The Right Way to Plan a Competency Modeling Project

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

In thinking about stakeholders, try to answer these questions:

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

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

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

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

Data Gathering activities include:

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

Data Analysis and Model Building activities include:

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

Application Development activities include:

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

Communications activities include:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

     When distributing the model or application:

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

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

Practical Questions for HR Professionals Who are Building Competency Models

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

 A  COMPETENCY MODEL FOR YOUR JOB CAN PROVIDE THESE BENEFITS FOR YOU IN YOUR ORGANIZATION:

A. Clear Job Requirements:

What do you need to do to be successful at work?

Competencies define the skills needed for your current or desired job, creating alignment around expectations at work. You can use them to assess your own skills, increase your self-awareness, and identify how to improve your performance in your current job or your candidacy for another job.

B. Objective Performance Reviews:

Do you have a clearly defined process to track skill progression?

Competencies, and the associated behavioral indicators, add objectivity to the performance management process by defining what and how well you are performing certain skills. It is not based on your manager’s subjective conclusions about your performance and competencies. You can track your own performance and document how well you performed against a specific competency, revealing how well you demonstrated the desired behavioral indicators.

C. Evaluation of Career Potential:

Do you know how to gain career mobility at your organization?

Your potential for other positions in your organization has probably already been evaluated, based on the skills, knowledge, and “intangibles” you are perceived to possess. Wouldn’t you like transparency, to know what those intangibles are, so that you can reset your career aspirations or develop the competencies you need in order to advance? In comparing people’s performance and potential, a competency model provides a consistent, objective and valid framework for the evaluation. If none exists, you don’t know what is being used as a measuring stick, e.g. loyalty to boss, tenure, etc.

D. Clear and Concise Feedback:

Is there a common language to communicate development opportunities?

Competencies allow people to give you clearer, more concise and understandable feedback about your strengths and development opportunities. They also offer a common language to give and receive feedback, used to set goals. Would you prefer to hear “you need to work on your selling skills” or “you would be more effective in selling your ideas if you more actively sought to understand others’ needs and concerns before trying to promote your ideas”.

E. Achievable Development Plans:

Do you have a realistic, behavioral specific plan for success?

A competency model helps you to build your development plan by pointing to specific behaviors in which you are successful and where you should improve. You can then benchmark progress and create future action plans, leveraging your strengths to address developmental needs. In the previous example, the focus for development would be to “better identify others’ needs and how your ideas will assist them”. This is a better and more achievable development objective than to simply “improve your influencing skills”.

DEVELOPING COMPETENCY GOALS

A process for developing competency goals is described below. While you may begin this process at the development planning meeting with your manager, afterwards you will need to do some additional individual planning and follow-up with your manager.

For each competency you have targeted for development:

1. Read the section on this competency, in Part II “Specific Suggestions for Developing Each Competency.” of Workitect’s Competency Development Guide.

2. Prepare a list of 6-15 goals you would like to include in your development plan for this competency. Each goal should specify some specific activity that you will complete by a specific date. Sample competency development goals are provided for each competency.

3. Draw on, but do not necessarily limit yourself to, the specific suggestions provided for developing this competency.

4. Include some goals that involve practicing the behaviors of the competency in relatively safe situations, where mistakes will not have significant consequences.

5. Include some goals that involve practicing the behaviors of the competency in situations that will help you achieve your job or business goals.

6. Create a list of goals for this competency that is both realistic and challenging. Assume that you will focus your developments on one competency for a 3-4 month period and that you will spend 3-6 hours per week, in addition to your regular job responsibilities, working on your competency goals.

7. Review a draft list of your goals for this competency with your manager and get his/her input.

8. Enter the competency development goals on a copy of the Competency Development Planning Form.

9. Repeat this process for the two other competencies you have targeted for development.

More information and tips can be found in our Competency Development Guide.

Discussion Question: If you now have a competency model for your position, what has it meant for you personally? Positive, negative, or no effect?

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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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Add Competencies to Performance Reviews

 

Performance Review

Many organizations are becoming more interested in management and appraisal of competence – the “how” of performance. They are seeking more qualitative assessment, oriented to the future and focused on development. A competency approach brings a different perspective to performance management. Performance is viewed in terms of the process employees use to achieve their job results. It combines planning, management, and appraisal of both performance results and competency behaviors. It assesses what employees accomplished and how they did it (with personal characteristics they possess that predict superior performance in present jobs, or in future jobs).

