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Art and Science of Competency Mapping

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    A lot is going on in recent times on the issue of competency mapping. A lot of resources spent and consultants invited to do competency mapping. Increased manpower costs, need for ensuring that competent people man critical positions, and the need to be competitive and recognition of the strategic advantages of having good human resources have compelled firms to be more competency driven.

    In good organisations competency mapping existed already. Traditionally HR Directors and their top management have always paid attention to competencies and incorporated them mostly in their appraisal systems. For example when L&T, LIC or NDDB, NOCIL, HLL, Bharat Petroleum etc. revised their Performance appraisal systems they focussed on the assessment of competencies. Role analysis was done and role directories prepared by the Indian Oil Corporation in mid eighties. Competency mapping is important and is an essential exercise.

    Every well managed firm should: have well defined roles and list of competencies required to perform each role effectively. Such list should be used for recruitment, performance management, promotions, placement and training needs identification. What is Competency? Any underlying characteristic required performing a given task, activity, or role successfully can be considered as competency. Competency may take the following forms: Knowledge, Attitude, Skill, Other characteristics of an individual including: Motives, Values, Self concept etc.

    Competencies may be grouped in to various areas. In classic article published a few decades ago in Harvard Business Review Daniel Katz grouped them under three areas which were later expanded in to the following four: Technical. Managerial, Human and Conceptual. This is a convenience classification and a given competency may fall into one or more areas and may include more than one from. It is this combination that are labelled and promoted by some firms as competency dictionaries. A competency dictionary of a firm gives detailed descriptions of the competency language used by that firm.

    It contains detailed explanations of the combinations of competencies (technical, managerial, human and conceptual knowledge, attitudes and skills) using their own language. For example Team work or Team Management competency can be defined in terms of organization specific and level specific behaviors for a given origination. At top levels it might mean in the case of one organization ability identify utilize and synergize the contributions of a project team and at another level it might mean ability to inspire and carry along the top management team including diversity management.

    In competency mapping all details of the behaviors (observable, specific, measurable etc. ) to be shown by the person occupying that role are specified. History of Competencies A team of Educationists lead by Benjamin Bloom in the USA in mid fifties laid the foundation for identifying educational objectives and there by defining the knowledge attitudes and skills needed to be developed in education.

    The task force lead by Bloom took several years to make an exhaustive classification of the educational objectives that were grouped under the cognitive domain. David McClelland the famous Harvard Psychologist has pioneered the competency movement across the world. His classic books on “Talent and Society”, “Achievement Motive”, “The Achieving Society”, “Motivating Economic Achievement” and “Power the Inner Experience” brought out several new dimensions of the competencies.

    These competencies exposed by McClelland dealt with the affective domain in Bloom’s terminology. The turning point for competency movement is the article published in American Psychologist in 1973 by McClelland titled where in he presented data that traditional achievement and intelligence scores may not be able to predict job success and what is required is to profile the exact competencies required to perform a given job effectively and measure them using a variety of tests.

    This article combined with the work done by Douglas Brey and his associates at AT&T in the US where in they presented evidence that competencies can be assessed through assessment centers an on the job success can be predicted to some extent by the same has laid foundation for popularization of the competency movement. Latter McBer a Consulting Firm founded by David McClelland and his associate Berlew have specialized in mapping the competencies of entrepreneurs and managers across the world.

    They even developed a new and yet simple methodology called the Behavior Event Interviewing (BEI) to map the competencies. With increased recognition of the limitations performance appraisal in predicting future performance potential appraisal got focused. And Assessment centers became popular in seventies. The setting up an Assessment center was in integral part of the HRD plan given to L&T by the IIMA professors as early as in 1975. L&T did competency mapping and could not start assessment centers until much latter as it was not perceived as a priority area.

    Competency mapping is the process of identification of the competencies required to perform successfully a given job or role or a set of tasks at a given point of time. It consists of breaking a given role or job into its constituent tasks or activities and identifying the competencies (technical, managerial, behavioral, conceptual knowledge, an attitudes, skills, etc. ) needed to perform the same successfully. Competency assessment is the assessment of the extent to which a given individual or a set of individuals possess these competencies required by a given role or set of roles or levels of roles.

    Assessment centers use multiple methods and multiple assessors to assess the competencies of a given individual or a group of individuals. In order to enhance objectivity they use trained assessors and multiple methods including psychometric tests, simulation exercise, presentations, in-basket exercises, interviews, role-plays, group discussions etc. The methods to be used depend on the nature of competencies. Who Identifies competencies? Competencies can be identified by one of more of the following category of people: Experts, HR Specialists, Job analysts, Psychologists, Industrial Engineers etc.

    in consultation with: Line Managers, Current & Past Role holders, Supervising Seniors, Reporting and Reviewing Officers, Internal Customers, Subordinates of the role holders and Other role set members of the role (those who have expectations from the role holder and who interact with h him/her). What Methodology is used? The following methods are used in combination for competency mapping: Interviews, Group work, Task Forces, Task Analysis workshops, Questionnaire, Use of Job descriptions, Performance Appraisal Formats etc. How are they Identified? The process of identification is not very complex.

