Competency-Based Management

By Kochanski, Jim | Training & Development, October 1997 | Go to article overview

Competency-Based Management


Kochanski, Jim, Training & Development


Expanding capability and capacity is the key to managing people successfully. Here's how.

In many, if not most, organizations, employees become managers when they assume responsibility for managing people. Yet, managers often manage everything except people. Instead, they're busy making product, technical, process, and financial decisions. Management that overlooks an organization's capacity and capability - the combined competencies of its people - risks not meeting customers' needs and losing them to competitors.

Most managers care about their organizations' success, and they recognize the need for employees' contributions. So, why aren't otherwise responsible managers practicing sound people management?

Typically, sound practices are used only with a small number of employees - the top and bottom performers. So, while top performers are being rewarded and low performers are exiting, most employees are just maintaining their current level of performance. In that scenario, an organization's capacity and capability remain static.

Traditional management practices tend to be too complex, and they don't fit with the new organizational environments. Narrow job descriptions and classifications just don't mesh with the increasingly dynamic nature of work.

Competency-based management is an approach that reduces complexity, adds capacity, and increases overall capability. CBM involves identifying the competencies that distinguish high performers from average performers. [TABULAR DATA OMITTED] It condenses core competencies from the complex web of roles, responsibilities, goals, skills, knowledge, and abilities that determine an employee's effectiveness.

The competencies form the foundation for selection, learning, rewards, and other aspects of employee management. CBM also supports such imperatives as speed-to-market, customer satisfaction, flexibility, and employees' control of their careers and personal lives.

System within a system Consider the numerous areas related to development or effectiveness from an employee's perspective:

* recruitment, selection, and orientation

* training

* job design and work assignments

* succession planning and promotions

* organizational structure

* pay structure

* career planning

* reward and recognition systems

* termination.

That's a mind-boggling array of elements that should be linked. But even HRD professionals have trouble explaining how they fit together.

That complex system of employee-related areas operates within an even more complex system: the organization. Often, the only thread that ties together "people processes" is a manager's bias about what makes an employee successful.

To an employee, what is the link between such elements as his or her performance evaluation, pay increase, training, job assignment, transfer, and promotion? It's the manager's perception of the employee. If the perception is accurate and articulated well, that's positive for the employee. But more often, the manager's-perception is either inaccurate or incomplete. Or, it's not understood by the employee. Even when employees understand a manager's perception of success, other managers' perceptions may be different. That can make an employee's path through the career development maze hazardous, confusing, and tricky.

Further complicating the system of employee development and effectiveness are the biases of the employees managers manage. How do employees learn what it takes to be effective? Most learn from legend, hearsay, and trial and error. The result: Each employee has a somewhat different, only partially accurate view of how to be effective at work.

Most managers don't have the time or mandate to be responsible for developing their staffs. And it doesn't help the situation when well-meaning administrators ask managers to fill out appraisal and development forms. …

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