Use a Competency Library to Build An Integrated Talent Management System


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Use a Competency Library to Build An Integrated Talent Management System

  1. 1. INNOVATIONS IN LEARNINGUse a Competency Library to BuildA Talent Management Systemby Stephen Pick and Neville UhlesA competency library is a critical founda- munity employees with a framework of core and techni- tion for building an integrated talent cal competencies. Core competencies include models for management system. In the Talent nonsupervisors, supervisors and managers, and senior Management Handbook (2010 second edi- officers. However, similar to the ECQs, ICD 610 only tion), authors Kim Ruyle and Evelyn Orr provides competency definitions with no additional mate-state that the value of competencies is proven to positively rial behind them.impact both mission and financial return-on-investment.Agencies that use a comprehensive competency library to Characteristics of an Effectivebuild their integrated talent management system are able Competency Libraryto realize human capital and budgetary gains. Most organizations don’t need to develop a competency library from scratch. There are commercially avail-Competency Libraries able research-based competency libraries available. ForNeed More Than Definitions example, Korn/Ferry International has developed a com-Integrated talent management is not a new concept. petency library that is more comprehensive than bothDeveloped under President George W. Bush, the Human OPM’s ECQs and ODNI’s ICD 610. Agencies shouldCapital Assessment and Accountability Framework choose a competency library with these characteristics:(HCAAF) on the Office of Personnel Management •• alignment with the strategic goals and culture of the(OPM) website spells out five areas for “strong human cap- agencyital management.” Federal agencies still use the HCAAF. •• competency definitionsHowever, a major shortcoming of the framework is that •• levels of growth so that employees throughout theit does not explicitly recommend using competencies to organization can use it for developmentdrive an agency’s human capital management system. •• examples of what each competency looks like when Although not tied to the framework, OPM has a done well or poorly, so employees can adapt theircompetency model. It developed the Executive Core behavior accordinglyQualification (ECQs) competencies for senior executives •• improvement suggestions for employees to grow andin the late 1990s and refined this model a few years later. develop.The 28 ECQs roll up into five meta-competencies and area good start toward a model that could be used for inte- Leadership Architect Library Structuregrated talent management. But they do not provide any The Leadership Architect competency library has sixinformation beyond competency definitions. Agencies factors broken down into 21 clusters and populated withthat adopt the ECQs need a more robust competency 67 leadership competencies. An additional two factorslibrary system as the foundation for their integrated tal- are broken down into five more clusters and 19 stallersent management system. and stoppers, which, as detailed below, are the opposite of In 2008, the Office of the Director of National competencies (see Figure 1). Both the factors and clustersIntelligence (ODNI) published Intelligence Community were statistically derived from factor analyses and ongo-Directive (ICD) 610, which provides intelligence com- ing normative studies. The Public Manager | FALL 2012 29
  2. 2. ForUM: •• May not stop to define and analyze the problem; doesn’t look under rocks •• May have a set bag of tricks and pull unfit solutions from it •• May miss the complexity of the issue and force-fit it to what he or she is most comfortable with •• Unlikely to come up with the second and better solu- tion, ask penetrating questions, or see hidden patterns Skilled •• Uses rigorous logic and methods to solve difficult problems with effective solutions •• Probes all fruitful sources for answers •• Sees hidden problems •• Is excellent at honest analysis •• Looks beyond the obvious and doesn’t stop at the first answersFigure 1. Library Structure Pyramid Overused •• May tend toward “analysis paralysis” This library also contains seven global focus areas, •• May wait too long to come to a conclusionwhich detail competencies highly valued outside the •• May not set analysis prioritiesUnited States. The 19 career stallers and stoppers are •• May get hung up in the process and miss the bigsignificant because research has shown that it is often picturethe presence of a staller or stopper and not the absence •• May make things overly complexof a competency that derails a career. Figure 2 shows the •• May do too much of the analysis personally.cluster of traits within the strategic skills factor. The 67 competencies are measurable and observable Three Essential Levelscharacteristics that provide a clear description of what Korn/Ferry has identified the competencies that areeach skilled, unskilled, and overuse looks like in action. essential to high performance for employees in differentFor each competency, there are six to 12 behaviors that roles across an organization. Research has identified thedescribe what someone does when he or she is unskilled competencies that tend to be mission critical at three dif-at the competency, skilled at the competency, or overus- ferent levels within an organization:ing the competency. While unskilled and skilled are •• individual contributorintuitive, people sometimes question what