If you already have a competency framework that has been in place for more than a couple of years, it may be in need of a strategic review and see how it's working for your business.
So before we get into the details, it’s worth making it clear what a competency framework is.
Put simply, it is a set of standards, of criteria, that describes how people go about doing their jobs. A competency framework contains behaviours, approaches, attitudes and ways of looking at things, that set out what ‘really good’ looks like in your company. Your job description, targets and objectives describe WHAT you do, the competency framework describes HOW you might do it. A competency framework will underpin lots of different work and people management processes, including appraisal, training and development and promotion. It provides a common language for us to talk about our managers about these things- how well we’re doing, where our strengths are, what we need to develop further. It provides a fairer and more consistent platform for making decisions about people and how to get the best out of everyone.
A good first step is to look at how and where your competencies are used and where they can be reinforced.
Your organisational values. Competencies are an excellent opportunity to set out what is expected, in behavioural terms, of someone who works in line with the values of the company. Competencies can describe what values look like in practice and help people to understand how they can align their performance and behaviour with them. It’s surprising how often we find that the competency framework and the values bear no resemblance to each other whatsoever, and sometimes contain impossible contradictions...
The changing market and strategy. Your mission and vision is likely to have shifted as your strategic priorities have undoubtedly been revised in the light of current market conditions, competitor activity and environmental pressures and developments. Your competency framework should set out the enabling behaviours that will support the achievement of those priorities and help you to recruit and develop the key capabilities which will be needed within the workforce in the coming 2 to 5 years.
Build and align with your brand. We highly recommend working closely with the marketing department to identify opportunities to strengthen the representation of your brand by aligning internal behaviour with the image you present externally, with clients and partners. Again, we frequently see an entirely different set of internal expectations to what the brand promises to its customers.
Managing and developing your talent. What are you currently doing to ensure that your organisation has the right people in the right place at the right time? Your competency framework needs to support all of the various talent management practices in the organisation so do an audit of your requirements here. Are you using several different (and potentially confusing) scales across assessment methodologies? Does the framework contain sufficient ‘granularity’ to allow discrimination between different levels of performance? Is it flexible enough to be used across working patterns, job families, grades, specialisms and locations?
Driving cultural change. Do your competencies remain culturally relevant, and even possible? Do some reflect an older way of working and speak more to a time when our working lives were less dominated by social media, mobile technology and digital communication? Are they sufficiently forward-looking? Do they convey a ‘them and us’ message, separating out groups such as managers, leaders, full time employees, product specialists or customer-facing roles? Are they inclusive, reinforce the value of diversity and provide a fair platform for assessment and decision-making? Is the language clean, simple and reflects the way that people actually talk?
Often, a review such as this results in subtle changes rather than radical ones and there's a balance to be had between shifting the goalposts too frequently and making sure things stay relevant and up to date.
But once you’re confident that your framework reflects current priorities and supports delivery in the near future, then you can turn your attention to putting it to work.
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You may also be interested in reading our article in which we look at the role of competency frameworks within talent management.
And a further article about bringing competencies back to life.