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Competencies Client Stories

4 competency tips from HRSG clients

By Sarah Beckett on October, 1 2015
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Sarah Beckett

It’s important to do your research if you’re planning to adopt a competency-based approach.

But no matter how much you prepare, there’s always more to learn when you actually begin selecting, validating and using competencies in your organization.

Here, we’ve gathered some of the top insights our clients have gained during their first competency-based initiative.

Focus on the process.

When The DXL Group, the largest multi-channel specialty retailer serving the “big and tall” niche market for men, began developing and validating core competencies for their organization, they discovered the importance of effectively engaging the organization from start to finish.

Tracey Piper, DXL’s Director of Human Resources – Talent Management, found that the process of choosing, validating, and refining the competencies was as important as the final product—a set of core competencies that closely supported the organization’s values.

Creating opportunities for employees and executives to provide feedback built excitement and a sense of ownership around the competencies, and made the experience positive and empowering for everyone involved.

“What resulted from the process was a team building experience for the individual departments […] They were all very grateful. Like, ‘Thank you so much—this is a great exercise!’”


Prepare first, then engage.

The Ontario Public Service Employees Union (OPSEU), a trade union representing about 130,000 members across Ontario, made sure that they laid the groundwork before formally announcing the competency initiative and asking various stakeholders to get involved.

By having everything prepared and ready to go beforehand, Nazlin Mohamed, OPSEU’s Supervisor of Employee Relations, was able to make the project seem less intimidating and more manageable. Plus, the process was more respectful of people’s time.

“When people feel like it’s a huge project to start with, it’s sometimes hard to get buy in. If you do a little bit of work and you have something in place before asking for comments and feedback, sometimes that’s a little bit easier to gain support.”

Invest in expertise.

Sometimes an expert perspective from outside the organization can help to move a ‘stuck’ project forward. A large aircraft manufacturing company had struggled to achieve lift-off for their first competency initiative—the selection and implementation of core competencies to support their new mission and values.

Although the HR team spent several months exploring and refining ideas, they couldn’t get past a certain point in the process. Ian Wayne, HRSG’s Director of Competency Solutions, says that when the organization came to HRSG, his team was able to help the organization overcome the roadblocks and successfully develop an effective set of core competencies.

In fact, the resulting competencies were so well received that they have become part of the organization’s marketing toolkit as well as an integral part of their HR process.

“If you’ve never worked with competencies before, it can be a daunting prospect—even if you’re starting with predefined competency dictionary. Being able to talk things through with a competency coach can bring new clarity and confidence to the project.”

Don’t wait for perfection.

The HR team at OPSEU did their homework before engaging the wider organization in their competency initiative, but they also learned to be comfortable with learning on the fly.

Because OSPSEU was a unionized environment where people have the right to grieve if they feel the job competition process is unfair, Mohamed was worried about defensibility issues and held off on actually implementing competencies.

The HRSG consultant urged her to just start using the competencies rather than waiting until the competencies were ‘perfect, ’ and Mohamed finally took the plunge.

She’s now glad she did, because actually putting the competencies to use gave her new insight into how they could be improved and applied.

“We’ve come a long way and we still have a lot of work to do, but you just have to start working with competencies. When you put them into practice, it becomes clearer how you can use them in other applications.”

If you’re ready to get started on your first competency initiative and you’re looking for access to expert guidance and best practices, check out our full portfolio of competency-based management professional services.