Designing an effective competency framework

Profiling Online effective competency framework

Defining and measuring the effectiveness of your people and leaders is critical for leadership development and organizational success - and competency frameworks are just one important management tool used to achieve this.

Implementing a competency framework can help your organization develop employees, assist with workforce and succession planning, retain valuable resources and provide you with meaningful insights to make strategic business decisions. Most often, a competency framework is created using a Likert scale, but in this week's blog, I'm going to argue that a new framework is becoming increasingly popular and is already in use in many well-known organizations. I’m seeing the rise of frameworks designed using what I call a 'levelled' approach.

Differences in approaches and the benefits of each

Let's start by looking at the design styles of both approaches.

A Likert framework uses a series of indicators to measure a competency. Each indicator (or competency statement) is then rated using the Likert scale, typically a 5 or 6 point scale. Usually Likert scales are based on 'Agreement' (e.g. 'Strongly Agree' to 'Strongly Disagree'), or 'Frequency' (e.g. 'Very Frequently' to 'Never'). While some Likert scales have a neutral centre-point (e.g. 'Neither Agree nor Disagree').

A major benefit to this style of survey is that it allows for a lot of granularity in it's ratings, and therefore, a more detailed breakdown of reportable data. Each statement can be scored and reported, and rolled into each competency for a higher-level competency score. 'Highest' and 'Lowest' statements and 'Unknown Strengths and Weaknesses' (where raters see you very differently to how you see yourself ) are better facilitated using a Likert scale.

Another consideration, is the ease with which the Likert scale can be used to design a survey that is supported on mobile devices. This trend, whilst not important for all, is certainly gaining momentum.

A disadvantage to this approach, is that the Likert scale usually only measures competencies "at level". In other words, the participant completes a survey measuring the competencies as designed for a single role or level within the organization. It tends to be less about measuring proficiency across all levels within the organization.

Likert scales can also be fairly long-winded depending on the number of statements and competencies being measured and they tend to encourage respondents to sit on the fence, usually with the intention of speeding up the completion of the survey, which is not something you want to encourage.

An alternative approach to designing an effective competency framework

A new approach that's gaining popularity is the use of 'levelled' competency frameworks. This involves creating a framework that shows a series of descriptors for each level of proficiency.

So for example, descriptors may show a competency at the following levels:

  • Basic

  • Intermediate

  • Advanced

  • Expert

The user simply selects the level that best describes their current capability. Since the user can understand the competency requirements across each level within the business, they can see what development path they would need to take to move from, for example, 'Intermediate' to 'Advanced' within that competency.

The only drawback I see in this style of framework, is that it lacks the reporting granularity of a Likert scale as it only collects a rating at the competency level, not the granular indicators. In saying this, I have been involved in the successful creation of assessment diagnostics for many large, global organizations (Commonwealth Bank, Westpac, NBN Co., Telstra) using this methodology, so we should expect to see this style more often as it's popularity grows.

If you'd like to read more on this topic, I'd encourage you to download our complimentary eBook, 'Designing and Implementing a Successful Competency Assessment Program' now.

If you enjoyed this article and would like to receive similar thought-leadership content, I'd encourage you to subscribe to the 'Insights Blog'.

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The Innovation Lab

The Innovation Lab is a collaborative business unit that is dedicated to the continued enhancement and increased capability of the Profiling Online software and employee assessment platform.


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