Competency mapping

Competency approach to job depends on competency mapping. Competency Mapping is a process to identify key competencies for an organization and/or a job and incorporating those competencies throughout the various processes (i.e. job evaluation, training, recruitment) of the organization. A competency is defined as a behavior (i.e. communication, leadership) rather than a skill or ability. 


According to Boyatzis(1982) “A capacity that exists in a person that leads to behaviour that meets the job demands within parameters of organizational environment, and that, in turn brings about desired results”

The steps involved in competency mapping are presented below:
  1. Conduct a job analysis by asking incumbents to complete a position information questionnaire(PIQ). This can be provided for incumbents to complete, or used as a basis for conducting one-on-one interviews using the PIQ as a guide. The primary goal is to gather from incumbents what they feel are the key behaviors necessary to perform their respective jobs.
  2. Using the results of the job analysis, a competency based job description is developed. It is developed after carefully analyzing the input from the represented group of incumbents and converting it to standard competencies.
  3. With a competency based job description, mapping the competencies can be done. The competencies of the respective job description become factors for assessment on the performance evaluation. Using competencies will help to perform more objective evaluations based on displayed or not displayed behaviors.
  4. Taking the competency mapping one step further, one can use the results of one’s evaluation to identify in what competencies individuals need additional development or training. This will help in focusing on training needs required to achieve the goals of the position and company and help the employees develop toward the ultimate success of the organization.


It is not easy to identify all the competencies required to fulfill the job requirements. However, a number of methods and approaches have been developed and successfully tried out. These methods have helped managers to a large extent, to identify and reinforce and/or develop these competencies both for the growth of the individual and the growth of the organization. In the following section, some major approaches of competency mapping have been presented. 

1) Assessment Centre

“Assessment Centre” is a mechanism to identify the potential for growth. It is a procedure (not location) that uses a variety of techniques to evaluate employees for manpower purpose and decisions. It was initiated by American Telephone and Telegraph Company in 1960 for line personnel being con
Step 1:Gathering facts: The methodology usually employed through an open-ended questionnaire, gathering retrospective data. The events should have happened fairly recently: the longer the time period between the events and their gathering, the greater the danger that the users may reply with imagined stereotypical responses. Interviews can also be used, but these must be handled with extreme care not to bias the user. sidered for promotion to supervisory positions. An essential feature of the assessment center is the use of situational test to observe specific job behavior. Since it is with reference to a job, elements related to the job are simulated through a variety of tests. The assessors observe the behavior and make independent evaluation of what they have observed, which results in identifying strengths and weaknesses of the attributes being studied.

It is, however, worth remembering that there is a large body of academic research which suggests that the assessment centre is probably one of the most valid predictors of performance in a job and, if correctly structured, is probably one of the fairest and most objective means of gathering information upon which a selection decision can be based. From the candidate’s perspective it is important to be natural and to be oneself when faced with an assessment centre, remembering always that you can only be assessed on what you have done and what the assessors can observe. The International Personnel Management Association (IPMA) has identified the following elements, essential for a process to be considered as assessment center:

a) A job analysis of relevant behavior to determine attributes skills, etc. for effective job performance and what should be evaluated by assessment center.
  • Techniques used must be validated to assess the dimensions of skills and abilities.
  • Multiple assessment techniques must be used.
  • Assessment techniques must include job related simulations.
  • Multiple assessors must be used for each assessed.
  • Assessors must be thoroughly trained.
  • Behavioral observations by assessors must be classified into some meaningful and relevant categories of attributes, skills and abilities, etc.
  • Systematic procedures should be used to record observations.
  • Assessors must prepare a report.
  • All information thus generated must be integrated either by discussion or application of statistical techniques.
Data thus generated can become extremely useful in identifying employees with potential for growth. Following are some of the benefits of the assessment center:
  • It helps in identifying early the supervisory/ managerial potential and gives sufficient lead time for training before the person occupies the new position.
  • It helps in identifying the training and development needs.
  • Assessors who are generally senior managers in the organization find the training for assessor as a relevant experience to know their organization a little better.
  • The assessment center exercise provides an opportunity for the organization to review its HRM policies.
Assessment Centre is a complex process and requires investment in time. It should safeguard itself from misunderstandings and deviations in its implementation. For this, the following concerns should be ensured:
  • Assessment Centre for diagnosis is often converted as Assessment Centre for prediction of long range potential.
  • The assessors’ judgment may reflect the perception of reality and not the reality itself.
  • One is not sure if the benefits outweigh the cost.
Assessment Centre comprises a number of exercises or simulations which have been designed to replicate the tasks and demands of the job. These exercises or simulations will have been designed in such a way that candidates can undertake them both singly and together and they will be observed by assessors while they are doing the exercises. The main types of exercises are presented below. Most organizations use a combination of them to assess the strengths, weaknesses and potential of employees.

