Thursday 29 December 2011

Administering a Certification Test: Points to Remember

Securing the effectiveness of an assessment for certification testing requires periodic evaluation of its relevance and utility. As such, tools and job analysis must be regularly updated. The frequency of use of a given tool is also of particular concern. Its use (or re-use) depends on the type of tool, the frequency of its administration, and number of candidates to which it is administered. These factors reflect the degree of exposure of the test content. Some tools, like multiple choice exams, are difficult to leak since after taking a 100 question examination, candidates rarely remember more than a few questions. It is possible, therefore, to administer such a test more than once. On the other hand, an interview that comprises only ten questions involves a high likelihood that candidates will remember most or all of the questions. This method of assessment therefore requires frequent renewal. It follows that the more candidates are evaluated or the more often a test is administered, the more frequent the need for content renewal.

This post is based on content from 'Assessment Tools Certification' by Human Resource Systems Group, Ltd.

Thursday 15 December 2011

Administering a Certification Test

To ensure the integrity of the credential, the security surrounding the examination process is essential. Security includes ensuring the right candidate is taking the test. Security also means controlling the exposure of test questions to safeguard the integrity of the tool. On this point, the certification body should put in place a mechanism for the rotation of assessment questions in order to maintain their objectivity and confidentiality. The test should be administered in a standardized manner, in a secure, proctored environment. Assessors and invigilators should be trained on the proper handling of assessment materials and on administration policies and protocol.

Care must also be taken regarding the access to testing materials when they are not being administered. All assessments materials and related confidential information should be maintained in a secure environment, and processes and policies should be in place regarding their handling. Access to these materials should be limited to those who require it and who are trained in proper handling of these materials.

Computer-based testing is becoming more prevalent than the traditional paper-and-pencil method (60% versus 72% in 2007 compared to 34% computer-based testing and 81% paper-and-pencil in 2003; Knapp, 2007). Regardless of the approach ultimately selected, test administration should always be standardized, structured and delivered in a proctored environment. Safeguards should be in place to address concerns related to computer-based assessments, such as the existence of chat rooms and forums that share tips on how to pass the test.

A common misconception is that computer-based tests are less costly to administer than paper assessments. It is demonstrated that this is not necessarily the case. There are a number of considerations when looking at computer-based testing, including the infrastructure costs, the increased number of test items required due to greater rate of item exposure, as well as security concerns.

After administering the test, it is important to conduct statistical analyses to ensure that the test is performing as expected and that the pass mark is appropriately set.

Another consideration is determining what information is to be provided to candidates in terms of their results and feedback. While there are different ways of reporting assessment results, it is important to ensure consistency in the type of information shared with candidates. In some cases, this may just be a pass or fail notice. Other administrators report a score, pass mark and feedback by category.

This post is based on content from 'Assessment Tools Certification' by Human Resource Systems Group, Ltd.

Tuesday 13 December 2011

Test Development: Assessments Tools and Establishing a Standard

Regardless of the tool selected, the assessment for certification must be based on the blueprint requirements. Moreover, the development process should be implemented by testing and measurement experts and informed by job experts. Job experts should be trained to develop or review test questions or set the passmark. They should also be representative of the candidate population (e.g., geographic, roles, specialties, work environment, protected groups).

The tool should be reviewed by a group of content experts, often an advisory committee. When possible, it is recommended to pilot test the assessment tool. If the certification program is offered in more than one language, there must be an equivalent translation(s) of the assessment tool. On this point, the Association of Test Publishers provides standards that should be adhered to for proper translation and adaptation of the certification test content.

When developing tests for professional certification programs, the passmark must be linked to expected on-the-job performance and consistent with the nature and intended use of the assessment. As such, it is a formal, standardized process that usually includes a criterion-referenced method. The criterion-referenced method generally fixes the passing score to a certain percentage (e.g., in school 50% or 60%) of the subject matter the test is designed to assess. With this method, hypothetically every candidate could pass or fail but only those who pass have acquired the specified level of the subject matter. The criterion-referenced approach stands in contrast to an approach in which the pass mark is based upon the distribution of scores. Using this approach, approximately 15% of candidates fail for every test administration, regardless of the difficulty or the exam or candidates’ competence level.

In Knapp’s Certification Industry Scan (2007):
76% use criterion-referenced method
6% use normative method
18% use score-selected method based on professional consensus or academic standards

When establishing the standard, one must consider the target candidates (e.g., entry level, fully working, advanced), the consequences of certification (low stakes, such as a hotel attendant or a website designer, or high stakes, such as a physician or a pilot), as well as the level of difficulty of the assessment.

The passmark cannot be an arbitrary number (e.g., 75%). Careful consideration is required: if the pass mark is set too high, so that only the best candidates pass, this may discourage candidates from obtaining the certification. On the other hand, if the assessment is too lenient, it may not be perceived as relevant and no added value is gained by obtaining the credential.

This post is based on content from 'Assessment Tools Certification' by Human Resource Systems Group, Ltd.

Wednesday 7 December 2011

How To Develop a Test: Blueprints

Test development begins with the identification of critical tasks performed by competent people working in a given profession. This is typically done through job analysis. Job analysis involves consultations with job experts as well as the review of documents that describe tasks, knowledge and skills required for the occupation (e.g., National Occupational Standards).

According to Knapp’s Certification Industry Scan (2007):
- 90% of certifying bodies utilize a formal study to identify/validate the content of the assessments; and,
- 72% of certifying bodies perform validation study updates every 5 years or less.

The results of the job analysis dictate the type of the assessment tool(s) to be developed. For example, if the analysis reveals that successful job performance is highly dependent on specialized and technical knowledge (e.g., specific IT programming language), then a tool should focus on assessing knowledge rather than skills or abilities. Alternately, if, for example, the job analysis indicates that customer focus is a crucial competency, candidates’ skills may be best assessed through a performance evaluation tool, such as observation or an on-the-job simulation. The importance of determining the competencies to be assessed is paramount. Often, a wide range of competencies and skills are identified, and in some cases, the competencies cannot be assessed by a single assessment tool. It is essential to carefully identify the competencies and skills to be assessed and select suitable assessment tools.

A test blueprint specifies the characteristics that an assessment tool must meet. It links the specific task areas from job analysis to the tool (i.e., it specifies how much weight should be given to each task area or category from occupational standards). In establishing the blueprint, content validity is essential; that is, the tool must assess what it is designed to assess.

Test blueprints typically include:
A list of competencies, skills and/or knowledge areas
The type of assessment tool (e.g., written test, structured interview)
Format of questions (e.g., multiple-choice, short-answer)
Number of questions
Proportion of questions within each category
Characteristics of questions (e.g., cognitive level, context, domain)
Scoring procedures
Format of assessment tool (e.g., paper-based, computer-based)
Target population

A blueprint is, in a sense, like a recipe. It provides instructions on how to assemble a test. This procedure ensures consistency and equivalency across different versions of the test. As such, the tool must be developed and/or revised by job experts.

This post is based on content from 'Assessment Tools Certification' by Human Resource Systems Group, Ltd.

Wednesday 30 November 2011

Certification Evaluation Standards: Validity and Fairness

It is important to understand that all certification programs are not created equal. To ensure the value and reputation of the certification obtained, certification programs must incorporate assessment tools that were developed based on sound evaluation standards. These standards involve reliability, validity and fairness. Below, I provide an outline of 'validity' and 'fairness' as an evaluation standard.

