Top Ten Tips implementing a Competency Model at your company

Competency Model and e-Learning Development

Competency models are essentially lists of the specific skills and desired employee behaviors and characteristics that are required to succeed on the job. For example, the competencies for a technical writer  might include:

  • Strong command of the English (or other) language
  • Attention to detail
  • Problem solving ability
  • Ability to learn new concepts and re-write them in an easy-to-comprehend fashion

Competencies typically have specific definitions that more fully describe them. For example: “Attention to Detail: Ensures that work is grammatically and technically correct”.  Competency definitions should also include a quantifiable scale upon which employee performance can be measured. Frequently this information is included within the employee job description and performance evaluation check sheet. To continue the “Attention to Detail” example:

  • Unsatisfactory: Does not make special efforts to correct obvious errors
  • Satisfactory: Work is generally accurate and includes minimal errors
  • Exemplary: Work is exceptional and requires little to no corrections and minimal editing.

On average, there are approximately seven to ten competencies for a job. Keeping a low number of core competencies per job makes it easier to manage the process of measuring employee performance and recommending training to increase areas of low performance.

Tools for Building Competency Models

There are three main tools used to build competency models. They can be used alone or in combination.

  1. Competency Dictionaries: Many consulting firms have dictionaries of existing competencies. They may even have lists of jobs with associated competencies. A client can simply select and edit competencies from the dictionary that they feel relevant to the job.
  2. Panel of Internal Experts: An “expert panel” normally consists of HR, one or more managers of the job being discussed and one or more incumbents of the job being discussed and a consultant. The expert panel discusses the job and decides what competencies are required.
  3. Independent Research: Arguably  the most effective  way to determine the competencies required for a job is to perform the research within your organization. This is done by doing conducting “job behavioral interviews” of top-performing employees and average employees and comparing those characteristics of the most successful employees against those of their less successful peers.  The results are analyzed and the differences between high and average performers become the basis for the competency model.

If you wish to establish Competency Models within your organization, you will likely use a combination of the tools above. You may wish to retain the services of a professional outside firm that specializes in conducting job behavior analysis. Following are some good tips for the d0-it-yourself folks out there.

If you are a small organization with limited resources and you already understand the basic competencies for your various jobs, then you may find that selecting from a competency dictionary meets your needs.

If you simply need to understand your jobs better and you want others in the company to embrace the process, then forming an expert panel will help you ensure that you develop competencies that are tailored to the specific job and you will get buy-in and understanding from the people who will be using the model.

For most situations, this would be the method of choice. For a large organizations with many employees, it is often worthwhile to do a research project. It is also useful if you suspect that there may be competencies that an expert panel would be unaware of.  Launching a formal research project is the best way to really understand competencies.  For those who are new to the process, it is strongly recommend that you consider the following:

  • Hire a professional – Contact the author of this article for more information/recommendations
  • Ensure you implement your mode – Your competency model should be embedded throughout the hiring, evaluation, training, and overall talent management process. Far too often much work goes into developing a model that ultimately is not implemented properly. A professional Competency Management Consultant can help you avoid that mistake.

Do you need assistance creating and implementing competency models at your organization? The eLearning Network has access to dozens of expert instructional designers and enterprise-level sills and competency professionals. Contact us to learn more.

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