a) Group Discussions: In these, candidates are brought together as a committee or project team with one or a number of items to make a recommendation on. Candidates may be assigned specific roles to play in the group or it may be structured in such a way that all the candidates have the same basic information. Group discussion allows them to exchange information and ideas and gives them the experience of working in a team. In the work place, discussions enable management to draw on the ideas and expertise of staff, and to acknowledge the staff as valued members of a team.

Some advantages of group discussion are:
  • Ideas can be generated.
  • Ideas can be shared.
  • Ideas can be ‘tried out’.
  • Ideas can be responded to by others.
  • When the dynamics are right, groups provide a supportive and nurturing environment for academic and professional endeavour.
  • Group discussion skills have many professional applications.
  • Working in groups is fun!
A useful strategy for developing an effective group discussion is to identify task and maintenance roles that members can take up. Following roles, and the dialogue that might accompany them in a group discussion have been identified.

Positive Task Roles: These roles help in reaching the goals more effectively:
  • Initiator: Recommends novel ideas about the problem at hand, new ways to approach the problem, or possible solutions not yet considered.
  • Information seeker: Emphasises “getting the facts” by calling for background information from others.
  • Information giver: Provides data for forming decisions, including facts that derive from expertise.
  • Opinion seeker: Asks for more qualitative types of data, such as attitudes, values, and feelings.
  • Opinion giver: Provides opinions, values, and feelings.
  • Clarifier: Gives additional information- examples, rephrasing, applications about points being made by others.
  • Summariser: Provides a secretarial function.
Positive Maintenance Roles : These become particularly important as the discussion develops and opposing points of view begin to emerge:
  • Social Supporter: Rewards others through agreement, warmth , and praise.
  • Harmonizer: Mediates conflicts among group members.
  • Tension Reliever: Informally points out the positive and negative aspects of the group’s dynamics and calls for change, if necessary.
  • Energiser: Stimulates the group to continue working when the discussion flags.
  • Compromiser: Shifts her/his own position on an issue in order to reduce conflict in the group.
  • Gatekeeper: Smoothes communication by setting up procedures and ensuring equal participation from members.

b) In Tray: This type of exercise is normally undertaken by candidates individually. The materials comprise a bundle of correspondence and the candidate is placed in the role of somebody, generally, which assumed a new position or replaced their predecessor at short notice and has been asked to deal with their accumulated correspondence. Generally the only evidence that the assessors have to work with is the annotations which the candidates have made on the articles of mail. It is important when undertaking such an exercise to make sure that the items are not just dealt with, but are clearly marked on the items any thoughts that candidates have about them or any other actions that they would wish to undertake.

c) Interview Simulations/Role Plays: In these exercises candidates meet individually with a role player or resource person. Their brief is either to gather information to form a view and make a decision, or alternatively, to engage in discussion with the resource person to come to a resolution on an aspect or issue of dispute. Typically, candidates will be allowed 15 -30 minutes to prepare for such a meeting and will be given a short, general brief on the objective of the meeting. Although the assessment is made mainly on the conduct of the meeting itself, consideration are also be given to preparatory notes.

d) Case Studies / Analysis Exercises: In this type of exercise the candidate is presented with the task of making a decision about a particular business case. They are provided with a large amount of factual information which is generally ambiguous and, in some cases, contradictory. Candidates generally work independently on such an exercise and their recommendation or decision is usually to be communicated in the form of a brief written report and/or a presentation made to the assessors. As with the other exercises it is important with this kind of exercise to ensure that their thought processes are clearly articulated and available for the scrutiny of the assessors. Of paramount importance, if the brief requires a decision to be made, ensure that a decision is made and articulated.

