Six Practical Considerations before Building Competency Models – Part 2


This post has been contributed by Edward J. Cripe, President of Workitect, Inc. If you’d like to be a contributor, please contact us.

 Six Practical Considerations before Building Competency Models Part Two by @HRTMExec

This is part two of a two-part series on building competency models by Edward J. Cripe. The first post can be found here

Continuing in the six steps for building competency models:

4.  Choose “one-size-fits-all” models or multiple models for multiple jobs.

Some organizations look for generic off-the-shelf models for specific positions, such as all manager positions or all sales jobs. These models have been developed externally to cover all jobs in a category in all industries. Or it may have been developed internally by surveying senior executives asking them what they thought were the key characteristics required for success in their organization. Both approaches are fairly easy to adopt.

The prime disadvantage is lack of validity in a specific organization. The externally developed model may miss key competencies that make the difference between superior and average performance in an organization’s unique culture.  The internally developed survey list is based on opinion and assumptions, and not on hard data.

The opposite end of the spectrum is to do multiple models for multiple jobs, for every job in an organization. Job models are not necessary for every single job in an organization. Jobs can be grouped into like categories or levels and one-size-fits-all models can be built. A model can be developed for all managers or leaders. Consultants and internal HR professionals who are trained in the technology of building competency models use these methods.


5. Decide on applications for the models.

There are many possible applications and uses of competency models. Unfortunately, a lot of organizations go to the trouble of developing models, use them for one purpose and put them on the shelf.  Here are some ways in which you can take full advantage of competency models. Use them to:

  1. Integrate all HR and talent management processes using a common framework to select, train, and reward people.

  2. Assess internal and external candidates using assessment exercises, interviewing, and instruments.

  3. Develop a model for high performing teams. Select and train team members, and use for team building.

  4. Expand the succession pool.  Models may challenge assumptions about required competencies and identify alternative sources of talent.

  5. Retain key employees. Target retention of top performers.  Employees who see expanded opportunities for growth are more likely to stay (also impacts morale).

  6. Redesign jobs. Analysis of a job during model building can reveal ineffective job design plus suggested improvements from focus group.

  7. Certify competence levels.  Design certification programs to develop and reward competency development.

  8. Design 360° feedback instruments and other developmental tools.

  9. Determine staffing of merged organization. Keep the top performers in the key positions.

  10. Create the learning organization. Use the models as templates to guide development.

6.  Select software after building models.

While software programs, or human resource information systems, exist to help store and manage date used in model building, the process of developing competency models remains basically a human process.  It requires interviewing, collecting and analyzing data, observing behavior, skillful facilitation of a focus group and drafting a model document.  Judgment, ability to react and adapt to situations, to deal with conflict and resistance and uncover unexpected opportunities to improve an organization’s performance are required.

A tool that is available in a software or print format that can help in the development of models is a generic competency dictionary. Software can assist in the application of competency systems and help employees access competency models and developmental opportunities. But, it may be better to first develop good models that are practical and easily understood. Then, purchase or develop software to help implement the models.

An exception, that can help in the development of models, is a generic competency dictionary, available in a software or print format.  A competency dictionary, with behavioral descriptors for specific competencies, ensures that common skills and characteristics are always described with the same competency names.



The payoffs for your organization and for you personally of undertaking a competency approach to talent management outweigh the effort that will be required. Thoughtful consideration of these six factors will help make that effort successful.  


Edward J. Cripe is President of Workitect, Inc., a consulting firm specializing in competency-based talent management and development. Ed has 40 years of experience in job competency modeling, HR, and talent management, including consultant positions with Hay/McBer and AchieveGlobal.

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