Competencies are a critical tool in workforce and succession planning. At a minimum, they are a means to:
With diminishing resources
and increasing demands, effective development and utilization of human
capital is just as critical to State agencies ' successful delivery of
services as state-of-the-art technology. We need the right people with
the right competencies at the right time, in conjunction with having the
right systems and technology. Agencies want to be more systematic in training
and developing employees. This will ensure that development efforts are
better targeted to meeting agency needs, can be directly linked to results,
and make more efficient use of scarce training resources. "Results" is
the key word. In any enterprise, resources are invested to produce desired
or expected results. In building competency models, we need to identify
competencies that will improve results, making it worth investing in their
development and use.
How is a competency different from the knowledge, skills, and abilities (KSAs) most people are familiar with in our merit system? Competencies encompass KSAs but also other characteristics or personal characteristics. Here's a definition:
Civil service exams are primarily based on the KSAs for a particular job. Other factors or characteristics also contribute to job performance, as noted in the competency definition. In the context of the selection process, other relevant personal characteristics are usually evaluated during the employment interview and probationary period. KSAs plus other characteristics are referred to as KSAOs or KSAPs ("P" for personal characteristics). Generally, a competency can be a KSAO or a combination of KSAOs taken together. See a discussion on KSAOs and competencies in Competencies and KSAOs, by James Kierstead, from the Public Service Commission of Canada http://www.psc-cfp.gc.ca/research/personnel/comp_ksao_e.htm.
The definition and use of competencies vary from one organization to another. You will need to adopt a competency approach or framework that works for you. To achieve the best results, it is important to clearly define and describe the framework in use for all involved.
While this report focuses on individual competencies, organizations also have competencies. They are usually the result of collective individual competencies common throughout the organization. Organizational competencies have significant impact on organizational results and are worth identifying, if not developing.
Organizational competencies can include process improvement, teamwork, performance measurement, values, project management, new ways of thinking or performing, knowledge management, etc. These are built, in part, on individuals having the competency or related competencies. For example, an organizational competency of strategic planning is dependent upon managers having the skills to do the planning. In addition, the organization needs a workable planning process, skilled people assigned to coordinate the process, organizational performance measures, and systems for reporting performance data and tracking progress in meeting goals and objectives. All of these components could comprise the organizational competency of strategic planning. (1)
New York State government uses competencies in the following ways:
Employee training and development is the primary reason why most agencies invest in competencies, apart from the exam process. Competencies can be used for broad-based training and development, focusing on competencies that will be useful in a wide range of jobs. They can also be used in a more focused way, within succession planning, to prepare eligible employees for a job anticipated becoming vacant within a certain period of time.
Because of the competitive nature of the civil service examination process and the legal requirements for civil service examinations, the opportunity for training and development in KSAOs that may be tested in competitive examinations needs to be made reasonably available to everyone in the promotion field. Likewise, for the same reasons, while agencies are encouraged to help employees develop competencies they will need to perform the duties of target positions, they should not provide training for employees to take specific civil service examinations.
Although it appears that we could use the same competencies for employee development and civil service examinations, this is not necessarily the case. As noted above, examinations must meet legal and professional standards of job relatedness, which means that knowledge, skills, abilities, and other characteristics are identified and used within this framework. The difference in purpose may dictate differences in format and content. Certainly, there needs to be consistency between exam KSAOs and training and development competencies. Competencies developed for one purpose may provide useful information for other purposes.
In some human resource systems, competencies are used for many or most of the components of the system, including employee selection, evaluation, training and development and even job design and compensation. The various HR subsystems are linked together by competencies. The Minnesota Department of Transportation began implementing a competency based system in 1994.
Competencies are not relevant to classifying jobs in our personnel system. New York State has a position classification system in which a job is classified according to the assigned duties and responsibilities, not the competencies possessed by the incumbent. Though job classification is not based on competencies, it is logical and appropriate to assign employees to positions within a title based on their competencies. A job class/title accommodates some variation in duties and responsibilities, as reflected in different positions within the class.
Employee evaluations in New York State government are based on tasks and expectations as specified in collective bargaining agreements which cover most employees. Evaluations provide the opportunity for supervisors and employees to identify employee training and development needs that, if met, could improve performance. Competencies used in conjunction with the evaluation process can be a useful tool in identifying training and development needs.
For more information
on using competencies for employee development, see