Reliability, on its own, is insufficient as an evaluation standard. A tool may have high reliability, but low validity. For example, a laser instrument measuring a person’s height produces consistent results over numerous measurements. However, if this tool is used to determine a person’s ability to drive a boat, the tool will not be assessing the “right” things. This is why reliability needs to be informed by validity.

Validity refers to whether an assessment tool measures what it is intended to measure. In other words, it refers to the extent to which a decision based on the results of the assessment tool reflects the candidate’s true level of job performance or occupation-specific competence. Therefore, when building a quality certification program, we must also ensure validity of certification assessments.

Fairness is based on four principles: absence of bias; equitable treatment of candidates in the testing process; equality of testing outcomes for examinee subgroup (race, ethnicity, gender, disability, or other characteristics); and, equality of opportunity to learn the testing materials. It follows that fairness is applicable throughout the process, starting at the application through to the release of results.

In order to ensure fairness, it is important to review the questions on the assessment tool to ensure that they have no discriminatory language or content. The assessment must also provide sufficient opportunity for candidates to demonstrate their competence. The opportunity to do so is especially important when a certification program uses on-the-job observation or simulation. It is important to ensure that a lack of success on these assessments reflects a real deficit in competence and is not due to the lack of opportunity for a candidate to demonstrate his or her skills.

Equitable treatment does not necessarily imply equal treatment for all. In some cases, special accommodations for candidates with disabilities are needed. This can include extra time for examination completion for a person with dyslexia or providing a separate room for a person with ADHD. It must nevertheless be ensured that the accommodations provided are appropriate and reasonable given the nature of the occupation and that policies and procedures are in place to address such issues.

This post is based on content from 'Assessment Tools Certification' by Human Resource Systems Group, Ltd.

Friday 25 November 2011

What are Certification Evaluation Standards?

It is important to understand that all certification programs are not created equal. To ensure the value and reputation of the certification obtained, certification programs must incorporate assessment tools that were developed based on sound evaluation standards. These standards involve reliability, validity and fairness. Below, I provide an outline of 'reliability' as an evaluation standard.

Reliability refers to the consistency or repeatability of assessment results. Simply put, it is the ability of the tool to produce consistent results over time. In the context of certification, reliability refers to the likelihood of a candidate obtaining a similar result on the same or an equivalent assessment tool, such as a multiple-choice test, upon taking this test for the second time. When an assessment tool has low reliability, its scores have little meaning because there is no guarantee that the candidate will receive similar scores should the same test be taken again. Similarly, if a candidate takes two test versions that are said to be equivalent, he/she should either pass both tests or fail both tests. Furthermore, if two candidates have the same level of knowledge, skills and abilities, both of the candidates should either pass or fail. Hence, in order to ensure that a quality certification program is built, we must ensure that the assessments that are a part of the certification program are reliable.

This post is based on content from 'Assessment Tools Certification' by Human Resource Systems Group, Ltd.

Wednesday 23 November 2011

Setting the Stage for Certification and Assessment

To reap its full rewards, a certification program must employ the assessment tools best suited to meet the needs of the certification program and the targeted occupation. Assessment tools must adhere to a rigorous development process to ensure their validity, reliability and fairness. As well, they should be administered using proper administrative policies and procedures. Consideration of the advantages and suitability of the various assessment methods is required for certification programs to be constructed to deliver the promised organizational benefits.

Professional certification is a voluntary process that recognizes individuals who meet predetermined standards, as assessed by a third party. More specifically, professional certification programs provide an independent, impartial assessment of an individual’s occupational competence, where candidates are evaluated against predetermined standards for knowledge, skills and abilities.

Candidates who demonstrate that they meet established standards are granted a time-limited credential and are awarded an acronym to signify that they have obtained the credential. To retain the credential, candidates must maintain and demonstrate continued competence in their occupation, abide by a code of conduct and adhere to occupational standards.

This post is based on content from 'Assessment Tools Certification' by Human Resource Systems Group, Ltd.

Wednesday 16 November 2011

How Can You Plan For Competency-Based Management?

Stakeholder participation is important not only to create "buy-in" but also to ensure competencies truly reflect the behaviours that contribute to and sustain organizational success.
It takes effort and commitment to implement a fully-elaborated and integrated Competency-based human resource management (HRM) system. It is important, therefore, to take the time to evaluate the needs of the organization, and to create a strategy and plan that will meet these needs - in other words, getting it right the first time.

Developing the Strategy:
Having identified the business need, the champions for change and the organizational readiness, the organization is in a position to more precisely define a staged approach for developing and implementing competency models.

As the first major challenge the organization must decide to what level the competencies will be defined. For example, will it be sufficient to define the common / core competencies for everyone in the organization, or do specific competencies have to be developed for particular classifications and levels, functions, or jobs? The answer to this question hinges on how the competencies will be used. For example, to staff particular positions, competencies should be defined for the job. On the other hand, for appointments to level, for appointments to level, competencies need only be defined at the core or common level.

The organization must also determine the competency modeling method best suited to support the identified needs. In our experience, no one single method will effectively support all components of the human resource management system (i.e. training and development, selection, performance management, etc.), the full range of occupations and levels (executive, professional, skilled, semi-skilled, etc.), or the various types of organizational and business environments.

Finally, communication is imperative at all stages of the planning, development and implementation process. In addition to promoting the value, benefits and ways in which the Competency-based initiative will be implemented, stakeholder participation in the process is also important, not only to create "buy-in" for the initiative, but also to ensure that the competencies truly reflect the behaviours that will contribute to and sustain organizational success.

Common Pitfalls of Competency Initiatives
No sponsor, or sponsor with insufficient power, influence, credibility or strategic perspective.
No perceived need for change, among senior leaders or groups with power.
Resistance to change across the organization.
No clear identification of stakeholders – not involving them.
Losing momentum – priorities change.
Non-existent / inadequate training – managers, supervisors, employees, HR staff.
Support infrastructure and finding not in place.
Inadequate project management / project talent.
Not implementing right away.
Competencies / applications too complicated.

This post is based on content from 'Competency-based Human Resource Management: Planning for Success' by Suzanne Simpson, Ph.D. And Lorraine McKay, M.A.

Friday 11 November 2011

Competency-Based Human Resource Management: Developing the Business Case

Stakeholder participation is important not only to create "buy-in" but also to ensure competencies truly reflect the behaviours that contribute to and sustain organizational success.
It takes effort and commitment to implement a fully-elaborated and integrated Competency-based human resource management (HRM) system. It is important, therefore, to take the time to evaluate the needs of the organization, and to create a strategy and plan that will meet these needs - in other words, getting it right the first time.

Developing the Business Case:
Our years of experience in implementing Competency-based human resource management programs have shown that, as with any other significant change initiative, there must be a compelling need and will to change. It is not sufficient for the organization’s human resource or training professionals to see the need; leaders of the organization must also see the benefits and be willing to champion the initiative. Likewise, employees must understand how the program will benefit them both in their current jobs, as well as in advancing their careers. For this reason, many organizations have chosen first to implement components of a Competency-based HRM system that address the expressed needs of employees, preferably in a non-threatening way - for example, a Competency-based self-directed learning program.

