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The Most Underutilized Tool in Performance Management: Competency Measures
Authored By: HR Performance on 3/7/2017

Where do You Begin with Measuring Competencies?

You've been there a million times. There's an open position within your organization and the department director asks you, their trusted HR partner, to identify some internal candidates who have excellent leadership skills. The next day the CEO tells you that she wishes she had a better handle on who the top performers are in the organization within specific skill areas; the overall score just isn't meaningful enough for certain types of decision making. Additionally, just about every day during the last appraisal cycle, you heard complaints that the whole process just didn't feel as meaningful as it could have felt.

When it comes down to it, how are you really supposed to know if an employee is a relatively stronger performer?  How do you know if the competencies within performance evaluations are meaningful to employees as they strive to improve their performance? The answer is simple. Organizations need to be able to easily manage clear and well-communicated competency level descriptions for their employees. These simple descriptions remove some of the subjectivity from the appraisal process. By making the review more objective, managers and employees have a better experience.

Every competency (or factor, if you use that verbiage) should have a definition of the competency as well as a brief description of what each competency level looks like. Here's an example.

Benefits for Managers and Employees

Above, each level is spelled out clearly so a manager has an immediate point of reference for how to evaluate an employee. This helps in three different ways.

  1. These levels take some burden off of the managers. Managers no longer need to guess what a "Valued Performer" looks like. The description is right there for him or her. The clarity provided by the competency level descriptions makes it significantly easier for him or her to move through the appraisal process quickly and easily. That keeps managers happy and keeping your managers happy is half the battle.
  2. The levels provide clarity to employees around what is expected of them. At any time during the year, an employee can log in to her performance management system and see the specific metrics she will be expected to hit. These rating levels can be populated with really specific deliverables such as sales standards or they can have "softer" metrics. Either way, it is a perfect way to keep employees on target all year round.
  3. When it comes time for the manager and employee to sit knee-to-knee for a coaching discussion or an appraisal, this alleviates surprises. There is a decreased likelihood that the employee will be surprised at not knowing an aspect of their competency. There is a decreased likelihood that the manager will be way off base when giving a score. There is an increased likelihood that both the manager and employee will smile and nod as they both say, "that score seems about right."

What Does This All Mean for Human Resources?

Now, the best part. How do our beloved HR professionals benefit from quality competency level descriptions and good performance management technology?

  1. Succession planning can be much easier. How can you know who is ready to assume new responsibilities if prospective candidates are not being evaluated on the same clear, well-communicated competency criterion? Having this gives you the data to help your managers make sound business decisions. You can use this data to help with the requests from your directors and CEO, as well.
  2. What skills do we need to improve at our company? How will we know without data? Use the competency level descriptions carefully. Perhaps you want to break "communication" into a few different components, such as listening, writing and speaking to find out exactly where weaknesses hide and then bring in specific training to address those needs. Recognizing weaknesses and doing something about it is how businesses move forward.
  3. Are there managers who seem to help employees grow certain skills better than others?  You can track that type of progress within Performance Pro if managers appraise their employees based on the same standard.  When you do find a manager who can coach well, find out what she does and model it in other areas of the company.

These all seem like brilliant ideas, but who has time to manage this? One of the biggest reasons that more than 1,000 organizations use Performance Pro is because there is more pre-built content in it than nearly any other application. That pre-built content includes competency level descriptions for nearly 150 competencies. That's a lot of writing we just saved you! You can thank us later. Feel free to customize ours or build your own from scratch as you like. If you do decide to build from scratch, you can quickly cascade your content to the employees that you choose! How easy is that? Plus, Performance Pro utilizes a state-of-the-art reporting system to help you clearly make recommendations to your team based on good data.

Questions? Would you like to share your ideas with us on this topic? We want to hear from you.


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