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.