Competency Models come of age – Get Position Specific for Best Results

– Jim Hartigan

Competency models are rightfully getting a lot of attention these days.  It’s long over-due attention if you ask me.  During the economic downturn, it seemed many organizations were more focused on “transformational” organizational structure change and severance packages.  Recently, ASTD has launched their own training & development competencies specific to the training and development profession referred to as The ASTD Competency Model.  According to their website, “The ASTD Competency Model redefines the skills and knowledge required for trainers to be successful now and in the future, capturing changes driven by digital, mobile, and social technology; demographic shifts; globalization; and economic forces.”

While many organizations utilize standardized competencies (which is great), how many organizations have developed competency models specific for each position?  For the sake of focus, let’s consider the customer contact personnel in your organization.  Your organization recognizes the importance of customer satisfaction to your sustained business success and that your customer contact personnel hold the key to your long term business success in the palm of their hand.  As an innovative leader, you know that selection, training, and certification in the skills required to deliver awesome customer satisfaction are the key to delivering on the front lines.  You’ve seen first- hand that just one underperforming candidate in the critical, customer-contact role can be an expensive error, likely costing your organization real revenue in lost future sales from losing a repeat customer.  The brand folks will tell you that underperformers are responsible for diminished brand value from bad “word of mouth” due to failing to deliver on customer expectations of the brand promise as well.  In fact, in today’s social media crazed world, that can be more damaging than the losing the repeat customer!

So what can an organization do to ensure the success of its customer delivery system?  The Competency Model.  The framework we use at Orgwide, depicted here, illustrates the relationship between four sets of interrelated human resource activities; Assessments, Performance Management, Coaching, and Selection.  Each is critical to the long term health of your organization and each has at its foundation the specific position’s competency model.

At Orgwide, we follow a proven, five-step process to develop Competency Models for our clients.  We’re happy to share this process with the world, since as every great cook knows the magic is not in the recipe, but in how the recipe is followed. 

  • Identify Top Performers – Identify incumbents in the position deemed to be most successfully completing the job family’s tasks today.
  • Determine Critical Success Tasks – Develop a list of “tasks” or job duties within the job family that are completed on a regular basis by incumbents and critical to overall success in the job.
  • Conduct Success Factor Survey – Conduct a research survey of the successful job incumbents to rate the task statements by frequency and importance.
  • Factor Analyze Survey Results – Rank-order the task statements based on the ratings from the survey. Review and re-write the tasks based on expert responses.
  • Validate and Publish – Provide a summary report establishing the psychometric properties of the analyses and publish the finalized competencies.

Once you have established the proven core competencies of success in a given job family, you have built the “foundation” to use in developing the other manpower management processes to build your business.  As competency models gain momentum, take a look at your organization and see if developing position specific competencies will help lay the foundation to drive future growth.