Competency Mapping
Editorial Team |

Competency mapping tailored to your organization is necessary to train, define and retain talent in a company

As the software industry is bouncing back after a long recession, human resource anagers are gearing up for another round of hectic activity. Both the boom and the recession in the industry has put a lot of stress on HR managers to manage and retain their talent pool. There was lot of talk about a proper mechanism to develop individuals and build competence. Recently, renowned HR specialist, Ranjan Acharya, VP- HR, Wipro gave a talk on ‘Competency Mapping’ at the HR-in-India Association.

“Right from my early days in Wipro, we were struggling to integrate our process to recruit the best talent and retain it. We were desperate to evolve a process which can take care of building competence. Though we were all doing the right process in our respective divisions, problems used to crop up whenever we tried to integrate the process. The problem was that departments didn’t communicate to each other properly and once the recruitment process is over, the selection data of a candidate is lost.

For instance, we used to have a questionnaire with options like Good, Excellent, Improvement Required and Unsatisfactory. Once there was a parameter called ‘Family background’ and an examiner signed saying ‘improvement required’ for a candidate. So the candidate got excited and said, “Sir, my family does need improvement. How can Wipro help?!’

Second crucial issue was how do you develop a training program. For instance, we used to have communication skills training, where we found that some trainees undergoing the training were more proficient than the faculty. And people with bad communication skills didn’t even understand the whole program. Another big issue in training is, once you have invested in developing people’s talent, you have to develop more to stay ahead. There is a saying in Sanskrit, ‘the old man carries a lantern for somebody else…’ Similarly you train people, but somebody else will reap the benefit. And all you have is lot of good people and lot of good training, but they are not working for you anymore.

Now the question is that, is there a way we can make all these processes talk to each other and find a competency. If you define a common objective from all these various processes, they automatically start talking to each other. That is the biggest advantage of defining competency. I initially began my journey into this issue in 1996.

I would say, “Knowledge, skill, attitude and personality applied to a job in a given context which reaches to success”, is competency . Defining anything in simple words is a tough job!

Therefore, if you select competent people, nurture a competency culture and retain successful people, then there is a good chance to create organizational success. So competency becomes the simple basis upon which all the processes are integrated.

Competency is an element of knowledge, it is an element of skill practiced regularly and with the right kind of attitude. So attitude builds competency. For example if you ask a hypothetical situation like what will you do in a fire emergency, some smart people will say I will not panic and also make sure that everybody is safely sent outside. But during an actual fire incident would he have the presence of mind not to be hysterical? That temperament requires a competence called ‘physical courage’, which is part of a person’s character.

And there are instances where you have persons with lot of knowledge but who will not share it, skillful person who wouldn’t apply it, a person with the right attitude, but will not be affable. So all these competencies are good, but they only succeed in a given context.

For instance, a sales guy gets into a territory where due to the incessant sales calls of his predecessor, the market is ready to accept the product. So he would suddenly achieve record sales and go beyond the targets. But he might not know how to spell, ‘quotation, presentation and discussion’! So when we do our competency modeling, the one crucial thing we should be concerned with is the ‘How’.

If you check what the ten best people do and what the ten worst people don’t do, you come to a conclusion that these are the parameters that build competency. It’s like stitching your own shirt. But when we started doing it, we collected some 20,000 behaviour types which took a long time for us to collate. There are plenty of instruments for an HR person today, just apply it and get a readymade competency map. But it would be like a doctor who only takes blood pressure measurement and bases all his treatment on that. So you can use instruments to augment decisions, but you can not create a competency starting from the instrument.

So I would suggest go in for a tailor-made competency model, which is what we did. We took a standard model which was already validated and then tried to tailor it to our organizational needs. We took ideas from generic models like Bespoke Model and the McBer model which are well illustrated in a book ‘Competency at work’ written by William Spencer. The McBer model originated from McLaren who talked about achievement motivation which came close to what we refer as competency mapping. According to him some generic competencies are achievement, managerial, influencing, personal effectiveness and cognitive. Based on these models, we created an overall behaviourial dictionary.

Broadly we defined 24 competencies which can describe all the behavioral competencies that were differentiating and relevant. We took care to drop some competencies which are differentiating but not relevant and vice versa. Then we made a Functional Dictionary relevant to HR, finance, software, etc. I would strongly advocate making a full functional dictionary since each role tries to become the next role and the previous role must map into this role. But I am not saying that it is necessary to have all the 24 competencies and depending on the job, each role may have 5 or 6 competencies.

One of the problems in Bespoke model was that it did it role by role and then the interrelations became astronomically complicated. In your company a person needs to know if he is selected for this role and what will he do in the next role. All the development and training should take the person to the next role. Another problem we found was that not every role is the same as the job.

In earlier days there was a rigid pattern of job analysis, description, evaluation and job specification. But in today’s rapidly changing world, the role gets changed and merged and sometimes even the person defines the role. For instance, if they find a person is interested in both marketing and training, they will create a role like that. Wipro Technologies though it has a huge staff strength, there the number of roles are very few in contrast to Wipro Infotech where there are diverse roles. Therefore, it is better to have a dictionary which maps out the role rather than have a rigid framework.

Finally what methods should you employ to build competence. You can use various methods to measure competency. Simplest among them is Self-appraisal telling people to rate themselves. Then there is the 360 degree feedback where we take feedback from that person, his peers, seniors, juniors and then take out a pattern to identify competency. Or you can have certain technical tests to grade them as masters or novices. Among these the 360 degree feedback seems to be the most accurate in evaluating people.

Those who want to implement PCMM (People Capability Maturity Model) in their organisation, you have to get into competency mapping from Level 3. We at Wipro got a further push for competency, since around the time we defined our dictionaries, PCMM assessment came in and one thing reinforced the other. Once we implemented PCMM we were forced to do competency based recruitment, performancemanagement, compensation, training & development.

Similarly, we have competency based compensation based on the competency a person has achieved apart from criteria like criticality and potential. Finally we have competency based training where we grade training programs for various competency levels. For instance, if we have communication skills program, we will indicate that this is level 2, so people with higher scores like level 3, need not bother. PCMM Level 3 requires our employee competency database has to be verified by both our internal and external auditors. Since, ultimately, competency will decide your salary, promotion, perks and everything in the organisation, there could be some interference by vested interests.

Issue BG31 Oct03