Performance and competence are balanced in a competency-based performance management system. In a line job, achievement of performance results may be weighted 90 percent and demonstration of competency behaviors only 10 percent. At the other extreme, an appraisal form for a service position might weight competence 100 percent. Performance objectives for a staff job might give equal weight to results and demonstration of competency behaviors.

In traditional systems, achievement of performance results is quantified, past oriented, and tied to unit goals, based on a short term, and used to make compensation decisions. Competency appraisal is more qualitative, longer range, future oriented, and used for employee devel¬opment and career path planning.

PERFORMANCE (“pay for results”)
50%-90%
• “What” of performance
• Quantitative: Tied to unit goals
• Short time frame: One year, past
performance
• Reward oriented

COMPETENCIES (“pay for skill”)
10%-50%
• “How” of performance
• More qualitative
• Longer time frame: Future
performance in present and future jobs
• Development (behavior change)
oriented

Steps in Developing a Competency-Based System

1. Identify competencies required for superior performance in present or future jobs (competencies needed to implement a desired strategic change).

2. Train managers and employees in performance management (e.g., coaching for performance improvement). Performance coaching involves:

a. Agreement between manager and employee on his or her “actual” levels of competence. An employee’s competency levels are most easily assessed with “360 degree” ratings by colleagues “all around” the employee (i.e., by his or her boss, and a sample of peers, subordi¬nates, and customers who know the employee’s work well). The average of these ratings is compared with the employee’s self-assessment of his or her competencies.

b. The employee identifying the “desired” levels of competence he or she wants to develop to meet his or her own performance or career advancement goals.

c. Agreement on a “contract” between employee and manager on
• The employee’s competency development goals and the action steps he or she will     take to attain them
• The help and support the manager will give the employee

This coaching approach uses the principles of “self-directed change” theory, which holds that adults change only when they:

• Feel it is in their own best interests to do so
• Feel dissatisfied with their existing situation or level of performance (“actual”)
• Are clear about a “desired” situation or level of performance
• Are clear about action steps they can take to move from the actual to the desired situation or level of performance

Competency-based performance management systems shift the emphasis of appraisal from organization results achieved to employee behaviors and competencies demonstrated. Diagnosis and problem solving to deal with poor performance takes this form: “If results are not at the desired level, give higher priority to these job tasks, demonstrate these behaviors more often, and develop these competencies” (i.e., model the task priorities, behaviors, and competency levels of the best performers in the job).

The addition of competencies to performance management systems has important implications for management. Managers explicitly commit themselves to provide employees with formal training, coaching, and other competency development activities during the performance period.

The most important factor in implementing a competency-based performance management system is training managers to provide this coaching and developmental assistance. (Studies of effective performance management systems consistently find training to be an important input.) Employee training also helps employees understand how the system works, what their role is, how to assess themselves, and how to contract for competency development activities with their managers. Read about organizational issues.  A Blueprint for Competency-Based Performance Management

Also:
Make Performance Management a Positive Experience

Workitect’s consulting services  for creating competency models and competency-based talent management applications

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The Strategic Importance of a Competency Framework

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

Definitions – a Review of the Major Components

Competencies are…

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

A Job Competency Model is…

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

A Competency Framework is…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Competency-based performance management to reward top performers

Rewarding top performers through a behavior-based performance management processCountless books and articles have been written on the subject of performance management and performance appraisal. “New and improved” systems have been launched in most companies and yet, the same cynicism and dissatisfaction exists, particularly at the employee and lower management levels.

It is a constant battle for employers to find and properly implement an efficient performance management process by which valuable and accurate data can be used to assess the true ROI and potential ROI of your workforce.

Even here, at Workitect, we have discussed the topic of performance management in several articles, supporting companies in their search for bar raisers and top performers. But what is top performance anyway? How can a manager identify and properly reward those individuals who exemplify the qualities and attributes needed to continuously increase a company’s efficiency, competitiveness and future chances of success?

Debunking the myths of performance in the workplace

One of the most common myths of performance management is that the best employees should get all the glory. After all, they not only deliver, but rewarding them gives an incentive to others.

