Competency Framework — A must for better performance management

Competency Framework — A must for better performance management

Employment & HR

Gopalakrishnan Subramanian

Gopalakrishnan Subramanian

368 week ago — 6 min read

Amit, an employee of a multi-national organisation is seen to be very anxious, perspiring a lot, getting cramps, dealing with mood swings. Do you know who else is in such a state? Why, none other than Amits manager, Suraj.  It is that time of the year that both have to deal with PMS- Performance Management System.  It is not about Amit or Suraj alone. This is the case with most employees and managers that I have seen in my experience. Whenever it is time to complete the appraisals and set goals for the next financial year, managers, more than employees seem to get very anxious as if they have been asked to do something illegal. What is the reason for this anxiety?

Often performance management is confused with performance appraisal that happens at the end of every year. Performance management is an ongoing process that starts right from the day an employee joins an organisation until s/he exits. Performance appraisal is a phase in the performance management that allows a manager to assess and provide feedback to the team members.

Generally, the performance assessment consists of two aspects: 1) measuring behavioural competency 2) measuring Key Result Areas (KRAs).  The latter is relatively easier for managers to assess. This is because the goals are defined after a discussion with the employees and for most part links to one of the organisational goals. These KRAs will have well defined Key Performance Indices (KPIs) that can be quantitatively measured. The challenge comes when the managers need to assess the behavioural competency. 

What are the challenges in measuring behavioural competencies?

  • Competencies are not defined: Focus is more on technical competency and goals. Behavioural competencies are not defined as part of the performance management process.

  • Competencies are not known in advance: Competencies for each role are not published upfront as part of the performance management process. Employees and managers do not know what they are being assessed on.

  • Competency definitions are not clear:  The competencies may have been identified but their definition is not clear. Hence, there is a misunderstanding between the employees and the managers.

  • Behavioural indicators are not defined: This is one of the most important and often missing aspects of the framework. No proper behavioural indicators are defined for the rating scales. Managers are not clear when to rate an employee as ‘Met Expectations’ and when they should assess them as Exceeded Expectations. They also struggle to provide directions on what else is to be done to get a higher rating.

  • Knowledge gap: Managers are also not fully equipped with the knowledge of human behaviour. They are not clear on what behaviours to observe, how to identify the underlying feelings, how to relate to the person rather than to a resource.


Importance of a competency framework

Organisations need to define a competency framework as part of the performance management process. It provides a platform for them to assess their employees in a very objective way. The usefulness starts right from the time of recruitment.

  • Recruitment: Hiring the right person for the right job is a major challenge.  Most organisations will have one or two rounds of technical interviews to assess the functional competencies and leave the measurement of behavioural competencies to HR panel members. The interview evaluation sheet does not capture all the required competencies and the proficiency levels required for a particular job role. This makes it difficult to assess the suitability of the candidate to perform the given tasks. A well-defined competency framework makes it easier to assess the candidates and choose the right person.

  • Skill Development: Learning is a continuous process and is very much required to help us grow personally and professionally.  A competency framework can be used to establish the current proficiency levels and to identify skill gaps, which can be used to develop an individual development plan. This will also help in identifying the required skills from within the organisation for a specific project.

  • Performance Assessment: Having a well-structured competency framework allows the managers to objectively measure the behavioural competencies. The managers will be able to explain to the employees what is expected and what is required to be done to exceed expectations.

  • Career Growth: The competency framework provides the employees with a view of what is expected of the higher roles. This allows them to prepare themselves for future growth. It helps in showing the behavioural progression from the junior level to the senior level.

Process to define a competency framework

The definition of a competency framework starts from having a comprehensive and well-written job description. Then through a process of deconstruction the competencies are identified and the behavioural indicators for each competency along with corresponding rating scale are written.  This is an iterative process where the Human Resource professionals work with business to define, review and baseline the framework.


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Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views, official policy or position of GlobalLinker.


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Gopalakrishnan Subramanian

I am on a mission to transform millions of lives to lead a life of happiness and abundance by helping them gain clarity and positivity of their self.