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 this: that in high performance work environments like Daimler’s in which employer need workers to seamlessly move from job to job and exercise self control, job descriptions 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. We focus on one, competency based analysis next.

Competencies: Demonstrable characteristics of a person that enable performance of a job.

What are Competencies?

Competency based job analysis basically means writing job descriptions based on competencies rather than job duties. It emphasizes what the employee must be capable of doing rather than a list of the duties he or she must perform. We can simply define competencies 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 those simple definitions there’s some confusion over what exactly competencies means. Different organizations define competencies in some what 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, you would identify the job’s required competencies by simply completing the phrase.

We can say formally that competency based job analysis means describing the job in terms of the measurable, observable, behaviorable competencies (knowledge, skills, and/or behavior) 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 job focused. Competency based analysis is worker focused specifically what must he or she be competent to do?

Three Reasons to use Competency Analysis

There are three reasons to describe jobs in terms of competencies rather than duties.

Competency based job analysis: Describing a job in terms of the measurable, observable behavioral competencies an employee must exhibit to do a job well.

Performance Management: Basing your employees’ training, appraisals and rewards on fostering and rewarding the skills and competencies he or she needs to achieve his or her goals.

First, as mentioned earlier, traditional job descriptions (with their lists of specific duties) may actually backfire if a high performance work system is your 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 job. Giving someone a job description with a list of specific duties may simply breed a “that’s not my job” attitude by pigeon holing workers too narrowly.

Second, describing the job in terms of the skills, knowledge, and competencies the worker needs is 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, we’ll see that measurable skills, knowledge and competencies support the employer’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 your employees’ training, appraisals and rewards on fostering and rewarding the skills and competencies he or she needs to achieve his or her goals. Understanding what those required competencies are is a prerequisite, the job in terms of skills and competencies facilitates this.