I have a little bugbear with competency frameworks. Specifically, generic ‘off the shelf’ frameworks, that provide a senseless ‘A-Z’ of competencies. I have read a lot about them, perhaps too much, so I am allowing myself the chance to air my thoughts.

You can google and download a competency framework, slap your logo on it and hey presto you have a competency framework. The unfortunate thing is, you have a framework that means nothing to your organisation’s culture and the roles within the business.

An additional issue with these and many competency frameworks is that they are awash with a mixture of skills, knowledge, behaviours and attributes; on occasions, they even include personality traits. Consequently, many of them become burdensome and unwieldly in application. I can’t really think of many tools/platforms that would get rolled out across an organisation, which took hours to understand and action. Surely the underlying and basic requirement of any tool we use, should be that it adds value for all users?

There are a handful of technical competency frameworks that make sense. These tend to focus on the very specific skills required to successfully delivery the technical aspects of the role. In the business world, every organisation strives to be different, but let’s be clear, there are about 25 ‘competencies’ that we all pull from. There may be the odd variation in the name, but the underlying construct will be the same. So, identifying ‘competencies’ that somehow extoll the uniqueness of the firm, is an exercise in understanding those appropriate for the business and then the language used to describe them.

The intention of such frameworks is to guide and measure ‘how’ colleagues deliver their performance at work. If this is the case, why then, do organisations not just focus on the behaviours they would want/expect to see from employees, rather than the kitchen sink?

A behavioural framework (with indicators) would be much more suitable, don’t you think? It doesn’t matter which role or function people perform, they all work for the same business. To this end, an appropriate set of company values can often serve an equally successful purpose.

For the most part, the skills (technical comps aside), knowledge and attributes would sit more comfortably within individual role profiles. That’s where they make more sense, both as a means of supporting expectations per role and of expressing the requirements for future career progression.

Moving on.

Why do people need to be ranked in terms of ‘behaving better’ than the next person, is this even possible? There are no tiers of good or bad behaviour. A person behaves in accordance with how the company wishes to present itself, or they don’t. You can demonstrate behaviour more or less frequently – that is a sensible language change, which helps to differentiate performance delivery. That makes sense.

Rant over.

All the above aside, the value of any approach to monitoring and measuring performance is in the conversation. All colleagues need to be comfortable discussing performance, both expectations and outcomes. Yes, sometimes these conversations can be difficult but let’s not make the word performance out to be a bad thing, it really isn’t. Neither is talking about it. Once people start to engage in such language on a frequent basis, you tend to find that the initial fears are quickly dispelled – it just becomes part of ‘the way things are done’.

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