Using Competencies to Define Success - Perennial Talent
Competency models describe the collection of critical competencies required for successful performance in a given job. Competencies refer to a cluster of related knowledge, skills, abilities, or other characteristics defined in terms of the observable behaviors needed for success (e.g., Problem Solving, Communication, Time Management). For example, as an HR consultant, some of the critical competencies that I may need for success would be Customer Centric, Collaboration, Communication, Problem Solving, Self-Awareness, and Innovation.
Competencies, Competency, Competency Model, Human Resources
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Using Competencies to Define Success

Last week we provided 4 reasons for why you should take the time to define job success. This week, we outline some tips on how to do just that. Two frameworks for systematically describing work are competency models and national occupational standards. This week, we will focus on competency models.

Competency models describe the collection of critical competencies required for successful performance in a given job. Competencies refer to a cluster of related knowledge, skills, abilities, or other characteristics defined in terms of the observable behaviors needed for success (e.g., Problem Solving, Communication, Time Management). For example, as an HR consultant, some of the critical competencies that I may need for success would be Customer Centric, Collaboration, Communication, Problem Solving, Self-Awareness, and Innovation.

Below are some tips for how to use competency models to ensure you are describing successful performance in a way that is accurate, measurable and observable.

Tip 1: Review available information

There is no need to start from scratch. As the first step in your process, it is often helpful to review any available job relevant information to gain familiarity with the job (e.g., job descriptions, training materials, etc.). These materials can help to inform what some of the critical competencies might be.

Tip 2: Talk to people who know the job well

Go to the source. No one understands the job better than the people doing the job and/or their managers. The job incumbents and/or their managers are the true subject matter experts and should have a very good understanding of the job. It is also important to make sure that you cast a wider net and talk to subject matter experts of different experience levels or geographies to capture the diverse aspects of the job. This way, you can get a clear and representative picture of what success looks like.

Tip 3: Focus on what is most critical

It is important to focus on the “must have” rather than the “nice to have.” It’s impossible to identify all the requirements for a job, so it is often most useful to focus on the most critical job requirements. Less is more. We recommend using no more than 6-8 competencies to describe a job. This way, there are enough competencies to describe the job accurately, but not too many to make HR applications impractical (imagine hiring based on 15 key competencies!).

Tip 4: Focus on what is observable and measurable

As these requirements are identified, they should be translated into observable and measurable behaviors. An observable behavior is one that can more easily be assessed. It’s often helpful to keep asking the question “how do you know it when you see it” or “what does this look like” when describing the requirements. For example, someone could say “effective communication” is an important requirement for a job. Well, what does effective communication look like? They may expand and say, “communicating well with all groups of people, all of the time.” Although better, this is still not observable. When asked to consider what communicating well with all people looks like, the person may finally say, “checking for clarification when communicating complex messages.” Bingo! Now we have an observable statement that describes effective communication. You can gather additional observable examples of communication until you have a complete and accurate picture of what effective communication looks like for this job.

Stay tuned for our next Blog on tips for describing the world of work using national occupational standards!

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