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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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Competencies accessola2




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.

Thank you
Thank you

  • Valerie Ridgway,


  • Cathy Grant