Human resource management (HRM) is the process of employing people, training them, compensating them, developing policies relating to them, and developing strategies to retain them.

Many functions of HRM are also tasks other department managers perform, which is what makes this information important, despite the career path taken.

Most experts agree on the main roles that HRM plays in organizations. This section is designed to give a brief overview of the basics of HRM, involving staffing, retaining and motivating workers and the necessity of having procedures and processes for redundancies, worker protection, compensation, etc.

1.1 Staffing and development of Workplace Policies

1.1.1 Staffing:

You need people to perform tasks and get work done in the SME. Even with the most sophisticated machines, humans are still needed. Because of this, one of the major tasks in HRM is staffing. Staffing involves the entire hiring process from posting a job to negotiating a salary package. Within the staffing function, there are four main steps:

  • Development of a staffing plan. This plan allows HRM to see how many people they should hire based on revenue expectations.
  • Recruitment. This involves finding people to fill the open positions.
  • Interviewing: This involves gathering information from the individuals looking to fill the open position.
  • Selection. In this stage, people will be selected, and a proper compensation package will be negotiated. This step is followed by training, retention, and motivation.

1.1.2 Workplace Policies

Every organization has policies to ensure fairness and continuity within the organization. One of the jobs of HRM is to develop the verbiage surrounding these policies. In the development of policies, HRM, management, and executives should all be involved in the process. It is key to note here that HR departments do not and cannot work alone. Everything they do needs to involve all other departments in the organization. It is therefore imperative that every workplace policy be discussed with any additional relevant departments such as management, IT, etc. Elements such as these are further discussed under “Worker Protection and laws affecting employment”.

Each policy can be unique to the organization, but must follow national and international law. Some typical examples of workplace policies might be the following:

  • Punctuality policy
  • Discipline process policy
  • Vacation time policy
  • Internet usage policy

Typical steps in developing a workplace policy should include:

  1. Planning and consultation

This step should involve relevant (if not all) staff members in developing and implementing workplace policies to promote awareness, understanding, compliance, etc. Involvement of the staff at this stage helps gain an insight into how the policies might apply in practice, including possible scenarios where the policy might apply.

  1. Research and define policy terms

This step is important in ensuring that the policy will be legible and will contain the correct wording. A number of elements should be taken into consideration at this stage:

  • Ensure that the policy will be consistent with and informed by the organisation values/ ethics and existing employment legislation.
  • Be clear in the policy about who the policy applies to. For example, does the policy apply strictly to employees, or does it extend to sub-contractors, contractors, etc.?
  • The policy should contain specific instructions/ information about what will happen to employees who do not appropriately follow the policy. This should ensure that there is a clear procedure in place.
  • Equally, the policy should outline exceptions to the policy – situations where it is not possible to follow the policy. In this case, it should be very specific information outlining what constitutes a situation where the policy cannot be followed.
  • The policy should have (and where necessary, define) key terms contained in the policy so that very specific keywords are used and can be understood by employees.
  • The language used should be as clear as possible, without relying on complex terms or administrative language. It should be as easy to read if possible.

A good step in this is to, if possible, examine what a good policy looks like – for example what other organizations have done – and identify a policy similar to what you want to implement.

  1. Draft policy

Policies should be as legible as possible – written in plain English and understandable by all employees. If possible, it should be possible to sum up the policy in a series of key statements that can be listed (e.g.: workplace internet usage policy: 1…,2...,3…, etc.). If necessary, the policy should be translated into additional languages, if there is a need for it.

Once drafted, the creator of the policy should seek comments and feedback from all sectors of the organization – such as the employees whom it will affect, the department who will enforce it (e.g.: the IT dept who will enforce the internet usage policy), management who may be responsible for penalizing employees who do not follow the policy, etc.

The drafted policy should be reviewed, revised and re-circulated on a regular basis to ensure that it all departments are familiar and that it is acceptable to all major departments.

  1. Implementation

When implementing policies, it is important to make information available to all existing and (especially) new employees. The policies need to be available publically and easily available at all times – both in document form and online. Employees should be encouraged to review these when they begin work and any time which they are changed. Policies may also be explained through information and training sessions, meetings, etc. Ideally, policies should be reviewed frequently to ensure that they are relevant.

  1. Compliance

Policies are there to ensure uniformity and consistency in decision-making and operational procedures. Therefore, when ensuring compliance with policies, it is important to ensure that they apply throughout all areas of the organisation. Policies should be made available to all employees and adherence to these should be encouraged.

