ask for feedback on this memo.

 External resources (books, online and self-study courses) for developing this competencies. Roadmaps for developing seventeen additional competencies are contained in Workitect’s Resource Guide for Developing Competencies, a companion to Workitect’s Competency Development Guide.                                   

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Competency Modeling – Research or Intuitive Approach

 

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Research Approach

Research approaches to competency model building emphasize systematic data collection and analysis, and a priori decision rules about how much evidence is sufficient to warrant inclusion of competencies and behaviors in the model. Research approaches also emphasize identifying coherent constructs of personal characteristics that are conceptually and empirically separate from each other. The earliest competency models built by McClelland and his colleagues used a research approach. Traditional job analysis, as practiced by industrial psychologists, also uses a research approach.

The principal advantage of a research approach is the validity of the resulting competency model. A research approach can accurately identify the behaviors currently demonstrated by superior performers and the beliefs by jobholders and other subject matter experts about what is currently important to superior performance. Because of its validity, a competency model developed using a research approach can withstand potential legal challenges.

Intuitive Approach

But research approaches are not as useful for identifying what will become important in the future, especially when only a few individuals in an organization have a clear strategic vision. Nor will a research approach generate a competency model that is linked to a leader’s vision of where he or she wants to take the organization.

Intuitive approaches rely heavily on the judgment and insights of the model building team. There may be little, if any, data collection and analysis, and the results of the analysis do not determine what is included in the competency model. Instead, the model building team generates ideas about what to include in the model and, after discussion, reaches consensus on the content of the model. Intuitive approaches are driven more by values than by empirical results.

The main advantage of intuitive approaches is that they can produce competency models that include all of the elements that the model building team and upper management believe are important in the model. Intuitive approaches are also less expensive, since they do not require collecting and analyzing data.

The chief disadvantage of intuitive approaches is that they risk creating competency models that describe behavior appropriate for a desired future state, rather than for the current reality. In addition, the lack of methodological rigor in constructing the models makes them vulnerable to legal challenges.

Balancing Research & Intuitive Approaches

Few competency models today are constructed with a pure research approach or with a pure intuitive approach. Most HR staffs want to collect and analyze data as part of the model building process. But they also want the freedom and flexibility to add competencies and behaviors to the model to ensure that it reflects the organization’s values and strategic direction, and to demonstrate responsiveness to the concerns of key stakeholders. Finding the right balance between research and intuitive approaches depends on the values of the internal HR team, the preferences of external consultants (if they are involved), and the extent to which the team feels a need to be responsive to the desires of upper management and other stakeholders in the model building process.

One method for balancing research and intuitive approaches is to use a research approach to develop a draft competency model and then to review the model with key stakeholders. If one or more of the key stakeholders urges a change in the model, the internal HR team may decide to make the change (e.g., by adding a competency to ensure that the model is more closely aligned with the chief executive’s values).

This method was used in building a competency model for managers of consultants in an information services consulting firm. When we reviewed the initial competency model with one of the senior executives of this firm, he suggested that we add a competency called “Managing Through Processes.” The firm had grown rapidly through acquisitions and by hiring staff from many other organizations, and it needed to integrate and control this diverse talent. The consulting staff was being taught to manage projects using a few standard methodologies. The addition of the proposed competency, which had not been evident in critical interviews with outstanding performers, supported the organization’s expansion strategy.

Another hybrid method involves using an intuitive approach to develop a prototype competency model and then collecting data and revising the prototype model based on analysis of the data. This methodology, developed by a colleague, Susan Ennis, was used in developing a leadership competency model for a large financial services company. The CEO of this company wanted to change the company’s culture to ensure continued competitiveness in a faster-moving marketplace. In the future, this organization would need to develop products and services more quickly, to form more business partnerships with other organizations, and to demonstrate more teamwork and open communication.

The external consultants, working with a team of internal HR staff, used an intuitive approach to develop a prototype model that reflected the values and behaviors that leaders would need in order to implement the desired cultural changes. The intuitive approach involved reading speeches to clarify the CEO’s values and strategic direction and helping the HR staff to articulate their own views of the current leaders’ strengths and weaknesses. We integrated this information with our knowledge of generic competencies for senior leaders to produce an initial draft version of the competency model. The behavioral indicators for this model were mostly drawn from a set of generic competencies that we had distilled from our experience creating many other leadership competency models. Then, over a one-week period, we held a series of telephone conference calls with an HR team to revise and refine the prototype model. Since the prototype model had to be shared with the CEO and other senior leaders, it was critical that the model be credible. In addition, the HR team believed that the model should have no more than ten competencies.

