Creating Competency Groups and Competencies

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Time to get down to the nitty-gritty and talk about Competency Groups and Competencies, right? In addition, this blog ventures into elements that touch competencies and gives them additional dimension for use in assessment activities – especially for those who plan to use Competency Profiles to build Personnel Development Plans described in other 7.0 New Features blogs.

Background. Companies who practice Competency-Based Talent Management start with a Competency Model, either internally developed or from a number of commercial providers.  These models are often portrayed as a pyramid with Competency Groups appearing as horizontal tiers.

Having defined a Competency Model consisting of Competency Groups and associated Competencies sets us up for the rest of this blog.

First things first……let’s start with the definitions and screen shots showing where these elements appear in BackOffice.

A Competency Group is a collection/group of related competencies. A Competency Group must first be entered into VTA to provide a structure for adding the related Competencies.

In the screen shot below, a Competency Group entitled “Personal Effectiveness” appears along with a description –which is important in defining how broadly or narrowly the group is being used.

Any number of Competency Groups can be defined as seen in the screen shot below.

Once the Competency Group is defined, all associated Competencies can then be entered into the system along with their descriptions. As before, the description is important in defining how broadly or narrowly the Competency is being used. In the screen shot below, Integrity and Interpersonal Skills are two Competencies within the Personal Effectiveness Competency Group.

A Competency is the ability required for success in a job that is measured against pre-defined, standard, performance criteria. Competencies are the basis for profile development and performance assessment.

Note in the screen shot above, the Competency Type column (lower right). So, what are Competency Types?

Competency Types – A way to classify Competencies in order to set consistent standards for their use. For example, competencies can be classified around the three educational domains of Knowledge, Skill, and Commitment. Competency Types can be used for information or reporting relative population of types across the organization.

By themselves, Competencies are somewhat one-dimensional. What makes them useful in helping a supervisor or assessor determine if a student is proficient or not is to give each competency a range of Proficiency Levels to determine if competence has been achieved or is in-progress.

Proficiency Levels represent a range of numbers (e.g., low to high) with associated proficiency definitions against which a student is assessed for a given competency. For example, a four-level range could be defined as Awareness, Basic Application, Skillful Application and Mastery (i.e., from simple to complex in achievement). In practice, a supervisor views the competencies assigned to a student and determines if that student is at level 1 (still learning) or level 4 (an expert). Each organization establishes their Proficiency Level numbers – from 1 to 6 – in VTA. However, once the number of Proficiency Levels is set as an enterprise standard, they can NOT be changed. Once the number of levels is established, defining the levels is the organization’s responsibility.

If Proficiency Levels define a competency by incremental levels (e.g., from simple to complex), Proficiency Indicators manage the “how-do-I-know” if a student has achieved a certain Proficiency Level.

Each Competency is characterized by Proficiency Indicators (a.k.a. performance criteria) for each Proficiency Level. Proficiency Indicators are measurable/observable behaviors used to assess which Proficiency Level a student has achieved (or needs to achieve) for a given Competency. Used by assessors, Proficiency Indicators provide guidelines to objectively assess each student at each Proficiency Level. In other words, each Competency has a Proficiency Indicator defined for every Proficiency Level.

To recap and relate the sequence of topics (with examples) covered in this blog,

Competency Group: Personal Effectiveness

Competency: Interpersonal Skills

Competency Type: Knowledge

Proficiency Level: For Level 3 of 4 (i.e., Skillful Application), the Proficiency Indicator is:
Interacts professionally and respectfully with supervisors and co-workers.

Visually, the screen shots below show where these elements appear in Evaluator when entering Competencies and their descriptions, identifying the Competency Type, and defining Indicators for each Proficiency Level.

Once the series of actions described in this blog are completed, the next step is to build a Competency Profile – a collection of Competencies assigned to one or more students and used to assess their job-readiness and/or to identify performance gaps. What a perfect segue for the blog that addresses Competency Profiles

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Duncan Welder IV
Mr. Welder holds a Master’s of Education from Texas A&M University in Educational Technology and has more than 15 years experience in implementation of Learning Management Systems, both domestically and abroad. Mr. Welder has been recognized for his application of Learning Management Systems to manage regulatory-compliance in industries ranging from petrochemicals to finance and has provided presentations to professional organizations including the Gulf Coast Process Technology Alliance, the Northwest Process Technology Alliance and the American Society of Training and Development.
Mr. Welder’s career is founded in traditional instructional design and computer-based training development. He is a certified Development Dimensions International facilitator, a Kirkpatrick Certified Evaluator and facilitator of the Ohio State University curriculum development program. In addition to working in industry, Mr. Welder has held adjunct faculty positions at Bowling Green State University, Ohio and the College of the Mainland, Texas. Mr. Welder has been published in both Training Magazine as well as US Business Review.