While this strategy may help you retain your best employees, it can also create an unbalanced work environment, which could in turn lead to demotivation and high turnover rates. Remember that approximately ¾ of your workforce is made up of “average” performers; those very workers who, day in and day out, do what is asked of them. They may not exceed expectations, but they nevertheless are committed to doing what is required, and doing it well.

Neglecting to nurture or develop these individuals’ competencies so that they may derive satisfaction from their work and achieve their career objectives is the equivalent of setting roadblocks to your company’s success. A top performer may possess the will or drive to excel, but an average performer still delivers on the work that matters.

What’s more, by recognizing good performers, rather than just the top 5%, you are investing in their potential and motive to improve their performance. Your average workers may be average today, but it is your responsibility to give them the tools they need to become bar raisers.

Let’s however note that this doesn’t mean you should reward poor performers, nor that you should reward good and top performers the same. There is an important distinction to be made, but more on that later.

Step by step: understanding performance management as a behavioral tool

Performance management is much more than periodic performance appraisals; it aligns individual professional development to overall corporate results. In an interview given to Performance Management Magazine, the father of performance management, Dr. Aubrey C. Daniels, describes performance management as:

A scientifically based, data-oriented management system [consisting] of three primary elements – measurement, feedback and positive reinforcement. Although each of these three elements can exist alone, all three must be present [implemented systematically and in sequence] before you have true Performance Management.

In this definition, measurement refers to collected and anticipated performance data; feedback is the discussion between employer and employee on said data; and positive reinforcement is the reward or recognition of improvement in performance.

By Dr. Daniels’ definition, successful performance management takes a page out of behavioral theories, confirming the power of positive reinforcement in behavior modification. He indeed suggests that to promote a culture of top performers, companies must avoid two unfortunately all-too-common practices:

  1. Generalized rewards, such as an extra week of vacation every 5 years of employment or an x% raise every year, as this sort of incentive program rewards good, bad and top performers equally. “The good ones will conclude that it doesn’t pay to perform well, and the poor ones will conclude that it does pay to perform poorly. After a while, the extra week will just be taken for granted anyway.”
  2. Negative reinforcement – “No one works up to his/her potential unless he or she is positively motivated. For example, if you threaten an employee with being fired, chances are he’ll do just enough to keep his job, but no more. And, if jobs are plentiful, he might pull a Johnny Paycheck and tell you to “take this job and shove it.”

So what should a performance manager do to promote performance? Reward good performers with something (tangible or not) that is meaningful to them and 100% contingent on improved performance. Once again, understanding your employees’ motives to performance is a crucial tool in adapting your performance management reward system to yield the right results. Employers should make good use of the feedback session with their employees to understand their drive in the workplace – not just to read and explain the comments on the performance appraisal review.

Remember that not everyone aspires to become a leader. Success is subjective, and assuming that you can motivate your team simply by dangling the reward or promotion carrot is ludicrous. To succeed, a person must not only want to, but he/she must also be motivated to invest in developing the competencies that matter. In other words, if you want top performers, you need to know your team and give them the tools to succeed in accordance with their individual motives.

Measurement: It all goes (down or up)hill from here!

If finding the right reward is important to the success of your performance management system, identifying the right behaviors is even more crucial to the process. If you have difficulty recognizing good or outstanding performance from average or poor performance, even the best performance management system cannot be sustained efficiently.

Some organizations have found that managers should be evaluating employee behaviors and competencies demonstrated, in addition to organizational results achieved. Just as acquired skills and education cannot predict a person’s performance in a given job role, vague or subjective measurement points cannot support a healthy and future-oriented performance management process.

In an article published last month, we mentioned that one of the most common flaws of performance appraisals is that they focus on evaluating workers’ quantitative output, rather than their competencies and potential for outstanding performance. By focusing on purely quantitative results achieved (e.g., number of sales, revenue generated, etc.), you are overlooking several other elements of performance (e.g., leadership, team work, availability, etc) that may be impacting your business more than you think.

Many organizations shy away from a competency-based performance management system simply because it is easier to hold employees accountable for hitting or missing quantitative targets, rather than attempting to measure their qualitative input and planning for their future development. In a way, companies primarily use performance management to determine compensation and meet certain professional development targets, rather than using them as strategies to create bar raisers.

There are several guidelines for effective performance management, but the human factor is critical. Once you lose sight of the fact that you are dealing with individuals, each of whom have personal goals, interests, motives and competencies, evolving over time, no matter how brilliant your performance management process, you are bound to continue experiencing the same results.