it means to •• manageroveruse a competency. Simply stated, too much of a good •• executive.thing is not a good thing. The following example shows unskilled, skilled, Essential competencies can overlap across levels, butand overused definitions for the competency of problem as one might guess, they tend to become more macro-solving. focused as they move from individual contributor, to manager, to executive. For example the action orientedUnskilled competency, with skilled behavioral aspects such as •• Not a disciplined problem solver; may be stuck in the “enjoys working hard” and “not fearful of acting with a past, wed to what worked before minimum of planning” is listed under the subsets of both •• Has to rework the problem a second time individual contributor and manager, but not executive. •• May be a “fire-ready-aim” type Action Oriented is not needed for success as an executive •• May get impatient and jump to conclusions too soon and may even be detrimental as they should be shifting30 WWW.THEPuBLICMANAGER.ORG
  3. 3. INNOVATIONS IN LEARNING Developing Strengths Factor 1: Strategic Skills or Mitigating Weaknesses It is necessary, but not sufficient, to assess a person’s Cluster A. Understanding the Business competencies for effective development. Once a per- 5. Business Acumen son knows what competencies he or she is skilled and 24. Functional/Technical Skills unskilled at, the next question that person should ask 61. Technical Learning is, “How can I improve my strengths and minimize my weaknesses?” Leadership Architect ranks the ease or Cluster B. Making Complex Decisions difficulty of developing each competency and provides a 17. Decision Quality numerical score for how easy or difficult each competency 30. Intellectual Horsepower is to develop. This score is useful when an employee is 32. Learning on the Fly creating an individual development plan. A plan should 51. Problem Solving have the appropriate level of challenge for each employee, given their capacity for development at that point in their Cluster C. Creating the New and Different career and personal life. Most people would not have the 2. Dealing with Ambiguity capacity to develop more than five competencies at the 14. Creativity “easiest” level or three competencies at the “hardest” level at any given point in time. 28. Innovation Management Figure 3 shows where Leadership Architect can be 46. Perspective used to develop an integrated talent management system. 58. Strategic Agility Leadership competencies create a common language for everyone in an organization, regardless of position.Figure 2. The Cluster of Traits Within the Strategic Skills Factor Case Studyfrom “doer” behaviors to more strategic, “get work done One federal agency is using the Leadership Architectthrough others” behaviors. Similarly, the dealing with competency library to align its talent management prac-ambiguity competency is only listed for executives. This tices. Although this agency is also interested in develop-is a difficult competency to be skilled in, and research has ing technical competence, and while a technical compe-shown that an employee can be a successful individual tency library is often an important part of the foundationcontributor and manager without excelling at this compe- for integrated talent management, this article addressestency. However, being a successful executive without being only leadership competencies. [Author’s note: due to thecomfortable with change or uncertainty is less possible. sensitive nature of this agency’s work, its name cannot be Additionally, Korn/Ferry’s career flow research has used.]identified the competencies a person would likely beweak in at each level, which competencies are most likely Setting the Stageto be associated with promotion to the next level, what for Integrated Talent Managementcompetencies should be developed early if a person is to The following enablers set the wheels in motion for thisachieve success at the next level, and what “flame-out fac- agency’s integrated talent management work (see Figure 3).tors” (career stallers and stoppers) might get in the way ateach level. Strategic alignment. The described agency underwent a Organizations can conduct internal research and reorganization to rethink how business processes needanalysis to determine any differences that may exist as to change to prepare for continued relevance. Part of thisa result of its own specific characteristics, but the com- reorganization aims to redesign the talent managementpetency profiles provided as a result of this career flow system to attract, develop, and retain high-performingresearch provide an excellent foundation from which any employees more effectively.organization can begin integrated talent management Representative teams identified the most importantprocesses for each of these three major levels. competencies for executives, supervisors, and individual The Public Manager | FALL 2012 31
