Competency Identification, Values Clarification, and Ethics 91
Newest Developments in Competency Identification,
Modeling, and Assessment
One development is that competency modeling seems to have caught on. Businesses
in the United States are estimated to be spending about $100 million per year in
identifying competency models for their organizations.
And yet much work remains
to be done. Not all competency modeling efforts are effective. One reason is that HR
professionals and operating managers alike are not properly trained in, or do not
understand, what competency models are for and how they relate to organizational
Another development is that differences in thinking and philosophical views
about competency modeling are becoming more pronounced. A key question is,
‘‘What does the competency model focus on?’’ It is, of course, possible to study
derailers—that is, what leads to failure. It is also possible (and many organizations do
this) to focus on what is required to reach minimum competence for each rung on
the organization chart. But perhaps most important, it is possible to focus on what
measurable productivity differences may exist between the most productive and pro-
motable performers in a job category (called exemplars or sometimes high potentials)
and those who are fully trained but who are not the most productive (called fully
successful performers). The real value added is in discovering what differences exist
between exe mplary and/or high-potential performers and ful ly successful perfor m-
ers and then integrating hiring, succession planning and management, and career-
development efforts to attract, develop, and retain more exemplary or high-potential
The goal is to leverage the organization’s competitive advantage by hav-
ing more high performers and therefore higher productivity, pound for pound, than
other organizations in the same industry.
Another issue is what to focus on. Should the goal be to meet deficiencies, leverage
individual strengths, or do both? Should the goal be to focus on differences by level
(as in management-oriented competency models) or by functional area (as in so-called
technical or functional competency models)?
A third development is that many technology packages are now available to sup-
port competency identification and modeling efforts. They often come packaged as
part of larger HR information systems (HRISs) or human capital management
(HCM) suites and should be sought using those keywords. They may also appear in
learning management systems (LMSs).
Unfortunately, some practitioners think that the competency software will do
their thinking for them, which is, of course, not the case. Effective competency identi-
fication, assessment, and modeling are hard work.
Technology is no shortcut to
effective practice, and sometimes it only causes a short circuit.
American Management Association

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