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Develop a Comprehensive Competency Framework

Leverage the single most important tool for driving key HR functions.

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  • Competency frameworks are an integral part of many HR functions such as performance management, employee development, identification of future leaders, and talent acquisition.
  • Designing and implementing a competency framework can be extremely difficult and time consuming. Most HR departments are too busy with day-to-day operations and do not have time to create and build a competency framework.

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Critical Insight

  • A comprehensive competency framework provides an organization and its employees with a common understanding of the knowledge, skills, attributes, and behaviors required to achieve organizational goals and remain competitive.
  • Engaging stakeholders - from leaders to employees - is crucial to developing the competency framework as it impacts every employee in the organization.
  • Ensure your competency framework is supported as the cornerstone of your talent management practices.

Impact and Result

  • Understand the difference between core competencies and function-specific competencies. Select and modify your competencies from McLean & Company’s Comprehensive Competency Library.
  • Plan your competency framework project and gain buy-in from stakeholders.
  • Define competencies for your framework using behavior-based language if the pre-developed competencies do not align with organizational needs.
  • Implement your competency framework and integrate it throughout all HR functions.
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Develop a Comprehensive Competency Framework Research & Tools

2. Select and modify pre-developed competencies

Select various core, leadership, and functional competencies.

3. Define your competencies

Define each selected competency with behavior-based proficiency statements.

4. Implement your competency framework

Secure leadership buy-in and participation and outline the competency framework implementation plan.

5. Support your competency framework

Create a defined plan for the maintenance of your competency framework.

6. McLean Academy Learning Snapshot

Watch this learning snapshot for an introduction to creating a competency framework.

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Workshop: Develop a Comprehensive Competency Framework

Workshops offer an easy way to accelerate your project. If you are unable to do the project yourself, and a Guided Implementation isn't enough, we offer low-cost onsite delivery of our project workshops. We take you through every phase of your project and ensure that you have a roadmap in place to complete your project successfully.

Module 1: Select and Define Core Competencies

The Purpose

Select and clearly define the core competencies of the organization.

Key Benefits Achieved

Core competencies are widely understood across the organization.

Activities

Outputs

1.1

Select core competencies.

  • Core competencies determined
1.2

Describe core competencies.

  • Core competency descriptions defined
1.3

Identify core competency proficiency levels.

  • Proficiency levels for each competency determined
1.4

Review core competency proficiency levels.

  • Proficiency levels reviewed by group
1.5

Complete core competency presentations.

  • Competencies presented
1.6

Test the core competencies.

  • Core competencies tested

Module 2: Select and Define Leadership Competencies

The Purpose

Select and clearly define the leadership competencies of the organization.

Key Benefits Achieved

Leadership competencies are widely understood across the organization.

Activities

Outputs

2.1

Select leadership competencies.

  • Leadership competencies determined
2.2

Describe leadership competencies.

  • Leadership competency descriptions defined
2.3

Identify leadership competency proficiency levels.

  • Proficiency levels for each competency determined
2.4

Review leadership competency proficiency levels.

  • Proficiency levels reviewed by group
2.5

Complete leadership competency presentations.

  • Competencies presented
2.6

Test the leadership competencies.

  • Leadership competencies tested

Module 3: Refine Competencies and Develop a Plan

The Purpose

  • Finalize competencies and develop a plan to move forward.

Key Benefits Achieved

  • Core and leadership competencies finalized for the organization.
  • Communication strategy developed for implementation.

Activities

Outputs

3.1

Review and refine competencies.

  • Competencies refined
3.2

Review the revisions.

  • Revisions looked over and agreed upon
3.3

Complete competency presentations.

  • Competencies presented
3.4

Identify how to integrate the competency framework into other HR functions.

  • Competency integration determined
3.5

Develop a communications strategy.

  • Communication strategy developed

Develop a Comprehensive Competency Framework

Leverage the single most important tool for driving key HR functions.

Executive Summary

McLean & Company Insight

A comprehensive competency framework provides organizations and its employees with a common understanding of the knowledge, skills, attributes, and behaviors required to achieve organizational goals and remain competitive.

Situation

  • Competency frameworks are an integral part of many HR functions such as performance management, employee development, identification of future leaders, and talent acquisition.
  • Competencies help set performance standards and build consistency throughout the organization.

Complication

  • Designing and implementing a competency framework can be extremely difficult and time consuming. Most HR departments are too busy with day-to-day operations and do not have time to create and build a competency framework.

Solution

  • Understand the difference between core competencies and function-specific competencies.
  • Plan your competency framework project and gain buy-in from stakeholders.
  • Select and modify your competencies from McLean & Company’s Comprehensive Competency Library.
  • Define competencies for your framework using behavior-based language if the pre-developed competencies do not align with organizational needs.
  • Implement your competency framework and integrate it throughout all HR functions.
  • Support your competency framework through annual reviews and appropriate resourcing.

Competency frameworks are the collection of knowledge, skills, and attributes an employee requires to do a job well

What is a competency? It is made up of:

Knowledge
  • A body of information that a person possesses that may be applied directly to the performance of a function.
  • Includes, but is not limited to, facts, events, systems, ideas, theories, methods, procedures, principles, concepts, and cases that result from formal education, training, or personal experience.
Skills
  • Demonstrated and observable ability to perform a task with ease and proficiency.
  • Often requires the use of equipment, machinery, tools, or automated systems.
  • Implies measurable performance.
Attributes
  • An individual’s demonstrated personality traits.
  • Often broader and more abstract than skills or knowledge.
  • Includes characteristics like attitude, motivation, ambition, values, and demeanor.

A Competency Framework:

  • Is a formal structure that lists a collection of competencies, where each competency defines one aspect of behavior an employee must exhibit to perform well in their job.
  • Is used to define the critical behaviors for roles within the organization, which aids in a range of HR practices including talent acquisition, performance management, employee development, and succession planning.

A competency framework is an organization’s ultimate HR reference tool.

Competency frameworks tie key HR functions together, creating a central reference point for HR programs

Corporate values
Job descriptions
Workforce planning
Competency Framework Talent acquisition
Performance management
Learning and development
Succession planning
Legal/regulatory compliance

An organization’s competency framework must be driven by:

  • Corporate values in order to reflect and function within an organization’s culture.
  • Job descriptions, which provide an in-depth study of what is actually required for job roles.
  • Workforce planning, which determines the knowledge, skills, abilities, and other qualities the organization needs to meet its goals.

Without a competency framework, organizations risk:

  • Hiring employees that don’t meet business needs.
  • Inappropriately measuring performance and rewarding the wrong behaviors.
  • Investing in misaligned learning and development initiatives.
  • Failing to prepare successors for key job roles.

A comprehensive competency framework includes core, leadership, and functional competencies

Core competencies apply to every role in the organization. Select competencies that are tied to the achievement of organizational strategy and values. A comprehensive competency framework that includes generic competencies 'Core' and 'Leadership', as well as functional competencies such as 'HR', 'IT', 'Finance', 'Marketing', and 'Sales'. Functional competencies generally apply to only one job family or functional area in the organization.
Leadership competencies apply to all leaders in your organization, from managers to executives.

