Building Competencies: Using What You’ve Got

Andy Andrews

There are a number of approaches to creating competencies and building competency models from scratch, but sometimes very obvious sources of information are overlooked. Combining these sources with some of the more commonly used data gathering techniques can help to speed up the competency-building process.

So while focus groups, structured Interviews, behavioral event Interviews and surveys have their place, think about using existing documentation too.

It is possible that the organization already has a competency model, which has fallen into disuse. Even if the model is out of date, it can be reviewed and used as a reference point for creating a new competency model.

The HR function may have documented values that the organization wishes to espouse and it may be useful to integrate these into the new competency model.

A review of learning and development curricula can help to identify competencies from key learning objectives outlined in the content. I have known of organizations that have reverse engineered a vast library of skill frameworks by utilizing the module headings of their course materials.

For some industries, there may be public domain skill and competency models that are freely available and these can be used as the starting point for building a new model.

Yet another rich source of data may be job descriptions held by the HR department or even departmental supervisors. Job descriptions may also be accessible from the public domain, for instance from government employment agencies. Indeed interview questions may also be useful in identifying the knowledge, skills and behaviors that the recruiting manager is looking for.

For industries that are subject to regulatory compliance requirements, the compliance standards themselves may be used as the basis for identifying the knowledge and skills that can be used to define functional competencies.

It should be understood that the content derived from these sources must be carefully reviewed, cross-referenced and combined with the other previously mentioned approaches. For example, competency names derived from existing documentation can be validated through focus group sessions or surveys by asking participants to rate the importance of each competency. In such a case it is also advisable to provide them with the scope to add any competencies that they think are missing. Learning documentation is unlikely to capture the future requirements of a role and it may be necessary to interview an industry expert or refer to a professional body in order to incorporate future trends.

In any case, the principle is don’t “re-invent the wheel” if you don’t have to, leverage what you already have, it can save you a great deal of time, money and the continued support of your sponsor, but…make sure to validate your work.

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