This post is based on content from 'Competency-based Human Resource Management: Planning for Success' by Suzanne Simpson, Ph.D. And Lorraine McKay, M.A.

Wednesday 9 November 2011

What is Competency-Based Human Resource Management?

A competency is “any skill, knowledge, or other attribute that is observable and identifies successful performance.” Effectively, competencies translate the strategic vision and goals for the organization into measurable and observable behaviours or actions that employees must display.

A common framework of competencies provides the means for integrating all aspects of the HR system so that employees are selected, evaluated, developed, promoted and rewarded based on competencies that support organizational success. By communicating these competencies, organizations empower employees to take charge of their careers, direct their own personal development and continually self-evaluate and improve. At the same time, the framework allows the organization to pro-actively plan for its human resource needs both in the immediate and long term, and to establish programs that support employees in acquiring the competencies needed for organizational success.

This post is based on content from 'Competency-based Human Resource Management: Planning for Success' by Suzanne Simpson, Ph.D. And Lorraine McKay, M.A.

Friday 4 November 2011

Competency-Based Management: Lessons Learned

There have been a number of lessons learned in designing and implementing Competency-based talent management systems over the past ten to fifteen years. First, the implementation of a Competency-based management system cannot be driven solely by the Human Resources Department. Senior and line management must have a compelling reason for implementing Competency-based management and see the value that it will be bring in supporting the organization's strategic goals. Further, they must be prepared to visibly support, fund and champion the initiative within the organization. The organization must commit the necessary resources to make it happen - it cannot be a secondary duty to be performed off the side of an already overworked HR professional's desk. There must be a well-articulated and staged plan for development and implementation, and employees have to be involved in the process and understand the benefits of CBM for them. This means designing and implementing a good communications plan. Finally, designing, implementing and gaining a full return on investment for Competency-based management takes time. However, quick gains can be made in many areas if managers and HR staff examine the organization's pain points and use Competency-based tools and processes to address these as quickly as possible. Having a well-designed talent management system will expedite this process.

The use of Competency-based management systems affords companies the opportunity to concentrate on their operations without sacrificing the need to have a well managed workforce. Recent research is showing that organizations can reap major financial gains through Competency-based management. Implementing a Competency-based system can make a major difference in the efficiency and profitability of the company, the productivity of the workforce and the amount of manager and HR staff time spent on HR issues, thereby providing a competitive advantage in the market place.

This post is based on content from 'Competency-Based Management That Works!' by Suzanne Simpson

Wednesday 2 November 2011

The Competency-Based Management Advantage

Managers can compare and rank order the employee pool available within the organization against competency requirements for specific positions – for example, to support filling immediate vacancies or when planning for successors. Managers can view the whole resource pool that is available and not just those employees who are known to the manager. As a result, the organization benefits from the best employees being selected and promoted, and employees in turn are given more equitable opportunities for career development and growth within the organization.

From a career planning perspective, Competency-based talent management systems allow employees to compare the competencies they possess with those required in the various jobs in the organizations. Employees can then decide on career options they would like to pursue and develop plans to address gaps and progress in their careers.

Planning for longer-term strategic workforce requirements becomes a less complicated with the analysis and reporting capabilities that are built into the new talent management systems. These systems allow senior managers to easily compare the current workforce capacity and capabilities with the talent requirements to achieve the organization’s strategic goals. Based on this analysis, management can then put in place strategies and programs to address gaps and position the organization to achieve its goals.

This post is based on content from 'Competency-Based Management That Works!' by Suzanne Simpson

Thursday 27 October 2011

Why Use Competencies?

Companies are using competencies for recruitment and retention, developing competency profiles for jobs and job families and using interview guides based on the desired job competencies as selection tools. Using well-defined job competency profiles along with a good selection process, including Competency-based interviewing, significantly improves a company's chance of getting the right person the first time. Selection for promotion also benefits from having well-defined competency profiles for the jobs in the company.

Performance management programs are also being refocused on establishing and measuring performance expectations not only for “what” employees must accomplish (traditional performance objectives and standards), but also on “how” (competencies) they must perform in delivering results for the organization.

Learning becomes more directed based on the organization's needs. Managers and employees can have more meaningful discussions about strengths and gaps in employee competencies, allowing the employee to take actions for improvement and managers to support employee efforts through directed learning activities and programs that are Competency-based.

This post is based on content from 'Competency-Based Management That Works!' by Suzanne Simpson

Tuesday 25 October 2011

What's Happening with Competencies Today?

Unfortunately, organizations often experienced difficulties implementing and reaping the full benefit of Competency-based human resource processes because they were primarily paper-based. Today, competencies are enjoying a resurgence of popularity with the development of affordable enterprise-wide systems software. These systems make it easy for managers to use competencies in planning for, acquiring, developing and promoting the talent needed to make their organizations more successful. Likewise, information on the knowledge, skills and abilities employees need to be successful in their jobs and careers, as well as on-line competency assessment and learning tools make it easier for employees to take ownership of their careers and develop themselves in ways that will advance their job skills and careers. Finally, these talent management systems make it easier for human resource professionals to move away from time-consuming transactional personnel activities, and refocus their efforts on the value-added strategic management of the human capital of the organization. In fact, research firms such as The Gartner Group, Bersin and Aberdeen have identified enterprise-wide Competency-based talent management systems as a mainstream trend and a wave of the future for organizations that want to gain the full value out of the investments they have made in their human capital.

This post is based on content from 'Competency-Based Management That Works!' by Suzanne Simpson.

Thursday 20 October 2011

Competencies: Where Did They Come From?

Competency-based human resource management became popular in the 1990s principally because it offered employers a new way of defining and assessing those hard-to-measure traits, or “soft skills” that so often make the difference between superior performers and the rest of the crowd - for example, initiative, adaptability, drive for achievement, etc. Competencies also provided fundamental building blocks for ensuring that all of the “people” processes in the organization could be fully integrated. No longer would there be one set of criteria for selection, another set for performance management, and yet a third set for learning and development. “Competencies” were proclaimed as the one common set of standards to be used for all HR processes.

This post is based on content from 'Competency-Based Management That Works!' by Suzanne Simpson

Tuesday 18 October 2011

Competencies From a Non-HR Point of View

I’m a retired military officer, not an HR professional. Hence, I share your perspective as a newcomer to competencies. When I first heard of them, my first question was- what if you did not possess the competencies for your job? Were you incompetent? But that was before I learned that when properly used, competencies are a very powerful and significant way to ensure that an organization is performing at maximum productivity. In fact, I believe that competency-based organizations have a major advantage over their competition.

Competencies are the basis for the proper management of your workforce, but it takes commitment from the people, and guts and determination at the top, to maintain the aim and purpose for using them. A simple definition of competencies can help start you on the right track.

Generally speaking, ‘competencies’ are the knowledge, skills and abilities (KSAs) needed for success in a job. It is the job that is paramount and the proper selection of those KSAs for that job that makes the difference in whether they are successfully applied or not. The knowledge and skill elements are somewhat easier to determine than the abilities, but it is in this last area where the benefits of competency-based systems are proven most valuable. Nevertheless, it takes an expert to accurately determine what abilities are appropriate for the jobs under consideration.

