“Competencies are identified knowledge, skills, abilities, and mindsets, evaluated through demonstrated behaviors, which directly and positively contribute to the success of the organization and to the success of employees in their job role, position, and function.”
Competencies are not new; they have been used in many settings for over 50 years. Today, they are widely used in human resource management.
Based on the study of competency-based approaches and what we learned about current practices, we submit these recommendations in three parts: The first set of recommendations answers the four guiding questions posed to the team. The second set of recommendations proposes a competency-based HR system at UW-Madison. The third set of recommendations addresses specific HR functions that could benefit from a competency-based approach.
1. Answers to Guiding Questions
How should competencies be used?
We believe a core set of competencies should be used in all jobs to integrate the key HR and Talent Management functions of Job Design, Recruitment and Assessment, Employee Development, and Performance Management. Diversity and inclusion-related competencies should also be embedded in each campus job description.
Should competencies be consistent across employee categories/roles? Across job families?
We believe a core set of competencies should be used in all jobs. While competencies can be used to differentiate categories, roles, and job families, it is too early for us to make this recommendation. We do believe, however, that initial development of competencies should focus on critical employee categories and roles such as leader, manager, and HR practitioner.
Should competencies be consistent across divisions?
We believe that once a core set of organization-wide competencies are identified and embedded in all jobs, there should be flexibility at the Division level to develop additional competencies that may be unique to that Division.
What are some illustrative competencies for positions at UW-Madison?
Individuals in the various campus forums offered many ideas for organization-wide competencies. Those cited most frequently included communication, change management, customer service/service orientation, and diversity/inclusion. Several individuals attending the various campus forums also mentioned that competencies related to the mission and values of UW-Madison should be developed and required of all employees. Examples of how competencies can be illustrated in different positions are provided in the Appendix.
2. Recommendations for a Competency-based Approach at UW–Madison
- Use a competency-based approach as a system-wide framework for attracting and retaining talent, increasing and leveraging diversity, and creating a high performing, engaged organization.
- Use competencies to integrate the key phases of the employee life cycle and to integrate the key HR talent management functions.
- Define those core competencies that should be shared by all employees in order to unite all employees.
- Define and incorporate additional competencies in critical role-based positions such as leader, manager and HR staff.
- Ensure that core competencies are clear, transparent, and communicated to all employees, and that competency development is continually improved.
- Provide the necessary training for competency developers, practitioners, and users.
3. Specific Recommendations for Key HR Functions
While these recommendations go beyond the scope of the Competencies Team, we believe that if a competency-based approach is used, competencies must be integrated across the critical human resource functions of job design, recruitment and assessment, employee development, and performance management. They should also be used to embed diversity expectations in all jobs.
Job Design Recommendations
- Incorporate organization-wide and job-specific competencies, along with education and experience, as the foundation for job descriptions.
- Use competencies to link jobs with similar titles together.
- Use competencies to link job families together.
- Use technology to make it easy to create and manage competencies in the job design process.
Recruitment and Assessment Recommendations
- Incorporate organization-wide and job-specific competencies into the applicant assessment process.
- Develop tools that support a competency-based approach. These include competency dictionaries, behavioral interviews, behavior-based selection processes, guides, employee training, educational programs, etc.
- Use technology to support the implementation of competencies.
Employee Development Recommendations
- Link professional development to specific competencies that must be mastered.
- Align core management and leadership development programs with the competencies identified for these roles.
- Provide tools and resources so employees understand and can assess their current and desired levels of competencies for positions they choose to pursue.
Performance Management Recommendations
- Implement a comprehensive; integrated performance management process which reflects competencies related to the organization, role, and specific job. Include establishing clear performance goals, routine performance updates, performance coaching, and performance review as key steps in the process.
- Ensure that specific competencies, along with performance outcomes, are used during the performance appraisal and evaluation process.
Workforce Diversity Recommendations
- Define diversity and inclusion as core organizational values, and define and include diversity and inclusion competencies in all position descriptions.
- Define specific management competencies which support creating diversity, leveraging diversity, and building inclusion.