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Competency Technology: 7 Key Considerations for HR Teams

By HRSG Team on March, 16 2022

As competencies become the preferred approach to talent management, the adoption of competency technologies is on the rise. Few HR teams are lucky enough to have industrial-organizational psychologists on staff, and those that don't will rely on technology to guide and streamline the process of building competency profiles and applying them to the talent lifecycle.


Competency technology represents a strategic investment in your talent, and the choices you make can have a big impact on both the quality of the competency profiles you create and the types of talent-management activities you can support. But for HR professionals who are new to competency-based management, or for those who are planning to make competencies a bigger part of their talent-management practice, it's not always easy to know which features and capabilities are the best fit for your needs.


Asking these questions during the evaluation process can help you define your organization's unique needs and ensure that the technology you choose supports them.    


Is it "competency-first"? 

While many talent-management platforms can technically accommodate competencies, few are built specifically to support competency-based management. If you plan to use competencies actively to drive the talent lifecycle, look for software that has been designed to support competency-driven talent processes from the ground up. 


Does it reflect your organizational priorities? 

Different platforms tend to focus on different aspects of the talent lifecycle, so it's important to decide which aspects you want to prioritize before you start evaluating your options. For example, do you want to facilitate mentorship opportunities? Do you want to improve the quality of talent you attract with your recruitment process? Do you want to launch a career pathing program? Do you want to identify your organization's core competencies? Once you've set your priorities, you can compare them to the parts of the talent management cycle that each platform supports.    


Is there room to grow for the future? 

Once you've chosen a competency-based talent management platform, replacing it down the road is no easy task. Think about the functionality that your HR team and the wider organization will need in the next couple of years, and make sure that it aligns with the platform's existing functionality or, at the very least, the vendor's technology roadmap. 


One of the most valuable aspects of competencies is their ability to break down talent-management silos and connect and align the organization's talent activities. While you don't want to choose a platform that includes more functionality than you'll ever need or use, you do want to choose one that has the breadth of functionality to support the parts of the talent lifecycle that are most critical to your HR practice and the broader organizational mission. 


Does it support organizations like yours? 

Some platforms are designed for highly structured, hierarchical enterprises and others are better suited to small and mid-sized businesses. Make sure your competency platform is suited to your organizational structure and budget by asking the vendor for references from customers whose organizations have a similar profile.   


Is competency content included? 

Always confirm whether the competency content itself is included in the purchase of the platform. In some cases, you will need to license the content separately from another vendor, which can create a layer of complexity in terms of managing multiple vendor relationships and importing the content into the platform. Additionally, you will want to see samples of the content to ensure that the quality meets your expectations. Make sure the content is validated by IO psychologists, structured with multiple proficiency levels, and reviewed for inclusivity. 


How are competency profiles generated? 

Competency mapping, which is the process of identifying the competencies and proficiency levels that align with the requirements for a specific job, is one of the most important (and labor-intensive) parts of launching a competency initiative. Different platforms support competency mapping in different ways, so this is an area to examine closely during the evaluation process. 


Some platforms support a rigid process, where jobs at a specific level are automatically assigned a universal proficiency level. An entry-level job, for example, would be assigned various competencies at a "level 1" across the board, while a junior manager would be assigned "level 2" competencies. To ensure that your platform can build more accurate and nuanced profiles, look for platforms that use artificial intelligence to suggest varying proficiency levels based on real-world job requirements. The platform should also enable you to adjust proficiency levels to ensure your profiles accurately reflect your unique industry or organization. (The ability to compare all five proficiency levels of the competency in question is essential to this task.) 


Are the people as good as the tech? 

Remember that good technology is important, but without good people behind it, you're not getting the complete package. To ensure that the platform you choose can support your competency initiative, evaluate the vendor's expertise alongside the features and functionality of its software. How knowledgeable is the vendor about competencies? Do they develop their own competencies, or do they license content from others? Do they keep competency experts (trained and qualified industrial-organizational psychologists) on staff? Do they offer robust implementation and consulting services? 

Accelerate the competency journey

The improvements that competencies bring to key elements of the talent lifecycle—including recruitment, retention, and development—are encouraging many HR leaders to accelerate their plans to integrate this approach into their talent management processes. While technology has made it substantially easier to launch a competency initiative, the technology you choose has a big impact on the quality of the outcomes. By asking the right questions during the evaluation process, you can ensure that the platform you select will deliver the results you're looking for.


Start exploring your technology options. Take a tour of CompetencyCore.