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The Competency Framework: A Guide for Managers and Staff

Competency Framework
Competency frameworks, when done well, can increase clarity around performance expectations and establish a clear link between individual and organizational performance.

The Competency Framework: A Guide for Managers and Staff

When competency frameworks are done right, they can make it easier for people to know what they should do and how their work affects the whole group. When making and putting in place a framework, it’s important to think about how much detail you want and how much flexibility you want. You don’t want to be too prescriptive and not include everyone.

What is a competency framework?

A competency framework is a way to think about how well an organization does. Such a framework usually includes a number of skills that can be used in a lot of different jobs at the same time. Each competency describes, in general terms, what it takes to be a good worker; this definition then serves as the standard against which staff are judged.

A competency framework is a way for businesses to tell people what behaviors are needed, valued, recognized, and rewarded for certain jobs. It makes sure that everyone in the company understands the company’s values and what it expects of them.

Here’s an overview on how competency framework works.

What are the components of the competency framework?

The Organization has a set of core values, as well as core and functional competencies. The following are the definitions of these components:

  • Core values are principles that influence people’s actions and the choices they make. They are ethical standards that are based on the standards of conduct for the international civil service and are to be upheld by all staff.
  • Core competencies provide the foundation of the framework, describing behaviors to be displayed by all staff members. They are defined by occupational roles for a given job.
  • Functional competencies are defined by duties and responsibilities assumed by staff members for a given job. Based on the job complexity and level of responsibility, and the seniority of the occupational role, an average of three to five functional competencies are assigned to a given job.

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Three occupational roles for core competencies and four occupational roles for functional competencies comprise the competency framework. These roles refer to the core function of jobs and their relationships. The occupational roles associated with the basic skills are roughly defined as follows:

  • Individual Contributor: staff members, normally without supervisory responsibility, who are accountable for their individual performance and contribution to the outputs of their team.
    • Associate: a junior or mid-level General Service (GS) staff member (at the G1 to G5 level) or junior professional (at the P1 or P2 level), who provides support to colleagues and works under the technical guidance of the supervisor.
    • Specialist: a senior General Service (GS) staff member (at the G6 or G7 level) or middle or senior level professional specialist (at the P3 to P5 level) who has expert knowledge in his/her field of specialization and works independently. A Specialist does not normally have direct supervisory responsibility for staff members; however, he/she may assume project management responsibilities, including the coordination of human and/or financial resources.
  • Manager: a staff member at the Middle or Senior Professional level (at the P4 or P5 level) with managerial responsibility for human and financial resources who oversees the delivery of programmatic results. These functions normally include: Section Head, Unit Head, Team Leader and Technical Lead.
  • Senior Manager:  a staff member at the Director or DDG level who is responsible for creating an enabling environment and takes decisions impacting the entire program / functional area.
Competencies are observable behaviors that can be measured and evaluated, and thus are essential in terms of defining job requirements and recruiting, retaining and developing staff.

What are competencies?

A competency is often defined as a collection of abilities, knowledge, characteristics, and behaviors that enables an individual to successfully perform a task or activity within the context of a particular profession. Competencies are quantifiable, observable actions that can be assessed and evaluated, and are thus critical for setting job criteria and recruiting, maintaining, and training employees.

Why use competencies?

Competencies provide an organization’s workforce with a clear grasp of the behaviors that must be demonstrated and the levels of performance required to achieve corporate goals. They inform the individual of the behaviors and acts that will be rewarded, recognized, and valued.

By using a competency framework, an organization can successfully connect its employees’ skills, talents, and knowledge with organizational priorities, resulting in business growth and efficiency.

As a result, a well-structured and well-defined competency framework is critical for a company to achieve its mission and mandate-aligned goals.

More specifically, competencies ensure that:

  • Clear expectations are established, and employees are guided in assuming and reinforcing behaviors consistent with the organization’s mission, culture, and goals.
  • A common language is developed to communicate what is required and anticipated in the workplace, ensuring consistent and high-quality performance delivery.
  • The various aspects of human resource management can be integrated, thereby improving consistency in human resource planning, recruitment, learning and development, and performance management, and thereby contributing to the streamlining of human resource operations and, ultimately, to efficiency gains.
  • Skills gaps are addressed, strengths are enhanced, and career advancement criteria are explained.
  • Staff mobility, organizational change, and organizational culture shaping are all encouraged.
The Organization’s competency framework includes core values, and core and functional competencies.

How are the competencies being used and supported?

Competencies are widely employed throughout the organization and are integrated into all aspects of human resource management, including planning, recruitment, performance management, and employee development. They are determined by professional tasks and obligations, as well as the degree of complexity of work descriptions.

  • For planning purposes, competences are employed in job design, which entails determining the work’s content, the job’s requirements for performance, and the job holder’s interactions with other personnel. In this context, competences ensure that the characteristics, abilities, and behaviors required to execute at the greatest level possible for a given job are described.
  •  Competencies are a crucial component of the recruiting process since they facilitate the assessment of candidates to establish their suitability for a particular job.
  •  For performance management and staff development purposes, competences enable the setting of performance criteria against which employees will be evaluated and the determination of individual and organizational priorities for staff development.

How was the Organization’s competency framework developed?

The Organization’s core competencies were established through a participatory process involving staff from all Departments; functional competencies were established through techniques such as text mining of relevant job descriptions, benchmarking against the practices of other United Nations system organizations, and stakeholder consultations. Internal and external expertise aided in enhancing the outcome.

What is the way forward?

The Organization will facilitate debate, review, and change of competences to ensure they continue to fit the organization’s goals and incorporate new developments. Functional competences will grow throughout time in response to the requirements for specific knowledge and abilities. Periodic reviews will be conducted as needed by the Division of Human Resources (MTHR) to guarantee continuous relevance.

Also read: How to develop a competency framework

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