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(How) Should We Introduce Competencies?


We are introducing succession/career management planning and performance management into our organisation (an examinations board).

We currently use traditional job specs and person descriptions in recruitment. We currently don't use competences at all.

We recognise our need to be clearer about our expectations of people. SMART goals and targets will help us to ensure a tighter link between organisational objectives and individual performance.

However we know that goals and objectives target only one side of human performance. We are considering introducing a competence framework based on MCI standards. However, I have read that many organisations are moving away from competences (to what?).

I'd love to hear the experience of people who have been in similar situations - what helped in introducing competencies, what didn't... and is there a system more suitable than competences that we could introduce from our current position?

natasha Goggin

4 Responses

  1. can I take issue with one part of your question?
    Hi Natasha
    You have stated
    “However we know that goals and objectives target only one side of human performance.”

    Goals and objectives can target every aspect of human performance if they are considered carefully. Without getting into dictionary definitions a “goal” or “objective” can just as readily be related to a behaviour or an activity as it can to a result or an outcome….consequently SMART, CSMART, SHABBY or WAVE or whatever approach you use can be perfectly adequate.

    Further to your issue with competencies the single biggest problem seems to be getting common understanding of the chosen competency framework. To be comprehensive they tend to be quite wordy and therefore managers often don’t put in the required time to understand them (they are normally in addition to the fifty hour a week day job) QED you end up with a half a**sed understanding of the framework so it doesn’t get used effectively so it falls into disrepute etc


  2. convert to behaviours
    Hi Natasha,
    I have been involved with a number of people development programmes. From a succession perspective I believe competencies are fundamental to an effective process, after all it is the person being promoted not their hard skills.
    the main issue I have encountered is translating competency headings into measurable behaviours at different levels in the organisation (and each organisation is unique). It is quite a task to carry out such a conversion but, in my experience, makes the process much more user friendly and therefore more likely to be used.
    If you want to discuss further please feel free to contact me.
    Good luck

  3. Competencies work well in Performance Management
    My organisation has developed a strong link between performance targets, SMART objectives and competencies – and I feel that together, they can describe success criteria in a fuller, more useful way. Performance Targets tell us ‘what’ we should do and competencies tell us ‘how’ we should do it.

    The use of competencies enables us to address behaviours in performance review – and therefore becomes an important tool in communicating cultural aspirations.

    If you’re not concerned with how your people achieve their targets, don’t bother with competencies. But if soft skills – teamwork for example- are important to your future I’d suggest seriously considering competencies.

    How about involving your staff in developing your own set of organisational competencies? – It might be a great way of getting their buy-in.

  4. DTI Paper on High Performing Work Practices suggests competency

    There is some excellent work on High Performance Work Practices at the DTI:

    This survey examined what high-performing companies did with their people and found commong threads. You’re right that assessment isn’t everything, but it seems to be a part of what many high-performing companies do. This isn’t for its own sake, but because it makes it provides clarity and focus for employees.

    Best regards



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