Join Todd Dewett for an in-depth discussion in this video Understanding how competency models fit in, part of Performance Review Foundations.
At their core, competency models are attempts to identify and leverage the most important knowledge, skills, and traits that are linked to productivity and success in a given environment. So for example, a leadership competency model might contain things such as staffing and leading a team, effective conflict management, or creative problem solving. The list of skills and traits are typically shorter than longer, maybe containing five to 15 elements. There's no perfect number. The real goal is to accurately model the elements of success for a given environment.
If we assume that you can identify this list of things that one should possess, well there are many ways we can use that list. They're now used to attract and hire new employees, to create effective training and development experiences, as a vetting instrument when promotion decisions are being made, and of course, they're used as a core part of the employee evaluation process. There are many benefits associated with using competency models. These include: providing a summary of the experience and insight of past leaders, clarifying a range of what are thought to be essential leader behaviors, and serving as a reference point for individual self-development.
All of these wrapped together make competency models terribly attractive parts of many vital business processes, from hiring to evaluations. These models can be developed with longitudinal data inside your organization, or it can be purchased off-the-shelf and tweaked to fit your needs. In either case, you're very wise to hire internal resources or outside consultants with deep knowledge about the use of competency models. Both what constitutes a trait that should be on the list, as well as an understanding of the mathematics underlying competency models.
One of the reasons these models are so popular is because they seem to provide a simple answer to a complex problem. So simple in fact, that they quickly attract criticism. With regard to their use as a part of employee evaluations, scholars and practitioners have noted a few important shortcomings. For example, they correctly remind us that one set of characteristics can not describe all effective leaders. These models reduce a huge number of successful leader profiles down to only one profile, as if the world around us isn't full of variants, when we know that it is.
Even if we could know the one magical profile, we don't really understand the relationship between the items on the list, and the relationship between the list and the work environment. So for example, are the items additive or multiplicative? Are more of these traits always better? And what about the role of context? Every situation and decision is different. Is it possible to profile, and a competency model works really well in some situations, but is less suited for another. Yes, of course.
Worse yet, our focus on these models often stops us from seeing the unique value-added aspects of the people being judged. Think of it this way. Let's say you decide that the best imaginable superhero is Superman. So you make Superman's qualities the basis for your model. Following the standard competency model logic, this means you now have to explain to Batman the many ways he's inadequate and needs to change, and that's kind of silly. Here's what I want you to do. You should value your company's competency model.
Use it as a guide, and an important resource. You have to use it, because if you judge your team by starkly different standards, and those employees later work for other managers in the company who really do use the competency model, you might be setting your employees up for a surprise later. Next, don't use competency models to focus on every single thing they do that isn't excellent. In terms of critical comments in areas for improvement, don't try to fix everything. Instead, focus only on the specific skills and behaviors you believe will hold them back in their career.
The rest of the time you're wise to use competency models as a tool to help you recognize and focus on people's strengths. The majority of your time should be spent identifying strengths and finding ways to help you leverage these strengths. Competency models are useful tools, but you have to put them in perspective. They're not sacred documents, they're useful reference points. Start by looking at your competency models. Then look carefully at the unique and interesting person sitting right in front of you.
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- Understanding the performance cycle
- Setting performance goals
- Collecting performance data and feedback
- Writing the review
- Discussing performance with an employee
- Using a performance improvement plan (PIP)<br><br>
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