Competency Model Design

Think of your ideal employee. What are the attributes or characteristics they possess?

Without fail, whenever we ask this question we end up with a long list of attributes, but the really interesting thing is that the list is almost entirely made up of things that are behavioural in nature – what people say and do, and how they say and do it.

Job knowledge and competence might be a given, but what organisations really value about their best people is how they go about the job – managers would rather have someone who is less experienced, qualified or skilled as long as they display the desired attitudes and behaviours.

Competency models are intended to put some structure and definition around those desired behaviours. A well defined competency model will allow you to:

  • Be clear on the specific behaviours your people need to possess now, and in the future, to reinforce the culture you want and enable the organisation to be successful.
  • Ensure your recruitment, performance management, development and talent management processes are aligned and measuring the right things.

When designed well your competency model should tie together your organisation’s values, strategy and culture. 

How we can help

We can help you build or refine a competency model that is tailored to your business.

We can then help you integrate the model into your people management and development processes to ensure you have the right people in place and that they are all contributing to the success of your business.

We can help you validate the effectiveness of the model to ensure it is measuring the specific behaviours that really differentiate performance in your business.

We have lots of experience of designing competency models in a range of different organisations.

1. Firstly, we will spend time understanding the business strategy and goals as this helps us understand what competencies will be required in the future.

2. Secondly, we will meet with key stakeholders to understand what behaviours they value, what their best people do differently to the rest, what culture they want to see in the organisation etc. These ‘critical incident’ interviews help us understand what specific behaviours differentiate the top performers from the rest.

3. Thirdly, we ask key stakeholders to work through our online competency profiling tool. This is built around our own competency library, which contains hundreds of behavioural statements.

4. These first three stages provide us with lots of behavioural data, which we then synthesise into key competency clusters.

5. We then write behavioural statements that define what each competency means within your business. To be effective each statement needs to define a single, observable behaviour and be simply worded.

6. Finally, we refine the model with you to ensure that the language fits with your culture and will sit well with everyone in the business.

How we go about it

Validating your model

Most competency models tend to contain the behaviours the business thinks will make a difference or that they would like people to display. Whilst part of the function of competencies is to reinforce the culture the business wants, an unfocussed approach to defining competencies can often result in a model that is unnecessarily cumbersome or simply too generic – it reads like a bit of a wish list or feels like it was created after a bit of Googling the word ‘competency’.

Whilst the model needs to feel right, the best models focus on the behaviours that absolutely link to performance. For example, there is little value in reinforcing ‘Influencing’ if ‘Leading Innovation’ is actually of more strategic importance to the business. Of course both might be important. We will help you find out.

The most effective way to validate your competency model is to measure how much of the competencies your people demonstrate and then compare that to job performance metrics. 360 degree feedback is great for gathering behavioural ratings and this can easily be compared to established performance ratings for your people. Statistical analysis of the data will identify the key behaviours that correlate most strongly to performance. Where you have employee turnover data, engagement data and business KPIs we will also identify the behaviours that ultimately drive business performance.

All of this will enable you to confidently demonstrate the impact of behaviour on business performance and maximise buy-in from the business.