A competency model is a collection of multiple competencies that together define successful performance in a defined work setting.
A model provides a clear description of what a person needs to know and be able to do – the knowledge, skills, and abilities – to perform well in a specific job, occupation, or industry.
There are the following three models of competency mapping:
1. Single Job Competency Model
The first competency model was developed for single jobs and is the most common approach to competency modeling.
Developing a single job competency model starts with an identified critical job that line management or an HR professional sees as needing better-selected or developed incumbents.
The data collection usually includes both resource panels and a focus group of job-holders and/or their managers and interviews with job-holders.
The data-gathering phase may also include interviews with customers and direct reports, surveys of additional job holders, and direct observation of job holders at work.
Once this is complete, the next step is to analyze the data to distill it into a competency model that typically includes 10-20 traits or skills, each with a definition and a list of specific behaviors that describe what effective performers do and how to achieve effective results.
Examples of jobs for which a single job competency model is appropriate include sales representative, customer service representative, project manager, and plant manager.
Advantages of Single Job Competency Model
The single-job competency model approach continues to be widely used because it has the following advantages:
- A competency model built using the single job approach has high face validity and high credibility with job holders and their managers.
- The competencies provide a framework for describing key job requirements. The model provides a recipe for superior performance. The specific behavioral descriptions of the competencies are useful when developing training programs. The rigor methodology ensures that if the organization wishes to use the model for selection, there will be a strong legal justification for doing so.
Disadvantages of Single Job Competency Model
At the same time from an HR perspective, this approach has significant disadvantages:
- The cost, time, and effort required to develop the competency model make its use impractical for more than a small proportion of jobs in the organization.
- Because this approach targets a single, narrowly defined job, the competency model and HR applications built on it affect a relatively small number of employees.
2. One-size-Fits-All Competency Model
HR professionals who are seeking a broad, quick, and consistent impact for competency technology often adopt a “one-size-fits-all” competency model, by defining one set of competencies for a broad range of jobs (e.g., all managerial jobs).
The first step is to identify the population to whom the model will apply, such as all managers.
Instead of garnering data, a team charged with developing the competency model usually selects concepts from available individual job competency models and from books and articles on leadership, business, organizational development, and human resource development.
A consulting firm with broad experience in developing competency models may also supply a common model based on a distillation of concepts and behaviors from individual job models.
Senior management then reviews and revises the model to ensure that it reinforces the organization’s mission and values and any ongoing efforts to change the culture.
Advantages of the One-Size-Fits-All Competency Model
The advantages of the one-size-fits-all competency model are as follows:
- The competencies and HR programs based on them apply to a large number of employees. There is one consistent framework of concepts describing effective behaviors.
- The competency framework can be aligned with the unit’s mission and values and with other key organizational initiatives.
- All employees in the group for whom the model is developed are assessed against the same competencies and therefore, can be compared with each other.
- The cost of this approach is modest, given the breadth of its impact, and because the competencies are not based on any individual job, the competency model does not need to be updated every time an individual job is redefined.
Disadvantages of the One-Size-Fits-All Competency Model
The disadvantages of the one-size-fits-all competency model are as follows:
- The competency model does not clearly describe what is needed in any specific job. People in the jobs covered in the model may see the competencies as espoused values rather than as skills they need to use to obtain results, or they may accept the value of the competencies but fail to see how to apply them in their own jobs.
- The common competency model does not differentiate among the requirements of different jobs, it is of limited use in guiding selection for specific jobs.
- The common competencies approach ignores technical skill/ knowledge which is a key consideration in matching individuals to available job assignments.
3. Multiple Job Competency Model
Mansfield observed that “the time is ripe for a multiple-job approach to building competency models”. Requirements for the multiple job competency model are:
i. Using a Common Set of Building Block Competencies
The first requirement of this approach is that different models be built from a common set of building block competencies which is known as the “job competency menu”.
This is necessary to facilitate matching individuals to jobs.
For example, if an individual is assessed on the building block competencies, his/her profile could be compared with the requirements of any job for which a model had been constructed.
ii. Allowing for Customisation
The model-building approach must allow customization because, although the same competency may be required for two different jobs, it often needs to be demonstrated in different ways.
For example, consider the competency, “initiative”. A sales manager may demonstrate initiative by developing a new incentive program for sales representatives.
A General Manager may demonstrate initiative by restructuring a division and creating cross-functional teams to do work previously accomplished by several departments.
To be useful to job-holders, a competency model must describe specifically how competencies need to be demonstrated in specific jobs.
One way to customize a model is to develop job-specific behaviors that specify how, when, and with whom the competency is demonstrated.
iii. Defined Levels of Competencies
Any competency approach must define a consistent set of levels for the building block competencies to distinguish the extent to which competency is required in different jobs.
For example, one job may require a basic level of skill/knowledge in electrical engineering, while another job may require a much higher level.
Levels also facilitate the accurate assessment of individuals, when, e.g., identifying individuals who possess the competencies required for a particular assignment or job.
With no defined levels of competency, individuals are assessed according to the frequency and/or effectiveness with which they demonstrate the behaviors associated with effective performance, as is done when using 360° feedback.
Such ratings, however, are influenced significantly by various forms of rater bias.