Competency Based Job Descriptions: How to Build Them Correctly [Samples + Templates Inside]

May 28, 2019 Jon Spratt

modern workplace using competency based job descriptions

The world of work has sure changed a lot over the past few decades, but for many companies, job descriptions have remained pretty much the same.

At the same time, there’s an increasing recognition that they’re an important talent record and, done correctly, have the potential to serve as a central part of any talent management and HR programs.

That’s why many organizations these days are making use of competency based job descriptions. Competency based job descriptions add a layer of consistency and standardization to your traditional job description.

Most importantly, the competencies allow the job description to plug into almost every facet of your employees’ lifecycle – from the hiring process, to assessment programs, development plans, and beyond. So that old single-use document that gets stashed in a filing cabinet actually becomes a dynamic, key part of your HR programs and talent management strategy.

But before we get there, let’s start with the basics.

Article table of contents (jump to a section):

1. What are competencies in a job description?
2. List of competencies for job descriptions
3. Competency based job descriptions and examples
4. How to build competency based job descriptions?
5. How can they be used throughout the employee lifecycle?
6. Using software to build competency based job descriptions

 

 

What Are Competencies in a Job Description?

Competencies in a job description identify the desired, required skills and behaviors needed to perform a job successfully.

Competencies can identify required soft skills – for example, “attention to detail” or “fostering communication.” At HRSG, we call these behavioral competencies. But they often go beyond soft skills into technical skills needed for success in specialized roles, like sales, marketing or IT, for example. These more specific skills are generally referred to as technical competencies.

Why do people do use competencies in job description?

As mentioned, one reason that people use competencies on their job descriptions is that it unifies all descriptions and positions across the organization under a common framework. This provides structure to the organization’s HR programs, and allows HR personnel to get a much better grasp on the roles, levels, and dependencies between jobs in their organization.

Beyond that, adding competencies to your job descriptions opens up a new world of talent management possibilities.

With competencies on your descriptions, you can hire based on those competencies with specific behavioral interview questions; assess employees based on those competencies; build development plans; and use them to feed into career pathing tools that give employees a visual roadmap for advancement in your organization, heavily based on the competencies associated with each and every role in your company.

 

 

List of Competencies for Job Descriptions

Here are the competencies currently offered by HRSG. Click to view them:

 

 

Competency Based Job Description Examples (Samples & Templates)

Looking for some sample competency-based job descriptions? You’ve come to the right place.

Check out these hiring guides that we’ve put together for 8 key positions. Each one contains a real-world competency based job description. They also include interview questions based on those specific competencies that are embedded within the job description.
 


 

Just looking for a template to play around with? Download our blank competency based job description template instead.

How to Build Competency Based Job Descriptions?

There are two main ways to build competency based job descriptions. Let’s start with the traditional way, and then we’ll look at how companies are utilizing technology to speed up the process substantially.

The Traditional Way:

The traditional way of incorporating competencies and job descriptions involves a lot of back-and-forth between your HR team and other stakeholders (i.e. other people in the company). It starts with a competency library, which is usually purchased from a competency provider (like HRSG) or developed internally (which can be quite a time and resource-intensive process.)

With the competencies ready, it’s now time to decide which ones belong with which jobs. These may consist of core competencies that apply across the whole organization; departmental competencies, and specific technical competencies that apply to each role.

Usually you’ll end up with 3 to 10 competencies on a job description and these will consist of a mix of those technical (skill-based) competencies, and softer behavioral skills. Every competency consists of five levels to illustrate the proficiency needed when they're applied to a specific job.

To illustrate this, let’s look at the example of a project manager vs. project assistant. They’ll share many of the same general, behavioral competencies; but if we look at the levels required for success, and the more job-specific competencies, we see the differences between the two roles emerge:

Identifying these competencies, and the appropriate levels for individual roles, can be a pretty time-consuming process. Often, you’ll need many people involved in the process from start-to-finish: this may include any or all of subject matter experts, managers, c-level executives who want a say in the process, the employee themselves, and potentially others.

In other words, while the benefits of competency-based job descriptions are substantial, the traditional process of putting them together can be fairly painful.

The Modern Way:

So let’s look at the modern way that companies are mapping competencies to their job descriptions. The modern method essentially uses all the same tactics, but streamlines the process incredibly through the use of purpose-built software technology.

Check out the video below to get a sense of how, using HRSG’s software, you can create competency-based “Smart Job Descriptions” in minutes for your organization.

 

Technology has enabled a much more accessible process, so that a wider array of organizations can take advantage of the benefits of competency based job descriptions. Here's a table to sum up the main differences in the process of mapping competencies 

The old way to build competency based job descriptions:

The modern way to build competency based job descriptions, using software:

Build competencies from scratch, consulting engagement to develop custom ones, or buy pre-built paper dictionaries.

Purchase banks of competencies, get them delivered within cloud software.

Engage in exhaustive manual consultation with multiple stakeholders to define core, departmental and job-specific competencies.

Dispatch a competency profiling survey to identify competencies.

Meticulously map competencies to all jobs in your organizations.

Map competencies using AI to find the most relevant suggested competencies for a role.

 

 

How Can Competency Based Job Descriptions Be Used Throughout the Employee Lifecycle?

So, once you’ve got competency based job descriptions in place, how do you use them to elevate your process and empower your employees?

Let’s explore this idea, captured in this post at TalentCulture.com:

Hiring & Selection: This comes down to being able to carry out structured, behavioral interviews, with questions based directly on the required skills and behaviors. That way, interviews are carried out in a structured, consistent manner … and your company’s hiring decisions are made based on consistent criteria.

Assessment & Development: Again, the competencies on the “smart” job descriptions allow the actual job description to play a central role in your assessment programs. This may take the form of self-assessment, supervisor assessment, or the ever-popular 360 assessment, often used in leadership roles. If gaps are identified, the organization can provide employees with learning resources pre-mapped to competencies to develop and strengthen those gaps.

Engagement & Retention: One of the most powerful motivators to keep top employees engaged is opportunities for growth. With your competencies mapped to every job, there’s total transparency on exactly what skills and behaviors, at what levels, your people need to demonstrate in order to take their next step (or even reach their dream job).

 

 

Using Software to Build Competency Based Descriptions

Hands down, the easiest way to build competency based job descriptions at scale is by using purpose-built job description software.

HRSG’s CompetencyCore platform allows you to map competencies to your jobs with the click of a mouse, using advanced AI technology. Get your demo today to see it in action for yourself.
 

Photo by Shridhar Gupta on Unsplash

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