When considering how to design a competency or capability framework, there are four primary factors to consider.
Who are we assessing?
Why are we assessing them?
How are we structuring this assessment?
What does the finished product look like?
Identifying the answers to the first two questions is critical in leading to the others. In understanding who we are assessing within the organisation, and the purpose behind it, we are able to identify how we should structure our framework, and what the final outcome is.
In specifying who we are assessing and why we are assessing them, we are able to focus on specific segments of the business, and tailor our language and behaviours around that segment. Internally validating content through listening to the cultures and values of a specific group of people within your organisation can help you create a much more aligned, personalised framework.
The culture and value of business segments, whether they be split by job function or geography, will always vary from company to company, and across demographic sectors. It is important to understand this while creating behavioural indicators that align with our competencies, as the nuance of language and wording is important.
The design of a framework determines speed of completion. There is a variance in whether or not a framework is too long, or too short, and finding the right balance is important for the validation and buy-in to a framework. If building for a specific audience, understand that the requirements of that particular audience will help the design of the framework, otherwise there is a real risk of survey fatigue.
These concerns are completely valid, and in a digital and agile workforce, we must make the feedback process simple, and used for the right reason. The design of a competency framework should reflect this. It should be a quick, mobile, easy to complete process that is framed around the development of each person in their role.
When considering the scale in which to measure a framework, a Likert scale, between 4 and 6 points, gives the best, most accurate, and most granular means of measurement, and is very simple to understand. We also recommend giving the respondents the opportunity to select ‘Non-Applicable’, as they may not have witnessed certain behaviours within the workplace. Giving them this option maintains the integrity of their responses, and the data that comes out of it in reporting. Likert scales also allow competencies to be more efficiently broken down to levels that align with the organisation. For example, a level that best describes an ‘Executive General Manager’, ‘Senior Manager’, and ‘Team Leader’.
An alternative to the Likert scale is what we call a ‘Levelled’ framework, where the respondent will have a series of descriptors to choose from per level of competence. For example, we may have a competency called ‘Strategic Leadership’, and we may measure it with a series of level descriptors such as ‘Basic’, ‘Intermediate’, ‘Advanced’ and ‘Expert’. Each of these level descriptors have behavioural indicators that identify which level is most appropriate for that individual.
A framework designed in this way may be perceived to be easier for people to understand and interpret, and is also considered to be faster to complete. However, the participant still needs to read every indicator in each level in order to make an informed decision, and many participants ignore the behavioural indicators and focus on the headings. In this scenario, the assessment becomes quicker purely by virtue of the participant choosing what they believe to be the most appropriate heading, and not by virtue of the type of assessment.
In understanding who we are assessing, and why we are assessing them, we can make a distinction as to whether a framework will be focusing on leadership competencies, values, culture, or even functional skills-based capabilities. Functional capabilities are more commonly created by internal staff, and using a Levelled assessment is often a better process to go through to effectively describe the competency being assessed. This is largely because it’s easier to describe the competency, rather than individual indicators that probe elements of the competency.
If the purpose of the framework is to assist with the assessment of capability, then in creating the framework, you must consider the reporting and insights that you would like to come out of the assessment before choosing the way in which you design it. If you develop a Levelled framework to assess and develop people, then it can only really measure the competency itself, and not the various individual behavioural indicators that comprise that competency. The results in this scenario are more focused on an overarching competency level.
If, however, a Likert scale is used when designing the framework, individuals have the ability to determine their level of proficiency down to a granular, behavioural indicator level. This allows you to not only report to specific behaviours, but also to identify potential development opportunities at a behavioural level. Adversely, this has a very positive effect on subsequent reporting and development opportunities.