Competency Mapping - A Thoroughfare

K. Murali Mohan
Senior Faculty Human Resources & Communications
Department of Management Studies
PES Institute of Technology

Dr. Sawitha Harikrishnan
Professor and Head
Department of Management Studies
PES Institute of Technology

Competency Mapping -What it is

It is about identifying ideal behaviours and personal skills which distinguish exceptional and stupendous performance from the average. This aids in setting standards of behaviour and thereby performance for the average work force to follow. Competency maps provide employers with concrete and objective information usable in all employment decisions. . As a matter of fact competency is a behavioural and demonstrative ability that is informed to some degree by a conceptual perception.

Brief history

Concept maps were invented by Joseph Novak in the 1960s for use as a teaching tool. Later in 1986 William Trochim developed the concept map into a strategic planning tool for use in the design of organisational components. Trochim's technique differs significantly from Novak's original school of thought. While Novak's maps are generated for an individual, Trochim's are generated by a group.

Difference Competence and Competency

A Competency illustrates how a job might be done, excellently whereas a Competence only describes what has to be done, not how. Consequently the Competences portray the duties of an HR Manager - such as manage the HR office and the staff of the organisation, prepare salary stack ups and compensations benefits and rewards, manage recruitment and selection processes and motivate the office force. The Competencies which might determine excellence in this role could include Problem Solving and Judgment; Drive and Determination; Awareness of statutory compliances; Inter-personal skills, leadership skills etc., all of which might be expressed further by Behavioural Indicators concerning explicitly to that position in that organisation.



Based on the work task or job outputs

Based on behaviour

Describes the attributes of the job

Describes the attributes of the person

Consists of the various skills and knowledge required t perform a job

Consists mainly of underlying characteristics of a person which result in effective and/or superior performance on a job

Are not transferable since each competence is  specific to a single job or a specific range of jobs

Are transferable from one sphere to another

Measured by performance on the job

Measured in terms of behaviour

Are specifically process centric

Are typically result-centric

How a typical competency map would look

This consists of clusters 1, 2, 3, 4 and 5. The 1st and 5th clusters are solitary reapers and the major clusters that show commonalities of behaviours are 2, 3 and 4.

Now the basic problem of how these graphs can be interpreted and inferred arises. The accuracy of the representation of the map is rather dicey to analyse and validate with reference to theory. It aids in breeding fake data with known properties and asses the reliability of the competency mapping exercise. It surely provides as a workable input to competency mapping.

Interpretations of the data are of course subject to the designer.

When to use

The use of Competencies can include:
1. Assessment during recruitment, through specific work-based exercises and relevant, validated, psychometric tests,
2. Assessment during auxiliary development; as a profile during assessment to guide future development needs,
3. Succession planning and promotion,
4. Organisational development analysis.

Techniques used to map Competencies include

1. Critical Incident Analysis 
2. Repertory Grid
3. Behaviorual Event Interview
4. Expert systems
5. Benchmarking

Why competency mapping

Erudition and training are conducted to ensure that people have the knowledge and skills needed to excel at their jobs. In order to do this, it is important to map the required knowledge and skills (competencies) to jobs and to the organization's strategy. It serves as a means to ascertain that an organization's knowledge and capabilities are in alignment with its strategy.

Increasing recognition of the importance of competency mapping and alignment, many management systems are including support for this in their systems. But of course it is evident that this is applicable only to learning organisations.

It is advisable to broaden horizons to link competency maps with content, so that content searches and purchases can be tightly allied to an organization's strategy.

It makes use of sophisticated mapping between competency taxonomy and multiple content taxonomies. This kind of multiple mapping between taxonomies requires the use of information organizations known as ontology.

Competency mapping- how it can be implemented

* Through assessment centers
* by means of sample roles and simple mapping techniques
* Use of Psychometric Tests to assess competencies
* experience some of the tools used in Assessment and development centers:
o In-basket exercises: Application, methods of developing and using the tool
o Interpersonal skill exercise: Demonstration Role plays, examination of their potential for assessment
o Leaderless Group Discussions
o Simulation Games , exercises and discussion

Implementing Competency-Based Systems

Competencies are perspective in nature. They answer the question 'What does a star performer look like in a specific setting?' In other words, effectual competencies are associated to a particular organizational target or goal. As a result, depending on the context, models may be geared toward various levels in the organisation:

The total organization (e.g., core competencies or values)

1. An entire function (e.g., marketing, human resources)
2. A career level or band (e.g., individual contributor, team leader, Mid-level manager, strategist, or executive)
3. A specific role (e.g., HR generalist)
4. A specific job (e.g., compensation analyst)

Applying competencies appropriately endows an excellent engine for raising the slab, endorsing common standards, and assimilating HR processes. Conversely, competencies should be coupled with other interventions such as programme offerings and setting objective performance goals to make an optimum impact.

