Mapping Competencies for Success


Roopashree Ramakrishna
Vasavi Vidyanikethan Institute of  Management, Technology & Research

Over the past 10 years, human resources and organizational development professionals' have generated a lot of interest in the notion of competencies as a key element and measure of human performance. Competencies are becoming a frequently used and written about vehicle for organizational applications.

Now a days all management schools and definitely those specializing in HR train the students in competency mapping. Any masters in management or social sciences or an employee with equivalent training and experience can develop these competencies. Conceptual knowledge and training of 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. Then, what is competency mapping?

It is about identifying preferred behaviors and personal skills that distinguish excellent and outstanding performance from the average. Competency is something that describes how a job might be done, excellently; a competence only describes what has to be done, not how. So, the competences might describe the duties of sales manager for example, such as manage the sales office and its staff, prepare quotations and sales order processing, manage key accounts and supervise and motivate the field sales force. The competencies which might determine excellence in this role could include problem solving and judgement; drive and determination; commercial awareness; interpersonal skills etc all of which might be described further by behavioral indicators relating specifically to that post in that organization. The broad concept might be based on the frequently quoted adage: people get hired for what they know but fired for how they behave!

A lot is going on in recent times on the issue of competency mapping. A lot of resources and consultants invited to do competency mapping. Increased manpower costs, need for ensuring that competent people man critical positions and need to be competitive and recognition of the strategic advantages of having good human resources have compelled firms to be more competency driven. In organizations, competency mapping exists already. Traditionally, HR directors and their top management have always paid attention to the competencies and incorporated them mostly in their appraisal systems. For example, when L&T, LIC, or HLL revised their performance appraisal systems they focused on the assessment of competencies. Role analysis was done and role directions prepared by the Indian oil corporation in mid eighties. Thus, competency mapping can be used for great benefit in exploring where knowledge resides and how it is shared within an organization.

An individual employee's competency him/her aid in the following ways:

  • Gains a clearer sense of true marketability in today's job market ;once the individual knows how his/her competencies compare to those that are asked for the job marker in the key positions of interest.
  • Projects an appearance as a cutting edge and well prepared candidate, who has taken the time to learn about competencies, investigates those in demand and map his/ her own competencies prior to interviewing.
  • Demonstrates self-confidence that comes from knowing one's competitive advantages more convincingly and from being able to articulate those advantages in specific languages.
  • Secures essential input to resume development a set of important terms to use in describing expertise derived from prior career experience.
  • Develops the capability to compare one's actual competencies to an organization or position's required/preferred competencies, in order to create an individual development plan.

Claudette Nowell-Philipp, organizational career consultant, offers strong philosophical argument for the importance of an individual knowing and mapping his/her competencies as part of ongoing career planning inside an organization. Nowell-Philipp says that in today's organizations, especially those going through fundamental change, it is essential to be able to "articulate your value-add and who you are, as a person and as a professional, in language that is common and accepted in the organization" (Nowell-Philipp, 2002). That prerogative implies the importance of competency-based self-presentation: in one's resume, in interviews, and in public functions where introductions and credibility are important.

However, before proceeding to use this one should be aware of the potential dangers that limit the use of competency mapping.

Pitfall no.1: believing the map is the ultimate goal

Mapping is the easiest part of the process. The difficult parts are the audit (input) and analysis (output). Mapping may seem to be the output of the system. In truth the map is the middle part of the process and serves only as the beginning for analysis. It is the pitfall to view map as a desired end result. The map is nothing but a colossal waste of time and money without proper analysis.

Pitfall no.2: no purposeful question:

Proper analysis is not possible without asking proper questions at the outset. An organization should not merely map merely for the sake of saying we now have an organizational map. The map is not good in and of itself. It is only good in so far as it can bring about positive change in the organization.

Pitfall no.3: not knowing where you are going

The mission must be to create and sustain a knowledge flow that is more profitable to the organization then the map becomes a measure of how close to the ideal to benchmark for future measures of how much have been able to effect. If the organization is already rich beyond wildest dreams then the mission should be to measure against the current "ideal" knowledge flow. Then in the future when the organization is not rosy, it would be preferable to measure against the benchmark to see where the problems are occurring and use this to try to recreate the ideal.

Pitfall no.4: not ensuring both reliability and validity

Reliability and validity are indicators of how usable a particular measuring tool really is. Reliability tells us how consistently we are measuring whatever we are measuring. Validity is concerned with whether we are measuring what we say we are measuring. First reliability means the results are consistent both internally and across the time. To be reliable the results also must be consistent over time that is not that people's answers may not change but that the question consistently measures the same concept no matter when the questionnaire is delivered.

Validity then kicks in as a measure of what we are really trying to do. If we are trying to accurately measure weight of a person for example then the results matter. A consistently wrong answers means we are not measuring the weight and if it is our intention the tool is not good one.

Pitfall no.5: not assessing the results accurately

Now let us assume that we have found and tested on a sample audience and found them to be valid and reliable and they actually reflect the mission. Further more, let us assume the system has accurately produced the data in some visible form, such as a map of connections. So far if any process has been flawed, the minimum harm done is the waste of time and effort. But if the data is not assessed in a proper manner there is a chance of misinterpreting the results there by causing a big damage to the concern. . For example, let's say the resulting map shows that knowledge does not flow from person A to person B. let's say the resulting For example, let's say the resulting map shows that knowledge does not flow from person A to person B. The conclusion might be let us punishing A for not communicating with B.

Perhaps B does not need to know what A has to tell him. In that case neither is at fault and in fact there is no problem. Perhaps B needs to know but will not listen to A. Now the fault is Person B.

Go boldly, but with knowledge

Knowing about the pitfalls will help in charting mapping activities with confidence. Snap judgments based upon first assessment of the map often prove wrong. In-depth analysis is required first to determine whether "problems" revealed are real and then to develop effective "cures".


  • Krebs, valdis: managing core competencies of the corporation.
  • Krebs, valdis: working in the connected world –managing connected assets.
  • Learning center: career planning and adult development network.

Roopashree Ramakrishna
Vasavi Vidyanikethan Institute of  Management, Technology & Research

Source: E-mail May 16, 2006


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