How to Create a Competency Model

In order to create a competency model, the first thing is to know what KSAOs are needed to perform the job. The best way to understand the job is to talk to and get information from the people who know the role well, such as the supervisors or the incumbents themselves. After collecting the information about what is needed to perform the job, this information is to be broken down into smaller units or tasks and then grouped together to form competency clusters. These clusters will then be arranged and put together to build a competency model. Below are the few steps to develop a competency model.

Determine data collection method

The ideal case is to include everyone as interviewees in the job under consideration, but in the real world, there are always time and budget constraints. Thus, one must make sure that the sample to be interviewed with is truly representative of the real population. A mix of geography, tenure in the job, gender, age, job level, and performance level should be included.

There are two ways to conduct the interview: one-on-one interviews and focus groups. One-on-one interviews can be carried out either face-to-face or over the phone. They are the most effective way to gather detailed information about the job including daily issues, challenges, and the competencies needed to perform the job. If a one-on-one interview is not feasible due to time or budget constraints, organizations can consider using focus groups. A focus group is a group interview with five to nine participants, run by a trained facilitator in order to elicit useful information.

How to collect data

Usually a one-on-one interview can be scheduled for forty-five to sixty minutes. A focus group, on the other hand, is usually scheduled to be longer at around three hours since there are more participants. One must make sure there is enough time for each of them to talk. Due to the fact that time is always very limited, it is essential to make the best use of the time. Providing the interviewees with background of the project, and a preliminary set of questions to be discussed ahead of time will help interviewees to open up and get to the point more quickly. Below are a few other guidelines that can be considered when carrying out interviews.

Use open-ended questions: Open-ended questions allow the interviewees to respond in a full and complete manner. As a result, more information can be retrieved.

Ask for stories and examples: Asking interviewees to describe a real work-related situation would help to elicited detailed conversation regarding what they do, how they do it and why they do it. A sample questions is "Describe a difficult problem you have faced and how you handled it".

Probe for specifics: The interviewer should always ask follow-up questions when the respond is incomplete or unclear in order to probe for additional or missing information.

Establish a comfortable, open environment: A comfortable and open environment will increase the likelihood that the interviewees will speak freely and openly. A good way to build a comfortable environment is to begin with a few worlds of welcome, express your appreciation for the interviewees' willingness to participate in the interview, introduce yourself and let interviewees introduce themselves, go over the agenda with the interviewees, and explain to the interviewees how the information gathered will be used in the future.

Have an agenda and stick to it: the interviewer should follow the agenda and cover all important questions in order to ensure consistency of data collection.

Ensure that everyone participates: The facilitator in a focus group must make sure every participant has a chance to express a point of view. It is important not to let one or two person in the group to dominate the discussion.

Analyze data and develop a competency model

Next, the raw data collected during the interviews must be analyzed to form a competency model. First, the analyst should identify common ideas and patterns. Often, the interviewers hear repeated references of how job incumbents perform their jobs, what skills and knowledge they need. The analyst could then take out these repeated themes or patterns, and group other relevant or similar quotes or cases together. The analyst could also start with looking for differences in the behaviors of high performers and standard performers. From there, the analyst groups relevant or similar themes to each different behavior. Usually several rounds of sifting through the data is needed before the themes and patterns emerge. After the themes are identified, a list of groups of different behaviors is formed. The next step is to name the groups of behaviors and rank the importance of each. The analyst could then decide how many of them are the essential competencies and how many of them are the important competencies in their competency model. Once a competency model is formed, it can be used as a tool in other hiring and selection procedures.