Once these actions have been established, it is important, as mentioned earlier, to identify the consequences of breaching the policy – this should include the reasons (if necessary) why breaches to policy are to be avoided and the consequences for the employee who has breached the policy. The consequences for the employee should reflect the severity of breaching the policy – via either a verbal warning, formal warning to a disciplinary action or dismissal.

In addition, a breach of a policy should be dealt with promptly and according to the procedures set out in the policy without delay or procrastination.

1.2 Retention of Workers

Retention involves keeping and motivating employees to stay with the organization. Compensation is a major factor in employee retention, but there are other factors as well. Ninety percent of employees leave a company for the following reasons:

  • Issues around the job they are performing
  • Challenges with their manager
  • Poor fit with organizational culture
  • Poor workplace environment
  • Etc.

[d1] Retention and reduction of turnover is paramount to a healthy organization. Performing research, such as doing exit interviews, and surveying employees’ satisfaction, are the first steps in this. Following this, one should examine policies regarding succession planning and salaries and benefits. Finally, one should examine compensation and benefits.

1.2.1 Employee Satisfaction

Employee satisfaction refers to whether employees are satisfied and fulfilled in their role in the organisation, how the organisation is run, what they desire from the organisation, etc. Employee satisfaction is a very wide field, with many many variables, but gathering information regarding employee satisfaction in your organisation will certainly help to improve the organisation and employee’s relationship to the organisation.

The following 2 tools which are very useful in gathering employee satisfaction information:

  1. Employee survey

An employee survey is a series of questions that seek to gather information from employees related to their day-to-day experiences and processes and their attitude towards their conditions, co-workers, employers, etc.

The employee survey can examine satisfaction on a wide range of issues, including:

  • Role & responsibilities
  • Everyday actions
  • Employee pay and recognition
  • Management
  • Communication
  • Leadership
  • Support
  • Etc.

A good employee questionnaire should seek feedback for specific items by asking closed-ended questions (e.g.: yes/no questions, Linkert scale (strong, okay, weak) questions) that ask employees to rate a particular aspect of the work environment and open text-based questions that allow them to express their opinions.

There are 3 very important elements to be aware of when putting together questions:

  • The type of information you need – This will determine the form the question will take (e.g.: yes/no, rate 1-5, open-text “comment”)
  • The question structure – Be sure to use clear language (& references to specific company tasks/ terms etc. where necessary) so that employees understand what is being asked

WEB LINK: A guide to putting together an Employee Attitude Survey is available here:

  1. Exit Interviews

Exit interviews are interviews conducted with an individual who is separating from the organization. These tend to gather very honest feedback from employees as they no longer have a vested interest in the organisation and their role in the organisation. The difficulty with exit interviews is that, as with any use of the interview tool, it takes time to develop, hold and analyze information from the interview.

Exit interview questions can be quite broad as they are usually more relevant for the wider organization. Typical exit interview questions include why you are leaving, why you decided to accept a new position, whether there is anything you would change about the company, and what suggestions you might have for improvement. For example, some useful questions may be:

  • What did you like best about your job?
  • What did you like least about your job?
  • How could the organisation better facilitated your role & responsibilities?

WEB LINK: A guide to putting together an Employee Attitude Survey is available here:

NOTE: The specifics of how to use these tools is covered in chapter 4 of this module, which details tools to use to make surveys and other information gathering tools available.

1.2.2 Succession Planning

Succession planning is a process of identifying and developing internal people who have the potential for filling positions. As we know, many people leave organizations because they do not see career growth or potential. One way we can combat this in our retention plan is to make sure we have a clear succession planning process that is communicated to employees. Succession planning is sometimes called the talent bench, because successful companies always have talented people “on the bench” or ready to do the job should a key position become vacant. The goals of most succession plans include the following:

  • Identify high-potential employees capable of advancing to positions of higher responsibility.
  • Ensure the development of these individuals to help them be “ready” to earn a promotion into a new position.
  • Ensure diversity in the talent bench by creating a formal succession planning process.

Succession planning must be just that: planned. This allows clear communication to the employees on how they can further develop within the organization, and it helps them see what skills they should master before that time comes.