2) Critical Incidents Technique

It is difficult to define critical incident except to say that it can contribute to the growth and decay of a system. Perhaps one way to understand the concept would be to examine what it does. Despite numerous variations in procedures for gathering and analyzing critical incidents researchers and practitioners agree the critical incidents technique can be described as a set of procedures for systematically identifying behaviours that contribute to success or failure of individuals or organisations in specific situations. First of all, a list of good and bad on the job behaviour is prepared for each job. A few judges are asked to rate how good and how bad is good and bad behaviour, respectively. Based on these ratings a check-list of good and bad behavior is prepared.

The next task is to train supervisors in taking notes on critical incidents or outstanding examples of success or failure of the subordinates in meeting the job requirements. The incidents are immediately noted down by the supervisor as he observes them. Very often, the employee concerned is also involved in discussions with his supervisor before the incidents are recorded, particularly when an unfavourable incident is being recorded, thus facilitating the employee to come out with his side of the story.

The objective of immediately recording the critical incidents is to improve the supervisor’s ability as an observer and also to reduce the common tendency to rely on recall and hence attendant distortions in the incidents. Thus, a balance-sheet for each employee is generated which can be used at the end of the year to see how well the employee has performed. Besides being objective a definite advantage of this technique is that it identifies areas where counseling may be useful.

In real world of task performance, users are perhaps in the best position to recognize critical incidents caused by usability problems and design flaws in the user interface. Critical incident identification is arguably the single most important kind of information associated with task performance in usability -oriented context. Following are the criteria for a successful use of critical incident technique:
  • Data are centred around real critical incidents that occur during a taskperformance.
  • Tasks are performed by real users.
  • Users are located in their normal working environment.
  • Data are captured in normal task situations, not contrived laboratory settings.
  • Users self report their own critical incidents after they have happened.
  • No direct interaction takes place between user and evaluator during the description of the incident(s).
  • Quality data can be captured at low cost to the user.
Critical Incidents Technique is useful for obtaining in-depth data about a particular role or set of tasks. It is extremely useful to obtain detailed feedback on a design option. It involves the following three steps:

There are two kinds of approaches to gather information:

1) Unstructured approach:
where the individual is asked to write down two good things and two bad things that happened when one was carrying out an activity.

2) Moderate structured approach:
where the individual is asked to respond to following questions relating to what happened when he/she was carrying out an activity.
  • What lead up to the situation?
  • What was done that was especially effective or non- effective?
  • What was the result( outcome)?
Step 2: Content analysis: Second step consists of identifying the contents or themes represented by the clusters of incidents and conducting “retranslation” exercises during which the analyst or other respondents sort the incidents into content dimensions or categories. These steps help to identify incidents that are judged to represent dimensions of the behaviour being considered. This can be done using a simple spreadsheet. Every item is entered as a separate incident to start with, and then each of the incidents is compiled into categories. Category membership is marked as identical , quite similar and could be similar. This continues until each item is assigned to a category on at least a “quite similar” basis.Each category is then given a name and the number of the responses in the category are counted. These are in turn converted into percentages (of total number of responses) and a report is formulated.

Step 3: Creating feedback: It is important to consider that both positive and negative feedback be provided. The poor features should be arranged in order of frequency, using the number of responses per category. Same should be done with the good features. At this point it is necessary to go back to the software and examine the circumstances that led up to each category of critical incident. Identify what aspect of the interface was responsible for the incident. Sometimes one finds that there is not one, but several aspects of an interaction that lead to a critical incident; it is their conjunction together that makes it critical and it would be an error to focus on one salient aspect.