  4. 4. ForUM:contributors within their specific agency. First, a leader oversaw working groups that are developing integrateddevelopment initiative team, an assembly of senior execu- talent management practices for senior executives. Atives, was created to determine the appropriate mix of senior executive was appointed to lead that initiative fullleadership competencies that are mission-critical for time. That team is setting up governance systems to fullysenior executives; it ultimately settled on 17 competen- integrate talent management systems at the senior execu-cies. Additionally, this team identified eight stallers and tive level and beyond. Its three current focus areas arestoppers that can derail a senior executive’s career. leadership behavior, education and training, and succes- A supervisory council, a volunteer group of supervi- sion management and promotion.sors from across the agency, also identified a set of essen-tial competencies for all supervisors. Third, two volunteer Processes for Differentiating Talentrepresentative groups of non-supervisors decided on the This agency is transforming several areas of integratedcompetencies most critical for all individual contributors. talent management.The process for all three groups to determine individual,manager, and executive competencies encouraged rigor- Talent Acquisitionous debate. The lifeblood of any organization is a continual stream of candidates who are skilled in the competencies that anCulture. Feedback from the agency’s most recent annual agency has deemed critical for their role. The describedclimate survey revealed dissatisfaction with career devel- agency’s recruiting office completed training in the use ofopment. Like many of their counterparts in other federal the Leadership Architect competency library.agencies, employees, said there were too few avenues for Additionally, the recruiters were trained on Interviewcareer advancement. Agency managers suspected that Architect, a methodology for conducting competency-high-performing employees were leaving for positions with based structured interviews, both for new hires and forother federal agencies or outside the government not for internal job placements and promotions. Competency-more money, but for better career advancement opportuni- based interviews use specifically-worded questions toties. Building a competency-based integrated talent man- assess competencies that have been identified as criticalagement system can help this agency maintains a robust, for a specific role. Interview Architect includes questionstransparent career development system for all employees. to assess a candidate’s level of learning agility, which is highly correlated with leadership potential.Technology. The agency relies on an information tech- Recruiters also are partnering with hiring manag-nology (IT) platform that contains contact and other ers and recommending competency-based questionsinformation from employees’ professional biographies. that assess not only the results of whatever scenario theFor example, this IT platform records what leader- candidates are discussing, but what those candidatesship development courses employees have taken and learned from the interaction and how they have appliedwhat mandatory training employees need to complete. that knowledge to other situations. Competency-basedThe agency is discussing tying employees’ performance structured interviewing is a more effective way of ensur-management competency ratings and competency-based ing that the appropriate talent is brought into an agencyindividual development plans into this IT platform. One than the common practice of reviewing and asking ques-benefit would be easier tracking of performance manage- tions about a candidate’s résumé. The competencies thatment and career development data. hiring managers use to assess candidates are determined from the customized agency career flow profiles.Change management agility and talent managementgovernance. As with the majority of change manage- Developmentment initiatives, progress is rarely linear. As part of the The described agency has its own leadership collegereorganization, the agency’s director outlined agency and other independently funded courses. Because it isvisions. Leadership teams were set up to advance these in the process of being created, the college has not yetvisions. Team and vision evolution occurred quickly. formally adopted all agency-specific competency pro-For instance, the leadership development initiative team files. However, one of the agency’s flagship leadership32 WWW.THEPuBLICMANAGER.ORG
  5. 5. INNOVATIONS IN LEARNING Integrated Talent Management Capabilities Strategic Alignment Process for Differentiating Talent Business Strategy Talent Acquisition Development Engagement g e Plannin rc Workfo Succession Performance Rewards and Management Management Recognition Talent Strategy and Deployment Enablers Change Talent Manage- Technology Management ment Governance Culture and Agility and DeploymentFigure 3. Integrated Talent Management Capabilitiesdevelopment courses was developed with the government eventually everyone in the agency. The next step willprogram manager and course alumni to identify a set of be to conduct 360-degree feedback assessments for acourse-specific competencies. But because the course was large group of managers. Through this effort, all lead-developed before the leadership development initiative ers and employees will be engaged in targeted develop-and new agency career flow profiles existed, the course ment around the competencies they have identified ascompetencies do not precisely match. Once the career mission-critical.flow competency profiles are finalized, this leadershipdevelopment course may adopt the entire set of either the Engagementmanager or executive competencies. Our research shows a direct link between specific compe- All curricula within this leadership course are tied tencies and major drivers of employee engagement. Givento their identified competencies. At the beginning of that recent employee climate surveys indicate lower levelsthe course, participants are given a 360-degree feedback of engagement than desired, the leadership developmentassessment based on