The proper definition and application of competencies can take the strategic vision and plan of your organization and transform it into reality. How can competencies do all that? First of all, it is people that have to execute your plan and that requires that the right people are in the right place doing the right things with the right tools. Competencies are the way to ensure that is done correctly.

Think of it this way. If you know, and I mean know, all of the KSAs required for each job in your organization, then you can develop a means of hiring people who have the proper KSAs for the jobs. You can assess and evaluate people for promotion. You can develop performance measures and assessments for development. You can develop training programs to meet specific KSA gaps and needs. You can match people to jobs, you can develop succession systems and you can have a high degree of assurance that your decisions on people are the right decisions.

This post is based on content from 'Competencies from a non-HR Point of View' by Bill Cowperthwaite

Thursday 13 October 2011

How Can You Get Started With Competencies?

To begin implementing competency-based management in your organization, the competencies needed by the employees should be defined. This process will ensure that the organization is well positioned to achieve its vision and strategic goals and initiatives, and to support its values. Once defined, the competencies will serve as the foundation for an integrated set of HR processes and tools that can be used in Career Management, Learning and Development, Succession Planning, Recruitment and Performance Management.

The starting point for any competency application is a valid and well constructed competency profile that can be easily used to support all of its intended purposes. Competency-based Job Profiles, often refered to as Competency Models, Matrices or Job Descriptions identify the specific competencies needed in a job. Establishing a clear competency structure is one of the first and fundamental steps in profile development.

A competency structure describes the common rules for defining competencies for success within the organization. It includes the guiding principles that describe how the profiles will be designed for the entire organization - e.g., the format for displaying the competency profile, content for the profile (e.g. behavioural competencies and technical / professional competencies), core vs unique competencies, etc.

There are four basic criteria that the competency structure must meet::

1. The content of the profiles must demonstrate the competencies that employees must have, both now and in the future, to achieve the organization’s vision and support its values;
2. The profiles must support career management, learning and development, succession planning and, as the program evolves, employee performance management as well as recruitment and staffing;
3. The profiles must incorporate the more general behavioural competencies needed for success in roles or occupational groups (e.g. teamwork), as well as the specific technical / professional requirements needed; and finally,
4. All profiles must be easy to use by all stakeholders.

Competency-based job profiles need to be simple to understand and use to ensure broad acceptance by all stakeholders (e.g. managers, employees, HR professionals, employee unions/bargaining groups, etc.), while still supporting all of the intended end uses. Best practice research suggests that a profile should have no more than 10 to 12 general behavioural competencies, otherwise, the tools and processes on which they are based become unwieldy, time consuming and difficult for employees and managers to use.

This post is based on content from 'Framework for Competency-based Management' by Human Resource Systems Group, Ltd.

Tuesday 11 October 2011

Learn the Basics About Competency Structures

Although there are infinite ways that organizations structure their competency frameworks, in my experience, most tend to be variations on the following basic competency structure:

Core Competencies
The Core competencies include those key competencies that all employees in the organization must possess to achieve its mandate and vision. These competencies describe in behavioural terms the key values of the organization and represent those competencies that are core to the organization’s principal mandate.

Career Stream Competencies
The Career Stream competencies are those behavioural competencies that are common to the all jobs in the stream, and combined with the organization-wide (core) competencies, make up the suite of behavioural competencies necessary for success in the Stream.

Technical / Professional Competencies
The Technical/Professional competencies tend to be specific to occupational areas, roles and / or jobs within the Career Stream, and include the specific skills and knowledge (know-how) to perform effectively within the jobs of the Stream (e.g. ability to use particular software; knowledge in particular professional areas such as finance, biochemistry; etc.). These competencies could be generic to the Career Stream as whole, or be specific to roles, levels or jobs within the group.

This post is based on content from 'Framework for Competency-based Management' by Human Resource Systems Group, Ltd

Thursday 6 October 2011

Are Your Competencies Defensible?: More Questions to Consider

When considering whether your competencies are defensible, there are key questions you can ask:

Did you use expert ‘analysts’?
In reviewing complaints or challenges, courts and tribunals will often assess whether the analysts were qualified to undertake the competency profiling process. If the employer cannot demonstrate that the analyst had the necessary knowledge and competence to undertake the profiling process, the employer’s defence of the outcome (competency model / profile) will be in question. Typically, courts or tribunals will examine:

• the experience and training of the analyst in conducting job analysis and competency profiling processes; and,
• whether the analyst followed generally accepted and well-researched methodologies and standards - e.g. minimum standards / guidelines published by professional bodies (e.g., American Psychological Association; Society for Organizational Psychology; etc.).

Was the competency profiling process fully documented?
To demonstrate defensibility, the organization must be prepared to describe how the competency profiling was undertaken. Often, challenges occur some period of time after the competency profiling process was completed when the job analyst(s) is no longer available. If challenged, the organization must be in a position to demonstrate how the competencies reflect the ‘bona fide’ requirements for effective performance. To do this, the organization must be able to describe the processes that were followed in determining the competencies. If it cannot, the organization runs the risk of a decision being made against the employer, even though the competencies may reflect the true requirements for performance in the job or area of work.

Reporting and Documenting
The last step in developing competencies profiles is reporting and documenting. The ensure defensibility, make sure to document the following:
• The process and methodology followed
• The participant representation and criteria for selection – SMEs and stakeholder representation
• Stakeholder / participant contributions and roles
• Rationale for decisions
• Outcomes of all steps and drafts

What about off-the-shelf tools and processes?
Organizations often will buy ‘off-the-shelf’ or ready-made tools and processes. For example, full circle or multi-source (360 degree) questionnaires or services. These tools and processes are built on a predetermined model and set of assumptions about the competencies that lead to success, which may or may not be appropriate for your organization. Do your research and establish whether the competencies being assessed are the ones essential to your organizational success.

This post is based on content from 'Are Your Competencies Defensible?' by Human Resource Systems Group, Ltd.

Monday 3 October 2011

Are Your Competencies Defensible?: How to Avoid Disadvantaging Certain Groups

When considering whether your competencies are defensible, ask yourself: Could the competencies, or the way in which they are worded, disadvantage certain groups?

Organizations often find that particular groups predominate in certain jobs or areas of the organization - for example, it is still the norm to find senior management positions in North America predominantly occupied by white males, often with similar cultural and social backgrounds. If the participants in the job profiling process are from the dominant group, it is likely that the behaviours described in the competency profile will be those behaviours that lead to success for dominant group (e.g., white males operating as managers). However, success can often be achieved through a variety of behavioural and communication styles. For example, it is generally accepted and well supported by research that men in managerial roles are more likely to take a ‘command and control’ approach to leading others, whereas women are more likely to use ‘collaborative’ and ‘participatory’ leadership styles. Both styles may lead to success under different circumstances, but the competencies that have been developed based on input from the dominant group (in this example white men) may tend to favor white men over women and other cultural and ethnic groups when they are used for making employment decisions.

Organizations, therefore, should take precautions to ensure that the competencies are not defined in a way that will disadvantage certain groups. Ways in which this can be accomplished include:

• ensuring appropriate representation from groups who are not from the majority group for the work being profiled; and,
• reviewing the competencies to determine whether the wording of the behaviours could act to unfairly exclude certain groups.

This post is based on content from 'Are Your Competencies Defensible?' by Human Resource Systems Group, Ltd.

