competency mapping

Competency Mapping – a complete guide with the process, model, methods, and examples


An introduction to Competency Mapping

Aman Sharma is a highly qualified individual. He has the right mix of skills and knowledge that is required to work as a Sales Executive. However, his actual job performance is nowhere near what is expected from a man possessing skills and knowledge that Aman has. His actual job performance does not match the expected job behavior of a man of Aman’s calibre. So, what is wrong? What is it that makes David an ideal candidate but stops him actually performing on his job? The answer to lies in the word ‘Competency’.Competency is a combination of skills, job attitude, and knowledge which is reflected in job behavior that can be observed, measured and evaluated. Let us learn more about ‘Competency’ and an important mode of competency, the ‘Competency Iceberg Model’.

What is competency?

  1. Competency refers to skills or knowledge that leads to superior performance.
  2. Competencies are individual abilities or characteristics that are key to effectiveness in work.
  3. Competencies are not ‘fixed’ and causally be developed with efforts and support.
  4. Competencies can apply at the organizational, individual, team, and occupational and functional levels.
  5. ‘Competent’ is when a person is qualified to perform to a requisite standard of the process of a job.
  6. ‘Competence’ on the other hand means the condition of the state of being competent.

Some examples of competencies required by the employees are:-

  • Adaptability
  • Motivation
  • Commitment
  • Creativity
  • Independence
  • Reasoning
  • Foresight
  • Leadership
  • Emotional Stability
  • Communication Skills

History of Competency

In the late 1960’s the Occupational Competence movement was initiated by Dr. David McClelland who was a Professor of Psychology at Harvard Business school.

McClelland found that traditional tests such as academic aptitude and knowledge tests did not predict success in a job.

Since this finding and even during the early 70s, leading organizations have been using competencies to help recruit, select and manage their outstanding performers.

Supporting research conducted by McClelland found that students, who did poor in Universities, as long as they passed, did just as well in life as the top students.

Through this McClelland proved that superior performance is not always measured by test scores but rather related to hidden traits and qualitative behaviors.

Components of Competency

1. Skills – A learned ability, how to do the “what you do” (e.g. Making an effective presentation)

2. Motive – The Psychological/Physiological factors that drive your behavior (e.g. Maslow Pyramid of needs)

3. Traits – Relatively enduring characteristics; why and how do we behave in a certain way (e.g. Self-controlled “big picture’ thinking)

4. Knowledge – Grow you acquire information in a particular field; (e.g. Using Data based presentation)

5. Self Image – How you see yourself (e.g. Public speaker- Confidence)

6. Values – What you consider as important (e.g. Achieving excellence/ambition)

Types of Competencies

1. Basic Competencies –

They exist in all individuals but only their degree of existence differs. For example. Problem-solving is a competency that exits in every individual but in varying degrees.

2. Professional Competencies –

They are job-related and are above the basic competencies. For example, handling a sales call effectively is a competency that a sales personnel would be required to have.

​Thus we can say,

Competencies = Basic Competencies + Professional Competencies

Types of Basic Competencies

1. Intellectual Competencies

Those which determine the intellectual ability of a person.

2. Motivational Competencies

Those which determine the level of motivation in an individual.

3. Emotional Competencies

Those which determine an individual’s emotional quotient.

4. Social Competencies

Those that determine the level of social ability in a person.

Types of Professional Competencies

1. Generic Competencies

They are those which are considered essential for all staff, regardless of their function or level, that is, communication, program, execution, processing tools. Linguistic, etc. These competencies include broad success factors not tied to a specific work function or industry. They usually focus on leadership or emotional intelligence behaviors.

2. Managerial Competencies

They are those which are considered essential for staff with managerial or supervisory responsibility in any service or program. Some examples of managerial competencies are: customer orientation, organizing skills, cross functional perspective, planning skills, execution skills, analytical skills, decision making, delegation, leadership.

3. Functional/Technical Competencies

These are specific competencies which are considered essential to perform any job in the organization within a defined technical or functional area of work. Some examples of functional/technical competencies are business awareness, business skills, technical skills, etc.

Categories of Competencies

Competencies can be divided into two categories, they are:

1. Threshold competencies

These are the essential characteristics that everyone in the job needs to be minimally effective. However, this does not distinguish superior from average performers.

