EVERY organisation has a culture that is defined and shaped by its core values.

To sustain a desirable work culture, leaders and employees must share and consistently live out these core values, integrating them into the way they act and behave.

Positive work behaviours in an organisation create a happy work environment where employees go beyond job requirements and engage in activities that drive innovation and productivity.


Aligning values

A Competency Management System (CMS) ensures employees’ values are aligned with their organisation’s by building on the right work behaviours that are expected.

A properly formulated CMS translates an organisation’s strategic vision and goals into behaviours that employees must exhibit in order to be successful. It standardises and integrates all human resource (HR) activities that support organisational goals.

The key to an effective CMS is having easy-to-understand competencies, alongside a set of simple-to-follow behavioural indicators.

A competency is a set of observable behaviours that enable an individual to perform a specific role or task effectively.

It specifies the “how” side of performance, and the behaviours that will be valued, recognised and rewarded.

Each behavioural indicator can be tracked through evidential performance, making appraisals and rewards consistently fair. Training and coaching, if necessary, are focused and targeted.

A CMS supports a talent management system. Employers can set extensive key performance indicators (KPIs), but without competencies, KPIs are mere targets set by management, at best.

What is often missing is the part about making sure that employees know how to go about their work.

How often have we heard bosses lamenting the quality and performance of their people, and how frequently have we heard employees complaining about employers not being fair?

Thus, matching an individual’s competencies with a job increases job fit and enables better performance.

Much effort and money have gone into recruiting the right people to fill a job but little can be said of talent retention and development.

In order for a talent management system to be effective, a CMS must be worked into it.

Instead of leaving the role of attracting and retaining talent to the HR department, line managers must take responsibility for developing and grooming their subordinates and partake actively in a system that drives performance and behaviours in the right direction.


Building a competency framework

Designing and implementing a CMS can be a challenging task with limited resources, lack of in-house expertise, support, experience and knowledge.

Moreover, qualifications and experience or even skills and knowledge that once made for an attractive employee may have become table stakes or even liabilities.

What was relevant and useful in the past may need further refinements to ensure its relevance and application in today’s business environment.

Therefore, it is important for HR managers to employ management tools that ensure the HR function stays relevant. 

Implementing a CMS need not be a daunting or an expensive exercise. Start simply and work with your management to translate job descriptions into the desired work behaviours that management values.

Build a competency framework that contains not more than 10 competencies that cut across the entire organisation, making sure that the desired behaviours are built and validated with inputs from key management staff.

You may also specify varying levels of proficiency for the behavioural indicators to cater to different job levels and expectations.

Continue to sharpen the framework, drawing on feedback and comments from users.

Remember to discard all pre- and misconceptions you have about competency systems.

Over time, you will be able to transform your team into a high-performance workforce, capable of meeting changing business needs.


Effective talent management

A CMS is not new to the HR arena — competencies have increasingly been applied across various HR functions.

It is common to hear employers acknowledge that people are their prime source of competitive advantage.

Yet, the traditional pen-and-paper appraisal — which is largely subjective and judgemental — continues to take the lead and occupy a place in companies that profess to value people.

Are employers willing to invest in a competency management system that nurtures talent from within the organisation?

Indeed, the push for productivity encourages companies to automate and engage in a more sustainable and strategic approach to managing, retaining and growing talent.

Talented professionals, with the right mix of values, skills and competencies, have better abilities in delivering performance that exceed expectations.

According to a year-long study conducted by McKinsey & Company, the most important corporate resource over the next decade will be talent. It is also the resource in shortest supply.

As an employer, are you ready to fight for your fair share?

Remember your HR manager can only find and hire talents, at best.

Effective talent management requires a concerted effort from all stakeholders.


Article by Celeste Seah, the founder and principal consultant of Wand International. For more information, visit www.wandinternational.com