However, executing competencies in functions manifold through the cross section of the organization amounts to a large-scale change and necessitates considerable resources and time. In other words, clarifying the critical success factors or competencies required for the success of future professionals is a necessary, but not sufficient aspect of functional transformation. More often than not individuals and organizations hub on defining the specific behaviors that sustain excellence, overlooking restraints to change such as culture, structural, process and learning systems.

Choosing the accurate competencies

Competency-identification is a dominant organizational exercise. the top management has to establish what really steers the organisation to success. Scores of imperative attributes and proficiencies can be articulated.

Every effective performance evaluation system focuses on both competencies and results. But which competencies should the organization pick to assess? One practical and highly enlightening way to help top management identify the most important competencies for their organization is to list all of the possibilities, together with a definition or explanation, on separate index cards. Each senior executive is then responsible for arranging the cards into three equal lots: ought to, should and preferable.

How would a star performer behave?

A glaring error on too many performance appraisal forms is that desired performance is only defined, not described. It's a cake walk for a student to cut and paste an important idea or concept from the encyclopedia or the net.  But what about its application? How do you identify or classify it?  If you observe a teamwork or leadership master at work, what would notice?

Mastery-narrations are much more precise than definitions: descriptive behaviors of one who has mastered the area. Mastery descriptions give the appraiser a yardstick against which to evaluate the actual activities of the individual he is assessing. Even better, it provides the appraisee with an apparent picture of what the organization precisely expects.

Once the core competencies have been identified, an equally difficult challenge awaits: what is the basis of evaluating these competencies? What kind of scale should be employed?

Choosing the right values of the scale is a seemingly challenging task. For instance, people are apprehensive if a numerical scale is chosen (1-2-3-4-5). An attempt to benchmark the performances against measurable yardsticks would leave ambiguity in the average and below average performers. They would fail to understand the specifics of the expectations of them (Failed to meet expectations / met expectations / surpassed expectations. Using an absolute verdict system would invite complaints about the rating being unfair (Marginal / Fair / Competent / Superior / Distinguished). In order to evade discontent amongst the performers one of the ratings that we have decided to use is a qualitative scale (Disagree Strongly (5) Disagree (4) Neutral (3) Agree (2) and Agree Strongly (1)). The results of this are under a pilot test and shall be discussed at length in our subsequent article.

There are yet other opinions that others hold as an alternative to this - a behavioral frequency scale.

In this the rater errors are minimized or even eliminated as the behavioral frequency scales ask raters to indicate how recurrently the appraisee behaved like a star performer. Next, think of someone whose performance you are responsible for assessing, and then ask yourself, "How often does the person do all the things listed in the competencies dictionary? -rarely, occasionally, frequently or regularly?

Another advantage of the behavioral frequency approach is that it directly guides performance.  Instead of having to site out examples of each of the items on an organisations'  competency list, the executive has to instead review the list with the  subordinate and say, "Just do the things on this list and you'll be a fully acceptable performer." In fact this is something that we are trying to instill in our educational institution- PESIT Bangalore.

Finally, the behavioral frequency scales gives way to ease out the delivery of bad news. Instead of forcing the manager to call Naveen a numero uno or a Marginal performer, the manager can say, "Naveen in this list of business acumen I see you are following certain things listed here, rarely. What is your suggestion for bringing about an improvement or displaying a frequency of this/these particular behaviours? In order for me to project a better report?"

There is also an appendage to this. For instance, some assessment items just align with an evaluation through a behavioral frequency scale. Predominantly, absolute verdicts are essential when it concerns assessment of the appraisee having met the job description or accomplished the set targets. The best things that some organisations would do is to use a readily acceptable and intuitively coined verbal descriptions of behaviours which acts more as a motivator than a demotivator.

Articles by:
Darin Philips
Dr. Stephen C. Schoonover
Dick Grote President of Grote Consulting Corporation in Dallas
And of TManage, Inc.

K. Murali Mohan
Senior Faculty Human Resources & Communications
Department of Management Studies
PES Institute of Technology

Dr. Sawitha Harikrishnan
Professor and Head
Department of Management Studies
PES Institute of Technology

Source : E-mail January 5, 2005




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