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A Complete Guide To Competency Mapping In Performance Management

Akshit Dangi

One of the easiest ways of establishing a connect with an individual in an organization is to associate them with the skills required for their job. This is one of the ways people are able to hire the right folks for the right roles. However, organizations are big, and tracking every job-specific skill can be quite difficult.

In such a case, competency mapping can well and truly save the day. By identifying the knowledge, skills, abilities, and behaviors that are required for successful job performance in a particular role, it provides quite the straightforward way of tracking employee skills throughout the various processes such as evaluation, training, and recruitment.

Understanding the ins and outs of competency mapping can pave the way for understanding every role in your organization and the purpose it serves. Keeping that in mind, we’re going to jump straight into the rabbit hole of competency mapping and explore the different ways it can serve your workplace. Let’s get right into it, shall we?

What is competency mapping?

As we just mentioned, competency mapping is a simple strategy of identifying and evaluating role-specific competencies in a organization. This is conducted to gauge the status of an organization’s current skill inventory along with identifying and fulfilling skill gaps.

Gallup’s 2021 report, The American Upskilling Study: Empowering Workers for the Jobs of Tomorrow, talks about how nearly 65% of people find upskilling as a decisive factor for staying at a job, while a staggering 48% stated how they’d switch to another job in an instant if they were offered training and development opportunities.

When you see stats like these, you get a very strong impression that skills and fulfilling skill gaps matter a lot to people. That is why, it is imperative to build a strong competency map for employing the right people and retaining the existing ones.

One thing to make note of, however, is that competencies are not synonymous to hard skills. These are underlying characteristics of a person, whose existence they may or may not be aware of. That is why, competency mapping is conducted across different roles.

Now, with all that said, how do you actually create a competency map. There are, actually, several methods of doing so:

  1. Assessment Centre: It is a mechanism that makes use of a situational test in which different job-related simulations are conducted to observe and identify specific behaviors.
  2. Critical Incidents Technique: The critical incidents technique is essentially a set of procedures for systematically identifying behaviours that contribute to success or failure of individuals or organisations in specific situations. Here, a checklist of good and bad behavior is prepared, which is then compared against critical incidents that demonstrates a specific behavior to determine and establish role-specific competencies.
  3. Interview-based Mapping: One of the most common, and arguably the easiest, methods of competency mapping, this method involves a set of interactions with applicants to determine a set of competencies to associate with a specific role.
  4. Questionnaires: One of the methods used when assessing competencies after the recruitment stages, questionnaires involve listing out questions, usually a mix of open- and close-ended ones to undertake competency mapping.
  5. Psychometric Tests: These are standardized procedures that are used to measure the individual differences in an unbiased scientific method without the interference of human factors. 

How to conduct competency mapping in performance management

1. Lay the foundation right

The process of competency mapping can be quite overwhelming if it’s your first time around. Fortunately, however, initiating the process can be done by simply adding some competency-related questions in your periodic assessments. Not to mention, competencies can be surfaced by using any of the previously mentioned methods and at any of the following stages:

  • Recruitment
  • Assessment 
  • During training and development
  • Succession planning and promotion
  • Organizational development analysis

2. Identify the competencies and behaviors

The next step is to identify and analyse the job-specific competencies that you surface and placing them in a competency framework as per the categories they lie in. For starters, these categories can be:

  • Core competencies: These competencies support the organization’s culture, values, and overall objectives and usually apply to all positions in the organization.
  • Common competencies: These competencies are present in a few specific organizational roles. For example, management roles would have certain common competencies such as decision-making, problem-solving, etc.
  • Technical competencies: These competencies cater to a specific job or function and usually encompass the technical prowess required to perform the job.
  • Behavioral competencies: These are the expected behaviors an individual must adhere to when taking on a certain job or function. It can also include all the necessary interpersonal skills to maintain decorum within the organization.
  • Future competencies: While not as prevalent as others, these competencies include all the skills, knowledge, and behaviors required to take on a particular role in the future.

3. Set proficiency levels for each competency and behavior

The next step is to determine the level of expertise required for each identified competency and behavior. Remember, every role would require a separate Desired Proficiency Level (DPL). Alongside that, we need to identify the Actual Proficiency Level (APL) of each competency to manage skill gaps and development plans.

Usually, making use of a 5-point rating scale where 1 indicates low expertise and 5 indicates masterry is the way to go, but you may use whichever scale your organization prefers. The critical thing to do here is to set the proficiency levels for every competency that you have identified.

4. Manage the development needs

Once both DPLs and APLs have been set for the competencies and behaviors, the next step is to draw comparison between the two to identify the skills gaps and prepare development plans for the same. Here, you need to identify the exact competencies that your talent may lack and align the development plans with their career development plans. That way, they can acquire the desired competencies and demonstrate the expected behaviors while progressing on their career paths.

5. Monitor progress

Lastly, you need to make sure of monitoring your team’s development and progress through regular check-ins and 1:1s. Initiate dialogue with each team member, identify the bottlenecks, and realign plans to carry out the development smoothly. With that, your competency mapping process is finally complete.

Benefits of competency mapping in performance management

1. Manages job-specific expectations

One of the key benefits that competency mapping brings to the table is helping the organization manage expectations around each job profile by defining the natural progression of your people’s skills. It helps provide people with a proper image how each competency can affect their career and help their managers assist them in their journey.

2. Builds a high-performance culture

Understanding what is expected from every role is key to building a culture of high-performance at the workplace. By mapping out the competencies for each individual, you can place them in the right teams with complementary skills to maximize their development and productivity.

3. Helps make informed training decisions

With the awareness of your skills inventory that comes with developing a competency map, you’ll be in a better position to plan future hires and other training-related decisions. Not only that, but by communicating the intent behind mapping job-specific competencies, your people would be much more open to acquiring and utilizing their dormant skills.

4. Increases the person-job fit

Person-job fit measures the compatibility of an individual’s current set of competencies with the required competencies for their role. An older HBR study pointed out that much of an organization’s turnover is caused by bad hiring decisions. Considering all that, it makes sense to have a competency map that can increase the person-job fit for each role.

Challenges of competency mapping in performance management

1. Developing a competency map is considered an HR process

One of the biggest myths surrounding competency mapping is that it is a process that should only be carried out by an organization’s HR function. This shouldn’t be the case, as HR may not be properly equipped with the right set of information to identify and map the competencies for each role in the organization. That is why, it is recommended that a proper team comprising of all the relevant stakeholders be assembled to carry out competency mapping.

2. Identifying critical competencies can be tricky

Critical competencies, as the name suggests, are critical to a role and the organization’s success. As such, it can be difficult to identify these competencies, which is why organizations often involve your organization’s leaders, work together with them, and prioritize finding these competencies first.

3. The competency maps are seldom updated

Competencies for any role in an organization are forever changing and evolving with the passage of time. However, one of the few critical mistakes that people make is that they tend to create a competency map and leave it as is, letting it go obsolete as responsibilities evolve and the work of an individual transforms. That is why, it is imperative that you update the competency maps to cope with organizational change along with successful and consistent performance of each role.

4. Mapping competencies can stress people out

One of the biggest challenges when preparing a competency map is to pay a ton of care and attention not to set unrealistic expectations for any particular role. Not only would doing so lead to difficulty in hiring new talent, but it would also cause your people to over-perform under pressure, even if their performance may already be up to the mark.

Summing up

That’s all there is to conducting competency mapping. While the process may seem challenging and time consuming at first, remember—the process can bring forth a ton of benefits and assist in organizational decision-making. Not only that, but it would play a massive role in building a high-performance culture, develop your people, and help them pursue their desired career paths.

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