The concept of using behavioural competencies within the workplace is a fairly modern phenomenon – widely credited as first being introduced to businesses during the 1970’s, at the time they provided a revolutionary and compelling way to help to assess, develop and manage people, against a strict backdrop of set criteria.
They proved to be extremely effective at highlighting skills gaps within businesses, allowing employers to develop focused recruitment, learning, training, and development programmes that added real company value. It can be argued that their use is just as important today, as the Harvard Business Review states that only an estimated 20 percent of the wider workforce possess the skills needed to fill 60 percent of future jobs.
However, as the world of work continues to evolve, and with the increasing challenges of an ever-changing, uncertain business environment, many employers are unsure as to whether the use of behavioural competencies still deserve their place within modern HR and recruitment strategies.
Essentially, competencies refer to the behaviours that employees must possess or display in order to perform in a job role to a high standard.
Their main aim is to act as a key performance indicator from a business to an individual in their area of expertise, and against their expected level of performance. They should provide employees with an indication, or wider mapping system of the behaviours and actions that will be valued, praised and rewarded within individual organisations.
By setting goals, targets and measurements against employee behaviour and performance, they most commonly exist within wider performance management frameworks for managers and supervisors.
You may have heard of these two very similar words in a business context, but it is not advisable to get too bogged down in conflicting definitions. Many companies use the terms interchangeably, and without any problem, but there are subtle variations between the two terms:
Originally trialled by several big businesses in the 1970’s, the broad idea of behavioural competencies became embedded in mainstream company policy during the 1980’s. This was mainly attributed to a response to increasingly complex organisational change, and a resulting drive for higher performance and output levels.
In the years since, competency frameworks have become an increasingly accepted part of modern HR, and Learning and Development practice. A 2017 report conducted by the CIPD on resourcing and talent planning revealed that competency-based interviews are the most popular method of application selection.
As all business organisations operate in different spheres, and have unique aims, goals and strategies, companies must identify and develop the particular competencies that suit their personal circumstances. However, there are some broad ideas and themes that tend to be included in most frameworks in one way or another – these include:
Behavioural competencies are used in UK businesses for a variety of purposes and reasons – an effective framework is recognised as having a positive effect on across a wide range of human resource management, and all learning and development activities within a company. They are seen as a key way to achieve positive organisational performance and growth through a programme of measuring and reviewing each employee’s capability and potential.
According to research from the CIPD, most employer’s use behavioural competency frameworks to achieve the following goals:
Behavioural competencies are commonly used at every level within Uk businesses. Traditionally, early use of competency frameworks tended to focus mainly on performance management and the development of employees, and so were mainly applicable to more senior members of staff.
However, as time has gone on, and business scope and development has expanded, so too have the capabilities of competency frameworks. At all levels of business, they can provide a solid backdrop against which to develop a common workplace ‘language,’ implement a fair and objective recruitment policy, track and assess staff development, and scrutinise staff potential in relation to promotion opportunities and succession planning.
Of course, the way you develop differing competence frameworks will inevitably differ depending on staff level, and the associated skills, talents and behavioural needs that sit alongside different roles, but you will likely have some ‘core’ values that will apply to all employees at every level. Developing a strong core framework should ease the process considerably when you look to adapt it in future.
Developing a competency framework needn’t be too intimidating or time-consuming, especially if you can break the process down into different components. The most important point to remember is that you should only include competency areas that are measurable – not being able to effectively track a behavioural competency will ensure that its use becomes obsolete eventually.
Aim for no more than 10 competencies per workplace role, and try to group them so that they make for as cohesive reading as possible. Stacking competencies against different areas should help to ensure that they are easily deciphered and understood by both managers and employees alike. You could add to this by including definitions and examples of each competency, particularly where they refer to different levels of performance that be expected from each of the behaviours.
Another crucial aspect of all competency frameworks is the degree of detail that is leveraged against it. If your framework information is too broad, it is likely that it will fail to provide adequate guidance to employees as to what you would expect from them, and for managers to fully comprehend the benchmarks against which they should assess employees.
Competencies that you may like to include could refer to:
Your main competency framework will likely be completely unique to the needs and requirements of your business, but there are some guidelines against which you can measure its effectiveness and impact: