Competency mapping: What it is and how to do it

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What is: Essential part of a good Human Resources management is to define the necessary competencies for each position within the company. Competency Mapping serves to define these competencies. A company that has the defined skills knows exactly what to expect from each employee.

It is important to have the process of mapping the necessary competencies so that you can discover the key competency gaps within the company for you to achieve your business strategy and improve the performance of the results.

How to do it?

Before we start talking about mapping itself it is important to define what is competence. Quite simply, competence is all you need to have in terms of techniques, skill and knowledge to perform a certain function. Even this simple concept is still very abstract and difficult to define.

Therefore, in Human Resources Management, we will use the CHA to define competencies.

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What is CHA?

CHA - HR Management

CHA is an acronym for Cknowledge, Habilities and Atitudes. Basically to define a competency we will take into account these three factors. These three pillars serve as a benchmark and make the skills, in a sense, manageable. Let's define each of these items:

  1. Knowledge: Are the skills related to the necessary knowledge, the technical knowledge required to perform a certain function.
  2. Ability: It is the ability to put into practice performing an act or function, usually requiring a union of practice with the knowledge needed to be done the expected action.
  3. Attitude: Related to the skills necessary for relationships between other people in the company and also related to feelings and emotions, and mastery over those functions.

Ideally, when defining the competencies required for a position, the manager defines competencies of these three factors. In the old days it had been the notion that someone who knew a lot about a certain subject was enough to help a company, but that notion falls apart in practice. As much as the employee is an expert on the subject, if he does not know how to deal with the team (have the Aor not able to pass on this knowledge or apply it (have the Hability) along with the rest of the team, it's no use knowing all this (having the Cknowledge).

Some companies, when defining skills, already assume that the employee must have the set of theoretical knowledge inherent to the job. That is, a manager must have management knowledge and an engineer must have technical engineering skills. At this point some companies usually ask for proof of this type of knowledge (in the case of undergraduate courses, a diploma is sufficient). So many businesses try to map more skills related to skills and attitudes. Even so, do not forget to delimit well the technical knowledge required for each position.

Mapping Skills

Now that we have a sense of what to look for, let's begin mapping out the competencies needed for corporate positions. Here I separate three simple steps to follow for any manager to be able to map the skills in a practical way.

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Recalling that a good practice in mapping competencies is to define a list with all the necessary skills and that all positions in the company must possess and then only punctuating the expected degree of them for each position within the company. In our Competency Performance Scorecard, for example, we already use a ready list, which you can change if you prefer, but it works exactly in this way: these competencies serve all jobs even though some jobs have a greater need for some skills than of others.

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The first thing to do to map job competency is to observe employees doing the work. This practice of observation has its limitations which I will discuss later, but it is extremely important at a first moment to understand the main processes that that function performs and how this employee relates to other processes and areas of the company.

Like any kind of observation, this is also subject to observer failures. It is therefore important that observation is not the only tool when mapping the required competencies but rather an initial step in defining these competencies.

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Following our steps, the second part of the competency mapping plan is to ask the employees who are in charge of the competencies needed to complete the tasks. This questionnaire can be done in two ways, with its own advantages and disadvantages:

  1. Qualitative Research: Leaving open for the employees themselves to complete the research with their own opinions on the necessary skills. It requires a longer analysis time since the answers are different.
  2. Quantitative Research: Here, unlike the previous research, the fields to be filled already come standardized, made by the manager himself. So the employee only needs to mark the competencies that he thinks necessary to fulfill the position. Some quantitative questionnaires are also made by tying up a space to put a note to each skill.

In our case, as we are using this assumption that the competencies will be the same as those previously defined, quantitative research serves our purpose. The questionnaires, together with the information made at the observation stage, will serve to give a direction in the time to specify the competences needed for the position.

Consolidation of results

After the observation and questionnaire phases, it is time to analyze these data and define the competencies for each position of the company. This work does not have to be done alone by the manager and he can always discuss with a group about the competencies chosen for each position, seeking different opinions that help to finish the job.

If you are following our structure, to have a list of previously defined competencies, this work is even easier, only having to define the degree of importance of each competence to each of the positions.


A tip that is important to keep in mind: Remember that most positions have skills that may not be very explicit but are extremely important. A well-used example is that of the station attendant, who, being a smiling and friendly freelancer, has a chance to make a good impression on customers, although being smiling and friendly is not necessarily a necessary competence for his job. This example clearly shows that skills are not always superficial and require analysis in their definition.

After doing the Competency Mapping you will be able to use other Human Resource Management tools such as the Competency Performance Assessment, which aims to evaluate your employees through these classifications, helping to make decisions when it comes to sacking or promoting them, for example.

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If you need a Competency Mapping Worksheet, already with a standard list of skills to use and space to register jobs, check out our clicking here!

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