Successful organisations have one important aspect in common. They see people as the heart of their business, and therefore they prioritise the acquisition and retention of talent. This comes from the realisation that company performance is dependent on the engagement levels, job fit, continuous development and ultimate performance of staff.
In order to be successful at finding and keeping top talent within an organisation, there is a need for a competency-based talent management strategy – one that speaks to each stage of the employee lifecycle.
What is a competency?
A competency is a set of related behaviours, skills or abilities that are related to effective performance. A competency consists of a definition – succinctly describing the nature of the related behaviours – as well as a number of behavioural indicators – breaking down each element of the competency in a manner that is objective and observable. This definition and the behavioural indicators form the standard against which an individual’s potential and performance is assessed.
The building blocks – starting with a competency framework
At the core of any competency-based strategy is a comprehensive competency framework – a library of behaviours and skills that can be applied to different levels and job roles within an organisation. This framework forms the starting point for applying relevant competencies to job profiles, psychometric assessments, development strategies and succession planning.
When deciding upon a competency framework, you need to consider whether your organisation has any pre-existing competencies that need to be mapped, or aligned, to the new system. You could choose to develop your own competency framework in-house, or you could choose to use an existing, validated and researched competency framework.
Integrating your competency framework – selection
A comprehensive competency library, once implemented, needs to be flexible enough to be used at all levels of the organisation. At this stage, it is necessary to profile existing job roles according to the new framework, in order to identify six to eight competencies that are essential for performance in each position. These competency-based job profiles are the basis against which overall job descriptions can be created or updated.
The next step is applying the competency-based job profiles to the selection process. Applicants can be assessed against these pre-determined behaviours via psychometric assessments and competency-based interviews. These results must be retained as they provide an indication of competency potential, which can be compared to performance once an applicant has been in the position for six to twelve months.
Development, succession planning and performance management
The essential competencies for each job role can be used as the basis for development initiatives, talent mapping and succession planning within your organisation. There are various methods to achieve this goal, including competency assessments and 360 degree feedback evaluations. It is crucial to ensure that the assessments and questionnaires you utilise are aligned to the same competencies, and that the competencies themselves have the same or similar behavioural indicators.
Competency data can be investigated on an individual level as well as a group level, to determine an organisational talent matrix and create development plans. Subsequent assessments can be done on the same set of competencies to assess performance and improvements over time.
There are a number of benefits to implementing a competency-based talent management strategy:
- Competencies are observable, measurable and objective measures of human capital performance.
- Applicants can be recruited on the basis of a set of behaviours and skills that are predictive of success in a particular role.
- This same information can be used within a competency-based interview to gather more insight from candidates.
- These same competencies can be used to measure performance on an ongoing basis, whether via supervisor ratings or other tools.
- Initial competency potential and subsequent competency performance can be measured by the same objective yardstick.
- Competencies and their associated behavioural indicators provide a clear direction for development initiatives.
- A clearly defined competency-based job description provides an employee, his/her manager as well as HR with clear goal posts for expected performance.