After using a purely intuitive approach to develop the prototype model, we shifted to research to validate and refine the model, interviewing 12 outstanding senior managers. The HR staff selected a sample of high-performing senior managers who were also thought to demonstrate at least two of the competencies in the prototype model. Since one purpose of the interviews was to clarify the behaviors by which the prototype competencies were demonstrated, some of the interview questions were designed to elicit critical events involving demonstration of specific competencies that the interviewee was thought to possess. For example, if a senior manager was thought to possess the competency “Influence Skill,” she might be asked to describe a situation in which she needed to get another person or group to provide resources or support for an initiative.

Another purpose of the interviews was to reveal competencies and behaviors that were contributing to effectiveness but were not part of the prototype competency model. For this purpose we developed several questions to elicit more general critical events. For example, one prompt was, “Tell me about a time when you believe you demonstrated leadership within the work unit that you manage.”

We tape recorded and transcribed the 12 interviews. We analyzed them by coding each interview for each competency and behavioral indicator in the prototype competency model, and for a set of additional generic competencies not included in the prototype. The coding enabled us to tabulate the frequency of demonstration of all of these competencies.

The results of the coding analysis led us to recommend some changes in the prototype model, including the addition of one competency: “Motivating and Energizing People.” The HR team, after much discussion, decided to include the new competency, even though this meant having one more competency than the desired ten in the final model.

This topic is included in Key Questions to Answer before Building Competency Models Adapted From “Practical Questions for HR Professionals Who Are Building Competency Models—a Consultant’s Experience” By Dr. Richard S. Mansfield

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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Research for Building Competency Models

iStock_000003902282_DoubleOne of the main concerns we hear about implementing competency models within an organization pertains to their reliability and validity; that is, how accurate and precise are these models in terms of effectiveness? The fact is that it all depends on how they are developed, as well as how they will be used: performance management, recruiting, career development, etc.

Building competency models requires that a certain level of data collection and analysis be conducted collectively by HR and senior management. After all, how else can an organization begin to understand the behaviors displayed by what is considered ‘superior performers’ if proper research is omitted? But just how is validity achieved? How much evidence is considered ‘sufficient’?

A sufficient research approach

Research approaches to competency model building emphasize a systematic data collection and analysis. However, it must remain of great priority in deciding specifically how much evidence is considered sufficient for the inclusion of competencies in the model.

Developing a competency model is a multi-step process. Just as specific steps are required to finalize and apply a model, another set of steps must be in place to determine validity, thus, sufficiency, namely by:

  • Using a broad panel of incumbents (focus groups, employees, surveys, etc.) to test the model in order to increase the probability that all competencies have been captured and make sense to both those doing the job and those determining objectives for these jobs.
  • Analyzing the qualitative and quantitative data collected to determine if there is concrete correlation between the competencies identified and the objectives of the model.

Fact checking and validation

Aside from withstanding any potential legal challenges, the main advantage of a research approach is in fact achieving validity. A fact-checked research approach can identify behaviors currently demonstrated by superior performers, as well as employees’ beliefs regarding what is important to superior performance.

HR professionals can be taught how to collect, code, and analyze the data needed to build an effective model using resource panels, job analysis interviews and structured event interviews. They can learn how to:

  • Plan a competency-modeling project
  • Build models for multiple jobs
  • Use resource panels to collect data
  • Conduct structured key event interviews
  • Analyze and code interview transcripts, and write job models
  • Develop HR applications for talent management, assessment, selection, succession planning, development and performance management, and implement competency-based systems to produce bottom-line results

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Click here to learn more about a Building Competency Models workshop, or access a library for additional information about building competency models for your organization. The next public workshop is scheduled for July 18-20, 2017 in Washington, DC. The workshop can also be conducted on-site for organizations.

If you are contemplating the building of models, or have already built models, what kind of rigorous methodology research has been

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What about Performance Management?

Performance is the true test of survival in the marketplace. High-performing employees contribute superior performance, giving your organization its main competitive advantage. You may have a world-class system in place to create those superior performers, but it’s only as good as the management and organizational objectives behind it.

Ask yourself: Are you so focused on revenue generation or another particular aspect of the business that you forget to nurture your best ambassadors – your employees?

