HR PERSPECTIVE: Competency profiling: The first step in employee development

HR PERSPECTIVE: Competency profiling: The first step in employee development
General mental ability contributes over 42 percent of the variation in individual employee performance.

General mental ability contributes over 42 percent of the variation in individual employee performance.

COMPETENCY profiling is the process of identifying, defining and assessing those competencies believed to lead to higher employee performance in a particular job within the context of your business.
When you identify and define these competencies, you are making a hypothesis that these competencies have the power to predict good performers in your business. You are saying if I have people who possess these competencies they should be able to deliver the required business results. Until this hypothesis has been validated with hard facts derived through scientific analysis, it remains a hypothesis.
The basic assumption in competency profiling is that good performers possess certain characteristics that separate them from those that fail to perform in their roles. So how do you know what individual attributes drive business performance?
The first approach would be to make assumptions in the context of your own business. As an example, you may say from our experience people with good business acumen, communication, integrity, teamwork skills etc. have tended to perform better in this business.
This can be achieved by putting together your executive team in focus group format and discuss what competencies should drive the business strategy both in the short term and long term. The second approach is to dig scientific evidence to see which competencies or attributes drive individual performance. There is plenty of evidence to use in this regard.
The third approach is to study the attributes that your best performers possess. Alternatively, you study, for example, the characteristics of some of the best known chief executive officers (CEOs) and see what attributes they possess. From that, you can come up with a list of competencies to use. The fourth approach is to study those people who have consistently failed in your organisation and identify what attributes they possess. If it’s senior level executives, you study attributes of those CEO who have documented a record of failures and see what made them fail. In developing your competency model, you should avoid taking any of such attributes into your competency model.
Please note that in developing the competency framework for your business, you need to categorise them by level: Organisation wide competencies: These are the competencies required from every individual who joins your organisation regardless of level. Functional competencies: These are competencies required for someone to function well in a specific department eg. people in finance may be required to possess certain finance specific competencies. The third component is role specific competencies followed by level specific competencies. For level specific competencies, you may require that all your executives possess a competency such as business acumen, cultural sensitivity, presentation skills etc.
Remember the agreed competency framework cannot remain static as the business environment changes. With the rate of technological change you need to constantly adjust your competency model to reflect the realities in your business environment. The tragedy though is that most businesses do not have a competency model to guide general behaviour and staff development. If you do not have a competency model to guide your staff, you are like a rudderless aeroplane and you know what consequences befall such planes.
Let us now look at how a competency profiling project should move forward once you have agreed on the competency framework. Before moving to the assessment stage, you must agree on observable behavioural indicators under each competency to enable easy assessment. The next step is to assess all your current employees and see if they possess the desired competencies. The best methods for assessing these competencies so far are 360-degree assessments and assessment centres. These are the best reliable and validated methods for assessing competencies. After assessment, each individual will get a report that shows how competent they are in each of the competencies and it shows the development gaps as well.
The above approach does not constitute a full competency profiling project. Over and above the above process, if you want to gain the maximum value of competency profiling project, your assessments must include cognitive profiling.
General mental ability contributes over 42 percent of the variation in individual employee performance. If your employees do not have the right general mental ability for their role, competency profiling as outlined above will not yield any results. You should also assess job specific knowledge as it contributes over 23 percent of the variation in individual performance. While qualification and experience are a favourite for most organisations, very little value comes from emphasising qualification and experience and both combined contribute less that three percent of the variation in individual performance.
All of the above assessments will point to areas that need to be developed. This should form the basis for your staff development as it is evidence based. Any training instituted by the organisation should try to address areas identified as needing development. The majority of training programmes currently in operation in most organisations add no value to the business. Instead, most of this training is a waste of money that could be deployed in other needy areas of the business.

Memory Nguwi is an occupational psychologist, data scientist, speaker and managing consultant of Industrial Psychology Consultants (Pvt) Ltd a management and human resources consulting firm. https://www.linkedin.com/in/memorynguwi/ Phone 481946-48/481950/2900276/2900966 or cell number 077 2356 361 or email: mnguwi@ipcconsultants.com or visit our website at www.ipcconsultants.com

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