For more information on performance management, browse our free resources or contact us for personalized advice!

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Looking ahead to a year of professional development

150x150_logo-no_textAs 2013 comes to a close, most companies have begun assessing their strengths, weaknesses and opportunities for growth and improvement. Most reports that have so far been published indicate that professional development is likely to be a primary focus for many organizations.

This shouldn’t come as a surprise. Companies have gotten used to adapting to emerging technologies and an incessantly growing set of tools for every facet of business management. Yet, for a few years now, it seems this environment has led to the neglect of professional development, to the benefit of new recruits who bring new skill sets to the workplace. While this may sound like a great impetus for innovation, it also comes at a high cost.

As a result and out of a need to maintain – and hopefully reduce – costs to remain competitive, organizations are now refocusing their efforts in preparation of this important resurgence of renewed competencies and skills.

Defining the right competencies for now and the future

The first step to improving any talent management process entails acknowledging that an effective model requires both a clear understanding of the competencies required for success in each role, and an accurate assessment of the strengths and weaknesses of current employees.

As businesses change, grow, adapt and evolve, employees must follow the course. Superior performers drive superior results, and that in itself is what defines professional development. But because objectives are revised regularly, skills and competencies must also be reassessed and restructured.

How to fill the gaps and avoid excessive turnover costs

Once a company has identified the job skills that are lacking and those that are in abundance, the question inadvertently leans toward how to effectively fill in the gaps. An organization can choose to recruit new employees with the ‘lacking’ skills, or identify high performers who can acquire these skills. Both solutions carry implicit costs but to choose the most cost-efficient for your situation, you need current and well-developed competency models.

Job competency models serve to determine the skills that your employees must possess to perform to your expectations – and beyond. It is only once you have clearly listed these skills, knowledge and personal characteristics that you can truly evaluate your needs, and choose the solution (recruiting vs. coaching) that best fits your organizational goals and budget.

Furthermore, with competency models in place (granted they are maintained and kept up to date), you can better plan your succession and performance/compensation programs in order to attract, develop and retain top performers, and eventually achieve your objectives in terms of sales, productivity and profits.

Building models and producing superior results

One of the best starting point to building effective competencies models and improving performance is through professional development – i.e., by attending seminars or workshops.

Yet, there’s an important learning and acceptance curve, and several factors to consider before embarking on the competency journey – factors that can make or break your best efforts. We invite you to browse through our Consulting section to read more about competency models, or contact us for a consultation.

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Gaining executive sponsors for competency modeling

150x150_logo-no_textTimes are hard, and businesses continue to look for ways to minimize costs. That’s not news. But how can HR improve and support organizational growth if no case is made as to the true benefits of building, implementing and expending talent management processes?

Prior to diving into any substantial project, such as a competency model, you most likely must seek executive and/or board support, initially for the general concept, then later for the project plan itself. Whether or not you’ve tried before, you probably already know that there are tangible challenges to gaining your board’s full backing of a theoretical, long-term HR project. It’s one thing to gain their understanding for this ‘nice to have’ concept, but entirely another to obtain the official green light when it comes to the specifics dealing with time, money and additional resources.

Step up and take a seat at the table

In this age of predominantly electronic communications, if you’re looking to plead your case for a competency model, we recommend avoiding the risks associated with the telephone game by speaking face-to-face with the people who have the authority to sign off on your project.

Don’t rely on lengthy reports and emails, which may easily be discarded and if possible, bypass mid-level management who must then represent you to a higher tier without truly understanding the benefits of your project.

Focusing on the big picture for broader support

Once you’ve been granted some time to present your project, make sure you’re thoroughly prepared. There are two very important things to consider:

  • Know and understand your organization/sponsor’s needs, objectives and concerns
  • Know and understand how your project can meet those needs and objectives, and address those concerns

Remember, what you ‘want’ and what you ‘need’ are two very different things. Addressing a need is far more effective than filling a ‘want’. Your sponsor might want to see improvement within a specific area of the organization, while what they need is in fact a competency model to find the right worker to create that outcome. For instance, if your company is seriously aching over a department that has experienced a substantial downturn in sales, be fully aware of why, and present facts and figures as to how a competency model would help bring about positive change. It is your job, as HR professional, to understand your company’s most pressing needs, and to present your project as the ideal solution.