 A system for sustainable growth

It’s important for any organization to have systems in place to identify, recognize, reward, and retain their top performers in order to achieve sustainable growth. An effective performance management system should encourage collaboration, teamwork and communication to identify:

  • Job performance standards and measures
  • Job behaviors required in accomplishing specific job tasks and meeting job responsibilities
  • Competencies demonstrated by average and superior performers in key jobs

CirclesGraphicResults equal rewards

The results of the performance management data you collect can be used for decisions concerning rewards, bonuses and other employee incentives. For example, competency and job behavior data are typically used for decisions about development. So, if an employee is appraised as lacking group leadership skills, they might be asked to attend a course in order to further develop this skill. And… skill-based compensation systems explicitly tie rewards to skills developed. That spells ‘Motivation’!

Invest in your best

Effective performance appraisals essentially turn on the proper use of each type of data given the system objectives and what degree of control employees have over their performance. Having a solid performance management system in place is truly an investment in the people who help drive revenue for your business – and their extra effort can differentiate good organizations from great ones.

To learn more on how we can help, please visit our website.

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The Trainer’s Role in Developing Competencies

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. Workitect has 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.

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Seven step to improving an individual’s performance.

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.

Workitect’s Competency Development Guide includes details on how you can use this process to develop thirty-five competencies.

To learn more about how you can implement the CAP process within your organization, please contact us via e-mail or phone.

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Looking for great talent? Competencies may be your best ally

The primary mission of HR professionals focuses on four distinct objectives:

  • Finding great talent
  • Minimizing the learning curve to productivity ratio
  • Maximizing employee engagement
  • Reducing voluntary turnover (employee retention)

These objectives can only be successfully achieved once your team understands how your company rates for each of these metrics. Each week, we’ll briefly explore these objectives to help you in your HR functions.

Finding great talent: The importance of a “job blueprint”

Job blueprints, or competency models, are designed to identify specific characteristics that may either cause or predict outstanding job performance. These competencies include:

  • Personal characteristics
  • Motives
  • Behavioral skills
  • Knowledge and technical skills
  • Self-concept (attitude, values & self-image)

Essentially, the more advanced the job requirements, the more important the competencies are in determining the right candidates.

Not having a solid competency model in place when sourcing new candidates can be disastrous for productivity, as well as significantly hamper corporate profits and growth:

  1. Cost – a wrong placement decision is costly, directly affecting your company’s bottom line.
  2. Productivity – a loss in productivity occurring while a new candidate is sought out, or a lack of productivity due to poor candidate selection.
  3. Culture – a heavier workload (due to an inadequate candidate or lack of personnel) may burden the team and affect your corporate culture, both if the placement decision does not work out and while a replacement candidate is sourced.
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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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Build Models With Input From Job-Holders

six steps horizontal 3SECONDARY DATA COLLECTION METHODS

Observation of Job Holders

Observation of job holders can be helpful in developing competency models, if a limited duration of observation will permit observing highly effective behaviors. For most professional and managerial jobs this is not the case. Job holders demonstrate their most effective behaviors infrequently, and the presence of an observer may affect the behavior of the job holder and others being observed concurrently. In addition, much significant behavior may involve thought processes that are not directly observable.

But if effective behaviors occur frequently and can be seen or heard, observation may be a useful tool to include when building a competency model. For example, it may be possible to listen in on customer service representatives as they respond to calls from customers. Observation may also be useful when studying jobs that involve physical skill or dexterity.

When using observation, plan to observe several superior performing job holders for a set period of time (e.g., 2 hours each). Take notes on what you see and hear. If possible, set aside 15 minutes to discuss your observations with the person you observed. You can compare your observations with a set of generic competencies and behavioral indicators, like the Checklist for Noting Themes in Structured Interviews that appears in the Building Competency Models workshop workbook.

Surveys of Job Holders

A survey of job holders can be useful if you wish to validate a set of job tasks identified in Job Analysis Interviews or in a Resource Panel. On the survey, job holders can be asked to rate how often they demonstrate each task, as in the following rating scale.

1

2

3

4

Rarely or Never

Occasionally:

Often

Very Often

Less than once per month

Once a month to once a week

Two to five times a week

Six or more times a week

Job holders can also be asked to rate how important each task is to effective job performance, as in the following rating scale:

1

2

3

4

Unimportant

Of Some Importance

Important

Very Important

By tabulating the ratings, you can calculate average frequency and importance ratings for each task.

It is not as useful to have job holders rate competencies and behavioral indicators. If, as is typically the case, the competencies have been defined to reflect superior performance, in an average sample of job holders, only a minority will actually demonstrate any competency or behavioral indicator. Yet because of the general human tendency to evaluate oneself highly, most job holders will rate themselves highly on most behaviors.

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