these competencies. As part of the initiative aims to provide senior managers with the skillscourse, participants receive up to 10 hours of leadership to proactively engage their colleagues and direct reports.coaching. The coaches are trained in the competency Upcoming employee climate survey data should indicatelibrary and structure their coaching sessions to build on whether leadership development efforts are having a posi-the participants’ strongest competencies and mitigate tive impact on employee engagement.their weakest ones. A potential agency goal is to have allcollege and all outside development courses adopt the Performance Managementagency’s competency profile roadmap and tie all courses The agency’s personnel system uses both OPM’s ECQsand their objectives to specific competencies. and ODNI’s ICD 610 performance elements. Employees The agency plans to expand this type of develop- and managers have individual discussions about whatmental program to include managers, supervisors, and constitutes poor, acceptable, and outstanding behavior. The Public Manager | FALL 2012 33
  6. 6. ForUM: An agency goal is ultimately to link its customized Succession Management and Deploymentperformance management system for executives, man- The agency also is integrating its leadership competenciesagers, and individual contributors to the competencies into its succession management approach. Leaders willidentified as essential for each level. This has several assess senior executives on the agreed-upon leadershipadvantages. competencies in addition to specific technical competen- First, it standardizes performance management con- cies, which will provide a collective view of their currentversations. An area of considerable stress for employees, leadership bench strength and leadership gaps.managers, and executives is that performance manage- This assessment will result in each senior gettingment discussions are often too subjective. Because each feedback from the agency’s executive team with regardcompetency is described in terms of skilled, unskilled, to their current performance and potential level andor overused behaviors that are both observable and their readiness to perform at the next level of leadership.measurable, employees and managers can have objective To assist the seniors in knowing what skills need to beconversations to assess employees’ actions. The leader- improved and how, the executives will create individualship development initiative is considering the use of development plans to provide guidance on the types ofcompetency proficiency level statements to further enable training and coaching needed as well as the job assign-detailed, objective performance conversations. Having all ments that need to be completed for each individualemployees understand what success looks like will be an senior to be ready for promotion to the next level.enormous benefit, both in colleagues’ resulting perfor- Integrated talent management is not a new concept.mance as well as their morale. There are numerous philosophies, theories, and models In addition, incorporating competencies into perfor- for achieving strategic alignment within an organization’smance management will provide employees with direct human capital and talent management practices. There isdevelopmental remedies for building strong competencies mounting evidence that high-performing human resourceand mitigating weaker competencies. The main Korn/ practices and robust talent management functions con-Ferry competency publication, FYI For Your Improvement, tribute positively to the bottom line—whether that islists developmental suggestions for each competency that mission accomplishment or increased profits. The 2007often do not require formal training courses. publication, 100 Things You Need to Know: Best People The suggestions are no or low-cost ideas that Practices for Managers and HR, stated that using a valid,employees can immediately begin putting into practice. reliable competency library as the foundation underlyingEmployees and supervisors can more easily create and talent management processes yields a significant returntrack individual development plans from one perfor- on investment.mance management conversation to the next. As agencies of all kinds struggle to do more with less and achieve their missions under increasingly challengingRewards and Recognition circumstances, implementing strong, competency-basedFederal managers often feel limited by how they can integrated talent management can contribute a greatreward and recognize outstanding employees. The impor- deal toward making their work easier, more effective, andtance of keeping employees engaged is still a concern, efficient.but current economic constrictions have frozen manysalary adjustments. The human resources department Stephen Pick, PsyD, is an organizational psychologist with humanat the described agency recently released several pages of capital and organizational development expertise. Contact him atnon-monetary rewards, such as allowing colleagues the to work on higher profile projects. These rewards should be tied to the performance Neville Uhles is a senior consultant with Korn/Ferry Leadership andmanagement process and to competency development to Talent Consulting in McLean. She specializes in competency-basedensure that rewards and recognition are meaningful and leadership development and talent management. Contact her atvalued. “Non-traditional incentives” that the managers use include such ideas as empowerment, visibility,responsibility, and sabbaticals.34 WWW.THEPuBLICMANAGER.ORG