Monday, July 20, 2015

The ABC's of Competency Models

As you drill down the drivers of performance for most organizations; things like great customer service, efficient processes, and empowering technology, you reach a base level for making these drivers happen. This gets you back to the qualities of your human resources – knowledge, expertise, experience, and those things needed for successful execution. And the combination of skills, expertise, knowledge and other intangibles will vary from job to job, function to function. For example, what we need for executing for securing new customers is not necessarily the same as what we need for efficient processes.

One of the more powerful tools for capturing the characteristics behind critical functions is the Competency Model. Not only does the Competency Model neatly organize success factors behind a position, but it also describes the behavior needed for maximum performance. Competency models can represent a key component for building an overall HR System. For example, we can use competency models for applying the same standards throughout the company. This helps reduce bias and unfairness in how we evaluate performance. Competency models also provide some basic benefits:

• Improves the likelihood of hiring the right person
• Provides a baseline for evaluating performance
• Gives insights into the training needs of a position
• Quick checklist of critical job qualities

In order to build a competency model, we should start by looking at past performance that elevated the position, resulting in very high levels of performance. What did this person do to make the position visible, creating value for the company? Try to reflect back on the behavior and actions this person took – special events, critical highlights, and other characteristics of success. What does success look like in this position? Interviewing current and past holders of the job can help. Look for common characteristics. We need to capture these qualities. Some examples might include:

• Flexibility – Able to adapt to sudden changes in the workflow to accommodate customer demands.
• Analytical – Easily applies skills and analytical tools to reach relevant conclusions.
• Team Building – Encourages and works well with others to achieve overall results.

From this baseline, we are able to articulate a model for exceptional performance, giving employees critical insights into what it takes to succeed. Some competencies will cut across several positions, such as similar skills needed for call center personnel, sales force, and marketing managers. However, the best competency models include some distinctions – such as assertive communicator for sales personnel, but friendly and courteous behavior for call center personnel.

A good competency profile is not easy to develop. For example, the best competency models incorporate the values and culture of the organization. Therefore, if someone performs really well in accordance with their respective competency model, then you invariably expect them to be rewarded and recognized within the organization. In reality, people who are rewarded and recognized may not be the highest performers. So make sure your competency models are backup by the reality of the values and culture of the company.

Another problem is going overboard. Competency Models are sometimes too idealistic and ambitious. Stick to the vital competencies that people can execute on. If you have several people struggling to perform, then go slow with your competency model. In fact, find out why people are struggling and see what's needed for your competency model to work within your existing workforce.

Finally, the best forms of competencies (knowledge, skills, etc.) tend to be behaviors. Behaviors are easier to grasp and understand. Employees tend to identify with acceptable behaviors as opposed to improving their skill sets. Once employees have reach behavioral thresholds, then move to higher skills such as leadership to drive long-term employee performance.
"Competency models are a means of ensuring that your investment in your people supports the achievement of strategic goals. The popularity of competency modeling is steadily increasing: human resource professionals and line managers everywhere are now using competency models to make wise decisions about selection and placement, as well as training and development and performance management.”
- The Art and Science of Competency Models by Anntoinette D. Lucia and Richard Lepsinger

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