Job Family Competency Modeling

Posted November 25 2013
By Jim Graber, PhD

Last post, we described the job competency modeling approach, one job at a time, that we have traditionally and successfully used with thousands of jobs over the past 15 years. Here we are writing about a new, expedited approach where we develop competency models and job profiles for a job family, i.e. typically a group of 3-7 jobs closely related jobs. The job family approach, although new, has proven popular with organizations; when presented a choice between the two methods, most have been excited by the job family approach.


Thirteenth entry in a seventeen part introductory series on competency management:
  1. Why does the world need a competency toolkit?
  2. What’s a competency? How do they differ from KSA’s? 
  3. What are the main types of competencies?
  4. What is integrated talent management, and how do competencies relate?
  5. What’s the business case for competencies?
  6. Why are behavioral indicators so important?
  7. How are behavioral indicators created?
  8. What’s competency modeling?
  9. How does a competency model fit within a job description or job profile?
  10. Different approaches to competency modeling
  11. Principles of competency modeling
  12. Job role competency modeling
  13. Job family competency modeling
  14. Decisions to be made before a competency modeling project
  15. Organization core competency model
  16. Preparations for a Competency Modeling Project
  17. 20 Competency Modeling Best Practices


Job Family competency modeling saves time and provides greater consistency across roles by: 

a)     Profiling job families instead of individual jobs. Role specific competency models can still be achieved by varying required competency proficiency levels.

b)    Pre-selecting a smaller list of applicable competencies from a larger competency library, lessening the number of competencies that need to be considered.

c)    Building competency models with 3 separate components - Core Level, Functional, and Job Specific Competencies (see below).


Job Family Competency Modeling

d) The number of and labels (e.g., beginner, skilled) for levels should be consistent across the organization. Organizations typically specify 3-7 Levels.

e) The function competencies apply to everyone in a given professional area, such as IT, HR, Finance & Accounting, etc.

f) The third group of competencies is specific to the Job Family. As a rule of thumb, when there is roughly a 75% - 80% overlap in competencies, we group jobs into the same family. The proficiencies (skilled, advanced, etc.) are varied by job title so that there is a tailored competency model for each position.


Typically, the Job Family Competency Modeling process requires 3 meetings.


Meeting 1: Pre-Select Function Competencies
The purpose of the meeting is to verify that a narrowed list of pre-selected competencies, based on job descriptions, is useful for selecting Function Competencies. Thru pre-selection, instead of considering an entire library of 500 competencies, the list may be cut down to 50 competencies that might be a good fit. A second purpose of this meeting is to identify important competencies that are not currently found in the competency library. Meeting participants are 1-2 persons from a function, a meeting facilitator, and often an HR support specialist for the function. Meeting duration is typically 60-90 minutes.


Meeting 2: Select Function Competencies & Pre-Select Job Family Competencies

There are two purposes of the meeting; to select 5-10 competencies that apply to all members of the function and to select 5-10 competencies for each of the job families in the function. Meeting participants are typically 3 – 10 persons, including the function head and department heads, as well as a meeting facilitator and HR support specialist. Meeting duration is typically 2 – 3 hours.


Meeting 3: Select Job Family Competencies and Required Proficiency

The purpose of this meeting is to select desired proficiencies (e.g. beginner, skilled, advanced) for each job title in each family. A separate Meeting 3 may be held for each job family, or one meeting can be held for all job families. Participants are the same as in Meeting 2, department heads, and sometimes a few supervisors or job incumbents also participate.

Final Comments

There are pros and cons to the traditional job competency modeling and the expedited job family competency modeling approaches. Many organizations benefit from some of each method, depending on the jobs they are modeling. We have found that circumstances are a little different for each organization, for example, what data they want to collect, exactly how they want to structure competency modeling, who they have available to assist in the process, how much they want to do themselves versus getting external help, etc. Therefore, some tailoring occurs, and this in turn has led to continual enhancements.


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