Some of the advantages of critical incident technique are presented below:
  • Some of the human errors that are unconsciously committed can be traced and rectified by these methods. For example, a case study on pilots obtained detailed factual information about pilot error experiences in reading and interpreting aircraft instruments from people not trained in the critical incident technique (i.e., eyewitness or the pilot who made the error)
  • Users with no background in software engineering or human computer interaction, and with the barest minimum of training in critical incident identification, can identify, report, and rate the severity level of their own critical incidents. This result is important because successful use of the reported critical incident method depends on the ability of typical users to recognise and report critical incidents effectively.
Some of the disadvantages of critical incidents method are presented below:
  • It focuses on critical incidents therefore routine incidents will not be reported. It is therefore poor as a tool for routine task analysis.
  • Respondents may still reply with stereotypes, not actual events. Using more structure in the form improves this but not always.
  • Success of the user reported critical incident method depends on the ability of typical end users to recognise and report critical incidents effectively, but there is no reason to believe that all users have this ability naturally.

3) Interview Techniques Competency Mapping

Almost every organisation uses an interview in some shape or form, as part of competency mapping. Enormous amounts of research have been conducted into interviews and numerous books have been written on the subject. There are, however, a few general guidelines, the observation of which should aid the use of an interview for competency mapping.

The interview consists of interaction between interviewer and applicant. If handled properly, it can be a powerful technique in achieving accurate information and getting access to material otherwise unavailable. If the interview is not handled carefully, it can be a source of bias, restricting or distorting the flow of communication.

Since the interview is one of the most commonly used personal contact methods, great care has to be taken before, during and after the interview. Following steps are suggested:

  • Before the actual interviews begins, the critical areas in which questions will be asked must be identified for judging ability and skills. It is advisable to write down these critical areas, define them with examples, and form a scale to rate responses. If there is more than one interviewer, some practice and mock interviews will help calibrate variations in individual interviewers’ ratings.
  • The second step is to scrutinize the information provided to identify skills, incidents and experiences in the career of the candidate, which may answer questions raised around the critical areas. This procedure will make interviews less removed from reality and the applicant will be more comfortable because the discussion will focus on his experiences.
  • An interview is a face-to-face situation. The applicant is “on guard” and careful to present the best face possible. At the same time he is tense, nervous and possibly frightened. Therefore, during the interview, tact and sensitivity can be very useful. The interviewer can get a better response if he creates a sense of ease and informality and hence uncover clues to the interviewee’s motivation, attitudes, feelings, temperament, etc., which are otherwise difficult to comprehend.
  • The fundamental step is establishing “rapport”, putting the interviewee at ease; conveying the impression that the interview is a conversation between two friends, and not a confrontation of employer and employee. One way to achieve this is by initially asking questions not directly related to the job, that is, chatting casually about the weather, journey and so on.
  • Once the interviewee is put at ease the interviewer starts asking questions, or seeking information related to the job. Here again it is extremely important to lead up to complex questions gradually. Asking a difficult, complex question in the beginning can affect subsequent interaction, particularly if the interviewee is not able to answer the question. Thus it is advisable for the pattern to follow the simple-to-complex sequence.
  • Showing surprise or disapproval of speech, clothes, or answers to questions can also inhibit the candidate. The interviewee is over-sensitive to such reactions. Hence, an effort to try and understand the interviewee’s point of view and orientation can go a long way in getting to know the applicant.
  • Leading questions should be avoided because they give the impression that the interviewer is seeking certain kinds of answers. This may create a conflict in the interviewee, if he has strong views on the subject. Nor should the interviewer allow the interview to get out of hand. He should be alert and check the interviewee if he tries to lead the discussion in areas where he feels extremely competent, if it is likely to stray from relevant areas.
  • The interviewer should be prepared with precise questions, and not take too much time in framing them.
Once this phase is over, the interviewers should discuss the interviewee, identify areas of agreement and disagreement, and make a tentative decision about the candidate. It will be helpful if, in addition to rating the applicant, interviewers made short notes on their impression of candidates’ behavior responses; which can then be discussed later. If the interview is to continue for many days, an evaluation of the day’s work, content of questions and general pattern of response should be made for possible mid-course correction.