1.2.3 Salaries and Benefits

A comprehensive compensation plan that includes not only pay but things such as health benefits and paid time off (PTO) is the first retention strategy that should be addressed. The compensation plan should not only help in recruitment of the right people but also help retain employees. Utilizing a pay banding system, in which the levels of compensation for jobs are clearly defined, is one way to ensure fairness exists within internal pay structures.

As we know from this chapter, compensation is not everything. An employee can be well paid and have great benefits but still not be satisfied with the organization. Some of the considerations surrounding pay as a way to retain employees include the following:

  • Instituting a standard process. Many organizations do not have set pay plans, which can result in unfairness when onboarding (the process of bringing someone “on board” with the company, including discussion and negotiation of compensation) or offering pay increases. Make sure the process for receiving pay raises is fair and defensible, so as not to appear to be discriminatory. This can be addressed in both your compensation planning process as well as your retention plan.
  • A pay communication strategy. Employees deserve to know how their pay rates are being determined. Transparency in the process of how raises are given and then communicating the process can help in your retention planning process.
  • Paid time off. Is your organization offering competitive PTO? Consider implementing a PTO system that is based on the amount of hours an employee works. For example, rather than developing a policy based on hours worked for the company, consider revising the policy so that for every X number of hours worked, PTO is earned. This can create fairness for the salaried employee, especially for those employees who may work more than the required forty hours.

1.2.4 Compensation and Benefits

When we think of compensation, often we think of only our paycheck, but compensation in terms of HRM is much broader. A compensation package can include pay, health-care benefits, and other benefits.

Before beginning work on your compensation packages, some analysis should be done to determine your organization’s philosophy in regard to compensation. Before development of your compensation philosophies, there are some basic questions to address on your current compensation packages.

  • From the employee’s perspective, what is a fair wage?
  • Are wages too high to achieve financial health in your organization?
  • Do managers and employees know and buy-into your compensation philosophy?
  • Does the pay scale reflect the importance of various job titles within the organization?
  • Is your compensation good enough to retain employees?
  • Are laws being met with your compensation package?
  • Is your compensation philosophy keeping in line with labor market changes, industry changes, and organizational changes? Job Evaluation Systems

Job evaluation is defined as the process of determining the relative worth of jobs to determine pay structure. Job evaluation can help us determine if pay is equitable and fair among our employees. There are several ways to perform a job evaluation. One of the simplest methods, used by smaller companies or within individual departments, is a job ranking system. In this type of evaluation, job titles are listed and ranked in order of importance to the organization.

A paired comparison can also occur, in which individual jobs are compared with every other job, based on a ranking system, and an overall score is given for each job, determining the highest-valued job to the lowest-valued job.

In a job classification system, every job is classified and grouped based on the knowledge and skills required for the job, years of experience, and amount of authority for that job.

Another type of job evaluation system is the point-factor system, which determines the value of a job by calculating the total points assigned to it. The points given to a specific job are called compensable factors. These can range from leadership ability to specific responsibilities and skills required for the job. Once the compensable factors are determined, each is given a weight compared to the importance of this skill or ability to the organization. When this system is applied to every job in the organization, expected compensable factors for each job are listed, along with corresponding points to determine which jobs have the most relative importance within the organization.

Another option for job evaluation is called the Hay profile method. This proprietary job evaluation method focuses on three factors called know-how, problem solving, and accountability. Within these factors are specific statements such as “procedural proficiency.” Each of these statements is given a point value in each category of know-how, problem solving, and accountability. Then job descriptions are reviewed and assigned a set of statements that most accurately reflect the job. The point values for each of the statements are added for each job description, providing a quantitative basis for job evaluation and eventually, compensation. An advantage of this method is its quantitative nature, but a disadvantage is the expense of performing an elaborate job evaluation. Pay Systems

Once you have performed a job evaluation, you can move to the next step, which we call pay grading. This is the process of setting the pay scale for specific jobs or types of jobs.

The first method to pay grade is to develop a variety of pay grade levels. Then once the levels are developed, each job is assigned a pay grade. When employees receive raises, their raises stay within the range of their individual pay grade, until they receive a promotion that may result in a higher pay grade. The advantage of this type of system is fairness. Everyone performing the same job is within a given range and there is little room for pay discrimination to occur. However, since the system is rigid, it may not be appropriate for some organizations in hiring the best people.

