Competency assessments can be compared to a visit to a doctor. The process of the assessment is the diagnosis, understanding where areas of change need to be occurring, but without the ensuing actions of development and behavioural change, the diagnosis is not addressed, and the process one that is made in vain.
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.
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. The desired outcome of the process piece determines the structure, style and content of the assessment piece itself, and structures the reporting and subsequent development interventions on an individual, team, and organisational level.
Is it a precursor to a formal program?
Using your competency assessment to identify levels of competency from a point-in-time perspective can be an incredibly helpful tool in designing formal development programs. If your assessment is a larger part of a formal program, the output of the results from an individual and organisational perspective can help you shape what areas a formal process needs to focus on.
If formal programs are indeed part of the wider project, then you must be willing to change the shape of the formal program dependent on the outputs of the competency assessment. Using the assessment piece to clearly identify areas of strength and weakness within the organisation or specific business functions, and accordingly structure your program, is a far more efficient use of the assessment piece as it targets your specific business needs. Ignoring the results of a competency assessment in creating a program will mean you miss the mark, developing areas of the business that might not need specific development, and render your entire formal program as ineffective.
Is it a development initiative?
If the assessment piece is part of the wider development of individuals, teams, or the organisation as a whole, it is key to consider the steps that are being taken to ensure that the development interventions that occur at the end of the assessment are clearly defined and available to the relevant people. While this means that the overall focus of the assessment and clear next steps must be communicated with each participant, it also means that the related resources that are available for each individuals’ development are easily available and accessible to them.
The related resources that help individual development should be complemented by debriefing from within the organisation or with the help of a consultant but should also be supported through the development of measurable and achievable definitions of personal development. Having the relevant resources available to each individual, and clearly defined outputs of what that looks like, is pivotal to the successful implementation of your competency assessment.
Is it a one-off or ongoing event?
Whilst traditional competency assessment has been a point-in-time view of behavioural attributes of individuals in the workplace, the landscape of personal development has evolved. Competency assessment is more commonly used as part of a wider people development strategy; however many organisations still use it purely as a performance review tool. This begs the question, how should we be using competency assessment, and what is best practice? Should this be a one-off event, whether for the purpose of performance management, or should it be part of an ongoing event?
One of the key things to consider in identifying whether assessment should be a one-off or ongoing process is whether you can successfully and accurately measure the systematic change that occurs in individuals, teams, and the organisation as a whole. By simply using assessment as a one-off tool to identify levels of competency, we miss the wider development mark, and indeed limit the effectiveness of a survey itself.
To determine the effectiveness of a survey, as well as whether or not it is viable as part of a business plan, you must be able to determine the return on investment. This is gained by identifying measurable change in behaviour over a period of time and using continuous feedback to drive this process.