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CETE adds competency modeling to its practice analysis suite

Competency model for CETE, The Ohio State University, 2014


Organizations are continually searching for better ways to define and achieve excellence. Defining required performance (sometimes called "practice analysis") is the basis for many important organizational activities, including training, performance appraisal, curriculum development, and certification.
The focus on excellence in organizations is important because the ability of workers to perform is a competitive advantage.

You may be familiar with DACUM, a practice analysis methodology that is known around the world for being quick, effective, and inexpensive. DACUM remains the legacy job analysis methodology in CETE’s suite of practice analysis offerings. Competency modeling is a new and additional offering to meet contemporary organizational requirements.

Competency modeling versus job analysis

One of the most frequently asked questions is how competency modeling is different from job/task analysis. Campion and others (2011) have defined some key differences, including:

  • Executives typically pay more attention to competency models.
  • Competency models often attempt to distinguish top from average performers.
  • Competency models are usually directly linked to business objectives and strategies.
  • Competency models are typically developed top down (starting with executives) rather than bottom up (starting with employees).
  • Usually, a finite number of competencies are identified and applied across multiple functions or job families (p. 227).

Competencies and competency models

In some organizations, it makes sense to focus on work rather than jobs. Rather than a job analysis that describes the duties and tasks specific to a job, analysts may focus on competencies. Competencies are characteristics of an individual performer that lead to acceptable or outstanding performance (Rothwell & Graber, 2010). More related to the worker than to the work, they are a way to describe worker characteristics that transcend job duties or tasks. Defining worker competencies is a meaningful approach for environments in which assignments and work change frequently. In addition, some organizations use competencies as the common denominator across human resource management (HRM) systems — selection, performance appraisal, career planning, training, and development (Lucia & Lepsinger, 1999). Competencies provide organizations a single point of reference to align strategy and its execution.

Organizations typically choose a number of competencies on which to focus. Chosen using a rigorous methodology, these competencies are aligned to organizational strategy and represent the performances that will differentiate the organization in the marketplace. The competencies are often presented to the organization in groupings that show their relationships to each other and are memorable to employees (Campion et al, 2011). This visual representation of competencies is called a competency model. You may have a competency model for your organization. The above image is CETE’s competency model.

Each of the elements in the triangle is a label for critical competencies that focus on the achievement of the label. Client focus, for example, is the label for competencies that describe how CETE focuses on client needs, including relationship management, which is the ability to communicate with clients and teams to ensure clarity and understanding to satisfy project requirements and build strong relationships. Note that the model is couched between two arrows — Research and Practice — to indicate CETE’s niche in providing rich solutions to clients.

CETE’s Competency Methodology

CETE has defined a research-based, experience-proven methodology for defining competencies. The rigor and scope of this methodology are based on a number of factors, including the purpose(s) of the competency(ies) model, the size of the organization, the level of required detail, and the supporting tools or instruments needed to implement the methodology.

In general, the process is as follows:

  1. Meet with leaders to determine the scope and purpose of the competency study. Clarify how the competencies relate to the organization’s mission, vision, and values.
  2. Review existing organizational literature and other relevant documentation to distill potential competencies.
  3. Interview key decision makers, high performers, and low performers to identify potential critical competencies using a critical incident interviewing methodology (Flanagan, 1954). (Depending on the number of interviews, they may be done in cycles with process checks between cycles.)
  4. Create a list of potential competencies and review it with key decision makers in the organization.
  5. Refine the list.
  6. Continue with interviews and reviews as necessary to refine the competencies and their definitions.
  7. Validate the competencies and their definitions with job incumbents.
  8. Create additional competency information, such as behaviorally anchored rating scales (BARS), supporting tools, and other resources to support the use of the model in the organization. (This step may be a series of projects depending on the client’s need.)

In addition to creating competency models, CETE works with clients to validate models clients may consider adopting, updates or refines existing models, and creates tools to support the use of competencies. CETE is also experienced in creating competency-based education or training using competencies.

For more information about CETE’s competency modeling services, please contact:

Dawn M. Snyder, PhD, CPT

Brooke Parker, MS

Selected References

  • Campion, M. A., Fink, A. A., Ruggeberg, B. J., Carr, L., Phillips, G. M., & Odman, R. B. (2011). Doing competencies well: Best practices in competency modeling. Personnel Psychology, 64: 225–262.
  • Flanagan, J. (1954). The Critical Incident Technique. Psychological Bulletin, 51: 327–358.
  • Lucia, A. D., & Lepsinger, R. (1999). The art and science of competency models: Pinpointing critical success factors in organizations. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass/Pfeiffer.
  • Rothwell, W. J., & Graber, J. M. (2011). Competency-based training basics (ASTD Training Basics Series). ASTD Press.
    Dawn Snyder, PhD, CPT