Application of the framework will determine its success

Simply having a robust framework is not enough

Characteristics of Effective Competency Frameworks
  • Relevant
    Competencies directly reflect the tasks and behaviors being carried out today in a real work context.
  • Objective
    Behaviors are observable and are described with clarity, assuring misinterpretation by different observers does not occur.
  • Measurable
    Behaviors can be measured according to a standardized scale (such as proficiency levels).
  • Manageable
    Number of competencies is kept as low as possible (12 or fewer) to permit full absorption by managers and staff, as well as overall manageability.
  • Differentiated
    Competencies are sufficiently distinguished from one another so that overlap is minimized and they are not confused with one another.
  • Developed
    Managers are rigorously trained on the competency framework and how to apply it in the context of their jobs. Opportunities exist for all employees to be developed in the competencies pertinent to their jobs.
  • Applied
    Competencies are tied into key HR functions and are actively used by managers to direct hiring decisions and improve employee performance.

An ineffective competency framework is out of date, subjective, cumbersome, and/or simply sits on a shelf unused.

Many organizations with a competency framework are not realizing optimal benefits:

  • Only 33% of organizations believe it’s effective in meeting business objectives.
  • Only 29% of organizations believe it’s effective at building future capabilities.
  • (Brandon Hall, 2017)

An effective competency framework creates a common and consistent frame of reference for the entire organization

Consistency
Benefits of a Competency Framework
  • Common Language
    Provides a standardized glossary or lexicon that HR, management, and employees share when discussing the knowledge, skills, and attributes required to do a job.
  • Culture
    A common understanding of those competencies that most contribute to success improves the likelihood that those behaviors will occur. Competencies also tie decision making to bigger-picture organizational values.
  • Compliance
    Standardized competencies make employment, promotion, and pay decisions more transparent in order to comply with legal and regulatory requirements.
  • Talent Acquisition
    Outlining the necessary competencies for the future workforce is crucial in order to attract, interview, and select the best candidates for roles in the organization.
  • Performance Management
    Performance metrics, assessment, feedback, and communication regarding performance is predictable, standardized, and tied to appropriate incentives.
  • Learning & Development
    Knowing which competencies are central to specific job groups and roles allows better prioritization and allocation of resources to training and developing those competencies.
  • Succession Planning
    Understanding which competencies are crucial to key roles in the organization prioritizes succession planning for those roles and helps to better assess candidates for succession.

Developing a competency framework is hard work, but the right tools make the process much easier

Developing and implementing a competency framework demands the following: Be prepared to apply the following capabilities during the development and implementation process:
Significant stakeholder involvement: Gaining buy-in, soliciting and ensuring participation, and building consensus. Business understanding, diplomacy, communication, facilitation, collaboration, and flexibility.
Skill: Interviewing and question asking, analysis and pattern-identification, and writing. Logic, open-mindedness, active listening, curiosity, creativity, willingness to learn, clarity, and quality-orientation.
Time: Project planning, job description maintenance, competency development, framework implementation, and ongoing support. Planning, organization, coordination, vision, patience, determination, and commitment.
Iteration and rework: Review, testing, revision, and continuous improvement. Goal-orientation, scrutiny, thoroughness, experimentation, and responsiveness.

“Currently, we are experiencing a time in our world where things are happening and changing very fast. Often organizations want answers quicker than we can actually develop customized competency models for them.” (Mary Esteves, Nova Consulting, Inc.)

McLean & Company will help you set the right mindset and reach your goals by:

  • Cutting through the high-level academic concepts and focusing on a simple process.
  • Helping you focus on objectives and apply your competency framework in the real world.

Follow McLean & Company’s process for developing and implementing an effective competency framework

  1. Get ready to build a competency framework.
    Before you go straight into developing a competency framework, estimate the time and costs involved in using pre-developed competencies versus defining your own.
  2. Select and modify pre-developed competencies.
    This step uses McLean & Company’s competency library and guides you through modifying your selected competencies for your organization, saving time and money in the process.
  3. Define your competencies.
    This step helps you to define your own competencies from scratch. It can be used as the whole process or in tandem with the previous step.
  4. Implement your competency framework.
    Strategic implementation is important, and constant communication is its foundation. Plan your communication to ensure a smooth implementation.
  5. Support your competency framework.
    After implementation, support becomes a priority to ensure that the framework stays in place and changes as needed to continually serve its purpose in your organization.

1. Get ready to build a competency framework

2. Select and modify pre-developed competencies

3. Define your competencies

4. Implement your competency framework

5. Support your competency framework

Step 1

Get ready to build a competency framework

1. Get ready to build a competency framework

2. Select and modify pre-developed competencies3. Define your competencies
4. Implement your competency framework5. Support your competency framework

After completing this step you will have:

  • An understanding of the three types of competencies: core, leadership, and functional.
  • An estimation of the time and costs associated with building your own competencies versus using McLean & Company’s competency library.

Leverage McLean & Company’s 70+ defined competencies to help develop your comprehensive competency framework

Download and review the McLean & Company’s competency libraries to kick start your project.

Generic Core Functional HR
IT
Finance
Marketing
Sales
Leadership

Comprehensive

Every competency has three main parts (see a completed example in the Appendix).

  • Title: A word or phrase that sums up the competency (e.g. “Customer Focus”).
  • Short descriptor: A brief description that sets the general scope or boundaries of the competency, including key concepts (e.g. “Considers, prioritizes, and takes action on the needs of both internal and external customers
  • Proficiency levels: Detailed statements describing what a competency looks like when it is performed by a person on the job. In essence, they describe observable behaviors or “behavior indicators.” This is the basis of the competency.

While the number of proficiency levels is ultimately up to you, four or five is typical.

Include proficiency levels to make competencies relevant for day-to-day performance

Proficiency levels define the degree to which a person in a given job is required to demonstrate the competency through observable behavior.

Define general proficiency levels to keep the competency framework specific, yet manageable. Below are McLean & Company’s standard proficiency levels:

Level General competency behavior description (must be tailored to the individual competency)
Level 1 Foundational: Baseline behaviors.
Level 2 Capable: Practical application of the behaviors.
Level 3 Inspirational: Role models, coaches, and influences demonstration of the behaviors.
Level 4 Transformational: Envisions and innovates the next generation of the behaviors.

Develop competencies using tight collaboration between HR, leadership, managers, and employees

Stakeholders Role Why they are essential players
Human Resources Process drivers are the central point of contact for all competency framework information. HR must govern the competency framework development to ensure that it aligns with organizational objectives. They will also be required to implement the competency framework into various other HR functions once it is complete.
Senior Leadership Process backers support and provide resources for competency development. Senior leadership must pioneer the development of the competency framework by establishing the organizational goals and supplying resources for all initiatives with cost implications. They must also role model the adoption of the framework.
Department Managers Contributors and reviewers lend subject-matter insight to develop and review competencies for job groups. Department managers will be evaluating and hiring employees for specific roles. They must have input into and understanding of the competencies to apply the criteria in order to implement development planning activities.
Employees Reviewers review competencies based on their specific job role to ensure accuracy of descriptors. Employees will not only be evaluated on the competencies in the framework, but also assist in developing them as well. They must have review input to determine if their actual job and competencies match up in order to buy into the competency framework as a tool for talent development.

If you’re in a unionized environment, you must include union representatives in any discussion you have about required competencies since it could impact or be constrained by the collective bargaining agreement.