It is important to understand whether competencies are unique to a particular job or whether they are generic in nature.

According to the MCBer research, twelve characteristics were identified related to managerial effectiveness, whereas seven were found to be threshold competencies.

Every job at any level in the organization would have a threshold competency.

Threshold competency is the bare minimum required to perform the job.

It is summarized as a quality that a person needs in order to do a job.

It differs from competency, such that it does not offer any aid in distinguishing superior performance from average and poor performance.

2. Differentiating Competencies

These factors distinguish superior from average performers.

Core Competencies

Core Competencies are the competencies that help transcend any single business event within the organization.

It is important for organizations to identify, develop and manage organizational core competencies that drive large enterprise critical projects.

This is so because some projects are so complex and massive that it is impossible for a single individual to possess the competencies required to successfully complete a project.

Workplace Competencies

Workplace competencies focus on individuals instead of the organization. Therefore, workplace competencies may vary by job positions.

The unit of measure is people rather than the business.

ParticipantsBusiness UnitWorker

Who identifies competencies?

Competencies can be identified by one of more of the following category of people:

  1. Experts
  2. HR Specialists
  3. Job Analysts
  4. Psychologists
  5. Industrial Engineers
  6. In consultation with: Line Managers, Current and Past Role holders, supervising Seniors, Reporting and Reviewing Officers, Internal Customers, Subordinates of the role folders.

Myths about Competency

Competence is a state of being that provides a qualification to perform.

It is in relation to performance, a necessary but not sufficient condition.

Competencies cannot guarantee that workers will perform adequately.

Workers cannot perform to standards without competencies.

Extremely competent workers may fail on the job due to a variety of personal or environmental factors.

Whereas, some others that lack competencies can make up for a lot of shortcomings with exceptionally hard work.

Competence is necessary but it cannot guarantee results.

Hence, it is important that organizations’ should not confuse competency measurement with performance measurement.

Competencies are about being qualified to do the work whereas performance is the result of the actual work.

Types of Competency Characteristics

Skill – The ability to perform a certain physical or mental task.

Knowledge – Information a person has in specific content areas.

Self Concept – A person’s attitudes, values or self-image.

Traits – Physical characteristics and consistent responses to situations or information.

Motives – Things about which a person consistently thinks about or wants and which causes action. Motives drive, direct or select behavior towards certain actions or goals or away from others.

Model for Competency

1. Iceberg Model

The iceberg model for competencies takes the help of an iceberg to explain the concept of competency. An iceberg has just one-ninth of its volume above water and the rest remains beneath the surface in the sea. Similarity, a competency also has some components which are visible like knowledge and skills but other behavioral components like attitude, traits, thinking styles, self-image, organizational fit, etc. are hidden or beneath the surface.

2. Competency studies of L.M. Spencer and S.M. Spencer

L.M. Spencer and S.M. Spencer gave the definition and structure of the competence as five types of competence characteristics in the Iceberg Model.

Hence, competence is an individual underlying characteristic and is a fairly deep and enduring part of a person personality and can predict behavior in a wide variety of situation and job tasks.

Competence is causally related to effective and superior performance in a job or situation and actually predicts who does something well or poorly as measured on a specific criterion or standard.

Components of the Iceberg Model

Traits – Habitual/enduring characteristics -e.g. Flexibility, self-control, good listener, build trust, engages and inspires mindset.

Self-Image – How people see/view themselves; identity; worth- e.g. An expert, a learner, leader, manager, agent, innovator

Skill – Ability to do something well, most easily trained on – e.g. Technical skills to use knowledge

Knowledge – content knowledge/information in the field of work, – from education to experience.

Importance of the Iceberg Model

It is important to understand that there is a relation between the competencies which are above the surface and those which lie beneath in an iceberg.

The aspects of competencies which lie below the surface like attitude, traits, thinking styles, etc. Directly influence the usage of knowledge and skills to complete a job effectively.

​Let us try to understand this through an example,

Consider that a highly qualified person with the perfect combination of skills and knowledge is chosen for an esteemed project.

However, if the person is not happy to work with his new team members, he may not be able to perform to the best of his abilities.

