Competency mapping is a way of assessing the strengths and weaknesses of a worker or organization. It's about identifying a person's job skills and strengths in areas like teamwork, leadership, and decision-making. Large organizations may use some form of this technique to understand how to best use each worker or how to combine the strengths of different employees to produce the highest quality work. Individuals may also find that this type of assessment can help them prepare for a career change or advance in a specific job field.
Functional and Behavioral Models
Many competency mapping models break down strengths into two major areas: functional and behavioral.
Functional skills include all of the practical knowledge that a person needs to perform a job. For instance, functional requirements for a secretary might include typing ability, familiarity with computer systems and office machinery, and bookkeeping knowledge. These skills are generally easy to measure through skill tests or task-specific questions, and can help define whether a worker is capable of carrying out his or her basic responsibilities.
Behavioral assessment is sometimes more difficult to quantify, and is the focus of most competency studies. This type of analysis examines personal skills such as leadership, active listening, teamwork, and morale. Crafting questions and tests that accurately identify behavioral strengths and weaknesses can be difficult, because a worker may try to answer in a way that makes him look his best rather than providing an honest response. This type of testing is important for getting a complete picture of an individual's skill-set, however. Questions might focus on how the person sets goals for himself, how he adapts to changing situations, or how he deals with failure.
An analysis of a worker's past performance and work history can give the results of competency mapping better context. If a worker scores poorly on leadership in tests, for example, but has a long, documented history of being an excellent leader, it is possible that the test did not measure this ability accurately. Considering testing scores in the light of real performance helps create a balanced view of a worker's capabilities.
Benefits for Businesses
In large organizations, competency mapping models are often used to improve employee performance, to help with hiring or promotion decisions, and to provide a critical look at the current workforce. The process can be complicated, but typically begins with identifying those competencies that are most important for a specific position. For example, if an executive wants to internally promote a new manager, he might begin by listing the required job skills and ideal behavioral traits needed for the position. From this list, he could create a questionnaire that maps a candidate's competencies in the desired areas. After all the candidates answer the questionnaire, the executive can then compare the results using the competency scores to determine the best person for the promotion.
How the questions are worded can be critical to the overall usefulness of the process. Good questions are generally very specific to the job and carefully worded to eliminate vague answers. For instance, an ineffective question might ask "Are you good at time management?" People may interpret the term "good" in many different ways, and may be tempted to answer positively to make themselves appear to be better workers. A better question might be "Do you finish projects before their deadlines most of the time?" Since this question can be verified by work history and allows a "yes" or "no" answer, it may provide more useful information.
Challenges for Businesses
While this technique can be quite useful to large organizations, it does require thought, time, and analysis, and some companies simply may not want to do the work involved. When enough time is not put into preparing a questionnaire, the results may not be very useful. Some companies choose to hire a external consulting team to handle the modeling, testing, and analysis process for them.
This type of skill analysis can also backfire if the workplace does not respond to the results. Companies that engage in competency mapping need to be prepared to make changes to take advantage of the skills and abilities revealed in the assessment. This may mean that job descriptions and responsibilities are changed or swapped, and departments are merged or split as needed. Training and incentive programs may be needed to improve core skills for workers who are struggling with performance issues. While these changes can cause initial confusion and anxiety, actively responding to the results can often improve employee performance, raise morale, and create a more efficient workplace.
Benefits for Individuals
Competency mapping can also be used to help those seeking employment show the specific skills which would make them valuable to a potential employer. Many employers now purposefully screen applicants for specific characteristics, so once a person knows her strengths, she can emphasize them on an application or in an interview. A company may be looking for someone who can be an effective team leader or who has demonstrated great active listening skills, for example. Knowing that she has these strengths and being able to discuss personal examples of them with prospective employers can give job-seekers a competitive edge in the market.
Usually, a person will find that he or she has strong skills in five or six areas. Employees who want to increase their worth may find that an area identified as a weakness is worth developing. In other cases, the process may reveal that a person needs to find a new type of work or a different work environment that is better suited to his or her abilities.
Challenges for Individuals
One potential limitation of personal testing is that individuals often have a few blind spots regarding their own skills and personality. People tend to overestimate their abilities, which can limit the usefulness of any test. They may also have difficulty accurately answering questions that ask how others view them in the workplace. This gap between how a person sees himself and what his skills really are can sometime make the results of self-testing assessments questionable. For the most accurate results, test-takers must be prepared to answer questions candidly and resist the temptation to overestimate their abilities.