Realizing The Value Promise of Competencies

By Posted in - Talent Management on September 1st, 2011 0 Comments

The History

Competencies have been around for quite some time now.  The history of competencies could be stretched as far back as the 1950’s with John Flanagan’s Critical Incident Technique.  McClelland offered a definition of competency in the 1970’s and the concept was firmly established by Boyatzis in his 1982 book, “The Competent Manager: A model for effective performance”.  The introduction of competencies was widely applauded as a promising approach to defining and developing the fundamental components of job success.

The Promise

Competency Modeling promised the following:

  • A common language and basis for evaluating and improving behavioral performance across the organization
  • A basis for integrating talent management systems

The Reality

The reality is that many organizations have struggled with implementing and effectively using competencies.  Some of these problems can be linked to poor change management practices.  Other problems are related to the competency models themselves.

  • Bad homegrown models – Organizations that choose to create their own competency models typically find that they spend excessive effort and resource focused on developing the model instead of planning how they are going to introduce and actually use the models.  Too often the competencies are too broad and not uni-dimensional, containing a mix of competencies.  Mixing apples and oranges means you can’t measure the competency reliably.
  • Failure to become a common language – Many competency models are filled with HR speak which compounds the problem that competencies are not the natural language of line leaders to begin with.  It is important to capture terminology familiar to line leaders.
  • Underutilization – Many competency models simply collect dust on shelves and are not implemented widely or across different talent management systems.  Without utilization, the models cannot be a true integrator of systems.

Closing the Gap

In order to achieve effective implementation of competency models, I would offer the following suggestions:

  • Tailor rather than create – There are a variety of affordable and proven competency models available in the market.  OMNIview provides four leadership models and three individual contributor models and supports full competency customization.
  • Involve leaders/stakeholders in the tailoring process – In order to build buy-in, capture their language and terminology in the definitions and behaviors that operationalize each competency.
  • Implement in steps and pay close attention to change management – Build a staged road map for the roll out and pay attention to communication strategies and metrics.  As an example, you might want to use competencies first in your interviewing processes, then introduce them through self- or 180-ratings for individual and career development, and then introduce them in your performance management process.  Give visibility to use, value and links to business success (e.g., higher retention rates, internal promotions, productivity, etc.).
  • Leverage technology – A well designed and organically developed talent management platform can do the heavy lifting of getting competencies used in all talent management processes.  This has been the core design strategy for the OMNIview platform.

If you are interested in learning how OMNIview can assist you in effectively implementing competency-based talent management, please call us at 877.426.6222.

Patrick Hauenstein, Ph.D.

About Patrick Hauenstein, Ph.D.

Patrick Hauenstein is the President and Chief Science Officer for OMNIview. During his free time Pat likes to cook. He is particularly fond of traditional southern cuisine. Pat is also an animal lover ...
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