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.