Estimate the time and money costs of the competency framework development project

Assess the amount of time the project will take. Look at it from several perspectives:

  • Total hours of work for each project team member and stakeholder. The latter will be particularly important in setting expectations as part of the buy-in process.
  • Total hours of work for each key stage in the project.
  • Total “calendar run-time” from the start to the end of the project.

Estimate total costs for the project. Cost is contingent on time:

  • Hours of labor. Based on wages/salaries multiplied by number of hours invested for project team members and stakeholders.
  • Hard operating costs. This usually comes in the form of whether consultants are used or not, or if materials are purchased.

For project planning purposes, time spent likely won’t be continuous.

Time spent is more likely to be a bit patchy and take place over a longer period of time because:

  • Most project participants still need to do their regular jobs.
  • Stakeholders may not be available on your preferred timeframe.

Other time estimation considerations:

  • Interviews and focus groups can take several hours each and often can’t be rushed if thoroughness is important.
  • Developing the competencies can take many calendar months depending on the project’s size and scope and if existing frameworks are being used.

It will probably take years to fully write, test, tweak, and integrate the framework into regular HR processes, not to mention for people to be comfortable with it and effectively apply it. Unless you use pre-developed competencies, which will dramatically decrease the amount of time, and therefore money, to craft and implement.

Use the Competency Framework Project Planning and Tracking Tool to document key aspects of the competency framework development project.

Moving forward: Select, modify, or build competencies depending on organizational resources and needs

Core Competencies + Leadership Competencies + Functional Competencies = A Comprehensive Competency Framework

McLean & Company recommends to first determine which competencies your organization needs at the core, leadership, and functional levels and then see if you can match them to our existing comprehensive competency framework.

Step 2 covers selecting or modifying pre-developed competencies to create your competency framework.

Use the competency library tools to review competency and proficiency level descriptions and select relevant competencies for use in your organization.

Step 3 covers defining your own competencies.

Use the competency library tools to identify any similarities between the pre-developed competencies and the competencies you will create. Then the step will walk you through the process of developing your own competencies.

You may select and modify some competencies and create some of your own competencies.

Read through steps 2 and 3 in their entirety. They will help you select relevant pre-developed competencies and determine which competencies you want to build as an organization.

Step 2

Select and modify pre-developed competencies

1. Get ready to build a competency framework

2. Select and modify pre-developed competencies

3. Define your competencies
4. Implement your competency framework5. Support your competency framework

After completing this step you will have:

  • List of modified core competencies.
  • List of modified leadership competencies.
  • List of modified functional competencies.

Develop your core competencies first, as they have the broadest reach

Why?

  • Reach
    By definition they apply to all employees. They are also largely comprised of soft skill competencies, which permeate nearly every job role. Getting these established will have the broadest immediate impact.
  • Values
    They reflect the organization’s values and culture. You want to promote and influence these aspects of organizational life as soon as possible. (Note: If you haven’t documented your organizational values, do this first.)
  • Logistics
    They require involvement from a greater number of people to build consensus. Logistically, the sooner you get started, the better.
  • Dependencies
    They will define what doesn’t need to be included in the function-based competencies. Avoid redundancy and different definitions for the same competencies by beginning at the highest level.

Once you have identified the core competencies, move on to the leadership competencies that all leaders will need to demonstrate, which also apply broadly across the organization.

Finally, identify functional competencies for each major job family.

It may be tempting to build frameworks at a functional level first, but a bottom-up approach often means retooling later to remove redundancies and standardize language.

Select and modify McLean & Company’s core competencies for all roles in the organization

To select core competencies:

  • Review your organization’s vision, mission, and values. Core competencies often include organizational values and sometimes even consist entirely of them.
  • Identify your competitive differentiators – those key elements that you want to reinforce in the organization.
  • Choose three to five competencies that will be expected of every person in the organization, regardless of the role.

Sample of McLean & Company's 'Core Competency Library'. There is a table with a list of competencies, their definitions, and a description of their different levels, 1-4.

Download McLean & Company’s Core Competency Library.

Next, repeat the process to identify three to five leadership competencies

Watch for leadership competencies that overlap with core competencies.
If your organization already has some competencies as core competencies, do not include them as leadership competencies. Your leaders are already being measured against them.

A Venn diagram with numerous competencies listed. Some fall purely in 'Core', like 'Communication', 'Teamwork & Collaboration', and Organizational Awareness'. Some fall purely in 'Leadership', like 'People Leadership' and 'Risk Management'. Most competencies fall into both categories, like 'Influence', 'Design Thinking', 'Problem Solving and Decision Making', and 'Digital Literacy'.

Download McLean & Company’s Leadership Competency Library.

Select and modify McLean & Company’s functional competencies for each job family

The comprehensive competency framework from before with the 'Functional' section highlighted. It includes 'HR', 'IT', 'Finance', 'Marketing', and 'Sales'.

  • Download McLean & Company’s various functional competency libraries.
  • For each function:
    • Start by reviewing the strategy and key objectives for the functional area.
    • Read through the relevant competency library and identify three to seven competencies that are key for roles across the function.
    • Remove any competencies already listed as a core or leadership competency.

The next few slides provide an overview of the competencies in each of McLean & Company’s five functional competency libraries.

Select and modify HR functional competencies

The comprehensive competency framework with 'Functional' highlighted.

HR competencies

A fan diagram of 'Technical HR Expertise' competencies with the 'Functional' and 'Core' competencies separated.

Do not choose these competencies as HR competencies if they are already included in your organization’s core competencies.

Download McLean & Company’s Human Resources Competency Library.

Select and modify functional competencies from McLean & Company’s competency libraries

The comprehensive competency framework with 'Functional' highlighted.

IT competencies Sales competencies
  • Project Management
  • Requirements Gathering
  • Business Analysis
  • Documentation and Measurement
  • Trouble Shooting and Support
  • Policy and Compliance
  • Security and Data Protection
  • Modeling
  • Programming
  • Testing and Quality Assurance
  • Installation and Integration
  • Vendor Selection and Management
  • Data Analysis*
  • Business and Industry Analysis
  • Product Analysis
  • Client Onboarding
  • Overarching Sales Delivery
  • Demand Generation
  • Development of Leads to Sales
  • Sales Closing
  • Growing Accounts
  • Renewing Accounts
  • Data Analysis*
Finance competencies Marketing competencies
  • Professional Accounting Standards, Requirements, and Procedures Understanding and Compliance
  • Organizational Finance Policies Compliance and Maintenance
  • Financial Accounting
  • Management Accounting
  • Internal Control
  • Finance
  • Financial Planning
  • Taxation
  • Data Analysis*
  • Industry Analysis
  • Consumer and Customer Analysis
  • Campaign Planning and Execution
  • Marketing Operations
  • Demand Generation and Lead Management
  • Sales Support
  • Distribution Channels Support and Analysis
  • Brand Development
  • Customer Experience and Engagement Creation
  • Product Planning and Development
  • Communications Development
  • Event Planning and Development
  • Online Channel Support and Analysis
  • Data Analysis*

Download McLean & Company’s IT Competency Library, Sales Competency Library, Marketing Competency Library, and Finance Competency Library.

*Note: Data Analysis is in every functional competency library.

