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The . COMPETENCY CULTURE. Valerie Ridgway Cathy Grant. Background. Good news about competencies: most of us are already using competencies – human terms require skills library staff have: observers of behaviour; evaluate behaviour all the time simple to establish (but not easy!).

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Valerie Ridgway

Cathy Grant

  • Good news about competencies:
  • most of us are already using competencies – human terms
  • require skills library staff have: observers of behaviour; evaluate behaviour all the time
  • simple to establish (but not easy!)
  • Flourished in 1990s based on key article by Hamel & Prahalad in HBR
  • Partly a reaction to expansionist 80’s
  • “Core competencies” and “competencies” used interchangeably
some examples
Some examples
  • Fedex
  • Service: Delivery
  • Core competency:Logistics
  • Eastman Kodak
  • Service:Photography products
  • Core competency:Chemical imaging
organizational competencies
Organizational competencies
  • Core competencies originally applied to organizations as a whole:
    • Confer competitive advantage
    • Valuable
    • Rare
    • Difficult to imitate
    • Pervasive in the organization
individual competencies
Individual competencies
  • Applied to individuals in an organization:
    • Relate to performance of major part of job
    • Underlying, deep & enduring
    • Identify and predict successful job performance
    • Behaviourally-expressed and evaluated
    • Can be improved by further training
    • (Sometimes refer to technical skills)
behaviours determine competencies
Behaviours determine competencies
  • Example: “Flexible” vs.:
  • Accepts new roles and responsibilities
  • Anticipates and adjusts for changing circumstances in achievement of objectives
  • Demonstrates a positive attitude during times of change
  • Handles multiple tasks and responsibilities successfully
competencies in a system model
Competencies in a System Model

Strategic Foundation

Mission, Vision, Core Values

excellence; personal; communicate; enhance

  • Core Competencies
  • confer competitive advantage
  • value for user
  • qualities rare/unique
  • hard to imitate
  • pervasive
  • people/clients; services;


  • Competencies
  • leadership
  • innovation
  • continuous improvement
  • problem-solving
  • etc.

Individual Job

3 approaches to competencies
3 approaches to competencies
  • Homogenized – same set for all
  • Individualized – unique set for each
  • Stratified – sets vary by class of job
who has adopted competencies
Who has adopted competencies?
  • Other libraries of all types
  • Professional organizations
  • Private sector
  • See thousands of lists on the internet
advantages of competencies
Advantages of competencies
  • Behaviour easier to talk about than labels
  • Reduces bias
  • Distinguishes top-tier staff from average
  • Gives staff a common language which permeates & aligns the organization
  • Provides focus for training
  • Provides consistency
disadvantages of competencies
Disadvantages of competencies
  • Some behaviours “personal”
  • Extensive documentation and control needed
  • Not all behaviours can be captured
  • Competencies can overlap/become vague or repetitive
  • Change in format generates its own problems
implementation i
Implementation I
  • Aim for fewer than 12 competencies
  • Decide on approach – individual, specialized or homogenized
  • Focus on how, not what work is done (tasks change)
  • Learn from others
  • Include a definition for each competency as well as a handful of behaviours
  • Prepare a 1st draft for staff and management input and expect many revisions
implementation ii
Implementation II
  • After competencies have been defined:
  • Create job specifications
  • Recruit using job specs
  • Interview using behaviourally-based competency questions
  • Orient new employees to competency expectations
  • Introduce competencies to existing employees and offer training
  • Coach staff performance based on competencies
  • Evaluate all employees using competency-based evaluation forms
building a competency culture at ppl
Building a competency culture at PPL
  • Why was this needed at PPL?
  • No clear understanding of what was expected from employees in an environment of change
  • PPL needed a comprehensive system to define, communicate and manage employee performance.
defining the desired competencies i
Defining the desired competencies I
  • January 2004
  • Developed a consensus on concepts and their relevance
  • Reviewed the competencies of other organizations – other libraries, professional lists, etc
  • Took what was appropriate for our organization
  • Core competency was difficult to define so we left it
defining the desired competencies ii
Defining the desired competencies II
  • Preferred the stratified structure and defined a hierarchy of competencies
  • Also, a common group of competencies were found in all positions.
  • Behaviours were the last to be defined
communicating with staff
Communicating with staff
  • Spring 2004
  • Staff were introduced to the concept of competencies at staff meetings and through various memos and discussions.
  • Summer 2004
  • Staff were introduced to the new competency-based evaluation forms during the annual evaluation process
competency based performance evaluation ii
Competency-based performance evaluation II
  • 360 degree feedback forms, based on competencies were added to managers reviews’ in 2005 and to staff reviews in 2006
  • Managers invited feedback from a random selection of colleagues
competency based training i
Competency-based training I
  • Training is a major part of implementing a competency-based HR system
  • Some training was system-wide
    • Customer service training was first
    • Coaching Skills for Supervisors
    • Communications Training
competency based training ii
Competency-based training II
  • Some training was individual and based on the training plan associated with evaluations
  • Individualized training was accomplished through in-house methods as well as external sources.
competency based recruitment
Competency-based recruitment
  • Fall 2004
  • New postings included competencies
  • Interviews included competency-based questions
  • Continuous Learning
  • Think back to when you received a new position or
  • responsibility within the workplace. What have you done
  • to learn the new skills that were required?
  • Time-intensive for managers
  • Ratings for behavioural frequency are misperceived in many ways
  • Performance can be a very emotional issue for some staff
  • Using competency measures for 360 feedback is difficult for staff
  • Competency-based recruitment may be difficult if there are not enough suitable recruits
  • Managers and staff now have a language for handling performance issues
  • Managers find it easier to deal with performance problems and have had much success with underperforming staff
  • The recruitment process has been clarified
  • The training process is more focused, less ad hoc
continuous improvements
Continuous improvements
  • Streamlining and simplifying performance reviews forms and process
  • Managers are making more time for performance management.
  • PPL is committed to this practice and will continue to make improvements over time.
our core competency nearly
Our core competency (nearly)!
  • Friendly and convenient service to fit every client’s needs.