One of the downsides to pay grading is the possible lack of motivation for employees to work harder. They know even if they perform tasks outside their job description, their pay level or pay grade will be the same. This can incubate a stagnant environment. Sometimes this system can also create too many levels of hierarchy. For large companies, this may work fine, but smaller, more agile organizations may use other methods to determine pay structure. For example, some organizations have moved to a delayering and banding process, which cuts down the number of pay levels within the organization.

Rather than use a pay grade scale, some organizations use a going rate model. In this model, analysis of the going rate for a particular job at a particular time is considered when creating the compensation package. This model can work well if market pressures or labor supply-and-demand pressures greatly impact your particular business.

Another pay model is the management fit model. In this model, each manager makes a decision about who should be paid what when that person is hired. The downside to this model may be potential discrimination, halo effects, and resentment within the organization. Of course, these factors can create morale issues, the exact thing we want to avoid when compensating employees.

In addition to the pay level models we just looked at, other considerations might include the following:

  • Skill-based pay. With a skill-based pay system, salary levels are based on an employee’s skills, as opposed to job title. This method is implemented similarly to the pay grade model, but rather than job title, a set of skills is assigned a particular pay grade.
  • Competency-based pay. Rather than looking at specific skills, the competency-based approach looks at the employee’s traits or characteristics as opposed to a specific skills set. This model focuses more on what the employee can become as opposed to the skills he or she already has.
  • Broadbanding. Broad banding is similar to a pay grade system, except all jobs in a particular category are assigned a specific pay category. For example, everyone working in customer service, or all administrative assistants (regardless of department), are paid within the same general band.
  • Variable pay system. This type of system provides employees with a pay basis but then links the attainment of certain goals or achievements directly to their pay. For example, a salesperson may receive a certain base pay but earn more if he or she meets the sales quota.

There is more to a compensation package than just pay but mainly in larger companies than an SME. There are many other aspects to the creation of a good compensation package, including not only pay but incentive pay and other types of compensation.

1.3 Grievances and dealing with them

Grievance procedures are important in an organization as they put in place a clear and transparent structure for dealing with difficulties which may arise as a result of conflict and complications with other employees and with management.

Specifically, grievance procedures are important to:

  • Provide an established course of action if a complaint arises
  • Provide an established course of action if individuals are unable to resolve through regular communication or communication with their line manager
  • Provide a point of contact (and potentially timescales) for resolving grievances
  • Resolve matters without recourse to an employment tribunal.

As with other procedures within an organisation, grievance policies should:

  • Be consistent with and informed by the organisation values/ ethics and existing employment legislation.
  • Be very clear about what constitutes a valid grievance (and any potential exceptions).
  • Contain specific instructions/ information about what will happen to the individuals against whom the accusation is made.

Disciplinary procedures are different from grievance procedures in that a disciplinary procedure should be preventative rather than dealing with the aftermath of an incident. The aim of a disciplinary policy is to ensure that employees:

  • Know the standards that must be adhered to in terms of behaviour/ conduct – particularly with regard to interactions with their co-workers.
  • Can identify situations which would constitute a breach of the organisation’s policies.
  • Are aware of the consequences of breaching the policy and are aware of the step-by-step procedures which are part of this.

The following are important factors which should be part of your disciplinary policy and procedures:

  • Fast acting: The grievance should be dealt with as soon as possible, without procrastination, to avoid further complications. Time must be given to managers to effectively manage a grievance in time.
  • Acknowledgement: The grievance must be acknowledged as soon as it is put forward by the individual – acknowledgement indicates that the complaint is being dealt with and without bias.
  • Based in fact: The first step in dealing with a grievance should be to gather the appropriate and sufficient facts surrounding the grievance.
  • Aiming at the root cause: The cause of the grievance should be identified as well – in order to avoid repetitions of the grievance.
  • Multiple options: A number of courses of action should be identified – so that a number of options are available to the manager.
  • Reviewing: After implementing the decision, a follow-up should be implemented to ensure that the grievance has been dealt with and that complainant is satisfied.

WEB LINK: Sample Grievance Handling Procedure:

NOTE: A very important point with grievance and discipline procedures and policies is ensuring that these comply with up-to-date employment legislation.

1.4 Redundancies

Redundancies are a necessary, if unfortunate, part of any business. If an organisation faces financial difficulties, then it will be required to let people go.

