Competency based Job Analysis

Not coincidently, many employers and job analysis experts say traditional job analysis procedures can’t go on playing a central role in HR management. Their basic concern is that in high performance work environment in which employers need workers to seamlessly move from job to job and exercise self-control, job description based on lists of job-specific duties may actually inhibit (or fail to encourage) the flexible behavior companies need. Employers are therefore shifting toward newer approaches for describing jobs, one of which, competency-based analysis.

Competencies can be simply defined as demonstrable characteristics of the person that enable performance. Job competencies are always observable and measurable behaviors comprising part of a job. Unfortunately, once we get beyond that simple definition, there’s some confusion over what exactly “Competencies” mean. Different organizations define “competencies” in somewhat different ways. Some define them more broadly and use “competencies” synonymously with the knowledge or skills or abilities a person needs to do the job. Others define competencies more narrowly in terms of measurable behaviors. Here the context would be to identify the job’s required competencies by simply completing the phrase, “In order to perform this job competently, the employee should be able to:….”

Competency-based job analysis means describing the job in terms of the measurable, observable, behavioral competencies (Knowledge, skills and/or behaviors) that an employee doing that job must exhibit to do the job well. This contrasts with the traditional way of describing the job in terms of job duties and responsibilities. Traditional job analysis focuses on “what” is accomplished on duties and responsibilities. Competency analysis focuses more on “how” the worker meets the job’s objectives or actually accomplishes the work. Traditional job analysis is thus more Job focused. Competency-based analysis is more worker focused specifically, what must he or she be competent to do?

Why use Competency Analysis? There are three reasons to describe jobs in terms of competencies rather than duties. First as mentioned earlier, traditional job descriptions with their lists of specific duties may actually backfire if a high performance work system is the employer’s goal. The whole thrust of these systems is to encourage employees to work in a self-motivated way, by organizing the work around teams, by encouraging team members to rotate freely among jobs (each with its own skill set) by pushing more responsibility for things like day-to-day supervision down to the workers and by organizing work around projects or processes in which jobs may blend or overlap. Employees here must be enthusiastic about learning and moving among jobs. Giving someone a job description with a list of specific duties may simply breed a “that’s-not- my-job” attitude, by compartmentalizing workers too narrowly.

Second, describing the job in terms of the skills, knowledge, and competencies the worker needs to be more strategic. For example, Canon’s strategic emphasis on miniaturization and precision manufacturing means it should encourage some employees to develop their expertise in these two strategically crucial areas.

Third, measurable skills, knowledge, and competencies are the heart of any company’s performance management process. As at Canon, achieving a firm’s strategic goals means that employees must exhibit certain skills and competencies. Performance management means basing employees’ training, appraisals, and rewards on fostering and rewarding the skills and competencies he or she needs to achieve his or her goals. Describing the job in terms of skills and competencies facilitates this.

Examples of Competencies: In practice, managers often write paragraph-length competencies for jobs, and organize these into two or three clusters. For example, the job’s required competencies might include general competencies such as reading, writing, and mathematical reasoning, leadership competencies such as leadership, strategic thinking, and teaching others and technical competencies which focus on the specific technical competencies required for specific types of job and/or occupations.


Some technical competencies for the job of systems engineers might include the following:

1. Design complex software applications, establish protocols, and create prototypes.
2. Establish the necessary platform requirements to efficiently and completely coordinate data transfer.
3. Prepare comprehensive and complete documentation including specifications, flow diagrams, process patrols, and budgets.

Similarly, for a corporate treasurer, technical competencies might include:

1. Formulate trade recommendation, by studying several computer models for currency trends, and using various quantitative techniques to determine the financial impact of certain financial trades.
2. Recommend specific trades and when to make them.
3. Present recommendations and persuade others to follow the recommended course of action (Note that exhibiting this competency presumes the treasurer has certain knowledge and skills tat one could measure).

Comments are closed.