Thursday 29 September 2011

Competency-based Job Profiles: What Are They Good For? (Continued)

The Performance Management process can be broadly defined to include all those functions that support the communication of performance expectations to employees, setting individual performance plans consistent with these expectations, ongoing feedback and management of performance to support employees in meeting their performance goals and expectations, and end of cycle reviews to evaluate how well employees have performed over the year and to plan for the next performance cycle.

While the performance management process must support the business goals of the organization (i.e. translation of what the organization must accomplish into what each employee must accomplish), organizations typically use competencies to define how the organization expects employees to behave in the performance of their job duties (e.g. through teamwork; with integrity; oriented toward achieving results; with a focus on the client; etc.). Thus, organizations often include competencies in the planning, review and evaluation cycle to complement and enhance the feedback provided to employees on their personal performance.

Competency profiles must support reliable, valid, fair and unbiased recruitment and selection decisions. They provide the standards for assessing whether candidates have the potential or capabilities to perform successfully in the target role or career stream. As such, therefore, the competency profiles must reflect the true (bona fide) requirements for entry into job roles / positions in the organization and they must not unfairly discriminate against groups protected under Canadian Human Rights and Employment Equity legislation. They must be sufficiently comprehensive to support the development or selection of reliable, valid, fair and unbiased screening and selection tools and processes.

This post is based on content from 'Framework for Competency-based Management' by Human Resource Systems Group, Ltd

Tuesday 27 September 2011

Competency-based Job Profiles: What Are They Good For? (Continued)

Succession planning and leadership development includes all of those HR processes needed to ensure that there is a pool of qualified candidates ready and able to assume key roles with the organization as they become vacant. Typical elements include: the forecasting of movement and position vacancies within the organization; the definition of the competency requirements for the various key roles and levels; the regular assessment of current employee competencies against the requirements and predicted vacancies; and, the planned movement (e.g. career assignments) and development of employees (e.g. formal development programs; mentoring; self-directed learning; etc.) to prepare them for future roles and levels within the organization. Succession planning differs from career management in the extent to which the activities are employee versus organizationally driven.

While the organization is responsible for providing the structures, tools and processes to support effective career management it is typically an employee-drive process – in other words, it is up to the employee with the assistance of his/her supervisor to take advantage of the structures, tools and processes the organization has in place to advance in his/her career. While all employees must take responsibility for planning and managing their personal careers, succession planning tends to be a more proactive organizationally driven program of activities on the assumption that having vacancies in key roles would leave the organization vulnerable.

This post is based on content from 'Framework for Competency-based Management' by Human Resource Systems Group, Ltd

Friday 23 September 2011

Are Your Competencies Defensible?: More Key Questions to Consider

When considering whether your competencies are defensible, there are key questions you can ask:

Were the job / work content experts representative of the stakeholders who understand the work?In line with the need to have job / work content experts participating in the definition of the competency requirements, there is a need to ensure appropriate representation, especially when dealing with jobs, functions or work commonly performed across of the organization. This could be the case when there are many people performing one job, when a number of jobs contain common elements (e.g. management or supervisory responsibilities), or when identifying competencies that tend to be common or core to organizational areas or functions. Factors to consider in choosing expert participants include:

  • who understands or typifies the job and desired level of performance;
  • representation of different stakeholder interests; and,representation of the diversity of the role (geographically, functionally, culturally, size of operation, region vs. HQ)
Is the level of competence used as the standard in making the employment decision reflective of the level actually needed?

Organizations must consider very carefully the level of performance that the competency profile represents. Many providers of competency profiling services argue that because organizations are driven to excellence, the standard for the development of competency profiles should be the superior performer. Competencies that document superior performance may be appropriate as standards or targets for employees who are seeking to improve (e.g. training and development). However, competencies defined at this level may not be appropriate if used to support recruitment and staffing decisions, especially if it is recognized that employees need time, training and / or development after appointment to become ‘superior’ performers.

Organizations, therefore, need to consider carefully the level of competence that will be described in the competency profile relative to how the profile will be used within the organization (e.g. recruitment and selection; development once in the job; etc.). In some cases, organizations choose to set different standards depending on the competency application (e.g., one standard for entry into a job / role, another standard for fully effective performance once the employee has been oriented or trained for the job, and possibly a third standard that represents full mastery or excellence in the job / role).

This post is based on content from 'Are Your Competencies Defensible?' by Human Resource Systems Group, Ltd.

Wednesday 21 September 2011

Competency-Based Job Profiles: What Are They Good For?

Competency-based job profiles can be used to support career management, learning and development, succession planning, recruitment, and as the program evolves employee performance management as well as staffing. As such, therefore, the profiles must be constructed to support all of these end uses for the targeted employee groups.

By definition, career management calls for employees and / or the leadership of the organization to be able to compare employee competencies against those competency requirements for both current as well as other roles or jobs in the organization. Thus, the competency structure must allow the organization and employees to draw comparisons across jobs, roles or levels in the organization. For example, employees aspiring to advance within career streams must be able to compare the competencies and proficiency requirements across the more junior to senior levels of this stream. For those employees wishing to make a career transition, the competency structure must also allow employees to compare their current competencies with competency requirements outside the typical or traditional occupational career paths. The competency structure must allow all of this to occur easily and effectively.

Closely linked to the career development process, learning tools and programs must support not only the assessment of individual learning needs to perform in one’s current role, but also to advance in one’s career. The setting and execution of individual learning plans to address these needs, and the assessment of the extent to which learning goals were met, can support learning for current jobs/roles as well as career development for other roles to which the employee aspires. Also, the competency structure must support goals for continuous organizational improvement and ongoing knowledge management and enhancement consistent with the organization’s vision.

This post is based on content from 'Framework for Competency-based Management' by Human Resource Systems Group, Ltd.

Thursday 15 September 2011

Are Your Competencies Defensible?: Key Questions to Consider

When considering whether your competencies are defensible, there are key questions you can ask:

Can you link the competencies to the work products, outcomes or tasks that employees must successfully perform in the organization or job?
Competencies by definition reflect the knowledge, skills, abilities or other attributes employees require for effective or successful performance. Employers must be prepared to justify that the competencies employees, or potential employees, are asked to possess are actually required for job effectiveness.

Are the competencies reflective of the key and important attributes required for overall success in the job?
Employers must be prepared to demonstrate that the competencies used in making employment decisions represent the key and important behaviours (i.e., non-trivial) that employees must display for success. Once the competency profiles have been developed in draft, analysts will often ask job / work content experts to rate the level of importance of the competencies (and associated behavioural indicators) and to identify any that may be missing.

Did you use job / work content experts?
Employers must be prepared to demonstrate that the competency requirements were identified based on the expert knowledge of those who understand the job or area being profiled, including the services, products or outcomes that lead to excellence. Typically, organizations seek information from a variety of sources to ensure that there is a consistent and well-rounded perspective on the competencies needed for success. Common sources of information about the types of behaviours that lead to success include:

• Incumbents who understand or exemplify the type and level of performance required;
• those who supervise the work;
• those reporting to the job being profiled;
• clients or recipients of the services being provided; and,
• individuals who understand any changes that may be occurring within the job or work area.

This post is based on content from 'Are Your Competencies Defensible?' by Human Resource Systems Group, Ltd.

Tuesday 13 September 2011

Are Your Competencies Defensible?