1.4.1 Important Initial Steps:

There are some very important steps before implementing redundancies:

  • The first step in dealing with redundancies is to ensure that you have access to existing legislation on Worker Protection and laws affecting employment. Redundancy policies in your organisation can be unique to your organization, but must follow national and international redundancy law.
  • If a workforce reduction is necessary, the justifications for this should be documented at an early age so that evidence that alternatives to redundancies were not applicable.
  •  Ensure that any redundancies which take place are non-discriminatory and can be shown to be non-discriminatory.

1.4.2 Alternative Actions

Before progressing with redundancies, one should consider some alternatives. If a court case arises as a  result of a redundancy, it can be useful to show that alternative courses of action were tried and that the reasons for a redundancy was strictly due to business reasons. Potential alternatives to (or actions prior to) redundancies can include:

  • Freezing salary and benefit increases: This is a standard and sensible action for an organization facing difficulties. Agree to revise and update this policy accordingly over time.
  • Implementing a hiring freeze: Similar to freezing salaries, an obvious step in reducing costs is to stop hiring for all non-essential roles.
  • Let Contract and Temporary Employees Go: Contract and temporary employees tend to be let go before any full-time employees, due to the nature of their relationship to the business.
  • Early Retirement, voluntary redundancies: Asking employees to undertake early retirement and voluntary redundancy is a way of letting employees go which will be viewed less negatively by employees than making people redundant, but will also be expensive in the short term (severance packages, etc will be expected).
  • Reduce Pay Rates and/ or Work Hours: As a final step before redundancies, pay rates and working hours can be reduced to cut costs. It is commonly held that this is a step that often precedes redundancies.

1.4.3 Prior to Redundancies

If efforts to avoid redundancies are unsuccessful, then the following steps should be taken to make sure that the damage done by redundancies are limited:

  • Keep your employees informed: Ensure that your employees are aware about the problems that the organisation is facing. This should be done to ensure that redundancies do not come as a surprise and will generate trust from the existing employees and may induce some to take voluntary redundancies.
  • Look for alternatives: Consider the alternative actions listed previously.
  • Keep communicating: Ensure that you keep communicating with employees on what you are considering and implementing. Otherwise employees will not be aware that you pursued other options before making people redundant.
  • Consult with an attorney: Before undertaking any redundancy procedures, make sure that you speak to a qualified employment law attorney with experience in layoffs to ensure that your procedures conforms to existing legislation.
  • Be aware of discriminatory redundancies: Ensure that your processes are non-discriminatory  as these can be contentious issues. Apply the criteria for layoff selection equally across all employees & document the process.
  • Be prepared: Have a clear procedure for redundancies in place, so that as little time as possible is wasted. Have a severance package prepared and have a legal document releasing the employer from liability for the employee (created or double-checked by a qualified employment law attorney) for the employee to sign.
  • Maintain professionalism: Remember to treat employees being made redundant with respect – this is what they will remember from the experience – how they were treated. Ensure that people are met face-to-face and communication is maintained.

1.4.4 Considerations

The following are elements which should be considered in redundancies:

Severance Pay: Severance pay varies – it can range from two weeks to as much as six months or

The following are elements which should be considered in redundancies:

  • Severance Pay: Severance pay varies – it can range from two weeks to as much as six months or more at an employee’s current salary (in addition to vacation time). This can generally be determined by the organization, as opposed to necessitating discussion, but any policy on severance pay should be discussed with an employment law attorney.
  • Separation Agreement: This contract can sometimes be implemented & outlines the terms of the layoff and should determine that the employee being made redundant should not disclose information specific to your organization or hold the organization liable for termination.

1.5 Worker Protection and laws affecting employment

1.5.1 Worker Protection

Safety is a major consideration in all organizations. Oftentimes new laws are created with the goal of setting federal or state standards to ensure worker safety. Unions and union contracts can also impact the requirements for worker safety in a workplace. It is up to the human resource manager to be aware of worker protection requirements and ensure the workplace is meeting both federal and union standards. Worker protection issues might include the following:

  • Chemical hazards
  • Heating and ventilation requirements
  • Use of “no fragrance” zones
  • Protection of private employee information

It’s impossible to present all the aspects listed above therefore we concentrate mainly on the most important issues for an SME.

1.5.2 Dealing with Laws Affecting Employment

Human resource people must be aware of all the laws that affect the workplace. An HRM professional might work with some of these laws:

  • Discrimination laws
  • Health-care requirements
  • Compensation requirements such as the minimum wage
  • Worker safety laws
  • Labor laws

The legal environment of HRM is always changing, so HRM must always be aware of changes taking place and then communicate those changes to the entire management organization.