Step 3

Define your competencies

1. Get ready to build a competency framework2. Select and modify pre-developed competencies

3. Define your competencies

4. Implement your competency framework5. Support your competency framework

After completing this step you will have:

  • A list of customized competencies.
  • A list of categorized themes.
  • Prioritized and weighted themes to apply to your organization.
  • Behavior-based proficiency statements for each competency.

Define competencies using a flexible process – iteration allows for improvements

There are no right or wrong competencies – it is how clearly they are articulated and how effectively they are applied that makes the difference.

In this stage, you will:

  • Sort knowledge, skills, and attributes from the job description into thematically related categories.
  • Identify clearly scoped, individual competency categories.
  • Write meaningful competency titles, descriptions, and proficiency level statements.
  • Gain review and feedback from stakeholders to achieve a final competency framework.

What can you expect during this stage?

  • Broad and active participation from stakeholders.
  • Meetings, reviews, discussions, and debates.
  • Systematic tweaking and fine-tuning.
  • A timeframe of weeks to months depending on the scope and goals of the project as well as availability of stakeholders.

What you’ll need to do this well:

  • Cross-departmental participation from management.
  • Participation from a cross-section of employees, weighted towards high performers and subject-matter experts.
  • Interviewing and question-asking skills.
  • Analytical and pattern-identification skills.
  • Facilitation and consensus-building skills.
  • Writing capabilities.

“To review [the] framework, you need people who are very highly skilled in the domain […] so that they can look at the competencies that are being defined and say whether they’re reasonable and effective or not.” (Jon Holt, co-author of A Pragmatic Guide to Competency: Tools, Frameworks and Assessment)

Sort the knowledge, skills, and attributes into themes

Don’t worry about getting your first pass perfect, but aim for a confidence level of 70% in the first round and fine-tune in a series of subsequent sorts.

Start with a rough sort of knowledge, skills, and attributes into themes.

  • Tip: Do a “table top” exercise. Write each knowledge, skill, or attribute on an index card. Next, manually sort the cards into themes.
  • Some themes will probably contain an unequal assortment of knowledge, skills, and attributes. This is normal.
  • Avoid second-guessing yourself too much at this point – there’s plenty of opportunity to discuss options and make changes as you go.

Give each of your preliminary themes a name.

  • The name should represent the contents of that theme.

Divide your themes until you’ve reached a manageable number.

Rename themes as necessary.

  • Reminder: McLean & Company recommends no more than 12 themes. Beyond this number and the sheer volume will become cumbersome and confusing for users.

A word mash of words associated with 'core competency'.

Avoid working with too many stakeholders to group, rearrange, and pare down themes – it can be inefficient and unproductive

Managing stakeholders during this stage of the process will require diplomacy and all the consensus-building skills you can muster.

Take on the role of facilitator. It’s critical that one person in the working group suspends judgment and focuses on clarifying and building consensus. Defer to the other participants’ domain or subject-matter expertise – after all that’s why they’re there.

Limit the size of any given working group to no more than six people. This ensures that everyone has a voice and keeps the flurry of ideas to a manageable level.

Be prepared to set difficult or contentious areas aside. Reflection is valuable in this process. Allow time to let ideas percolate. If the group is stuck, shift focus to something else and revisit the difficult subject at a later time.

If someone doesn’t want to participate, don’t force them. Not only will they not constructively contribute, but they could undermine the process with negativity and unproductive argument.

Limit the time of each working session to an hour. This process is creatively and intellectually demanding, and mental fatigue will set in quickly. However, if the group has momentum you can opt to keep going.

Ensure final decision-making authority is assigned beforehand to prevent never-ending iteration. This responsibility should be the given to the domain expert. Communicate that authority to the group so they understand who will have final review before decisions reach senior management for approval.

How did you make a final decision on the competencies?

“The key thing was that it had CEO approval. The design team was actually mandated by and reported to the CEO, and the CEO and his executive team signed off on the leadership [competency] framework.” (The key thing was that it had CEO approval. The design team was actually mandated by and reported to the CEO, and the CEO and his executive team signed off on the leadership [competency] framework.)

Seek to make your themes as distinctive and mutually exclusive as possible by testing their boundaries and scope

Take the most obviously related themes and conduct a side-by-side comparison to test your theme boundaries. Is there overlap between themes? If so, then:

  • Two themes may need to be combined into one when at least 30% of the items overlap.
    • E.g. combine “Analytical Thinking” and “Problem Solving” since one encompasses the other.
  • Some items from one theme may need to be transferred to the other when one theme has gaps, but cannot be logically narrowed, while another can be narrowed and remain comprehensive.
    • E.g. the theme “Interpersonal Effectiveness” can be narrowed and concepts (like trustworthiness) transferred into “Leadership.”
  • A third theme represented by the overlap can be extracted and the other two themes logically narrowed while keeping them comprehensive.
    • E.g. an overlap in “Strategic Thinking” and “Planning & Results-Orientation” can become its own theme around “Creativity & Innovation.”

While some overlap is unavoidable, try to ensure that the themes are as distinct as possible.

Example: Resolving Fuzzy Boundaries

“Analytical Thinking,” “Problem Solving,” and “Decision Making” are sometimes kept separate, but consider this:

  • “Analytical Thinking” is required to perform both “Problem Solving” and “Decision Making.”
  • “Decision Making” is often required to perform “Problem Solving” and vice versa.
  • These three concepts are hard to separate. It may make sense to combine all three into a single category.

A Venn diagram of 'Decision Making' and 'Problem Solving' with the overlap being 'Analytical Thinking'.

Next, assess the relative “weight” of your themes to ensure some don’t overshadow others

Some themes will feel roughly equivalent or parallel to one another, while others will seem less significant. Right-size your themes.

Do your themes carry equal weight?

Think about the colors “blue” and “aqua.”

  • The color “blue” encompasses a lot of different shades that can be named under it (e.g. “turquoise”) – it is a broad umbrella concept.
  • On the other hand, “aqua” is a specific shade of “blue” – there are no different types of “aqua.”
  • “Blue” and “aqua” are both colors, but they’re not analogous, i.e. they’re not really on the same level or carry the same weight.

Apply this thinking to your top-level categories and ultimately your competencies. They should all be equivalent, parallel, and carry the same weight, e.g. “green” and “blue.”

Convert each theme into a competency by using behavior-based language

Express knowledge, skills, and attributes in terms of the behaviors one would need to exhibit for an observer to recognize their existence.

Give each theme a competency title and short description. Your existing title may work.

  • Limit the title to as few words as possible while maintaining clarity and meaning.
  • Write a brief, action-oriented description to set the general boundaries of the competency.

Example: Retail Clothing Sales Representative

  • Theme Title: Interacting With Customers
  • Competency Title: Customer Focus
  • Competency Description: Considers, prioritizes, and takes action on the needs of both internal and external customers.

Review checklist: Use this checklist for the above and all additional statements you write in your competencies to keep them sharp and focused on behaviors. Ask yourself if what you’ve described is:

  • Relevant to the work people actually do.
  • Observable by a manager or other co-worker.
  • Objective so that many different people would come to the same or very similar conclusions about what they’re seeing.
  • Measurable so that it can be clearly determined that it’s actually happening and to what extent it’s happening.
  • Something that can be developed in a person through training, coaching, or some other means.

