The concept of using behavioural competencies within the workplace is a fairly modern phenomenon – widely credited as first being introduced to businesses during the 1970’s, at the time they provided a revolutionary and compelling way to help to assess, develop and manage people, against a strict backdrop of set criteria.
They proved to be extremely effective at highlighting skills gaps within businesses, allowing employers to develop focused recruitment, learning, training, and development programmes that added real company value. It can be argued that their use is just as important today, as the Harvard Business Review states that only an estimated 20 percent of the wider workforce possess the skills needed to fill 60 percent of future jobs.
However, as the world of work continues to evolve, and with the increasing challenges of an ever-changing, uncertain business environment, many employers are unsure as to whether the use of behavioural competencies still deserve their place within modern HR and recruitment strategies.
What are behavioural competencies?
Essentially, competencies refer to the behaviours that employees must possess or display in order to perform in a job role to a high standard.
Their main aim is to act as a key performance indicator from a business to an individual in their area of expertise, and against their expected level of performance. They should provide employees with an indication, or wider mapping system of the behaviours and actions that will be valued, praised and rewarded within individual organisations.
By setting goals, targets and measurements against employee behaviour and performance, they most commonly exist within wider performance management frameworks for managers and supervisors.
What is the difference between competences and competencies?
You may have heard of these two very similar words in a business context, but it is not advisable to get too bogged down in conflicting definitions. Many companies use the terms interchangeably, and without any problem, but there are subtle variations between the two terms:
- Compentences: This term commonly refers to broader ideas that cover performance outputs as well as behaviour inputs, and normally relate to a system or policy of minimum standards that that employees must possess or learn in order to competently perform in their job roles.
- Competencies: The use of this term normally focuses on the personal qualities or inputs of an individual employee. These are defined as the skills or technical attributes that people must have or learn in order to develop effectively within their role.
When was the term first introduced to business?
Originally trialled by several big businesses in the 1970’s, the broad idea of behavioural competencies became embedded in mainstream company policy during the 1980’s. This was mainly attributed to a response to increasingly complex organisational change, and a resulting drive for higher performance and output levels.
In the years since, competency frameworks have become an increasingly accepted part of modern HR, and Learning and Development practice. A 2017 report conducted by the CIPD on resourcing and talent planning revealed that competency-based interviews are the most popular method of application selection.
Do they have any basic principles?
As all business organisations operate in different spheres, and have unique aims, goals and strategies, companies must identify and develop the particular competencies that suit their personal circumstances. However, there are some broad ideas and themes that tend to be included in most frameworks in one way or another – these include:
- Knowing and understanding the wider business goals and strategy
- Communicating effectively
- Embracing change when necessary
- Focusing on personal and team goals
- Committing to self-development within a role
- Showing leadership characteristics
- Working within a team
- Showing creativity
- Being able to effectively plan and organise
- Operate under fair and equal principles in all workplace duties
Why are they used in business?
Behavioural competencies are used in UK businesses for a variety of purposes and reasons – an effective framework is recognised as having a positive effect on across a wide range of human resource management, and all learning and development activities within a company. They are seen as a key way to achieve positive organisational performance and growth through a programme of measuring and reviewing each employee’s capability and potential.
According to research from the CIPD, most employer’s use behavioural competency frameworks to achieve the following goals:
- Consistency across company recruitment processes
- Balanced performance reviews and reward schemes
- Enhanced employee effectiveness
- Greater organisational growth and profit
- Better analysis of training needs
- Enhanced career development and management