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Competency Mapping

How does the HR department avoid making the mistake of hiring a round peg for a square hole? By using competency mapping, says Sudipta Dev Competency-based HR is considered the best HR. In India however competency development and mapping still remains an unexplored process in most IT organizations despite the growing level of awareness. After all, Level 3 of PCMM is focused on the competency framework in an organization. Is the underlying principle of competency mapping just about finding the right people for the right job? The issue is much more complex than it appears, and most HR departments have been struggling to formulate the right framework for their organization.

Competency mapping is a process of identifying key competencies for a particular position in an organization, and then using it for job-evaluation, recruitment, training and development, performance management, succession planning, etc. “The competency framework serves as the bedrock for all HR applications. As a result of competency mapping, all the HR processes like talent induction, management development, appraisals and training yield much better results,” states well-known HR consultant Ullhas Pagey. He however points out that the competency movement has caught on much better in the non-IT sector than the IT sector. Only a few IT organizations which are at the higher end of the HR value chain are known to be doing some work in this area; most are more busy handling recruitment and compensation-related matters. “Unless managements and HR heads have holistic expectations from their HR departments, the competency movement is unlikely to succeed as it requires lot of time, dedication and money,” he adds, pointing out that before an organization embarks on this journey it has to be very clear about the business goals, capability-building imperatives and core competencies of the organization. The competency mapping process needs to be strongly integrated with these aspects.

Experts agree that the competency mapping process does not fit the one-size-fits all formula. It has to be specific to the user organization. “My suggestion is to develop models that draw from but are not defined by existing research, using behavioral interview methods so that the organization creates a model that reflects its own strategy, its own market, its own customers, and the competencies that bring success in that specific context (including national culture). Start with small, discrete groups or teams, ideally in two directions-a ‘horizontal slice’ across the business that takes in a multi-functional or multi-site group, more or less at the same organizational level, and a ‘vertical slice’ taking in one whole department or team from top to bottom. From that, the organization can learn about the process of competency modeling, and how potential alternative formats for the models may or may not fit the needs of the business,” explains Stephen Martin, an international authority in the field who is also the president of ITAP Europe.

Martin believes that it is important to focus on one or two key areas of implementation rather than the whole HRD agenda in one scoop. “So if recruitment and selection or performance management is the key strategic needs of the business, and where the pain is being felt, then start there,” he advises, adding that competency mapping can be rather good at providing organizational pain relief when applied effectively-and so making the case for extending it. Further, it is advisable to begin with a ‘horizontal’ slice of the management or senior-most team as the benefits will percolate down to the whole organization.

Methodology for designing

The following methodology for designing and developing competency frameworks is suggested by Martin. “In my experience, the most effective route is to employ recognized best-practice internal research methodology using behavioral event interview (BEI) techniques to selectively sample the target population (supplemented with expert panels and ‘Competency Requirement Questionnaires’ to engage wider population samples) and so build up the models from the data that emerges. This data should be triangulated against clear top-down input in terms of organizational strategy and business objectives, and also against external research relevant and analogous to the organizations situation-not as a driver, but as a reference point.” He adds that once the behavioral data is collected, it should be sorted, categorized and leveled carefully to create models that are concise and comprehensive, simple and sophisticated. Developing BEI skills within the organization has the added benefit that once the model is complete, it can be used more effectively by transferring these skills to selection interviewing, development assessments, and so on.

 

Martin cautions that international organizations must ensure that the methodology does not Screen-out those competencies that do not match the culturally-influenced pre-conceptions of the head office (wherever it is situated) of what high-performance competencies are. This is a common error…the universalistic, all-powerful ‘global leadership model’. There is so much evidence to support the idea that culture is a business issue, is a management issue, that it seems obvious that mono-cultural lists of ‘exemplar behaviors’ will work only to exclude those who do not conform to the originating culture. The point is not to get everybody to behave the same, but to get everybody to perform to the same high standards.”

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