Use McLean & Company's Competency Template to document individual competencies.

Hold focus groups to solicit a better quality review and stakeholder buy-in prior to final product rollout

Hold separate focus groups for managers and employees as the competency framework will affect them differently. Limit each focus group to six to eight people.

  • Include a representative sample of managers affected by the competency framework in a focus group conversation.
  • Invite high-performing employees to your focus groups, but also include a few average performers to see if any concerns exist around the achievability of the competencies presented.
  • Explain that the objective of the focus group is not to write competency framework content, but rather to review the competency framework draft for clarity, relevance, objectivity, and achievability.

Questions for focus groups (all types):

  • Is there enough differentiation between proficiency levels and/or roles within departments?
  • Could you easily explain these competencies to others?
  • Can each of the behaviors described in the competencies be realistically observed?
  • Do you think others might interpret the behaviors described in the competencies differently than you?
  • Do these competencies accurately reflect the work being done? Is anything missing?
  • Are the competencies achievable by an average employee?
  • Do the competencies clearly communicate the performance standards expected?
  • What issues or concerns could the implementation of these competencies raise among employees?

Download McLean &smp; Company's Focus Group Guide template.

Plan to review and rewrite behavior-based proficiency level statements many times before they are considered suitable

Establish and internalize key concepts that mark the transition point between proficiency levels.

  • Proficiency levels for a given competency need to show a predictable progression of behaviors between levels. This level-by-level progression should be similar or parallel for all competencies in a framework.
  • A typical progression moves from inexperienced to experienced, from novice to expert.

Example: Generic Level Progression

This shows a progression in behavior demonstration for a competency.
  • Baseline behaviors.
  • Practical application of the behaviors.
  • Role models, coaches, and influences the behaviors.
  • Envisions and innovates the next generation of behaviors.

Draft the proficiency levels, also known as behaviorally anchored rating scales.

  • Translate the knowledge, skills, and attributes for each competency into behavior-based statements.
  • Wherever possible, ensure the behavioral statements for each element of the competency build on each other through the proficiency levels.
  • Bulleted lists or short paragraphs are both acceptable.
  • Ensure the behaviors described are observable, measurable, and phrased in terms of demonstrated performance and not the potential to do them.

Example: Level Progression – Organizational Awareness Competency

  • Level 1: Demonstrates a general knowledge of organization's mission, vision, and values.
  • Level 2: Can explain organization's mission, vision, and values.
  • Level 3: Conveys and models organization's mission, vision, and values.
  • Level 4: Actively engages in setting organization's mission, vision, and values.

Obtain buy-in and approval for the overall framework and proficiency levels

Employees Managers Leadership
Meet with a cross-section of employees to confirm that the framework resonates and aligns with their day-to-day activities. Meet with a cross-section of managers to verify that the framework is clear and will be useful in performance and career discussions. Meet with leadership to obtain buy-in and approval to move forward with implementing the competency framework.
Questions to ask:
  • Do the proficiency levels match the expectations for your role?
  • Are the proficiency levels for roles below and above your current role appropriate and differentiated?
  • Does the language match what’s used in practice?
  • Is the list of competencies easy to remember?
  • Do the best performers on your team already exhibit the behaviors described in this list of competencies?
Questions to ask:
  • Will this framework help guide career discussions with employees?
  • Are gaps between current performance and expected proficiency easily identifiable?
  • What challenges do you foresee in using this framework with employees?
  • Can you realistically observe whether each of the competency behaviors has occurred?
  • Can you easily describe and explain these competencies to your staff?
  • Can you coach your staff on each of the competencies?
Questions to ask:
  • Is this framework cohesive?
  • Is there enough differentiation among roles, within departments?
  • Will this competency framework aid in succession planning?
  • Does this framework align with the organizational culture and values?

Step 4

Implement your competency framework

1. Get ready to build a competency framework2. Select and modify pre-developed competencies3. Define your competencies

4. Implement your competency framework

5. Support your competency framework

After completing this step you will have:

  • Manager buy-in and participation.
  • An implemented competency framework.
  • A framework that is integrated throughout the HR department.

Assess the impact of the implementation to prepare adequate communications

Change Range of impact the competency framework will have
Culture

Low: The competency framework supports the current culture.

High: The competency framework requires a 180-degree cultural shift, e.g. a process-oriented culture implements results-oriented competencies. Allow time for adoption before evaluating people on them.

Job roles

Low: The competency framework defines jobs as they are currently being performed.

High: The competency framework sets new expectations for the job role. Ensure employees have the training resources they need to maintain performance in their roles or else you’ll risk disengagement.

Career path

Low: The competency framework maintains the requirements for advancement.

High: The competency framework halts some employees on their career path. Managing expectations of those who no longer have the required competencies demands sensitive, one-on-one communication.

Programs

Low: The competency framework tweaks existing HR programs slightly.

High: The competency framework requires a complete overhaul of HR programs and practices. Programs like performance management and development will require much more extensive communication around their benefits to gain employee understanding and buy-in.

Leadership

Low: The competency framework does not change core leadership practices, just enhances them.

High: The competency framework recommends a totally different management philosophy. Both employees and leaders will need time to adjust to this change and regain consistency.

Use McLean & Company’s Adopt Change Management Techniques to Lead the Organization Through Change blueprint and Change Impact Assessment tool to help you plan your competency framework implementation.

Get managers to internalize and role model the framework before presenting competencies to the organization

Roll out the competency framework at the beginning of a performance cycle along with the performance objectives so that managers can tie competencies to their actual responsibilities.

  • Highlight how managers must be stewards for the framework. Role modeling the framework will encourage their employees to adopt it in their daily work.
  • Have senior leaders explain the spirit of the competencies as it relates to organizational values, mission, and culture. They must reiterate why the competency framework is important and what it will be used for going forward.
  • Encourage managers to have group discussions to help them understand the competency framework in their own roles.
  • Set timeframe expectations for when the competency framework will be included in performance evaluations. Ideally, it should be effective for the next performance appraisal cycle. However, large-scale change should allow one full performance cycle for adjustment.
  • Most importantly, have managers conduct a self-assessment to determine how their current performance compares to the competency framework. This is a less threatening way to get managers to take the framework seriously and learn where they can improve than having their supervisors assess them.

“Part of the difficulty with going organization-wide too quickly is that you might need to address a lot of inconsistencies and as a result of that, people get mixed messages.

A cascade approach gets the executives and the managers on board. Once you start cascading it down, you start building the necessary support mechanisms.” (Dr. Robert Saggers, President of Robert Saggers & Associates)

Tip: Have managers print the competency framework and highlight the competency proficiency levels they think they are performing at. Encourage them to make notes on how they can improve and discuss it with their boss.

Communicate across the organization to create universal understanding when implementing core competencies

Show employees what behaviors the organization has determined as demonstrating excellence and ultimately leading to success.

The core competency framework should apply to all employees, so tailor messaging to each employee group.

