ISPI Bay Area / Boise State Chapter
July 15, 2021
Dr. Carl Binder presents: How Competency Modeling Undermines Performance Improvement and What We Can Do to Help
Competency modeling is ubiquitous across organizations of all kinds. Vendors have persuaded organizations to build learning management systems, curriculum architectures, performance management tools and processes, and other elements of human resources infrastructure based on competency models. Investments over time have surely been in the billions of dollars. As performance professionals, we might be encouraged to turn a blind eye to the fact that competency modeling undermines performance improvement and shifts measurement of performance into the domain of “refined opinion.” Competency modeling began as a way to label clusters of behavior because lists of different forms of best practices behavior exhibited by, for example, successful leaders, were too long to manage. So they sorted the types of behavior into piles, labeled the piles, and used the labels as “competencies.” Adding voodoo math to an inherent level of abstraction, performance management became a process of rating people based on competencies. Managers would have to ask themselves, “How much of a strategic thinker is she? A 3 or a 4?” Senior executives often had to limit the number of 5s they awarded, to allow “grading on the curve.” In such a context, what hope is there for data-based performance improvement? Part of the problem, beside how much money is sunk into these systems, is that senior HR leaders don’t have a viable alternative to competency models. In private conversations, they will often admit that competencies are bunk. But they don’t know what else to do. Those of us in the accomplishment-based performance improvement field know what’s better: we should focus on accomplishments, the valuable products of behavior. In this talk, Carl will show how the legacy of Tom Gilbert and Joe Harless, two of the late great pioneers of ISPI, has led us to an accomplishment based approach to talent development and performance management, including performance coaching. You might leave the session stunned to think that such a simple paradigm shift can cut through the fog of abstraction (if not the financial protection) of competency-based human resource development methods and systems.
Following this session you should be able to:
- Describe how competency models are constructed and used.
- Explain how competency-based training and performance management are harmful.
- Define and give examples of accomplishments as valuable products of behavior that can be described as “countable nouns.”
- Explain how an accomplishment-based approach to defining performance can improve training, management, coaching, and overall talent management.