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Competencies Client Stories

Competency Profiles: The Key to Evaluating Employee Capabilities Accurately

By HRSG Team on July, 27 2022

Article table of contents (jump to section):

  1. Precision through competency profiles
  2. Case study: Standardizing safety and security

Quantifying the levels of knowledge and experience required to perform a specific function competently continues to be one of the biggest talent challenges for many organizations.

While the issue is a challenge for every type of organization, it's particularly critical for associations and sector councils. These organizations are responsible for setting standards for an entire occupational category or industry, and their ability to do so accurately and actionably can mean the difference between success and failure for thousands or even millions of people.

In this blog post, we'll examine the approach that some associations and councils are using to identify the knowledge, skills, and abilities required to perform a specific function with accuracy and precision.


Precision through competency profiles

Competency profiles are HR tools that help organizations define performance requirements with greater accuracy and precision. A competency profile articulates the specific competencies and proficiency levels required for success in a particular job.

Competencies are developed by industrial-organizational (IO) psychologists and validated with input from experts who perform the relevant work, so they can be trusted to accurately reflect the job requirements.

A competency profile consists of a set of 3-7 competencies required for a specific role. Competencies define the abilities, skills, knowledge, motivations, and traits needed for successful performance. Each competency in the profile is defined at a specific level of proficiency, from beginner to expert. This is important because a successful approach to "teamwork" will look different for an entry-level employee than it will for an experienced team leader.

Competency profiles form the basis for a more accurate and objective evaluation of the requirements because they are validated, detailed, and described in terms of observable behaviors.


Case study: Standardizing safety and security

Let's look at a real-world example of the ways in which competency profiles can help associations and sector councils define job requirements and help individuals assess themselves against those requirements to verify their competence to perform effectively.

This case study is based on a project HRSG undertook for the International NGO Safety and Security Association (INSSA). INSSA helps humanitarian relief and development assistance workers improve safety and security when working in complex and dangerous environments.


INSSA needed a standardized approach to help organizations accurately assess the level of competence for security risk management professionals (SRMP) delivering aid in complex and dangerous environments.

However, no globally recognized standards existed for these competency areas, so INSSA needed to lead the way in developing those standards and supporting their members to assess, improve, and demonstrate their competence.


Under the guidance of HRSG's competency experts, INSSA chose to develop a certification program based on competency profiles to provide a standardized assessment of SRMPs.

After identifying the education, knowledge, and experience levels for four SRMP progression levels from basic to advanced, HRSG and INSSA developed a set of competency profiles that defined the key competencies and proficiencies required at each level.

These competency profiles formed the basis for multiple choice exams that could be taken online by INSSA members. SRMPs who passes the exams earned an officially recognized certification.


INSSA has seen the number of applicants climb as SRMPs and the organizations they work for continue to see the value of the certification process. Assessment results also help INSSA identify skill areas that are priorities for members, which the information the association can use to inform decisions about where to develop additional course offerings and learning resources.

Most importantly, SRMPs can now accurately assess their competence and feel confident that certification proves that they are ready to successfully ensure the safety and security of humanitarian aid workers.

As a recently certified member described it, "I didn’t know if my knowledge of country level security management was globally applicable. Receiving the email that I passed was a very exciting moment for me, because it was a tangible proof that I am a security professional."

Learn more about this competency-based initiative. Download the full INSSA case study.