  • Divide employees into departments or job groups of no more than 20-30 people.
  • Explain the reason behind the initiative and how it ties to your corporate values.
  • Describe what a competency framework is and its value for the organization.
  • Explain each competency, its meaning, and how the proficiency levels work. There is no immediate need to delve into each level-specific behavior – individual managers should do this with their teams or individual staff members one on one within the context of their jobs.
  • Provide real examples of the competency demonstrated within your organization. The more of these you have the better since examples of behavior work to solidify understanding.
  • Discuss the rollout for the HR programs that will be impacted by the competency framework, including talent acquisition, performance management, and development. Be sure to specifically mention timeframes, accountabilities, and how communications will be handled.
  • Provide enough time to address questions and concerns.
  • With each subsequent rollout of a competency framework-related program (e.g. the change in performance appraisals) ensure you hold a similar meeting.

McLean & Company Insights

The best way to communicate the importance of competencies is to have leaders model the behaviors outlined in the framework. Encouraging executives to embrace the framework into their daily work will go a long way towards disseminating it throughout the organization.

Hold separate information sessions for leadership and functional competencies with each job family and role

Show employees how they can excel in their current role and prepare for the next steps in their career at your organization.

The messaging for job families must be delivered in a common language. Enlist SME assistance to build credibility and understanding with each group.

  • Divide the group into current performers of a role and future successors to that role. For example, have one group of certified accountants and a second group of articling accountants.
  • Explain the reason behind the initiative and how it ties to your corporate values.
  • Describe what a function-based competency framework is and its value to the organization and the job employees do.
  • Explain each competency, its meaning, and how the proficiency levels work. You may choose to discuss specific behaviors since the employees have a shared job context.
  • Provide examples of the competency demonstrated within your functional area or business unit.
  • Discuss the rollout for the HR programs that will be impacted by the competency framework, including talent acquisition, performance management, and development. Be sure to specifically mention timeframes, accountabilities, and how communications will be handled.
  • Provide enough time to address questions and concerns.
  • With each subsequent rollout of a competency framework-related program (e.g. the change in performance appraisals) ensure you hold a similar meeting.
  • Have employees conduct a self-assessment. Use the results during coaching discussions to mitigate any fears and build confidence before the next performance appraisal cycle.

McLean & Company Insights

Remember, the communication of core competencies and function-based competencies could occur at different times in the calendar year. It is essential to communicate reminders of the definitions and objectives behind a competency framework for the current audience and their specific job or functional area.

Use McLean & Company’s Comprehensive Competency Library to support HR initiatives

Understanding what knowledge, skills, and abilities are necessary for different job functions and roles is an integral part of many HR initiatives.

This tool will help with the following:

  • Talent Acquisition: Be prepared to select candidates that have the skills necessary for the role.
  • Performance Management: Understand when an employee is performing above or below expectations.
  • Learning & Development: Provide training or support when employees are not performing at expectations.
  • Succession Planning: Understand which employees are high performers and should be promoted.

Realize the benefits of the competency framework by integrating it throughout all HR functions

The following slides will walk through integration of the framework into talent acquisition, performance management, learning & development, and succession planning.

Determine the actions that must be taken at your organization over the next three to five years to achieve a fully integrated and successful competency framework.

Use McLean & Company’s Competency Framework Integration Map to map out the actions required to achieve this ideal future state.

Integrate your competency framework into your talent acquisition process to hire the most competent employees

Talent acquisition is a key area in which to apply your competency framework because it sets the tone for the rest of an employee’s tenure at the organization.

Mitigate these challenges to reap the talent acquisition benefits of the competency framework.

  • Brand confusion: Prospective employees may be confused with dramatically altered job postings. It’s critical that you include corporate culture elements in your postings that are consistent and clear.
  • Manager time and resistance: Managers tend to prepare for interviews at the last minute and frequently talk about topics unrelated to competencies. Explain that assessing for competencies means better hires, which results in better performance and easier staff management.
  • Internal hiring culture: A competency framework leaves no room for nepotism. Some employees will be annoyed that friends and family members are no longer treated as preferred hiring candidates. Communicate the new standards and stick to them.

Implement the competency framework throughout the entire talent acquisition process.

  • Only consider applicants that match competency framework requirements.
  • Target potential applicants that have formal familiarity with the elements of your framework or other professional standards programs, such as those from accredited college and university programs or who hold certifications.
  • Ensure new job postings and job descriptions incorporate the language used in the competency framework.
  • Train hiring managers on behavioral interviewing techniques to test applicants on demonstrated behaviors that fulfill key competencies. Keep in mind that assessments must be culturally unbiased.
  • Prepare for interviews with hiring managers to ensure all competencies are covered during the interview.
  • Administer any necessary tests outside of the interview that directly examine specific competencies.
  • Ensure onboarding activities include a review of the competency framework so that the new employee understands the keys to success in their role.

Ensure employee performance management is directly linked to desired competencies

Performance management practices must be aligned to the competencies for expectation setting, performance appraisal, and rewards and recognition.

Mitigate these challenges to reap the performance management benefits of the competency framework.

  • Culture shock: Job descriptions and expectations may change, which could alter how (and how competently) people do their jobs. Involve employees early in building the framework to gain buy-in and help them gain confidence in the change.
  • Fear of job loss: Employees that are used to being evaluated against a certain set of criteria may feel threatened and even fear for their jobs. Give them ample time to learn and demonstrate the new competencies before formally assessing them.
  • Manager pushback: Managers may not want to change how they manage talent due to stylistic preferences or the demands of their job. Provide each manager with ample training, assessment, and feedback to help them change or improve.

Implement the competency framework at every step of the performance management cycle.

  • Train managers on how to communicate performance expectations to staff based on the competency framework.
  • Ensure that all performance appraisals include all competencies relevant to a specific job role.
  • Consider weighting competencies in performance appraisals differently to focus on competencies most in need of improvement or that support near-term organizational goals.
  • Ensure performance rating scales and how performance of competency behaviors will be measured are clearly articulated.
  • Create programs that specifically reward and recognize demonstrated competencies or progression through competency levels.
  • Connect competency levels with pay bands or salary grades to reflect competency value.

Support performance management through learning & development for key competencies

The competency framework must be supported and reinforced by learning and development activities to lower the risk of skills gaps and improve development focus.

Mitigate these challenges to reap the learning and development benefits of the competency framework.

  • Outdated content: Defining competencies will shine a bright spotlight on irrelevant, dated, or missing development content. Get it up to date.
  • Commitments and contracts: While cutting ties with a contractual training provider or tossing out old curriculums may be costly, it is essential to move towards the competency framework. Don’t accommodate irrelevant content just because you own it.
  • Need for different development methods: For example, moving from e-learning to coaching and mentoring may be the best way to develop the identified required competencies. Test development programs with pilot teams before overhauling the entire structure of learning.

Implement the competency framework in all aspects of employee learning and development.

  • Ensure each job group has onboarding curriculum directly tied to the competencies.
  • Prioritize learning and development budget on necessary courses, certifications, and activities to develop competencies.
  • Focus internal development initiatives on competencies that are new or where overall performance is weaker.
  • Create a learning and development approvals process that requires signing authority to ensure the right or highest priority competencies are being developed.
  • Coach managers on how to conduct development discussions with employees to work on specific competencies.
  • Map competency levels to different career paths within the organization.

Use the competency framework to inform future decision making for succession planning

While competency frameworks can change over time, they must still be used consistently to assess whether employees have the potential to move into different roles within the organization.

