10 Practical Tips on Implementing Competencies (Part 1 of 2)

Andy Andrews

Implementing competency models is no small undertaking.

Furthermore, your sponsors, stakeholders and users will not give you many chances to get it right before they lose their enthusiasm for the task.

Based on my experience of working with numerous organizations over the last few years, I have listed below some of the factors that can help increase your chance of success. The list is by no means exhaustive and in no particular order of priority. The idea is to highlight some of the critical factors that will help you to be successful.

The first 5 tips are included in this blog with the next 5 due to appear in the following blog.

1. Start with the end in mind

What is it that you intend to achieve by implementing competencies in your organization? No apologies here for stating the obvious, but inspired by a speaker, event, book or research paper sometimes people like the idea of using competencies, but haven’t thought through what real world applications they require them for. Performance management, succession planning, learning needs analysis, readiness planning, are some applications to name a few, but start by clearly identifying what you are looking to achieve for your organization.

2. Find a good sponsor

You need to get the backing of someone who will support the project, not only by signing the checks, but also by standing up to be counted if the initiative meets resistance. Ideally, you need a sponsor who is prepared to publicly vocalize the benefits of the program. You can use your sponsor to support the program with the executive team and the participating population, using approaches such as video, roadshows or newsletter articles. An active sponsor can be critical to the success of your project.

3. Keep the content simple

Competencies and competency models come in varying shapes and sizes. Don’t over complicate things. Make sure that the competencies are clear and simple to understand for employees and managers alike. Also, don’t assign too many competencies for each role, if necessary, start small and increase the number to meet your requirements. Think of the overhead for those involved in assessing and maintaining the competencies.

4. Use existing competencies and modify them

Rather than starting from scratch use existing competency models and tailor them to your requirements. If you deliberate for too long on the development of your competency models your project will lose momentum. Try to leverage existing content to give you a head start, either from within your organization, from the public domain or from commercial models. Using existing content and customizing it will help you to achieve your goals and will save you time. Remember that competencies will change so you will still need to add, remove or refine competencies over a period of time. Be aware that getting the business involved in customizing the competencies is a great way of getting your stakeholders on board.

5. Make sure that your competencies are measurable

If you are looking to derive metrics from your competency initiative, you need to make sure that your competencies have clearly defined and measurable proficiency levels. These should be expressed in the form of demonstrable, action verb statements so that they are as clear as possible, when being used to assess employees’ proficiency levels.

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