The use of competencies can sometimes be subject to judicial scrutiny when an employment decision is challenged. Organizations must ensure that their competency profiles and the methods of their development meet accepted standards. Key concerns include: the link between competencies and the skills, knowledge and abilities required for job success; how reflective competencies are of required key attributes; the use of expert knowledge in developing competencies; accounting for possible disadvantages to a particular group; and, the actual level of competence required.

What's the Issue? Most progressive organizations are implementing integrated competency-based human resource management processes, tools and applications to support the achievement of their strategic and business goals. However, in their rush to reap the potential benefits, they may not have invested the time and effort up front to ensure that their competencies and competency framework are defensible (e.g., litigation, complaints under EEOC Guidelines, human rights complaints, etc.).

Why should you worry whether your competencies are defensible?Well, organizations use competencies to identify the gaps between their human resource needs and their employees’ strengths and weaknesses. Based on these comparisons, important decisions are made about how to select, promote, manage and develop human resources to support the organization’s success - decisions that impact employees’ careers and livelihoods. Therefore, the competencies and how they are used could be subject to review and close scrutiny if there is a challenge to an employment decision that was made. Courts, review boards or tribunals could ask employers to justify their employment decisions based on whether the competencies reflect the ‘bona fide’ skills, knowledge, abilities or other requirements for effective performance in the job. It is important, therefore, for organizations take care to ensure that their competency profiles / models, and the methods by which they were developed, meet generally accepted standards.

Requirements for Defensible Job Analysis:

  • Include most critical or important elements
  • Trained job analysts
  • Structure system
  • Process and results recorded
  • Use of subject matter experts
  • Sufficient sample size
  • Verifiable and replicable

This post is based on content from 'Are Your Competencies Defensible?' by Human Resource Systems Group, Ltd.

Friday 9 September 2011

Tips for Successful Competency-based Selection Interviewing

It is important to weigh each behavioural example provided by an interviewee in terms of its overall contribution to the rating for each competency. Since this is not simply a process of averaging all of the +'s and -'s to arrive at an overall rating, it is important to take the following factors into account:
  • Significance: The importance of the examples in relation to the job being filled should be carefully considered. Two complete behavioural examples may be provided. One may be a good example in a very unimportant situation, and the other may be an example of poor performance in the same competency area in a very critical situation. It is necessary, therefore, to give the more important example more weight in the candidate's overall rating for that particular competency area.
  • Recency: The more recent the behaviour, the better it predicts future behaviour. If the candidate provides a number of negative examples of a competency earlier in their career, but also provides several more recent positive examples, then the recent examples should be given more weight in the overall rating of the competency, other things being equal.
  • Trends: Consistent with the concept of recency, examples which show a trend either positively or negatively should be taken into account. It is likely that a trend would continue if the candidate were selected for the target position.
  • Job-Relatedness: The job-relatedness of the examples provided by the candidate should also be factored into the overall rating of a competency. For example, a candidate may have provided good examples of team building skills in volunteer situations involving children, but a number of negative examples with adults on the job. Although volunteer experience is perfectly acceptable, the latter examples must be given more weight if the candidate is expected to demonstrate this skill with adults on the job.
  • Assign a Rating to Each Competency: The next step is to assign a rating to each competency based on the candidate’s demonstration of the relevant behavioural indicators.
This post is based on content from 'Effective Interviewing' by Human Resource Systems Group, Ltd.

Wednesday 7 September 2011

Quick Tips for Evaluating Candidate Interviews

All of the energy and effort devoted to capturing good job-related information during a selection interview is wasted if this information is not evaluated consistently and appropriately for all candidates. A key element of evaluation is the classification of the behavioural examples provided by candidates. Behavioural questions are designed to illicit information relevant to a specific competency. However, human behaviour can be complex. Accordingly, the following situations may arise:
  • a behavioural-based question will be asked focusing on one competency area, but the candidate will provide a behavioural example that demonstrates another
  • examples will be provided that relate to more than one competency area
  • examples that relate to the required competencies will be provided during the introductory phases of the interview, or during the close of the interview
The whole interview should, therefore, be reviewed carefully, for evidence of the competencies being assessed. One suggested method for doing this is to circle each behavioural example, and if it demonstrates a competency other than the one intended by the question, note the competency demonstrated along side of the example, and cross reference this example in the section of the Interview Guide devoted to that competency. In addition to classifying all of the examples, the interviewer should note whether the behaviour demonstrated is a positive or negative example relative to the type of performance expected on the job by placing a + (plus sign) or a - (minus sign) beside each example.

Once all relevant information from the interview has been reviewed and correctly classified, the interviewer is in a position to fully understand and evaluate a candidate’s past behaviour for each competency.

This post is based on content from 'Effective Interviewing' by Human Resource Systems Group, Ltd.

Friday 2 September 2011

A Word to the Critics

I constantly hear that competencies don’t work and that they are just another passing theme on the stage of HR management. If you are looking for a silver bullet that will solve your HR issues in a day or two, then you would be correct. Competencies won’t work.

However, for the management team that is concerned about having the best workforce available, is committed to integrating their human resource initiatives with their corporate vision and business goals, and is looking to implement and sustain strategic and effective tools and processes from hire to retire, then competencies are the answer. Extensive research and proven examples in both the private and public sector demonstrate as much.

If you have looked at competencies in the past, and rejected them, I urge you to take a new look with experts that can properly assess your needs and the utility of competencies for your organization. If you have not yet considered competencies as a way to manage and develop your workforce, perhaps now is the time to do so.

This post is based on content from 'Competencies from a -HR Point of View' by Bill Cowperthwaite.

Wednesday 31 August 2011

Competency Implementation: Challenges and Rewards

Is implementing competencies easy to do? No, like many things that are simple to understand and operate, it takes time, an understanding that there is a science behind competencies, and a will to make it happen. A good deal of work to ensure there is input, involvement, passion and participation from the work force and the executive and management teams is required. Defining the competencies for your particular environment and culture is critical and requires expert help. But having done the groundwork, the benefits are more than worth the effort. Reduced tension among the work force, people working in the areas that best suit their capabilities, reduced turnover, increased productivity, and achievement of goals and objectives are just some of the benefits of having a competency-based HR management system.

A note of caution - there is a tendency to try to implement competencies across the organization all at once rather than through a phased and well thought out design and implementation process. People who purport to understand competencies that try to drop in a fixed solution that is not tailored to your organization should be avoided. Beware the “How-To” book as a solution too; the successful adoption of competencies requires much more. Competencies are not hard to understand, but ensuring that they are yours and that everyone is on board in using and implementing competency-based systems takes time and work. Quick fixes and short cuts may sell books and cookie-cutter software, but implementing a good competency-based HR system takes specialized thought and application. However, if you want a competitive advantage over traditional management systems, the time and effort spent implementing a good competency-based system is indispensable.

This post is based on content from 'Competencies from a -HR Point of View' by Bill Cowperthwaite

Thursday 25 August 2011

Success Through Competencies

Competencies are observable abilities, skills, knowledge, motivations or traits defined in terms of the behaviours needed for successful job performance. They translate the strategic vision and goals for the organization into behaviours or actions employees must display for the organization and the individual to thrive. Using competencies for selection reduces the risk of a bad hire as it increases the validity of the recruitment process through:
  • A focus on both technical and behavioural components of the job;
  • Standardized selection criteria;
  • Well-researched, job-related behaviours;
  • Well defined definitions, known in advance;
  • A streamlined, consistent process; and,
  • A variety of selection tools to increase incremental validity.
Selection tools that can incorporate Competency-based assessment include: structured interviews, reference checks, track record reviews, role plays and work samples to name a few, all supported by standardized rating scales that incorporate competency criteria. But don’t stop there. Competencies can be integrated into the complete HR system as the foundation for coordinating learning and development, performance management and succession planning.

