ART AND SCIENCE OF COMPETENCY MAPPING
T. V. Rao
Indian corporations have become more aware of the need for competency mapping in recent times. This need arose due to the following reasons:
- Increased opportunities to become global and the need for talented managers to make this happen
- Increased costs of manpower to build and manage globally competitive business
- Need for ensuring that competent people are available for performing various critical roles
- Downsizing and the consequent need to get a lot of things done with fewer people and thus reduce manpower costs and pass on the advantage to the customer
- Recognition that technology, finances, customers and markets, systems and processes can all be set right or managed effectively if we have the right kind of human resources
- The need for focus in performing roles- need for time management, nurturing of competence, increased emphasis on performance management systems
- And recognition of the strategic advantage given by employee competencies in building the core competencies of the organization
- Some firms have not done this exercise in the past or where they have done it the top management have not taken it seriously as it was done with low cost and as a part of the role of the HRD Manager. As cost incurred was low the firm never too cognizance of it and history forgotten. L&T is one such case where an elaborate exercise was done by the then HRD Chief Dr. Pereira and a list of 43 competencies were generated. They were called as attributes instead of competencies which is the new management language.
- In some of the other firms there have been changes in HRD Managers, changes in roles with new organisational structures etc and there is a need to do it all over again.
- MNCs in order to promote a standardised and internationally known competence culture, for better controls and centralised administration and systems driven approach undertake competency mapping worldwide. Such competency mapping for firms having income in billions of dollars is affordable and they supply the competency profiles to those in other countries. For example when Unilever undertake such competency mapping worldwide they may supply the list to HLL (HUL) and HLL needs to adapt it to Indian conditions.
- Corporation increasingly realised due to talent crunch the need for competency matched performers, the need to get ready to perform employees, and the need to develop competencies on a continuing basis to keep up a competitive edge through on-line learning, and the need to manage attrition through enhanced satisfaction and competency utilisation, succession planning etc.
- Have a clear organisational structure
- Well defined roles in terms of the KPAs or tasks and activities associated with each role
- Should have mapped the competencies required for each role
- Where appropriate or needed should have identified the generic competencies for each set of roles or levels of management
- And should use them for recruitment, performance management, promotion decisions, placement and training needs identification.
What is Competency?
Any underlying characteristic required performing a given task, activity, or role successfully can be considered as competency. Competency may take the following forms:
- Other characteristics of an individual
- Self concept
- Technical dealing with the technology or know how associated with the function, role, task (Also now referred by some as Functional)
- Managerial/Organizational dealing with the managerial aspects, organizing, planning, mobilizing resources, monitoring, systems use etc.
- Human/Behavioral including personal, interpersonal, team related and
- Conceptual/Theoretical including visualizations, model building etc.
History of Competencies
A team of Educationists lead by Benjamin Bloom in the USA in mid fifties laid the foundation for identifying educational objectives and there by defining the knowledge attitudes and skills needed to be developed in education. The task force lead by Bloom took several years to make an exhaustive classification of the educational objectives that were grouped under the cognitive domain.
David McClelland the famous Harvard Psychologist has pioneered the competency movement across the world. His classic books on “Talent and Society”, “Achievement Motive”, “The Achieving Society”, “Motivating Economic Achievement” and “Power the Inner Experience” brought out several new dimensions of the competencies. These competencies exposed by McClelland dealt with the affective domain in Bloom’s terminology. The turning point for competency movement is the article published in American Psychologist in 1973 by McClelland titled wherein he presented data that traditional achievement and intelligence score may not be able to predict job success and what is required is to profile the exact competencies required to perform a given job effectively and measure them using a variety of tests. This article combined with the work done by Douglas Bray and his associates at AT&T in the US where in they presented evidence that competencies can be assessed through assessment centers and on the job success can be predicted to some extent by the same has laid foundation for popularization of the competency movement.
Later McBer a Consulting Firm founded by David McClelland and his associate David Berlew have specialized in mapping the competencies of entrepreneurs and managers across the world. They even developed a new and yet simple methodology called the Behavior Event Interviewing (BEI) to map the competencies.
Thus AT&T Studies of Formative Years in Business indicated the predictability of future success. McClelland's studies in early seventies indicated the limitations of Intelligence and Academic Performance data. With increased recognition of the limitations performance appraisal in predicting future performance potential appraisal got focused
And Assessment centers became popular in seventies. The setting up an Assessment center was in integral part of the HRD plan given to L&T by the IIMA professors as early as in 1975. L&T did identify critical attributes for performing higher level jobs (a form of competency mapping) but did not start assessment centers until much later as it was not perceived as a priority area.
Competency mapping is the process of identification of the competencies required to perform successfully a given job or role or a set of tasks at a given point of time. It consists of breaking a given role or job into its constituent tasks or activities and identifying the competencies (technical, managerial, behavioral, conceptual knowledge, an attitudes, skills, etc.) needed to perform the same successfully.