1.5.3 Compensation and Benefits Administration

HRM professionals need to determine that compensation is fair, meets industry standards, and is high enough to entice people to work for the organization. Compensation includes anything the employee receives for his or her work. In addition, HRM professionals need to make sure the pay is comparable to what other people performing similar jobs are being paid. This involves setting up pay systems that take into consideration the number of years with the organization, years of experience, education, and similar aspects. Examples of employee compensation include the following:

  • Pay
  • Health benefits
  • Retirement plans
  • Stock purchase plans
  • Vacation time
  • Sick leave
  • Bonuses
  • Tuition reimbursement

1.6 Skill/ Competency Mapping

“A competency is a set of skills, related knowledge and attributes that allow an individual to successfully perform a task or an activity within a specific function or job.” (United Nations Industrial Development Organisation, 2002).

WEB LINK: Sample Audit Competency Mapping Tool with competencies and “Tasks” (Behaviours)

1.6.1 Competency Mapping and Competency based recruitment

Competencies may take the following forms:

  • Knowledge
  • Attitude
  • Skill

Within an organization, competencies form an important indicator – whether someone has the necessary knowledge and skills to perform successfully in a given job role or for a given task.

Competency mapping consists of identifying the competencies required for a job role by identifying the tasks that form the responsibilities of this role. From these tasks it is possible to identify the competencies (knowledge, attitude, skills, etc.) needed to perform these tasks and therefore this job role, successfully.

The following are important elements which you should be familiar with for competency mapping:

  • Competency Mapping: A process used to identify and describe competencies critical to a job role.
  • Competency Map: A list of competencies representing the factors critical to success in a job role.
  • Competency Profiling: A process for identifying the knowledge, attitude and skill relevant for a job role.
  • Primary Competencies: Primary competencies (or “top competencies”) are the vital/ essential competencies that are the most important to an individual in a job role.

In addition to being useful for recruitment, competency mapping can also be relevant for other evaluation functions such as:

  • Succession Planning
  • Restructuring
  • Gap Analysis
  • Growth Plans
  • Training and Development
  • Career Planning
  • Performance Appraisal

Competency-based recruitment is a process of recruitment based on identification of the key competencies for specific job roles and hiring people accordingly based on their professional experience which can then be used as evidence that the candidate has a given competency. The advantages of competency-based recruitment is that it can help to ensure that:

  • Selection processes tie the right individuals (i.e: those who have the appropriate competencies) to the right jobs
  • Individual skills and abilities are matched to the requirements of the job
  • The organisation is clear regarding the appropriate competencies and skill sets required by the job.
  • The evaluation for staffing and job roles are more accurate

1.6.2 Competency Mapping in an SME

Competency mapping can be performed in an SME by completing a series of logical steps:

  1. Locate competency resources
  2. Identify an individual’s primary competencies in a specific job role
  3. Break down the primary competences with a list of behaviours which the individual has demonstrated in their job role
  4. Identify performance examples for these behaviours
  5. Edit and finalize the primary competencies and behavioural examples to complete the competency map.

The above steps are elaborated below:

  1. Locate competency resources

The first step in the competency mapping process will be to identify the competencies (and type of competencies) to focus on. The resources for developing this can be drawn from a number of sources:

  • Literature Review: A preliminary approach for identifying required competencies is to conduct a review of the literature to learn about previous studies of the job or similar jobs.
  • Competency card sorts: these are groupings which categorize particular competencies – these are useful for generating a broad overview of the competencies to consider – and can include competencies as broad as “communication”, “team leadership”, “decision making”, etc. These card sorts can also aid individuals during the sorting process by identifying the competencies that are part of their map.

WEB LINK: Competency Overview Presentation – Josie Fernandez, Michelle Ezray, 2008:

  • Career coaches: Individuals who have experience in identifying competencies can also be valuable sources for developing competencies for a specific job role or function.
  1. Identify one’s competencies and determine their top competencies

Following the development of the competency resources, a validation of the list of competencies developed should be performed as a type of “reality check”. Please note that this does not need to be a scientific validation of the competencies, but an overview to make sure that they are relevant.