This post is based on content from 'Estimating the Cost of a Bad Hire' by Human Resource Systems Group, Ltd.

Wednesday 17 August 2011

Developing an Effective Workforce using Competency-based Management

The development of an effective work force requires training and experience opportunities for deserving employees. Through the knowledge of the competency structure of the organization, training can be provided to the right person with a concurrent effect on budget control and the proper application of training programs. Special teams can be designed and career development opportunities can be provided to those being considered for increased responsibility as part of a succession plan.

Even pay evaluation can be determined through an analysis of the competencies. Those with similar competency requirements may be qualified for the same pay scale although they are in unrelated jobs. This process may also eliminate the requirement for special initiatives such as pay equity.

While all of this may seem obvious, there is considerable work required by knowledgeable and well-trained people to ensure that the competencies are in fact the correct and valid ones. The definition of the levels of knowledge, skill and ability must be determined for each level in the organization. For example, if communications skills are a core competency required by everyone in the organization, the ability to communicate well will likely differ between the lowest level of employee and the most senior manager. The correct definitions are therefore critical to using the competencies in other human resource management programs.

This post is based on content from 'Competencies: The Core of Human Resource Management' by Suzanne Simpson

Monday 15 August 2011

The Goal of Behavioural Questions

Behavioural questions are designed to elicit behavioural information about the candidate’s past experience and accomplishments that relate to the competencies required in the target job.

Knowing a candidate’s actions is of little use if the interviewer does not understand the circumstances surrounding the actions and the results produced by those actions. Therefore, the answers to behavioural questions need to include the following components in order for the interviewer to fully understand a candidate’s past behaviour:
  • Situation: Allows an understanding of the context of the good, average or poor performance.
  • Action: What the particular incumbent actually did.
  • Result: Whether the action in that particular situation was effective (described in qualitative/quantitative terms).
When the information provided by a candidate contains all three components, then the information is called a behavioural example.

All of these components are necessary to make an informed judgment about whether the candidate has displayed the level and quality of behaviour required in the target position. Behavioural questions are designed to elicit behavioural information about the candidate’s past experience and accomplishments that relate to the competencies required in the target job.

This post is based on content from 'Effective Interviewing' by Human Resource Systems Group, Ltd.

Thursday 11 August 2011

False Behavioural Examples

When using the competency-based interviewing technique, it is important to understand how to properly classify and evaluate behavioural, or competency-based examples provided by candidates. In some cases, one can gain a better understanding of what behavioural examples are by defining what they are not. They are not statements of feelings or opinions, future-directed comments about what a candidate will do or would like to do, or vague statements that cannot be interpreted. All of these are false behavioural examples.

Theoretical or Future-Oriented Statements
Theoretical or future-oriented statements provide no information about past behaviour. They indicate what a candidate thinks they would do or should do, not what has been done.
  • “I expect to finish my degree next year, and go on to an executive position three years after that.”
  • “If I had been in charge of that situation, I would have made sure the client got all of the support he needed.”
Feelings or Opinions
Feelings and opinions provide no insight into behaviour. These statements are simply an individual’s emotional reaction to a situation or event.
  • “I am really good at teaching myself new software packages.”
  • “I was the best executive assistant and deserved more responsibility.”
Vague Statements
Vague statements are general summaries or descriptions of several past actions. They often contain descriptions of results that are reported in a very general way. In many cases, the candidate’s role is not clearly defined, as in the second example below. Interviewers must understand that when they get this kind of information, they must probe further.
  • “I always had the best interest of the customers in mind and never tried to get pushy or in an argument with anyone.”
  • “We prepared the report and submitted it to the President in record time.”
The questions in the interview guide are designed to obtain information about the candidate's experience and accomplishments that relate to the competencies that are important for success in the job to be filled.

For each question, you must obtain one or more specific examples of the candidate's experience and / or accomplishments ensuring that the candidate describes:
  • The Situation or Circumstances related to the example;
  • The Actions taken by the candidate to address the situation, along with the rationale for the action taken; and,
  • The Results or Outcome of the candidate's actions.
In order to obtain complete descriptions, it may be necessary to ask follow-up questions to clarify or obtain additional information on any one, or more, of the elements noted above (Situation / Circumstance, Action, Result / Outcome.)

Take notes on the candidate's answers during the interview in order to have an accurate record of the information on the candidate's experience and accomplishments to evaluate later.
Provide an opportunity at the end of the interview for the candidate to ask questions or clarify the next steps in the selection process.

This post is based on content from 'Effective Interviewing' by Human Resource Systems Group, Ltd.

Monday 8 August 2011

Applications of Competency-based Management

Competency-based management can be applied across all areas of HR. Consider, downsizing. It is possible, when faced with this difficult task, to identify exactly who should be affected by the downsize. One first determines what the new organization will look like and what knowledge skills and abilities (competencies) will be required in the new structure. By examining the competencies of the people in the organization it can be determined quickly what people already have the required competencies, who could have them after a little retraining and those who cannot fit into the new structure. The downsizing plan therefore, includes only those who are not able to make the transition and training is planned for those who require it. The chance of causing a major disruption to the operational capability of the organization and possible failure from having released the wrong people is reduced considerably.

If you know what is required in terms of competencies, you can develop recruiting and hiring techniques tools and practices to conserve funds and yet get the best available employees to implement the expansion. These procedures can, at the same time, virtually eliminate the problem of employment equity questions and the potential for human rights challenges.

Once you have the employees, you must manage them. Next in consideration may be to ensure that the employees are performing correctly or that the new program is working as anticipated or those who are the most effective employees are recognized and rewarded. Knowing the knowledge, skills and abilities (competencies) required and the level of expectations for the implementation of those competencies, measurement tools and practices can be established to ensure that all people, policies and practices are contributing effectively to the achievement of the organizational goals and objectives.

This post is based on content from 'Competencies: The Core of Human Resource Management' by Suzanne Simpson

Friday 5 August 2011

Need employee commitment? Start with competencies.

You’ve just spent weeks advertising, interviewing and assessing candidates for a position and you’ve finally made the hiring decision. You bring your new hire on board, put them through orientation, build them a learning plan, start their training and—3 months in—they quit!
Regardless of size or sector, most organizations have, at some point, experienced a “bad hire,” and in doing so have paid dearly for a seemingly routine hiring. Many of today’s organizations are fully aware of the high price they pay for employee turnover. What they don’t know, is how to combat the loss.

Retention initiatives usually take place after the fact, in an attempt to hold on to existing employees through initiatives like workplace wellness programs, career development and competitive compensation and benefits. While these initiatives are key to maintaining a positive and sustainable relationship between employer and employee, they will not be successful in retaining an employee who does not “fit” into the organization, is not happy on the job, or lacks certain motivational characteristics that could have been identified right from the start.