Focus, focus, focus: Gathering the right insights

There are many business reasons for developing a competency model: talent and performance management, succession planning, training and development, recruiting, etc. You’ll have much better results if you demonstrate the value of your competency modeling project by providing case studies, insights and data that are appropriate for your company’s current challenges, than if you dilute your message by listing all of the benefits of models.

Remember to focus on how this project can help move the company closer to its goals and overcome its challenges, instead of talking about how HR wishes to improve its internal processes. Your project must be in-line with company objectives, and not just HR objectives – that is a crucial difference that will help you in the sponsorship process.

Research, tools and support

As HR professional, it is your responsibility to communicate with sponsors not just to obtain their support for your project, but also to build and maintain solid relationships throughout the process.

For additional tips to help you build a case for your model, click here. Module 1 of our Building Competency Models workshop addresses business needs to help you gain your board’s support and choose the best approach for your organization.

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Stakeholders involvement in the competency modeling process

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There’s no doubt that for a company’s processes and tools to be cost-effective, senior management must be involved in their development, albeit to varying degrees. The creation and implementation of competency models are no exceptions. But just how involved should a company’s stakeholders be in the talent management process?

First step: Determining the key stakeholders

A company’s key stakeholders are the individuals who hold a vested interest in the decision-making process of an organization, as well as in its results. This therefore involves everyone from the actual owners of the company to upper-tier management, including the Board of Directors.

Just as these same individuals are responsible for the success and growth of the company they manage, they cannot turn a blind eye to their most important asset, their employees, particularly with respect to hiring and retaining a workforce that is so detrimental to their top-level objectives.

The why and how of senior management’s involvement

Simply put, HR is tasked with creating a model that addresses the company’s objectives and direction so at the end of the day, there is a pressing need to ensure that this model is aligned with the proper behavioral queues for the organization.

Key stakeholders are not only invaluable resources to the competency modeling process, they are also the source of the resources HR needs to build and implement an effective model that adheres to both the company culture and mission.

Having key stakeholders involved in the competency modeling process allows for:

  • Increased trust in the model within the organization
  • Complete transparency and consensus
  • Considerable value added in the data collection and validation process
  • Unique insight that might otherwise be missed or not considered

Of course, despite these benefits, involving senior management requires careful planning and a significant investment of time into a project that may be regarded to be “HR’s job”. As such, obtaining a commitment and true engagement in this process is not always easy.

To learn more about how HR can plead the case for competency modeling, or to better understand the different steps required to build an effective model tailored to your organization, visit our website or sign up to attend our upcoming workshop.

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Are technological advancements undermining your HR processes?

man_using_clear_touchscreen_sqWith rapidly advancing technologies, the majority of industries are faced with the double challenge of 1) staying informed and current and 2) effectively integrating new systems, processes and software into existing job functions.

Within the context of an organization, and even more so in terms of human resources and job performance management, this modern reality can prove to be an even greater challenge, as the workforce naturally habituates itself to its acquired skills, while monetary investments needed to provide coaching on new developments seem to grow exponentially.

Even with a renewed workforce of students entering the job market, the tasks and responsibilities pertaining to a job are often not as expected, and the skills required to execute them therefore aren’t as perfectly aligned to the candidate as originally conceived.

So how can companies hope to find, attract, retain, and ‘update’ their workforce with the right technical competencies in their HR processes?

Not your average pyramid scheme

A competency model can be conceptualized as a pyramid, from personal competencies (or soft skills) at the base, to industry-specific and sector-specific skills in the middle, and task-specific competencies at the upper tier.

Competencies considered to be industry-specific are technical competencies pertaining to a very specific domain, role or industry; let’s think, for instance, of standards and certifications, core technologies and processing methods, etc. Because they are so technical, it can be extremely challenging for a ‘generalized’ HR function to both identify and update these competencies over time.

The benefit of dictionaries

Aside from the obvious benefit of providing a starting point and uniform language for the development of a competency model, a competency dictionary is often a crucial source of up-to-date industry-technical skills that will help you optimize your recruiting process and the performance management of your existing workforce.

You can also learn to identify, plan, and implement technical competencies into your competency model at our 1-day Creating Technical Competencies workshop.

Contact us for more information.

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