4) Questionnaires

Questionnaires are written lists of questions that users fill out questionnaire and return. You begin by formulating questions about your product based on the type of information you want to know. The questionnaire sources below provide more information on designing effective questions. This technique can be used at any stage of development, depending on the questions that are asked in the questionnaire. Often, questionnaires are used after products are shipped to assess customer satisfaction with the product. Such questionnaires often identify usability issues that should have been caught in-house before the product was released to the market.

a) Common Metric Questionnaire (CMQ): They examine some of the competencies to work performance and have five sections: Background, Contacts with People, Decision Making, Physical and Mechanical Activities, and Work Setting. The background section asks 41 general questions about work requirements such as travel, seasonality, and license requirements. The Contacts with People section asks 62 questions targeting level of supervision, degree of internal and external contacts, and meeting requirements. The 80 Decision Making items in the CMQ focus on relevant occupational knowledge and skill, language and sensory requirements, and managerial and business decision making. The Physical and Mechanical Activities section contains 53 items about physical activities and equipment, machinery, and tools. Work Setting contains 47 items that focus on environmental conditions and other job characteristics. The CMQ is a relatively new instrument.

b) Functional Job Analysis: The most recent version of Functional Job Analysis uses seven scales to describe what workers do in jobs. These are: Things, Data, People, Worker Instructions, Reasoning, Maths, and Language.

Each scale has several levels that are anchored with specific behavioral statements and illustrative tasks and are used to collect job information.

c) Multipurpose Occupational System Analysis Inventory (MOSAIC): In this method each job analysis inventory collects data from the office of personnel management system through a variety of descriptors. Two major descriptors in each questionnaire are tasks and competencies. Tasks are rated on importance and competencies are rated on several scales including importance and requirements for performing the task. This is mostly used for US government jobs.

d) Occupational Analysis Inventory: It contains 617 “work elements.” designed to yield more specific job information while still capturing work requirements for virtually all occupations. The major categories of items are five-fold: Information Received, Mental Activities, Work Behavior, Work Goals, and Work Context. Respondents rate each job element on one of four rating scales: part-of-job, extent, applicability, or a special scale designed for the element. Afterwards , the matching is done between competencies and work requirements.

e) Position Analysis Questionnaire (PAQ): It is a structured job analysis instrument to measure job characteristics and relate them to human characteristics. It consists of 195 job elements that represent in a comprehensive manner the domain of human behavior involved in work activities. These items fall into following five categories:
  • Information input (where and how the worker gets information),
  • Mental processes (reasoning and other processes that workers use),
  • Work output (physical activities and tools used on the job),
  • Relationships with other persons, and
  • Job context (the physical and social contexts of work).
f) Work Profiling System (WPS): It is designed to help employers accomplish human resource functions. The competency approach is designed to yield reports targeted toward various human resource functions such as individual development planning, employee selection, and job description. There are three versions of the WPS tied to types of occupations: managerial, service, and technical occupations. It contains a structured questionaire which measures ability and personality attributes.

5) Psychometric Tests

Many organizations use some form of psychometric assessment as a part of their selection process. For some people this is a prospect about which there is a natural and understandable wariness of the unknown.

A psychometric test is a standardized objective measure of a sample of behavior. It is standardized because the procedure of administering the test, the environment in which the test is taken, and the method of calculating individual scores are uniformly applied. It is objective because a good test measures the individual differences in an unbiased scientific method without the interference of human factors. Most of these tests are time bound and have a correct answer. A person’s score is calculated on the basis of correct answers. Most tests could be classified in two broad categories:

a) Aptitude Tests: They refer to the potentiality that a person has to profit from training. It predicts how well a person would be able to perform after training and not what he has done in the past. They are developed to identify individuals with special inclinations in given abilities. Hence they cover more concrete, clearly defined or practical abilities like mechanical aptitude, clinical aptitude and artistic aptitude etc.

b) Achievement Tests: These tests measure the level of proficiency that a person has been able to achieve. They measure what a person has done. Most of these testsmeasure such things as language usage, arithmetic computation and reasoning etc.