Mitigate these challenges to reap the succession planning benefits of the competency framework:

  • Manager preference. Some managers have an employee they’ve already identified as a successor. It is critical to apply the competency framework across the pool of viable candidates to justify the decision to prevent claims of favoritism or legal recourse. Remind managers that technical skills do not always transfer well into management roles.
  • Employees no longer in succession. Once employees have been assessed against the competency framework they may no longer be top candidates for succession. Have an honest conversation with these employees about how they can develop their skills and optimize incentives and compensation opportunities.

Implement the competency framework to support succession planning.

  • Change existing “ideal” role profiles for high-potential employees and succession for specific roles.
  • Reevaluate current succession candidates against competencies. Be prepared to reconsider these employees and explain the rationale.
  • New candidates for succession will need to be informed. Ensure their aspirations match the future target position and develop them accordingly.
  • Communicate the competencies required for career progression to succession candidates.
  • Have current employees coach successors on critical competency areas.
  • Encourage managers to provide employees with projects and work opportunities to build competencies in key succession roles.

Integrate competencies to meet legal and regulatory compliance requirements

To meet legal and regulatory compliance, organizations must often show how all the aforementioned HR functions are actively applying the competency framework.

Mitigate these challenges to reap the legal and regulatory compliance benefits of the competency framework.

  • Fear of audit. Most auditors look for evidence of reasonable effort, not to penalize. Recommendations will emerge from the audit that require action within a certain timeframe – be prepared since failure to act on recommendations will eventually draw penalties.
  • Apathy. Too often leaders don’t take laws or regulations seriously. Communicate why certain legal or regulatory bodies have a say in corporate matters and the ramifications for non-compliance. However, this may not be enough – the organization may do the paperwork, but not actually put the new framework into practice. If this is the case, lead with a more compelling organizational benefit and position compliance as a secondary benefit.

Implement the competency framework for legal and regulatory compliance.

  • Know that developing and integrating a competency framework isn’t just something you have to do – it has numerous organizational benefits to offer. Communicate the importance of the competency framework in terms of both compliance and all the other organizational benefits it creates.
  • Ensure competencies are incorporated and approved in the collective bargaining agreement if your organization employs workers that belong to a union.
  • Conduct a self-audit to ensure the competency framework has been firmly integrated into talent acquisition, performance management, and development programs.
  • Ensure how the competency framework is applied is free from bias and discrimination according to the jurisdictions in which your organization operates.
  • Create clear accountabilities for competency framework oversight as well as for the HR programs affected by it. Create a clear escalation and resolution path for any problems that emerge.

Continue to communicate as you tie the competency framework to additional HR functions over time

Explain how the competency framework ties to various HR programs.

  • While your employees should now be well informed on what the framework means to their job, they must also be informed on how the competency framework impacts decision making in the organization (e.g. succession planning) and how it will be carried through the entire employee lifecycle (e.g. performance management).

Outline the competency framework review process.

  • Employees will also want to know where to submit feedback on the competency framework and how the review process will be managed over time.
  • McLean & Company recommends a system to review your competency framework in the next section. Communicate and follow this process with your staff.

Direct employees to helpful resources.

  • Employees may need time to digest the new competency framework and the various implications for their job, the organization, and their career path.
  • Reinforce that their manager is responsible for further explanations, but HR always has an open door.
  • Also encourage employees to take responsibility for their own competency development.

Set up discussion groups with different job functions.

  • Once employees have had the opportunity to digest the new competency framework and apply it in their roles, collect their feedback on the transition.
  • First, ask questions to determine if the competencies themselves are valid.
  • Second, ask questions to determine if the rollout process is going smoothly. If not, more communication may be required by HR and managers to bridge the gap.

Step 5

Support your competency framework

1. Get ready to build a competency framework2. Select and modify pre-developed competencies3. Define your competencies
4. Implement your competency framework

5. Support your competency framework

After completing this step you will have:

  • Tools to evaluate the success of your competency framework implementation.
  • A plan for strategic maintenance of your framework.

Evaluate, maintain, and update your competency framework and affiliated programs

Once you have created and integrated your competency framework(s), ensure you continue to reap the rewards of your efforts.

  1. Evaluate
    Assess whether your competency framework(s) are representative of the competencies required for success in your organization.
  2. Update
    Periodically review and amend both your competency framework(s) and the procedures and processes that reflect them organization-wide.
  3. Support
    Ensure HR programs and practices impacted by the competency framework are consistent and adequately resourced.

“The things that may impact the business may very well impact your competency framework. At a minimum, I’d do at least an annual review for the competency framework.” (Jon Holt, co-author of A Pragmatic Guide to Competency: Tools, Frameworks and Assessment)

Determine if the competency framework(s) has been integrated effectively

Talent Acquisition
  • Has sourcing for applicants become easier due to better defined requirements?
  • Do new hires ramp up more quickly due to more targeted hiring and clearer expectations?
Learning & Development
  • Are training initiatives more effective due to more targeted content?
  • Has employee performance increased due to development initiatives?
Legal/Regulatory Compliance
  • Are job descriptions, policies, procedures, and collective bargaining agreements up to date?
  • Have accreditation or compliance audits been met?
Performance Management
  • Are employees more efficient and effective due to more clearly defined success factors?
  • Are managers better able to fairly and accurately evaluate employee performance?
Succession Planning
  • Have appropriately qualified succession candidates been pinpointed?
  • Are high-potential employees showing interest in future positions?
Trouble Setting Metrics?

Update the competency framework; the time required depends on the complexity of the issue

Less time and effort More time and effort
Employees don’t understand how the framework impacts their career path. Competencies and proficiency levels are too complex or difficult to understand. Competencies are outdated and no longer apply to the role/organization.
Communication Gap
  • Arrange more targeted training sessions that directly speak to employee concerns.
  • Get feedback from a range of employees to inform the discussion.
Behaviors Gap
  • Reduce the number of competencies to a more manageable number.
  • Re-write definitions and descriptions to simplify and reduce misinterpretation.
  • Have both employees and managers review competencies to ensure clarity and accuracy.
Competencies Gap
  • This will likely require a full competency revamp.
  • Focus on core competencies first or critical role competencies, depending on the need.

Support the competency framework over the long term by supporting the HR functions it consistently affects

A common mistake is investing in the development and implementation of a competency framework, but not consistently supporting it.

What you need Why you need it How to get it
Resources The competency framework is not a one-time investment. Continue to provide resources for manager training, employee development, and review/updating every year. When budgeting for general HR functions, allocate funds for competency framework maintenance in each.
Accountability The competency framework will either fall by the wayside or be absorbed into the culture of the workplace. To ensure absorption executives, managers, and HR must be jointly responsible for guiding buy-in and usage. Don’t keep competency ownership in HR. Spread accountability across appropriate roles. For example:
  • Leadership should be role modeling and communicating the importance of the framework.
  • Managers must explain competency expectations to employees.
  • HR must ensure supporting programs are effective.
Expertise To maintain a competency framework that is relevant to the times and the work the organization does, expertise in the field must be consulted to shadow the framework. Leverage subject-matter experts in the organization for review purposes. When there is large-scale change, external consultants may need to be brought in.
Active participation To maintain buy-in and collect relevant feedback, employees must be asked to participate in the competency framework review process. Ask employees for feedback through an employee engagement survey or after performance evaluations. Encourage the use of competency framework language in all evaluations, including 360-degree assessments.