    Some of the methods are given below: 1. Simply ask each person who is currently performing the role to list the tasks to be performed by him one by one, and identify the Knowledge, Attitudes, and Skills required to perform each of these. Consolidate the list. Present it to a role set group or a special task force constituted for that role. Edit and Finalize. 2. Appoint a task force for each role. When the author worked with the Ministry of Health in Indonesia a three day workshop was found to be sufficient to train the local Health Province staff in competency mapping.

    This in spite of the author having to work with groups of Indonesians who spoke only Bhasa Indonesia. What Language to Use? Use Technical language for technical competencies. For example: knowledge of hydraulics. Use business language for business competencies. Example: Knowledge of markets for watch business or Strategic thinking. Use your own language or standard terms for Behavior competencies. Example: Ability to Negotiate, Interpersonal sensitivity, Sales techniques. Too technical and conceptual knowledge align to the organization and people may create more problems than help Who can do it?

    Competency mapping is a task which can be done by many people. Now days all Management schools and definitely those specializing in HR train the students in competency mapping. Recently when the author taught a course on Management of Talent at the Indian School of Business with two hours or introduction to the process of competency mapping the students (all with experience of more than two years) have done a great job of competency mapping for a set of roles. Any Masters in Management or Social Sciences or an Employee with Equivalent Experience and Training can develop these competencies.

    Conceptual Background and Understanding of the business is important. Familiarity with Business, Organizations, Management and Behavioral Sciences is useful. HR Managers, Management Graduates, Applied Psychologists are quite qualified to do this. Most institutions specializing in HR train the candidates to do this. Some Tips on How to do it? The following are some of tips to do competency mapping at low cost: Pick up a job or a role that is relatively well understood by all individuals in the company. Work out for this role and give it as an illustration.

    For example Sales Executive, Production Supervisor, Assistant HR Manager, Receptionist, Transport Manager, PR Manager, etc. are known to all and easy to profile. Work out competencies for this role if necessary with the help of job analysis specialist or an internal member who has knowledge of competency mapping. Prepare this as an illustration. Circulate these others and ask various departments to do it on their won. Circulate samples of competencies done by others Illustrate knowledge, attitudes, skills, values etc. Choose a sample that does not use jargons

    Explain the purpose Interview of past successful job holders helps Current incumbent who are doing a good job along with their Reporting officers is a good enough team in most cases. Once prepared even on the basis of one or two individuals inputs circulate to other role set members.  For example, the competencies for a carpenter might include:  Attention to Detail, Problem Solving Ability.

    These competencies typically have definitions. For example: Attention to Detail: Pays attention to details to ensure they are correct. Competency definitions are most useful if they include a scale which helps identify low and high levels of the competencies:

    • For example: Attention to Detail: Pays attention to fine details to ensure they are correct
    • Low: Shows concern when errors are made in detail but does not make special efforts to fix them.
    • Medium: Is careful in work and takes the time to ensure details are correct.
    • High: Is very careful in work, checks final result, puts in extra effort to re-do work when it is not up to their personal standards.

    Typically, there are around seven to ten competencies for a job. While one could often justify having more competencies the models become too hard to use. Tools for Building Models There are three main tools used to build competency models. They can be used alone or in combination:

    1. Select from Existing Competency Dictionaries Many consulting firms have dictionaries of existing competencies. They may even have lists of jobs with associated competencies. A client can simply select and edit competencies from the dictionary that they feel relevant to the job.
    2. Use an Expert Panel to Define Competencies An “expert panel” normally consists of HR, one or more managers of the job being discussed and one or more incumbents of the job being discussed and a consultant. The expert panel discusses the job and decides what competencies are required.
    3. Research on the Competencies Required to Do the Job The most scientific way to determine the competencies required for a job is to do research.

    Typically this is done by doing structured behavioral interviews of high performers and average performers. The interviews are analyzed and the differences between high and average performers become the basis for the competency model. Selecting a Tool The key issues in selecting a tool are:

    • What can you afford (in time and money)?
    • How well do you understand the job?
    • How much do you want to learn about competencies?