​Developing the two levels of competencies also takes different routes.

The visible competencies like knowledge and skills can be easily developed through training and skill building exercises however the behavioral competencies are rather difficult to assess and develop.

It takes more time and effort intensive exercises, like psychotherapy, counseling, coaching and mentoring, developmental exercises, etc.

Benefits of the Iceberg Model
  1. Identify and prioritize skills, knowledge and personal attributes required for the job.
  2. Use past and current behavior to predict future behavior
  3. Ensure consistency and fairness of the selection process
  4. Minimize Hiring Risks
  5. Communicate clear expected behaviors to job holders for becoming superior performers
  6. Set core organizational capabilities
  7. Align aggregate behaviors to vision, strategies, priorities & goals
  8. Promote positive behavioral change
  9. Introduce high-performance qualities (job, Family & Organization Specific

Competency Mapping

Competency Mapping is the process of identification of the competencies required to perform successfully in a given job or role or a set of tasks at a given point of time. It generally examines two areas: emotional intelligence or emotional quotient (EQ), and strengths of the individual in areas like team structure, leadership, and decision-making.

The process of competency mapping consists of breaking a given role or job into its constituent tasks or activities and identifying the competencies (technical, managerial, behavioral, conceptual knowledge, attitudes, skills, etc) needed to perform the same successfully.

Steps to Develop a Competency Model

Step:1 Data Gathering and preparation

Step:2 Data Analysis

Step:3 Validation

Competency Dictionary

Things to be considered for developing a competency dictionary:


  • Description of behavioral or skills or characteristics
  • Use reference of another competency dictionary
  • Benchmark with other typical industry


  • The intensity of completeness of action
  • Size of impact
  • Complexity
  • Amount of effort

Proficiency level of scales

  • Exposed
  • Development
  • Proficient
  • Master
  • Expert

Competency Based Behavioral Interviewing

However, the hiring process has also undergone a change, therefore, a lot of emphases is being put on the hidden behavioral aspects as well to make a sound decision. They believe that behavioral aspects can be developed through proper guidance and good management. Most of the organizations look at just the visible components of competencies: the knowledge and skills and in the traditional method of hiring.

Hence, a complete picture regarding the competence of a person consists of both visible and hidden aspects and it becomes necessary to understand both to arrive at identifying the best man for a job.

In a group panel interview, competency based-behavioral interviewing comes into the picture.

The questions in a CBBI are so structured so as to gather maximum information about the competency of the candidate and to make the right decision.

Competency Based Behavioral Interviewing Structuring (Questions/Probing)

1. The lead question for the first competency is asked and then proceeded to obtain an overview of the event.

2. The event’s overview is the road-map to structure how the candidate will provide the information.

3. The event’s overview provides a high-level overview of 1. Situation 2. Actions 3. Results of the candidate’s involvement.

4. A few standard generic questions are designed to obtain an overview in the most effective manner.

Generic CBBI Questions

These questions are applicable for all of the competencies.

  1. State a caption or heading that describes the candidate’s role in the event.
  2. Describe in two sentences, what is the event about?
  3. Who else was involved, what was his/her/their role?
  4. What was your function at the time with respect to the position or title?
  5. Why is this event a good example of a time when you (rephrase the questions that were asked?)
  6. What were the major milestones?
  7. What was the outcome?

Benefits of the CBBI

The following are the key benefits of Competency Based-Behavioral Interview:-

Key Benefits

1. It is a systematic, non-discriminatory technique that helps interviewers get the right information from applicants and make the right hiring decisions.

2. It takes into consideration past behaviors of relevant role to best predict future behavior on a similar or higher role.

3. It prevents bias and subjective hiring decisions.

4. It limits the possibility of candidates “faking it” with vague generalization.

Case Study on Competency

Richard Hadley has just joined as the HR Head in an MNC. He finds that despite his new company having a talented and qualified workforce, the organization is not completing its projects efficiently and successfully.


1. What do you think could be the reasons for this?

2. What should Richard do to change the competency levels of the existing workforce?

3. What should Richard do to make sure that the new hires are competent enough to do their jobs?

Hope you liked this article. Do share your views in the comment box below.

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