Using Competencies to Drive Performance

Andy Andrews

Competencies are demonstrated behaviors that reflect the skills, knowledge, attributes and motives, which produce superior performance. Clearly then, competencies are very closely tied in to performance.

In a practical sense, how can organizations use competencies to drive employee, organizational and ultimately business performance?

It starts with the definition of the competencies themselves. When defining competencies, the behaviours should reflect those of superior, not just adequate performers. Which organization desires adequate rather than superior performance?

Furthermore, when building job-competency models – the competencies which support performance in a given job role – it is important that they are based on the behaviours of superior performers. These competencies should be the benchmark for all incumbents.

Incidentally, it is also useful to identify the behaviors of less prolific performers so that the characteristics of superior performers can be differentiated. The ‘differentiators’ can then be used to capture what makes someone a superior performer.

Once key competencies have been identified they can be used to support recruitment, performance management, learning and development applications in the organization.

For instance, using competencies in the performance review process can help to assess not only whether the individual has fulfilled their objectives but also which competencies they have demonstrated while doing so and which ones they need to work on.

The performance review meeting can then be used to discuss the means by which these competencies will be learned and developed with the intention of helping the individual to further improve their performance.

Using competencies in the recruitment process can help to specify which characteristics the recruiter requires of the candidate and can form the basis of evidence-based interview tools. The closer the match, the more likely it is that the candidate will be successful and perform well.

It follows that individual high performers, whether recruited or developed, will contribute to a higher performing organization and ultimately to better business performance.

At an organizational level, analysis of key competency gaps can also be used to identify and mitigate for the operational risks associated with people leaving, which in turn helps to reduce the likelihood of disruption to the performance of the business.

There are many other applications for competency management that contribute either directly or indirectly to superior business performance; this blog has only considered some of them.

Past performance is an indicator of future performance and if organizations can identify which competencies have previously contributed to superior performance, they can use this information to recruit and develop these competencies which in turn, will promote a high performing organization.

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