How to Use Competencies for Performance Management

Show me the Money… and the effective behaviour

Performance Management is much more than just reaching financial targets.

Too often performance management is linked only to meeting financial targets. People who meet targets are good performers, people who exceed targets are all stars, and people who fall short of targets are poor performers. Obviously, it is important to have financial goals, or other results-based goals (e.g., quality of production, quantity of production, error rate), but the behaviours required to reach those goals are equally important. Let’s walk through two scenarios to illustrate this.

Scenario 1: Blake has a sales target to sell 20 widgets this month, and by the end of the month has sold 24 widgets. Throughout the month, Blake’s attitude was “reach 20 widgets at all costs,” and to do so Blake made several over promises to customers and even blatantly lied to a few of them. In addition, Blake often sabotaged colleagues in an effort to steal their customers and get an additional sale.

Scenario 2: Jamie also has a sales target to sell 20 widgets this month, and by the end of the month has sold 16 widgets. Throughout the month, Jamie had a few difficult customers and needed to spend extra time with them to ensure they were pleased with their recent widget purchase. In addition, a new member joined the team this month and Jamie spent some time helping the new teammate make some initial sales.

If we were to focus exclusively on results when discussing Blake and Jamie’s performance, Blake would be an all-star (4 widgets over target!) and Jamie would be a poor performer (4 widgets under target). However, when we also look at the behaviours used to reach these results, we see a clearer picture of performance. I imagine for this particular role customer centric and teamwork are two critical competencies required for success. By defining the behavioural requirements for customer centric and teamwork, we would probably find that Blake is underperforming in both areas, whereas Jamie is either meeting or exceeding expectations.

Below are some tips for how you can include behaviour in performance management by using competencies:

1. Clearly define effective behaviour

The behaviours should be job relevant, observable, and measurable so that both managers and employees have a clear picture of what success looks like. Check out our blog on Using Competencies to Define Success for tips on describing the behavioural requirements.

2. Translate behaviours into tools

Using standardized tools (e.g. competency-based assessments, behaviourally anchored rating scales) will help managers and employees assess their behaviour more objectively and consistently.

3. Provide training for managers

People are inherently inaccurate when rating others performance. We all are, it’s not our fault, we just are. As such, it is often beneficial to provide training, such as:

  • Training on how to use the standardized performance management tool(s)
  • Training on identifying and reducing various biases (e.g., halo, similar to me)
  • Training on providing effective feedback
  • Training on setting SMART goals

You might reach your financial targets, but at what cost? On the flip side, you may be a star performer but not meeting your financial targets because of circumstances out of your control. By considering both the behaviours and the results you get a clearer picture of performance.