    Here are some common scenarios and the appropriate tools: Small company with limited resources Often small companies find they can only afford the cheapest, quickest approach which is to select from a competency dictionary. This does not add a lot of value but is better than not using competencies at all.  We already understand competencies and we understand the job If the job is well understood and you already understand competencies then you may find that selecting from a competency dictionary meets your needs.

    We need to understand the job better and we want buy in Using an expert panel typically helps you ensure that you develop competencies that are well tailored to the specific job. Just as importantly, you get buy-in and understanding from the people who will be using the model. For most situations, this would be the method of choice.

    It is a critical job and it”s worthwhile to get it right For a large population job, such as flight attendants in an airline, or critical jobs, such as senior auditors, it is often worthwhile to do a research project. It is also useful if you suspect that there may be competencies that an expert panel would be unaware of.  We want to really understand competencies.

    A research project is the best way to really understand what competencies are all about. An HR department might well want to do one or two research projects to learn about competencies before retreating to faster, cheaper tools such as expert panels or selecting from a dictionary. Caveat Generally, far too much effort goes in to building a model, and too little effort goes into using it. In general it may make sense to try to get a rough model together quickly, start using it, then refine it based on what you learn. Role of Consultants

    Companies new to competencies should probably use a consultant to help them get started. However, in general it is best if the consultant is the teacher and coach while the company (usually HR) does the actual work of building the model. If the consultant does the work they will gain a deep understanding of competencies and jobs. You, the client, will get a piece of paper. The Competitive Advantage of Skills/Competencies Management [pic] By: Date: January 31 2005 [pic] Competencies management allows companies to link the strategic objectives of their organization with key HR systems.

    By creating a true picture of the technical and behavioral skills within an organization, companies can improve HR performance, deploy human capital more effectively and make better strategic decisions regarding business processes. There are many resources on the market today that help organizations identify and implement competencies management programs. There are multiple consulting firms that specialize in helping organizations move through the process and there are an increasing number of software vendors offering solutions to accommodate competencies management.

    Additionally, there are several other vendors offering organizations existing libraries and dictionaries of relevant skills and competencies. Competency dictionaries help organizations reduce the need to develop skills definitions that support their business processes. They offer a common language that can guide an organization through the process of identifying the skills and competencies necessary to align performance with strategic goals and objectives. Most competency dictionaries consist of both technical and behavioral competency definitions.

    Technical competencies are those skills that can support HR processes including career management, succession planning, development planning, and recruitment and resource deployment. By identifying the technical competencies of employees, organizations are better able to identify individuals to work on specific projects or responsibilities. Behavioral competencies provide organizations with a framework for managing leadership development, organizational culture and performance. With the emergence of more and more competency dictionaries, organizations don’t have to look hard to find one that meets their needs.

    Many vendors offer dictionaries that range in their number of definitions from 55 to 3,000. Many vendors offer industry specific competencies dictionaries that range in their number of definitions from 55 to 3,000. Competencies management should not be limited strictly to the management level. Organizations should look at assessing the skills and competencies of all employees in order to develop a clear picture of where specific skills lie. This process also helps to analyze learning gaps, identify critical vacancies for succession planning, identify redundant operations and recognize competencies for planning future projects.

    Organizations that choose to identify competencies can expect to experience clarity around the expectations of employees and managers, a consistency of standards across the organization and the ability to track skills within the organization. Additionally, skills competencies management allows for the development of a shared language, allowing global companies to communicate more effectively amongst multiple locations. Despite the obvious benefits that competencies management can bring to an organization, many companies are reluctant to implement such a program. An HR.

    com competency report revealed several key reasons why organizations had failed to implement a competency-based human capital management system. The top three reasons included the lack of a comprehensive system, fear of the size and complexity of effort involved and a lack of comprehensive skills/competencies dictionary for their business. Other reasons for not implementing a competencies management system included difficulties in integration with existing human resources processes, lack of solid ROI, lack of comprehensive pre-defined job role profiles and the inability of managers to absorb the frequency of change.

    There are several key steps that organizations should take before implementing a competencies management system. The first step should involve identifying organizational goals and ensuring that there are clear links between organizational, departmental and individual goals. The next step is to analyze existing data to ensure it is clean and accurate. The third and final step is to assess your options in terms of launching the program. Are you going to use a consultant? Can you use an existing skills competency dictionary? Can you supplement an existing skills competency dictionary or do you need to start from scratch?

    HR. com has published several relevant documents designed to help organizations through the skills competency approach to human capital management. Strategic Issues: The Skills Competency Approach to Human Capital Management discusses the skills competency paradigm and offers guidance to organizations regarding the criteria and challenges of implementing a successful competency management program. HR. com has also produced a detailed guide to help organizations understand the great new opportunities and the factors that must be considered to successfully implement such an environment.

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