Competency analysis

Work Study

ISSN: 0043-8022

Article publication date: 1 June 2000




(2000), "Competency analysis", Work Study, Vol. 49 No. 3.



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2000, MCB UP Limited

Competency analysis

Competency analysis

Keywords: Competencies, Training, Recruitment

A growing number of larger organisations are making use of competency analysis to help them identify the best recruits for particular job roles and determine the most appropriate routes for individual training and development. For others, however, understanding what makes the difference between "stars" and "disasters" remains much more a matter of gut feel.

Getting to grips with the criteria for individual success in specific jobs need not, in practice, be difficult and the returns on a modest investment in developing this understanding can be considerable.

A competency may be defined as "an underlying characteristic of an individual which is causally related to effective or superior performance in a job". Typically, there will be a small number of competencies which, together, set the high performer apart from the average or poor performer in any given role.

It follows that identifying these competencies is fundamental, both to achieving company success and allowing individuals to reach their maximum potential. Armed with this knowledge, it becomes possible not only to appoint new people more effectively but also to ensure existing staff are channelled into the roles in which they are most likely to succeed. There are numerous instances of people who have been viewed at one time by their companies as ineffective operators becoming extremely valuable members of the team - once the right role for them has been identified.

The starting point is often to conduct a "high/low" study. As the name implies, this involves looking at a number of people who are deemed to be high performers in the job and an equal number thought to be low performers. Normally, a minimum of ten people will be studied in each category.

All complete the same questionnaire, which is designed to "score" them against a large number of competencies. In simplified terms, study of the results will typically reveal that the high performers all achieve notably high scores against a particular group of competencies and/or notably low scores against another group. For other competencies, there may be no pronounced correlation between high and low performers.

The process, therefore, highlights the key group of competencies which should be studied when making any new appointment.

Identifying and subsequently making use of competencies in personnel recruitment and development has been made much easier as a result of psychometrics. The leading test publishers and occupational psychologists, Selby MillSmith, have, for example, recently introduced a versatile "assessor" system which can be used both to generate competency details for initial high/low studies and subsequently to store the profiles for each job reviewed. This then makes it a simple matter to compare the competency profiles of new recruits with those of high performers in the role in question.

An initial high/low study, providing the basis for further use of psychometric assessment systems within an organisation, typically costs around £600 to £1,000.

Further details on high/low studies can be obtained by contacting Selby MillSmith; Tel: 01225 446655, or visiting the company's Website at

Related articles