Competency Basics

Competency Basics
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Welcome to Competency Basics. This is the first session of You’ve Been Tasked With Doing Competencies. Now what? In this session, we will talk about some of the best practices as you begin your journey with competencies. My name is Catherine Kovar and I am the Principle Advisor of Customer Adoption at Kahuna Workforce Solutions. I hope to provide you with some basic steps and practical experience from past implementations. 

I’ve had the opportunity to create and deploy competencies in several different companies. And I’m happy to share some of my Oops! and things that worked well.

So you’ve been given the task of developing and implementing competencies within your company. You got this, you’ve hit the ground running! Step one, get with the managers and start building the competencies based upon the roles and the career ladders. Hold on, here’s a noose. If you immediately start engaging with the managers, you will have scope creep. Every manager will provide you with what your project is from their perspective and what you need to do, or the complete opposite. How can you build competencies if you’re not an engineer, geologist, IT specialist, etc. and each manager and director telling you either, “My team is special so this is not going to work,” or “They don’t have time for this.” I found this out in my first endeavor to create and deploy competencies to 2000 engineers. Start with the competency basics, build your objectives. 

Competency Basics - Analyze



Ask some questions and listen to understand. What problems and issues have led the company to believe competencies are the solution? Ask managers and employees what they want out of this. You may hear some of the following:

“I do not know what my career path looks like.” “We spend so much time and money training everyone and then they leave.” These fall into the employee attrition bucket.

“We must do this for government regulatory.” “These are industry requirements.” These fall into the compliance bucket.

“I’ve been here six years, I guess I need to go into management for advancement.” “I’d rather stay technical, but I don’t know how to.” Crew change.

“We have employees that are retiring and we’re losing their skills and knowledge, how do we ramp replacements?” “We have business areas that we need to downsize and other areas we need to grow. So we reduce the force in one area, and then hire new people in the grow area and spend a lot of time training them.” These fall into the workforce planning bucket. If you hear these, then step two.

Competency Basics - Objectives



Make them into high-level objectives. Employee attrition, early and mid-career growth, and crew change, become “Empower career growth and development, consistency and transparency.” Highlight employees’ strengths, skill sets, and abilities. Compliance becomes a “Culture of safety, quality improvement, and development.”

Competency Basics - Value Prop



The value proposition for the business. These now become your value propositions to the business. Through competencies, we empower career growth and development to each employee. We provide consistency and transparency to every employee and can highlight employees’ strengths, skill sets, and abilities. Competency assurance ensures that we maintain our culture of safety, quality improvement, and development. As with anything if there is no value to the business to do this, why would they?

Competency Basics - Review



Executive review and approve an executive sponsorship. This is critical to ensure business accountability and engagement. This will lay the foundation for your competency governance, business resources, and support for the building and implementation phases.

Competency Basics - Prioritize



Push to have competency project objectives as part of the business priorities for the year. This will align senior and middle management and they will understand that this is a priority for the business, not only HR. This will also be the foundation of your change management messages.

Let’s Recap Competency Basics:

  1. Analyze. Ask questions. Get with managers and employees in the business and ask them what the issues and concerns are and what they want.
  2. Group the questions and make them into high-level objectives.
  3. Reframe the objectives into value propositions for the business. Why are we doing this and what will we get out of it?
  4. Review the value propositions and objectives with the executive level and request to have a sponsor.
  5. Request the competency project to be part of the business strategy for the year.


Through these five competency basics steps, you’ve collected your input from your stakeholders, identified your objectives and what you’re doing and why, identified the value prop and what it will bring to the business, secured executive sponsorship, and laid the foundation for your change management communications.

Join us for our next session, Competency Models: Competencies for Development, Competencies for Assurance. What is the Difference?

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