2 essential ways to measure competency

Paul Newton
I head the FME team of management and IT professionals from a variety of backgrounds both commercial and non-profit organizations. As a team we are keen to share our expertise and knowledge with individuals at all levels of management. Each eBook, template and checklist has been written to help individuals develop the competencies they need for a successful career.

As a manager tracking an individual’s progress in terms of the goal achievement was never a problem. But trying to assess a person’s level of competency in terms of how they performed their role was a much harder.  To do this I needed to look at how a person accomplished their goal and not just whether they attained it or not.

This opened up a whole new perspective of performance data that I needed to collect. Only by monitoring the ‘what’ and the ‘how’ element of performance would I be able to truly assess a persons capabilities.

I started by using each team member’s role description to define the expected competency level. Then I compared their track record as described in their annual appraisal with their role description.

Finally I investigated the different ways to monitor and assess each competency. The most effective method I found was to use the behaviors that defined each competency. Each behavior consists of an individual’s Knowledge, Skills, and Attitudes, often referred to as K.S.A.’s.

competency data

By measuring each competency in this way it could be broken down into manageable of chunks. These could then be more easily monitored, observed and recorded. My favourite and most effective techniques were to:

  • Record observations of an individual’s behavior.
  • Assess the way an individual behaved in a significant incident compared to what was expected of the role.

Observations of exhibited behaviors

To do this successfully I had to make sure my observations were objective and well document. By watching the interactions an individual had with other colleagues I was able to gather sufficient evidence to help me assess the person’s competency developmental.  It was one of the most effective ways I found to witness a person’s actual attitude, knowledge base and skill level first hand.

I needed a handy way to capture all this essential data so I created my own template. This enabled me to immediately record what I had seen in an accurate and objective manner. I could also use this to compare my observations to those of others involved. Having gathered all this data I could them make an assessment on what I saw and whether it was positive or not when compared to that of their role.

Significance of an Incident

Defining what you feel is a significant departure from expected behavior is key to this technique. I used the role description as my base point to judge whether the behaviors displayed in a particular incident were significantly different from this base. This difference could be either positive or negative way. I defined incidents as circumstances that involved the involved the individual, or where that person was the cause or had an impact on it’s outcome.

My template helped me to record the facts of the incident so that I was able to compare the individual’s behaviors with those expected in the role. Then I could judge how significant this deviation from the ‘role norm’ was and assign a level of importance to each incident. I then used these situations to give constructive and evidenced based feedback to my team.

These templates also gave me a structured way to benchmark someone’s behavior against the organization’s competency framework as part of their professional development. I was then able to coach those who fell below this benchmark so that their performance would more closely matched those of the role.

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