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Competencies Talent Management

6 Best Practices for Launching a Competency Initiative

By HRSG Team on February, 15 2022

Competencies give the organizations that use them a significant advantage when it comes to managing talent, including greater success in attracting top talent and higher retention rates. But launching a competency initiative for the first time can be an overwhelming prospect. In this article, we'll look at six best practices that can make the process easier (and faster!) and the outcome more successful. 


1. Begin with a pilot project 

Competencies bring the greatest value when they’re applied to the whole workforce, but you don’t need to do it all at once. Starting with a small pilot project is a great way to explore multi-level competencies and adapt the competency content and profile-building process to the unique needs of your organization. 

For example, many HRSG clients begin by creating competency profiles for a small group of related job profiles, learning from the process, and adjusting the approach before rolling them out for the whole organization. 


Action checklist: 

  • Identify a small group of jobs for the pilot.
  • Describe why this small group should be prioritized.
  • Identify what you'll learn from the pilot.
  • Describe what you will do from the knowledge you gain.



2. Prioritize agility 

It's easy to spend months planning the roll-out of a competency initiative in an effort to ensure success, but it's smarter to prioritize speed over perfection. This enables you to conserve resources, maintain momentum, and focus your energies on encouraging adoption. Once your pared-back initiative is live in the workplace, you can evaluate the impact and make improvements as needed.  


Action checklist: 

  • Explore ways to reduce the size of the project, such as reducing the number of stakeholders, the number of competency profiles to be developed.
  • Identify the impact you want to make. How will you measure it? Can you reduce those metrics to simplify the initiative?
  • Explore whether the initiative can be broken into phases. If so, what would phase one look like?



3. Start with strategy 

Organizations use competencies for many reasons, including strengthening organizational culture, improving retention, or ensuring the organization has the talent it needs in the future. 


For example, a client who wants to improve retention may focus on department that experiences higher-than-average turnover, implementing career pathing and development opportunities for that group of employees.  


Make sure you have identified your main goal before starting a competency-based initiative, and that this goal aligns with broader organizational priorities.  


Action checklist: 

  • Describe the talent challenge you plan to address with this competency initiative.
  • Describe how this talent challenge impacts the organization's ability to achieve a strategic goal. 



4. Communicate the goal 

Depending on the scope of your project and your organizational process, developing competency profiles can require input from HR staff, managers, employees, executives, boards 

of directors, and other external audiences. Invest some time and resources in developing your 

communication approach, including presentation materials that help stakeholders understand the competency approach, the project goals and objectives, and their role in the process. This will both increase support for the project and enhance outcomes. 


The key is to understand the target audience and gear the messages to their priorities. Show employees how competencies will support them in planning and managing their careers. Show managers how the initiative will make hiring and managing employees easier and more effective. Show executives how competencies support the strategic vision and goals for the organization.  


Action checklist: 

  • Make a list of the stakeholders you will need to engage for this initiative.
  • Identify each stakeholder group's priorities, and explore how this initiative supports those priorities.
  • Decide how you will communicate with with each stakeholder group based on their communication preferences.
  • Consider what communication materials you will need to develop, and identify the resources you will need to develop them.


5. Document the process 

It’s essential to document the development process for your competency profiles in order to provide your organization with a measure of legal defensibility and demonstrate that they were developed in a fair and inclusive way.  


Record and file information including the names and positions of people who participated, their individual feedback, and the process by which that feedback was synthesized to make decisions about the competencies and proficiency levels attributed to each job profile. You can also rely on a technology solution like CompetencyCore to collect and preserve this information.  


Action checklist: 

  • Determine the legal and ethical requirements you need to support.
  • Decide which specific actions and decisions need to be recorded.
  • Decide how you will record and store this information, whether in Word documents, spreadsheets, or a competency platform.



6. Share the success 

Competencies can have a big impact on the organization in terms of its culture and its 

performance. But unless you communicate those impacts—in presentations, newsletters, and 

other promotional channels—they can go unrecognized. Whether it’s positive employee feedback or an improvement in KPIs, take the time to share the good news. It will increase awareness and organizational buy-in, and provide forward momentum for additional projects. 


Action checklist: 

  • Determine which baseline measurements you will take before rolling out the initiative.
  • Determine how you will measure performance against the baseline after the launch of the initiative.
  • Decide on the timeframe for measuring performance against the baseline.
  • Decide when, how, and with whom you will share these performance metrics.


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