Dust off Your Competency Model: Tips for Reviewing and Updating Your Competencies

In these uncertain times, one thing is certain, you can and should rely on a competency model. But why are they important? What are they really used for anyway? Let’s dive into it… 

Importance of Competency Modeling

Core competencies signal to your prospective and current employees what really matters in your organization, including:

  • How to succeed
  • Where to shine
  • What to do to keep their job

Effective models form the basis for linking competencies with organizational strategy, an important best practice. They also enable organizations to link expertise with HR processes, evaluation, and often productivity goals.

Tips for Updating Competencies

So, you’ve dusted off your competency model, now what?

Know What’s Most Important

Start where the need is greatest, where a competency strategy can have the most impact. Are the competencies right for now or are they intended to be a future state? It is also important to review the mission and vision statements. Being strategic when sponsoring HR initiatives increases credibility and buy-in. In a rapidly changing workplace, where there are competing priorities, relevance is key.

Validate the Competencies

There are many types of competencies. They typically include skills, knowledge, and abilities. There are core competency models that are tied to the organization’s strategic objectives, leadership competencies that provide a framework for leaders, and competency models for specific roles. Ask key stakeholders. Talk to top performers. Outside of HR, who in the organization can be a champion? Think about the most valued skills in your workplace now and make sure they are included. Make sure the competency guidelines user-friendly and memorable.

Shorten the List

The goal of a competency model is to ensure that employees are doing the right things and doing them well. Most people can’t remember 25 skills (competencies) and four behavioral descriptions for each. We recommend that your model have five to nine competencies and a few observable behaviors to fortify the model as a tool. Include behaviors that will have a significant impact on business performance when exhibited by large numbers of people. Demonstrating ROI is a key to success, especially with HR practices. Additionally, the language used to describe the competencies should be simplified to make the model easier to understand. This common language allows employees to take ownership of their development. Reduce the list and take off competencies that are no longer needed nor key differentiators of top performance today.

Tech-Enable Your Competency Model

An online tool is a must in a hybrid work environment. Make the competency model accessible to assess job candidates.

It is important to hire right the first time. You can deliver real bottom-line impact when you avoid selecting a candidate who interviews well, seems like a good fit, yet doesn’t have the skills to do the job. Extending offers to the right people is a lot easier when leaders provide hiring managers with a clear set of criteria to use to judge the merits of prospective candidates. These sets of criteria are perhaps most easily conveyed through the creation of competency models. When you include competencies in your HR processes and add the competencies to your Human Resource Information System (HRIS), there is a much greater chance that managers and employees will use the competency language in their day-to-day interactions. A consistent and fair system is critical. Give managers an opportunity to provide targeted feedback about what an employee needs to do to be an “A-player,” what are their strengths and key development needs. Your HRIS is a perfect place to house the revised model to make it easy to retrieve and reference as a high-performance road map.

Maximize the Benefits

A competency model can and should guide the organization, managers, and employees throughout the employee experience. Use it to hire, onboard, train, promote, and reward employees. It will serve as an objective reference and enable everyone to be on the same page. Add reminders to your calendar to review the competencies every six months. Organizational priorities change rapidly, roles evolve, and competencies must be aligned and relevant to add value. Realize that what it takes to be a successful performer in the future may be different from what leads to strong performance today.

Unveiling Your Updated Competency Model

As with anything that once was old and now is new, think of ways to showcase your competency model. Have some fun introducing the “new and improved” tool. Perhaps link the launch of the framework to a new mission-critical initiative. Announce the revised competencies in your organization’s new employee orientation. Host a webinar and hook the “quiet quitters” with a new way to enhance their career and their satisfaction on the job. Include the model on the home page of your intranet and on the landing pages for internal job postings, performance management, and learning and development. The key to success is that people can find it, and when they do, it’s easy to use and beneficial. Reduce, Reuse, and Recycle for the win!

Keystone Partners has more than 40 years of experience working with clients throughout all aspects of the employee experience. We have extensive experience helping clients create competency models from scratch or simply, review and update existing competency models. We can help ensure you have the best system in place for your organization. Interested in learning more about how we can help with leadership development and career management-related needs? Contact us today to find out how we can help your organization realize the full potential of your people.

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