Development of a Competency Framework

A competency framework is a structure that sets out and defines individual competencies (and related skills/behaviours) required by individuals for them to be effective in their job. It provides one of the most important tools for driving key HR and OD functions and can provide both efficiencies and improved performance across levels and departments.

Research has shown that the returns for competency frameworks are significant; within one year, 50% of organisations see an improvement in organisational performance, and in 10 years, more than 80% see performance increases (Source: Development Dimensions International).

A well-designed framework effectively balances breadth and depth, providing guidance for employees regarding what is expected of them (or managers to assess), but not creating excessive bureaucracy or be time consuming to effectively use.

Competency frameworks can be extremely useful to support talent strategy and guide practice in many areas:

  • There is a common language for describing effectiveness across all parts of the organisation.
  • Managing poor performance becomes more objective; managers have the vocabulary and are able to provide more concrete, actionable feedback to performance conversations.
  • When learning and development is targeted to strategic business goals and priorities, employee engagement increases and attainment of organisational strategy improves.
  • There is greater consistency and objectivity in the assessment of performance.
  • There is a reduction in recruitment and selection mistakes.
  • Employees can identify and plan their personal development needs to support progression into other roles within the organisation.
  • Learning and development can be targeted directly to a job role, and can be aggregated at organisational, project or team level.

What are Competencies?

Competencies are the integrated knowledge, skills, judgement and attributes that people need to perform a job effectively. They are coachable, observable, measurable and critical to successful individual and organisational performance.

Competencies can be divided into three categories:

  • Core Competencies are the behaviours relevant to any employee in any role, and are central to fundamental organisational goals, eg Communication. Typically, these competencies will not change from year to year as they are aligned with overarching business objectives, purpose and values.
  • Leadership Competencies are the behaviours relevant to those in leadership positions, eg Delegation, People Development. These will vary from organisation to organisation, depending upon the kinds of leadership behaviours that are valued and relevant.
  • Functional/Technical Competencies are those that apply to certain roles or group within the organisation. These competencies outline any technical expertise required, and assess the depth and breadth of that skill and knowledge, eg Project Management.

For maximum effectiveness and utility, organisational competency frameworks should include a mix of core, leadership and functional/technical competencies. This can be a significant and time-consuming undertaking, and as such, many organisations choose to focus their initial efforts on core and leadership competencies, and then develop functional/technical competencies for specific divisions or functions at a later date.

Our Approach

Every organisation is different; people, size, culture, industry, context all have an impact on the way a competency framework is developed, so proposing a standard development process that is going to work for all organisations is not possible, or desirable.

There are, however, some key factors that are important for the successful development and embedding of a competency framework, ie the framework should:

  • have strong input and support from all senior leaders
  • be established through a process that maximises buy-in and validation
  • align to organisational strategy, purpose, goals and values
  • reflect the roles inside the organisation and what is required for the job
  • reflect the language, culture and climate of the organisation
  • be future focused
  • translate abstract concepts into observable behaviours and activities
  • be selective - focused on a few competencies that are key for organisation and individual performance.

Our approach starts with one of our OD Consultants meeting with the Senior Leadership Team in order to discuss the project objectives, benefits, design, methodology, deliverables and timetable. This culminates in the development of a detailed project plan which will guide the organisation through the remainder of the competency development process.

The rest of the process varies dependent on the organisation, but always uses a co-creation process that involves a representative group of employees at all levels and various roles across the organisation, including senior leaders.

Depending on the organisation’s size and internal capability, the OD Consultant can provide the level of support you need, ie:

  • they can work with you through the whole process as agreed at the up-front SLT planning session - this could include facilitating workshops, running surveys, holding interviews, developing an implementation plan, providing guidance, etc; or
  • they can deliver the initial phase(s) and then provide consultancy support to enable an appropriate internal person to roll out the process, which could include providing guidance at the start of each competency development phase, reviewing data outputs at the end of each competency development phase, on-call consulting support on an as-needed basis, etc.

Our OD Consultants bring value through their ability to:

  • work with you to understand your context and to agree an appropriate process that will give you the best result
  • facilitate a co-creation process that fully engages people from all organisational levels and ensures strong buy-in
  • use a variety of methods to engage your people and elicit rich information including interviews, workshops, surveys, small focus groups
  • synthesise large amounts of information into clear, concise and observable competency and behaviour statements.

If you’d like some help with developing a competency framework, contact Nicky on 03 943 2373 or