Competency Modeling is Different Than Other Types of Job Analysis
Campion and his team have identified some differences between competency modeling and job analysis that we have previously mentioned (our comments are in red):
- Competency models often attempt to distinguish top performers from average performers. The focus on people, not the job, and on excellence, is key to identifying important non-technical competencies as well as competencies with significant impact.
- Usually, a finite number of competencies are identified and applied across multiple functions or job families. This is best accomplished by using a shared competency library. Further the overlap of competencies between jobs is needed to build logical career paths.
- Competency models are frequently used actively to align the HR systems. This is one of their greatest strengths; selection, training, performance management, development and succession all work from the same palette.
- Competency models are often an organizational development intervention that seeks broad organizational change as opposed to a simple data collection effort. They truly can fundamentally change how business is done in an organization. Despite the extensive work required by a comprehensive competency modeling effort, we have witnessed far more excitement about competency modeling than typical job analysis efforts. In this same vein, according to Campion, “Executives typically pay more attention to competency modeling.”
Twenty Best Practices in Competency Modeling
The 20 best practices identified by Campion and his co-authors follow next, along with brief comments.
Analyzing Competency Information (Identifying Competencies)
1. Consider organizational context
2. Link competency models to organizational goals and objectives
3. Start at the top
4. Use rigorous job analysis methods to develop competencies
5. Consider future-oriented job requirements
6. Using additional unique methods
We are in agreement with the first 6 practices, perhaps with the exception of #3. As long as sufficient top level support is built, then we believe the organization should consider factors like what parts of the organization are anxious to begin, which can be champions, and which are likely to be “friendly” while competency modeling practices and competence are initially being honed.
Organizing and Presenting Competency Information
7. Define the anatomy of a competency (the language of competencies)
8. Define levels of proficiency on competencies
9. Use organizational language
10. Include both fundamental (cross-job) and technical (job-specific) competencies
11. Use competency libraries
12. Achieve the proper level of granularity (number of competencies and amount of detail)
13. Use diagrams, pictures, and heuristics to communicate competency models to employees
Recommendations 7-13 also gibe with our experience. However, for #8, we are in favor of building levels of proficiency through use of a rating scale, not through the identification of different behavioral indicators per level as is typically done. Doing a sound job of scaling the behaviors into different levels is a difficult task that has plagued even trained, psychometrically sophisticated organization psychologists for many years.
Using Competency Information
14. Use organizational development techniques to ensure competency modeling acceptance and use
15. Use competencies to develop HR’s systems (hiring, appraisal, promotion, compensation)
16. Use competencies to align HR systems
17. Use competencies to develop a practical “theory” of effective job performance for the organization
18. Use information technology to enhance the usability of competency models
19. Maintain the currency of competencies over time
20. Use competency modeling for legal defensibility (e.g., test validation)
The last set of recommendations, 14-20, strikes us the most important of the whole list. A competency modeling effort can easily survive less than ideal methodology, but these recommendations are critical for ensuring that competencies have high impact and value, and that their implementation is important.