Competency assessment is the assessment of the extent to which a given individual or a set of individuals possess these competencies required by a given role or set of roles or levels of roles.
Assessment centers use multiple methods and multiple assessors to assess the competencies of a given individual or a group of individuals. In order to enhance objectivity they use trained assessors and multiple methods including psychometric tests, simulation exercise, presentations, in-basket exercises, interviews, role-plays, group discussions etc. The methods to be used depend on the nature of competencies.
Who Identifies competencies?
Competencies can be identified by one of more of the following category of people: Experts, HR Specialists, Job analysts, Psychologists, Industrial Engineers etc. in consultation with: Line Managers, Current & Past Role holders, Supervising Seniors, Reporting and Reviewing Managers, Internal Customers, Subordinates of the role holders and other role set members of the role (those who have expectations from the role holder and who interact with h him/her). TVRLS, have developed a methodology called as Role Set Based Competency Mapping (RSBCM ©) (see Competency Mapping Education kit by TVRLS).
What Methodology is used?
- The following methods are used in combination for competency mapping:
- Group work
- Task Forces
- Task Analysis workshops
- Use of Job descriptions
- Performance Appraisal Formats
- KRAs and Attributes
How are they Identified?
The process of identification is not very complex. Some of the methods are given below:
- Simply ask each person who is currently performing the role to list the tasks to be performed by him one by one, and identify the Knowledge, Attitudes, and Skills required to perform each of these
- Consolidate the list
- Present it to a role set group or a special task force constituted for that role
- Edit and Finalize
What Language to Use?
- Use Technical language for technical competencies. For example: knowledge of hydraulics.
- Use business language for business competencies. Example: Knowledge of markets for watch business or Strategic thinking.
- Use your own language or standard terms for Behavior competencies. Example: Ability to Negotiate, Interpersonal sensitivity, Sales techniques. Too technical and conceptual knowledge align to the organization and people may create more problems than help
Who can do it?
Competency mapping is a task which can be done by many people. Now days all Management schools and definitely those specializing in HR train the students in competency mapping. Recently when the author taught a course on Management of Talent at the Indian School of Business with two hours or introduction to the process of competency mapping the students (all with experience of more than two years) have done a great job of competency mapping for a set of roles.
The person who facilitates competency mapping should have the following competencies:
- Should have some familiarity with competencies and the nature of competencies. This includes knowledge of the terms used commonly in competency identifications (sociability, activity level, monitoring ability, resource mobilization, vision, communication skills, analytical skills, planning, organizing, team building, imitative, strategic thinker etc.) and meaning of most common terms.
- Should know the meaning of knowledge (awareness, information), Attitude (predisposition) and skill (demonstrable ability to perform a particular task or activity with a pre-designated level of proficiency- speed, accuracy, quality etc)
- Should be able to differentiate knowledge, attitude, and skills. Additional ability to differentiate motives, values, self concept and traits is an additional competence
- Should be able to differentiate a task from an activity
- Should be able to list a set of activities and tasks for a given role with the help of a role holder (a person who is currently doing a the given job)
- Should able to classify a given competence (knowledge, attitude and skill) into technological arena, managerial arena, behavioral arena and a conceptual arena. This is a very simple competency. And useful but not essential.
- Should have interviewing and probing skills
- Should be able to document and communicate to others through documentation (ability to communicate suing precise language and provide explanations wherever necessary)
- Should be familiar with the nature of business done by the firm, its products, and markets, processes etc. or at least would be able to understand and grasp the basics of technology and processes used by the firm. This can be developed through a quick induction program by the firm.
Some Tips on How to do it?
The following are some of tips to do competency mapping at low cost:
- Pick up a job or a role that is relatively well understood by all individuals in the company. Work out for this role and give it as an illustration. For example Sales Executive, Production Supervisor, Assistant HR Manager, Receptionist, Transport Manager, PR Manager, etc. are known to all and easy to profile.
- Work out competencies for this role if necessary with the help of job analysis specialist or an internal member who has knowledge of competency mapping. Prepare this as an illustration.
- Circulate these others and ask various departments to do it on their won.
- Circulate samples of competencies done by others
- Illustrate knowledge, attitudes, skills, values etc.
- Choose a sample that does not use jargons
- Explain the purpose
- Interview of past successful job holders helps
- Current incumbent who are doing a good job along with their Reporting officers is a good enough team in most cases.
- Once prepared even on the basis of one or two individuals inputs circulate to other role set members
What uses can it be put to?
Once competency mapping is done for each role or job, it can be used for a variety of purposes. This includes:
- Recruitment & Placement
- Induction, Integration and assimilation
- Competency based compensation
- Performance Management
- Competency Development through Learning and Development Interventions,
- Career coaching and other career Development Intervention
- Succession Management and Leadership Development
- Building a competency culture and ensure a competitive advantage
Competency mapping is an essential Talent Management Tool. In the days of talent shortage and the need for talent acquisition, retention, development and utilization there is no alternative to knowing, procuring, using and developing competent people and ensuring a competence culture in the organization.