Are Competencies enough to Assess Talent?

May 24th, 2013 by Sarah Green Leave a reply »

At Zircon, Dr Amanda Potter and her team of Occupational Psychologists are increasingly finding that clients want us to design Capability models rather than Competency models for talent assessment. Recent research by Zircon Management Consulting Ltd has found that in the last three years 27% of FTSE 100 organisations are moving away from competency frameworks to capability models. Furthermore, 52% of organisations are using a combination of capability and competency models…

So what is the difference?

We have found existing research to be contradictory; some authors use the two terms interchangeably whilst others believe there to be a real difference. We have therefore created a definition from our research and experience of working with clients in this area to help clarify the difference.

Organisations appear to be moving towards a combination of competency and capability models, however we question whether there is a true distinction in the way organisations use and define them.

We propose that a competency model describes the behaviours and skills required to excel and succeed within a role; in other words, how an organisation desires their people to interact and behave. Competencies enable mutual understanding of what being ‘effective’ looks like in order to help people understand their strengths and development gaps.

On the other hand, a Capability model provides a more specific and distinct measure of behaviour, skill and knowledge required to be successful at various levels of an organisation. The model measures organisational attributes rather than people attributes. Capable people demonstrate the skills and behaviours required within a role, whilst maintaining high levels of self-efficacy. They know how to learn, they work well with others, they are creative, and most importantly they are capable in novel as well as familiar circumstances. They demonstrate the behavioural competencies whilst being capable in the role.

Both competency and capability models therefore describe the factors that differentiate the best from the rest, however capability models go that one step further and describe the behaviour required beyond competence, it is therefore a more stretching and aspirational model than a competency model.
It must be noted however, that the most critical element of both competency and capability models are that they are future focused. Both models need to focus on the future requirements of the business, on change and how employees need to deal with these unfamiliar circumstances.

We at Zircon make sure that both our Capability and Competency models can measure future behaviour by conducting strategic visioning interviews with the business leaders at the start of the project. These interviews are designed to understand the strategy, goals, objectives and future requirements of the business and the way people need to behave; the skills they need to demonstrate and the knowledge they need to display to succeed and exceed in the future.

So are Competencies enough to assess talent?

We would suggest that competencies are a great starting point, however they are by no means the end. We would suggest that you need to assess the Cultural Fit or Values, the Capability to do the Job and the Unique Strengths of the Individual in order to have an all rounded measure of their potential. So.. no competencies are not enough!

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