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.

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