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Strategies for Successful Competency Management

By Caitlin Leishman on October, 23 2017
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Caitlin Leishman

A recent study by Brandon Hall Group showed that competency initiatives sit at four different maturity levels

Those at the lower levels face several barriers to success, but there are ways to overcome these barriers.

In this article, we will go over two possible strategies: developing planning tools and utilizing technology.


Strategy #1: Developing planning tools

Developing competencies can be complex, especially for large organizations with thousands of employees. 

Brandon Hall Group’s research showed that 70% of organizations attempt to implement competencies for all employees. And while having competencies in place for all employees is a good goal for organizations to strive towards, it can be overwhelming to attempt at the beginning of a project. This approach can often lead to a failed competency project.

A better option is to start by choosing competencies for critical jobs and roles, as well as core competencies for your organization. But even this can be complicated by a lack of common language surrounding competencies.

That's why planning tools that create a common competency language and culture are so important to the success of a competency initiative.


How planning tools help

Planning tools, such as identified goals, a communications plan and even a competency glossary, are elements of the project that you can put in place to increase the likelihood of success.

The benefits from starting your project out on the right foot can have significant impact on your organization. The Brandon Hall Group research shows that organizations with fully active models are 58% more likely than other organizations to rate their competency objectives as effective.  


Strategy #2: Utilizing technology

Another important factor in competency success is leveraging technology. Since many organizations haven't built much room into their budget for competency projects, it is often the case that progress is slow in using technology for competency management. Believe it or not, a lot of organizations are still attempting to manage their projects on paper. 

This speaks to a central issue that's preventing some companies from finding success: under-investment in competency-based initiatives in general; and as a result, under-investment in the technology that can help make them a success.

According to Brandon Hall Group, only 23% of organizations allocate 10% or more of their talent management budget to competencies. The research shows that these organizations get significantly better results than the 56% that use 3% or less of their talent management budget.

Generally, when there is greater investment in competency-based initiatives, some of that budget gets allocated to tools and competency management software that can make a real impact. Fully automated organizations are 69% more likely to rate their top competency objectives as effective, as per the Brandon Hall Group report. 


Strategy #3: Align your competencies and business goals

Being able to translate your company’s vision and values to employees in ways that makes sense in their day to day work-life goes a long way to create a closer alignment between business goals and employee actions.

Competencies are defined in behaviors that can be easily understood, and measured and embodied by employees. This means that they become a common language in reinforcing culture and a shared vision to achieve goals.  Even though only 19% of organizations are able to achieve full alignment between competencies and business goals, those that do so reap great rewards.

Brandon Hall Group discovered that companies that align competencies and business goals are 67% more likely than others to rate competency objective as effective.   For more information, check out our article on how to align your competencies and business goals.


Strategy #4: Don’t neglect your competency budget

Brandon Hall Group has been studying competency management for several years, and has determined that competencies are among the lowest funded talent management initiatives. In 2013,  competencies only made up 9% of the average talent management budget, which has since dropped to 7% in 2015.[1]

This year Brandon Hall Group looked at competencies in terms of amount spent, and discovered that more than half of organizations spent 3% or less of their talent management budget on competency management. In fact, one in five organizations had no existing competency budget. It may seem obvious, but the more you invest in competencies, the better the results.

Brandon Hall Group research shows that the organizations that spent 10% or more of their budget on competency management were found 68% more likely than other organizations to rate their top competency objectives as effective. Higher spending also has a direct correlation with an increase in KPIs.

For instance, 45% of organizations that spent 9% or less of their talent management budget on competencies noticed an increase in organizational revenue. Meanwhile, 68% of organizations that spent 10% or more of their talent management budget on competencies noticed a revenue increase.

This is a fairly significant difference, and shows the kinds of potential missed opportunities when neglecting competencies in your budget.

Organizations are unlikely to have meaningful success with competencies if they do not make an active, strong investment to create a well-developed competency initiative. This includes taking several steps such as budgeting properly, aligning competencies and business goals, leveraging technology, and more. 

Want to learn more about using competencies? Get started with our Competency Toolkit:

Download your Competency Toolkit using the form below.



Post last updated: June 27, 2019.

[1] Brandon Hall Group 2017

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