The problems that undermine competency frameworks aren’t always as complex as you might think. We have conducted many audits on competency initiatives that revealed basic design and implementation issues to be the root cause behind an underperforming initiative. The issues often fall under the following three categories:
- Competencies aren’t relevant or well-articulated
- Competencies aren’t having the desired impact
- The proper tools and/or training aren’t in place to use competencies
Let’s start by tackling the first category; if your competencies are too broad they don’t give enough information about the expected behaviors needed for success. Solve this problem by focusing on observable behaviors specific to each job, reducing the potential for subjective interpretation. Another common problem is having too many competencies in a job profile, causing you to lose focus on the critical behaviors for success. Limit each profile to 10 or 12 competencies for a higher return on investment as your focus will be directed on the key contributors to success.
If your competencies aren’t having the desired impact it may be because there is a lack of clarity related to the problem they are supposed to solve. If you don’t have a clear understanding of what you want to achieve, it will be more challenging to implement an effective solution. Solve this problem by coming up with short and long term goals for your competency initiative, and then using a staged approach to focus on the most critical issues first. Some organizations also struggle with differentiating between excellent and mediocre performance. Define excellence by using clear behaviors that describe the essence of success and show a path of progression from novice to leader.
Stakeholder support is essential to implementing a competency initiative, and many organizations struggling with competencies don’t have buy-in from their key stakeholders. By planning communications that are targeted to each of your stakeholder groups, you can establish the specific value of competencies for each group and show how the competencies will be used. Another common problem is not having the software in place to streamline and automate the competency management process. Competency software allows you to build a customized, multi-level competency framework with minimal administrative effort. Having a central repository of competency content will connect and integrate all facets of your competency initiative, meaning nothing gets missed!