What Competencies Should Be Required for a Job?

By Staff Report

Aug. 18, 2015

Dear Treasuring Competencies,

Creating valid and relevant competency models can be a tedious, time-consuming and expensive process. In my experience, few organizations are equipped to do it effectively. They often take shortcuts and end up with models that create inconsistencies between competency-related expectations, organization strategy, job demands and workplace culture, leaving both supervisors and employees confused and frustrated.

An alternative to implementing an all-encompassing competency-based management approach is to use competency models primarily for making employment decisions and guiding personal development while leaving the management of competencies to the individual. Instead of attempting to track and rate employee competency use and proficiency, managers focus on managing overall individual and team results. This avoids many of the pitfalls common in competency-based management schemes.

However you choose to apply competency-based programs, an excellent resource is the book “The Art and Science of Competency Models” by Anntoinette Lucia and Richard Lepsinger. In it, you will find a step-by-step guide to creating your own valid competency profiles for each job. Once you have performed the research needed to lay the groundwork upon which you will build your competency model, you may use any number of tools and competency lists to select job-specific competencies. Lominger, a Korn/Ferry acquisition, for example, provides excellent competency card sorting tools and a flexible 360-degree competency assessment instrument.

I also encourage you to consider the following to help you avoid common mistakes of competency-based management:

  1. The competencies you identify will directly influence workplace culture and, subsequently, organization effectiveness. So how will you select competencies consistent with your organization’s people strategy?
  2. How will you know you captured all essential tasks and behaviors for each job when you select competencies and that you haven’t missed anything important?
  3. Assuming your competency lists are complete and correct, how will you determine the right competence levels you need employees to perform at?
  4. Validation procedures are expensive and often rely heavily on all too subjective performance ratings. How will you accurately assess each employee’s current competence assuming you are confident you know the competence level required to succeed?
  5. Competency profiles have been known to undervalue high performers such as when leaders score low in an approved competency like “drive for performance”but compensate by using an unapproved competence like “team building” to get the job done effectively. How will you account for employees that succeed using unapproved competencies for the job?
  6. Though common, long competency lists are impractical for trying to hire employees or manage annual employee development goals. How will you avoid creating long lists to define each job?
  7. Detailed competency lists by their nature encourage supervisors to over-manage and emphasize compliance over commitment. How will you prevent them from stifling innovation, creativity, and intrinsic motivation in the workforce?

Before implementing a competency-based management system, first determine how prepared you are to face the considerations discussed here and your ability to access expertise and resources you need to do it properly. Mostly, make sure that whatever system you implement will support, rather than frustrate, employee engagement.

SOURCE: Kevin Herring, Ascent Management Consulting, Oro Valley, Arizona, Aug. 16, 2015.

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