How to Build a Competency Model


A competency model delineates the specific mix of knowledge, skills and characteristics required to perform a role. Competency models focus on how business goals are met by specific roles. They are effective tools for employee selection, training and development, succession planning and performance management (Heneman and Greenberger, 2002). Competency models concentrate on desirable behavior rather than personality traits because personality traits are difficult to measure (Rutherford and O'Fallon, 2006).

Identify the clients. Clients are defined as those who receive the products or services from the job. Clients include supervisors, colleagues and customers.

Identify key outputs. Determine the outputs the job will deliver to the clients. Example: Providing a safe, convenient, well maintained transportation system.

Identify behavioral examples. Ascertain how the clients would evaluate the quality of the outputs. Examples: Timely response to problems and professionalism.

Select behavioral competencies. Pick maximum six to 10 competencies and put them into one of the four categories of critical, important, less important and irrelevant. Examples: Initiative, integrity and leadership.

Determine target levels for critical competencies. Target levels are not minimum standards but those displayed by high performers 75 percent of the time.

Review. Check the previous steps for validity and integrity.

Tips & Warnings

  • Do not solely build on current and past success factors in determining competencies. In today's changing competitive environments, competencies necessary for future competitiveness are crucial (Fulmer and Conger, 2004). Do not look at performance in a vacuum without considering organizational factors affecting performance such as infrastructure, corporate culture and support to achieve the objectives (7th Wave Solutions).

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