T. V. Rao  
Chairman, TVRLS


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
In good organisations competency mapping existed already. Traditionally HR Directors and their top management have always paid attention to competencies and incorporated them mostly in their appraisal systems. For example when L&T introduced their open appraisal system in mid seventies they have debated and identified a few competencies needed to be exhibited by everyone and incorporated in their appraisal form. When L&T ECC have revisited this format in late eighties, they felt that competencies need to be defined for every role separately and even every year jointly by the appraiser and appraisee and incorporated it in their Performance Analysis and Development System (PADS). They have treated the tasks with the same weight age as the competencies. They assigned 50% points to task accomplishments and 50% points to competencies demonstrated and focussed the annual coaching around both the competencies and task accomplishments. When LIC or NDDB, NOCIL, HLL (HUL), Bharat Petroleum etc. revised their Performance appraisal systems they focussed on the assessment of competencies after a lot of debate. Role analysis was done and role directories prepared by the Indian Oil Corporation in mid eighties a comprehensive attribute mapping was also done.

  • 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.
Competency mapping is important and is an essential exercise.  Every well managed firm should:

  • 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.
When the first HRD Department in the country was set up in Larsen & Toubro in 1975 with the help of IIMA, this was the first and primary task assigned to the new HRD department. Competency mapping is the first of the significant activities to be undertaken by the HR Department. Twenty five years after the HRD Departments were established in the country and two decades after specialised courses in HRD have been started it is disappointing to note that Indian corporations and their HRD Departments still need consultants to do competency mapping for them.  A number of them do not realise that competency mapping is essentially an in-house job. Consultants can at best give them the methodology and train up their line managers and HR staff. Consultants cannot do competency mapping all by themselves because no consultant can ever have all the knowledge required to identify the technological, managerial, human relations and other conceptual knowledge, attitudes and skills required for all jobs in a firm. Where consultants are excessively relied upon the data generated are likely to enrich the consultants and consulting forms much more than the commissioning form itself. The lower the consultant’s involvement more the work needs to be done internally and higher the intellectual capital generation and retention within the organisation.

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:

  • Knowledge
  • Attitude
  • Skill
  • Other characteristics of an individual
  • Motives
  • Values
  • Self concept
  • etc.
Competencies may be grouped in to various areas. In classic article published a few decades ago in Harvard Business Review Daniel Katz grouped them under three areas which were later expanded by Indian Management professors in to the following four:

  • 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.
This is a convenience classification and a given competency may fall into one or more areas and may include more than one from. It is this combination that are made and promoted as competency dictionaries. A competency dictionary of a firm gives detailed descriptions of the competency language used by that firm. It contains detailed explanations of the combinations of competencies (technical, managerial, human and conceptual knowledge, attitudes and skills) using their own language. For example Team work or Team Management competency can be defined in terms of organization specific and level specific behaviors for a given origination. At top levels it might mean in the case of one organization ability identify utilize and synergize the contributions of a project team and at another level it might mean ability to inspire and carry along the top management team including diversity management. It is put here in much more simplistic way while in competency mapping all details of the behaviors (observable, specific, measurable etc.) to be shown by the person occupying that role are specified.

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:
  • Interviews
  • Group work
  • Task Forces
  • Task Analysis workshops
  • Questionnaire
  • 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:

  1.  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
  2. Consolidate the list
  3. Present it to a role set group or a special task force  constituted for that role
  4. Edit and Finalize
Alternately appoint a task force for each role. The task force should consist of some current incumbents of that role who are performing it well, the reporting and reviewing officers of that role, some of the past role incumbents who have successfully performed that role. Make sure that the task force consists of at least one or more members who have some understanding of the competencies and the nature of competencies. Most professional managers with M B A degrees should have this competence. If they do not it is easy to acquire by reading a few books. When the author worked with the Ministry of Health in Indonesia along with Dr. Udai Pareek and Rolf Lynton, a three day workshop was found to be sufficient to train the local Health Province staff in competency mapping. This in spite of the author having to work with groups of Indonesians who spoke only Bhasa Indonesia.

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.
Any Masters in Management or Social Sciences or an Employee with Equivalent Experience and Training can develop these competencies. Conceptual Background and Understanding of the business is important. Familiarity with Business, Organizations, Management and Behavioral Sciences is useful. HR Managers, Management Graduates, Applied Psychologists are quite qualified to do this. Most institutions specializing in HR train the candidates to do this.

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
For an illustration of the competencies see Designing and Managing Human Resource Systems by Udai Pareek and T. V. Rao, Oxford & IBH publication and Competency mapping Education kit by T V Rao Learning Systems Pvt. Ltd (www.tvrls.com).



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.

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