Attracting and selecting the right talent in the first place is paramount to retaining employees further down the road. In practice, this means implementing sound, valid and reliable recruitment and selection processes that directly assess the behaviours relevant to success on the job and within the organization. Most managers are able to articulate their needs for and select candidates with the right professional and technical skills. Where they often fall short, however, is in selecting for those “softer” skill sets that can “make or break” the organization. Employees’ interpersonal and communication styles can play as important (if not more important) a role as their technical and professional skills and qualifications. The challenge for most managers in the selection process, however, is to gain an accurate reading of the competencies of candidates in these “softer” skill areas. This is where Competency-based Selection comes to the rescue.

Traditional interview approaches focus on discussing the candidate’s previous experience for the purpose of gaining an impression of his/her accomplishments without pre-defining the expected behaviour required for success on the job, or seeking evidence that the candidate actually demonstrated the skill in doing the work. An example of such an interview question is: “What experience do you have in customer service?” In addition, too much reliance is placed on the candidate’s self-perception or opinion by asking questions such as “What are your strengths and weaknesses? Where do you see yourself in 5 or 10 years? How would your friends describe you?” These questions do not directly assess candidate behaviour that is relevant to success on the job.

This post is based on content from 'Estimating the Cost of a Bad Hire' by Human Resource Systems Group, Ltd.

Thursday 4 August 2011

Looking into the Crystal Ball: Predicting Future Behaviour of New Hires

Behavioural-based questions are a good alternative to situational question and have been shown to be one of the most effective structured interviewing strategies. These types of questions are based on the premise that: Past behaviour is the best predictor of future behaviour.

Past behaviour is often used to predict future behaviour in all facets of life. Banks lend money more readily to people with a proven track record of paying loans back. People continue to go back to stores that have given them good service.

The same concept is used in the behavioural interview. The questions are directed at obtaining information about the candidate’s past experiences and accomplishments in order to make a reliable prediction about how the candidate is likely to perform on the job. For example:
“Can you give me an example of a time where you had to deal with a particularly difficult student?”

If the target job involves teaching students in an academic environment, the interviewer would gather information on the candidate’s teaching experience in past jobs. If the target job requires handling marital disputes, then the interviewer would collect information on the candidate’s past experience in handling similar conflict situations. To effectively predict future behaviour, behavioural data does not need to come from past jobs that are identical to the target job. The data can include other life experiences, such as volunteer work, that provide information on the candidate’s job-related competencies. For example, an interviewer can evaluate the sales ability of someone who has never held a sales job by asking questions about situations in which the individual has had to persuade others, sell ideas to fellow workers, or influence a group.

The behavioural interview is focused on gathering examples of how candidates performed in previous jobs and situations that require the same kinds of competencies as the target job.
In contrast to the situational interview that asks candidates what they would or should do, behavioural interviews focus on what the candidate has actually done.

All of these types of questions can be included in the Competency-based Interview, striking a balance throughout the interview. However, since behavioural questions have been proven to provide one of the best indications of future job performance, as much as possible, the majority of the questions in the interview should be behaviourally-based.

This post is based on content from 'Effective Interviewing' by Human Resource Systems Group, Ltd.

Wednesday 27 July 2011

Using Situational Questions in Interviewing

Situational questions ask the candidate to provide information on how they would deal with job-related situations that are typical of the kinds of circumstances the candidate is likely to encounter on the job. They are designed to gather information on the types of skills and qualifications required to perform in these job-related situations. Often these situations or scenarios are taken directly from the job. For example:“If you were approached by a colleague for help in creating the budget for your department, what would you do?”

The purpose of this type of question is to get an appreciation of how the candidate is likely to deal with job-related situations and problems. This type of questioning strategy establishes whether the candidate knows how to deal appropriately with the situation presented. An often-cited disadvantage of this technique is that while candidates may know how to respond appropriately to the various scenarios presented, there is no guarantee that they will behave this way once on the job. It is advisable, therefore, to use this questioning technique in combination with other approaches.

This post is based on content from 'Effective Interviewing' by Human Resource Systems Group, Ltd.

Monday 25 July 2011

The Benefits of Competency-based Management

There can be no question that, while it takes effort and time to determine the competencies for an organization, the rewards are worth it. Less time will be spent dealing with human resource issues and more time devoted to the operational mandate of the organization. Training will be timely and effective. Performance effectiveness can be measured for both employees and programs. Make no mistake that the task is an easy one. All staff from management to employee must accept that the descriptions are valid for their positions and that they adequately reflect their job. Everyone must also see the benefits of such a program for them personally. So while it may be easy to articulate a few of the obvious competencies, determining all of them and the subsequent implementation will require skilled practitioners if the process is to be successful.

A competency-based system, while relatively easy to see at a surface level, requires considerable experience, human resource knowledge on a broad level and an understanding of the psychology of the work place to implement effectively. Just as with Total Quality Management and Management by Objective, the implementation requires knowledgeable people to both implement and manage a successful competency-based program.

This post is based on content from 'Competencies: The Core of Human Resource Management' by Suzanne Simpson

Thursday 21 July 2011

Competency-based Interviewing

A common challenge identified by hiring managers is identifying what to evaluate in an interview in order to hire the right individual for the job. One way to address this is to use competency-based, or behaviour-based interviewing. The purpose of the competency-based interviewing is to reliably gather as much job-related information as possible to make a valid evaluation of the candidate’s ability to perform on the job. There are three basic types of questions that are historically used in the context of a Selection Interview.
  • the Job Knowledge question
  • the Situational question
  • the Behavioural question
Job knowledge questions most often deal with the technical or professional knowledge required to effectively perform the duties of the job. Often they can be effectively assessed through knowledge tests or work sample exercises which simulate the type of work done on the job. The advantage of asking these types of questions in the interview, however, is that the interviewer can ask follow-up questions to seek clarification and probe more deeply into the answers given.

The primary responsibility of the interviewer is to collect behavioural information about the candidate’s experiences and accomplishments that relate to the target job so that the best selection decision can be made. The interviewer seeks job-related information by using “competencies.” Establishing the competencies required for successful performance of the job is the first and most fundamental step in developing a good selection strategy.

The skills and competencies required for effective performance will vary depending on the job and whether the position has managerial or supervisory responsibilities. Examples of some common competencies often interviewed for are: Adaptability, Decision Making, Planning and Organizing, Client Focus, Communication, Relationship Building, Work Ethics and Values, Initiative, Teamwork, and, Problem Solving.

This post is based on content from 'Effective Interviewing' by Human Resource Systems Group, Ltd."

Tuesday 12 July 2011

Competencies: The Core of Human Resource Management'

To see the value of a competency-based system, one only needs to consider that a list of scientifically determined knowledge, skills and abilities are defined for each and every job or family of jobs in an organization. These competencies include the knowledge requirements (such as a university degree or trade certificate), skill requirements (usually based on experience), responsibility requirements and the abilities (such as the ability to speak clearly and persuasively) required for the job. Once these are known, it is then possible to devise tools and implement practices based on the competencies to manage all aspects of the organization's human resources. When these are tied to the goals and objectives of the organization, as they must be, then all personnel regardless of their function are aligned to achieving those goals and objectives, and therefore, the likelihood of organizational success is greatly increased.

This post is based on content from 'Competencies: The Core of Human Resource Management' by Suzanne Simpson"