The next step, once the competencies have been verified, is to identify the “Primary competencies” which are considered to be most essential to the job role. When defining top competencies, a structure or set of points should be put in place which these Primary Competencies should conform to. For instance:

  • There should be a limited number of primary competencies – choose the most important 3-5 competencies.
  • The primary competencies should be closest to the real-life activities for the given job role.
  • The primary competencies should be elements which will not change over time.

Validation of the developed competencies and primary competencies can be performed a number of ways – however, some standard methods of validating these competencies include:

  • A review of the competencies by an experienced career coach.
  • A review of the competencies by an individual currently inhabiting that job role or who has managed someone in that role.
  • A comparison of the competencies with existing descriptions for the job role.

For a more detailed review of the competencies – which can be useful for identifying primary competencies – evaluation of the competencies can take place through:

  • Focus Groups: A small group of individuals who have worked in this role, people who have managed/ supervised people in this role, customers/ clients who have dealt with people in this role can be asked to identify competencies they feel essential to performance in this job role.
  • Structured Interviews: In a one-to-one basis, detailed questions can be put to individuals who have worked in this role, people who have managed/ supervised people in this role, customers/ clients who have dealt with people in this role to see how important these competencies are considered to be.
  1. Break down the primary competences with a list of behaviours which the individual has demonstrated in their job role

Once the “Primary Competencies” for a job role have been defined, then an associated list of behaviours should be developed in order to reflect the actions to be taken by someone in the job role. These behaviours can be identified from these primary competencies through:  

  • Behavioural Interviews: In behavioural interviews, individuals who were involved in a job role are asked about what the typical behaviours which they would undertake day-to-day. In addition, they may provide their experience of certain situations in the job role which they found challenging or difficult and what they did in these situations.
  • Structured Interviews: In a one-to-one basis, detailed questions can be put to individuals who have worked in this role, people who have managed/ supervised people in this role, customers/ clients who have dealt with people in this role to see how important these competencies are considered to be.
  • Observations: In an observation, an individual in the given job role is observed at work and the behaviours that they undertake day-to-day are noted. The more complex the job, the more time is needed for observation.

Behaviours should include specific concrete actions. In addition, you should limit the number of behaviours to the main 5-7 behaviours.

  1. List performance examples of each key behaviour

In this part of the process, it should ideally be the existing individual in the job role to undertake the process of listing previous tasks, projects, etc. which they worked on in their job role and then, under each of these, to consider some behaviours which they undertook which had a positive result. This has the benefit of identifying examples of successful behaviours which can then be applied according to the behaviours identified.

This is a task whose responsibilities lie aligned to the individual in the job role as they are the only individuals who possess the information on their own prior experiences.

  1. Edit and finalize the primary competencies and behavioural examples to complete the competency map.

Once all of the primary competencies have been developed, the behaviours analysed and performance examples extrapolated from these, then these should be classified under the job role and a final evaluation should take place by the individuals involved in the job role, and if possible, by the job role manager(s) and customers/ clients.

A useful action following the development of a competency map for a job role is to create a resume based around, or an advertisement for, the job role. The competencies should be integrated into the personal descriptions or list of skills required for the job and the behavioural actions should be integrated into the descriptions of the job tasks.

The functional accomplishments in a job resume or a job description should tie very directly into the primary competencies for the job role. In general, accomplishment statements should form a very large part of any job role resume/ advertisement.

Challenges to competency mapping

The following are some difficulties which might be encountered when performing competency mapping:

  • Competency mapping requires very close scrutiny of an individual’s day-to-day activities and positions of interest. This may be uncomfortable for some employees who would have to accept intrusion into their working day(s).
  • Depending on the job role, it may take a lot of time (and effort) to identify competencies. Particularly in the case where a job role does not have a lot of existing information surrounding it – e.g.: lacking a list of primary competencies, lacking good behavioural examples, etc.
  • Many employees may not be used to describing the competencies involved in their position, or the behavioural aspects of their jobs – the performance examples for behaviours may also take a long time to develop as these would require close scrutiny of work done.
  • “Blind sports” may occur for employees when describing or thinking about their competencies, behaviours and performance examples. For example, an employee may consider or remember an event or result of behaviour as very successful, but in reality, the results may have been less than ideal.
  • Some competencies may not be trainable, no matter how much time and effort are available. This should be something to be considered when reviewing the primary competencies generated, and perhaps put aside as a “checklist” to be examined against candidates.

WEB LINK: Handbook of Competency Mapping - Sanghi, S. (2007).The Handbook of Competency Mapping. Sage Publications, London.