Key insights

Insight 1

Competency frameworks provide a common language of excellence to be used across the organization.

Insight 2

Engaging stakeholders from leaders to employees is crucial to developing the competency framework as it impacts every employee in the organization.

Insight 3

Once your competency framework is developed, reviewed, and completed, it is essential that it is implemented across all HR functions to ensure that employees and managers embrace it.

Insight 4

Implementation of a competency framework requires manager and employee training and the alignment of all recruiting, performance management, learning & development, succession planning, and legal compliance programs with the framework.

Insight 5

With the consistently changing organizational reality it is also essential to review and update the competency framework at least on an annual basis.

Insight 6

Without support for the framework, including assigning accountability, leadership role modeling, and adequate resources, the benefits will diminish. Ensure your competency framework is supported as the cornerstone of your talent management practices.

Proficiency level example: Creativity and Innovation core competency

Competency Creativity and Innovation
Description Thinks beyond the confines of traditional models to recognize opportunities and find new and better ways of doing things.
Level 1
  • Engages in departmental discussions to improve processes and outputs.
  • Recognizes novel ideas.
  • Generates ideas.
  • Open to new ideas.
Level 2
  • Questions common practice and contributes to improvement of processes and outputs.
  • Proposes novel ideas.
  • Utilizes appropriate brainstorming techniques to generate ideas.
  • Researches current thinking and shares ideas.
Level 3
  • Articulates a vision for the department.
  • Creates an environment empowering individuals to champion improvements to processes and outputs.
  • Synthesizes ideas and insights.
  • Researches and seeks out experts to identify potential opportunities.
Level 4
  • Prioritizes and encourages improvements to processes and outputs.
  • Articulates a vision for the organization and industry.
  • Prioritizes and encourages improvements to processes and outputs.
  • Sees the potential of innovation before others can articulate it.
  • Open to radically new ways of doing things.

Workshop Overview

Pre-work Post-work
McLean & Company Analysts
Client Data Gathering and Planning

Material is incorporated into the workshop materials as appropriate.

Implementation Supported Through Analyst Calls
Client

Organizational mission, vision, and values documentation.

Job descriptions for a cross-section of roles, including leadership roles.

Develop functional competencies.

Share competency frameworks with senior leadership.

Roll out competency framework.

Comprehensive Competency Library.

Maximum of eight to ten participants per workshop.

Workshop Overview

Day 1 Day 2 Day 3
Activities
HR Leaders
  • 1.1 Select core competencies.
  • 1.2 Describe core competencies.
  • 1.3 Identify core competency proficiency levels.
  • 1.4 Review core competency proficiency levels.
  • 1.5 Complete core competency presentations.
  • 1.6 Test the core competencies.
HR Leaders
  • 2.1 Select leadership competencies.
  • 2.2 Describe leadership competencies.
  • 2.3 Identify leadership competency proficiency levels.
  • 2.4 Review leadership competency proficiency levels.
  • 2.5 Complete leadership competency presentations.
  • 2.6 Test the leadership competencies.
HR Leaders
  • 3.1 Review and refine competencies.
  • 3.2 Review the revisions.
  • 3.3 Complete competency presentations.
  • 3.4 Identify how to integrate the competency framework into other HR functions.
  • 3.5 Develop a communications strategy
Deliverables
  1. Core Competency Library
  1. Leadership Competency Library
  1. Competency Template

Research Contributors and Experts

  • Andy Woyzbun
    Executive Advisor
    Info-Tech Research Group
  • Doug Rozon
    Director of Marketing
    Sun Products Corporation
  • Erin Casey
    CPA, CA, Assistant Controller & Associate
    Dillon Consulting Limited
  • Mark Tanning
    Senior Director of Learning, Development & Talent Management
    University of Minnesota Physicians
  • Michael Taylor
    Marketing Professor
    Western Ivey Business School
  • Anthony Papa
    Vice President Human Resources
    Meridian Lightweight Technologies
  • Dr. Bob Saggers
    President of Robert Saggers & Associates, Learning-Leadership Consultants Inc. and adjunct professor at McGill University
  • Jon Holt
    Co-author of A Pragmatic Guide to Competency: Tools, Frameworks and Assessment
  • Mary Esteves
    Nova Consulting
  • Michelle Berry
    Director of Human Resources, Global Customer Service and Marketing, OpenText

Several additional contributors who wish to remain anonymous

Works Cited

Cripe, Edward. “The Strategic Importance of a Competency Framework.” LinkedIn, October 2015. Web. April 2017.

Katz, Lee Michael. “Competencies Hold the Key to Better Hiring.” SHRM, January 2015. Web. April 2017.

Loew, Laci. “Three Talent Imperatives Most Organizations are Overlooking.” Brandon Hall Group, February 2016. Web. April 2017.

“Powering Productivity.” ProjectPlace by Planview, 2015. Web. April 2017.

Photiades, Melissa Dawn, “6 Eye-Opening Employee Engagement Statistics.” TalentCulture, July 2014. Web. April 2017.

“Competency Planning and Management Snapshot.” Brandon Hall Group, June 2017. Web. September 2017.

“Nationwide Building Society: Organisational Transformation.” WelKom Case Studies, n.d. Web.

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Get the help you need in this 5-phase advisory process. You'll receive 9 touchpoints with our researchers, all included in your membership.

Guided Implementation #1 - Get ready to build a competency framework
  • Call #1 - Discuss making the case and ensure understanding of the three categories of competencies.

Guided Implementation #2 - Select and modify pre-developed competencies
  • Call #1 - Discuss and select core competencies.
  • Call #2 - Discuss and select leadership competencies.
  • Call #3 - Discuss and select functional competencies for each organizational unit.

Guided Implementation #3 - Define your competencies
  • Call #1 - Discuss themes, prioritization, and proficiency levels.
  • Call #2 - Discuss and plan for focus group reviews.

Guided Implementation #4 - Implement your competency framework
  • Call #1 - Outline implementation plan for your competency framework.
  • Call #2 - Discuss competency framework integration into other HR functions.

Guided Implementation #5 - Support your competency framework
  • Call #1 - Review initial evaluations and identify any trends.

Contributors

  • Andy Woyzbun, Executive Advisor, Info-Tech Research Group
  • Anthony Papa, Vice President Human Resources, Meridian Lightweight Technologies
  • Doug Rozon, Director of Marketing, Sun Products Corporation
  • Dr. Bob Saggers, President of Robert Saggers & Associates, Learning-Leadership Consultants Inc. and adjunct professor at McGill University
  • Erin Casey, CPA, CA, Assistant Controller & Associate, Dillon Consulting Limited
  • Jon Holt, co-author of A Pragmatic Guide to Competency: Tools, Frameworks and Assessment
  • Mark Tanning, Senior Director of Learning, Development & Talent Management, University of Minnesota Physicians
  • Mary Esteves, Nova Consulting
  • Michael Taylor, Marketing Professor, Western Ivey Business School
  • Michelle Berry, Director of Human Resources, Global Customer Service and Marketing, OpenText
  • Several additional contributors who wish to remain anonymous