Thursday, 24 July 2014

WIFM – Writing Competencies Correctly

Too often companies believe that they can purchase competencies off the shelf and with a little tweaking have them fit your organization.

Creating company specific competencies right means they are developed:
-       In house
-       Information collected from incumbents who are highly successful
-       Information collected from those interacting with the role or level
-       Ensure only one behaviour for each behavioural statement
-       In house content validation
-       Consistent with the values and strategic business plan

This is whats in it for you, if you choose to do competencies right

How behaviours are interpreted is often subjective, each individual interprets things in their own way. Subjectivity is a part of everything we do. .  Doing so limits the consistency of our actions between individuals.  If competencies are being used to evaluate behaviour, then shouldnt we all be evaluating the same behaviour?  Using a behavioural format for writing competencies help reduce the subjectivity.  The behaviour should be clear, simple and to the point.  When writing a behaviour statement, one should be able to picture the action being taken.  In order to reduce subjectivity, prior to evaluation of behaviours the behaviours should be discussed among those doing the evaluation to calibrate meaning. Why? If the point of a competency is to measure an individual to a role, then everyone should be on the same page.  That way the organization can clarify what each behaviour means.  Any difference in interpretation leads to inconsistency that negatively impacts the productivity of the effort.

Cultural Fit
The DNA of an organization is its culture / values.  While the words that define the values, such as Respect, might be the same, the behaviours that give the value meaning widely varies from organization to organization. The consequence of this is that off-the-shelf competencies dont work because they arent validated to your culture. 
Since every organizations culture is unique, behaving successfully will be different in each organization.  When hiring, to improve the odds of the new hire being a success, you need to ensure they fit the culture of your organization.  This will be difficult to achieve when you are basing your interview questions on what success is as defined by an outside firm. 
The best way to ensure your statements of behaviour fit the culture the business strategy is to draw from the stories that reflect that actions of your highly successful employees; the critical incidents that capture success. For example, you will not find the competency of humility in too many off the shelf dictionaries. But when we developed a leadership profile for a medical institution, humility behaviours comprised one whole competency.  Had the organization used a purchased dictionary, an integral aspect of their culture would have been missed.  Certain purchased competencies could even act counterproductive to an existing culture.  This is about celebrating ones own culture, not trying to emulate someone elses.

For the competencies to be implemented successfully, the employees of your organization need to own the process.  The reaction of employees to off-the-shelf or best practice competencies is always, thats great, but something is missing, thats not how this company works.  That is because the off the shelf competencies do not capture the nuance of the culture. For competencies to be successful they need to build on what has already brought people success within the organization.  That way you can ensure the cultural fit as well as helping people understand that the behaviours actually relate to them. 

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