Since competency mapping is becoming a buzzword and HR systems are becoming more competency-based, there are many questions about what competency tools can be used to evaluate competencies of the employees. There is no one fixed tool to evaluate competencies. The type of tools used, differ based on requirement, the overall outcome, at level at which the tool will be applied and the individual on whom the tool will be used. Often, a combination of competency tools are used to get an accurate evaluation. It also depends on the discretion of the assessment centers and the organizations.

The following are some common competency tools used to evaluate competencies of employees in an organization.

  • Observation: This is the most basic and cost-effective competency tool. The assessor simply observes the employee at his or her work, in a natural setting. Observation in a natural environment helps to document accurate results because the employee displays his or her competencies without any anxiety and pretentious efforts. Often, the employees may not even know that they are being observed. Assessors also get good examples of behaviors that need to be assessed and promoted to be effective.
  • Interviews: Either structured or unstructured, interviews can be a very useful tool to help explore the competencies of an employee. Interviewers make use of open-ended questions that will allow employees to speak and share their experiences and opinions. The assessor tries to extract the competencies of the person from the experiences shared or may further ask specific questions about the competency. Interviews are often used in adjunct to observation. Often, assessors may use open-ended questions to explore further on the competency or behavior they have observed at work.
  • Simulations: It is a popular competency tool to evaluate competencies, especially when observing employees in their natural work environment is not feasible. Simulations represent situations from the work life of the employees which they can relate to. Since simulations are replicas of real work situations, employees tend to exhibit behaviors that they generally would on the job.

Various types of simulation exercises may be used, some are explained below:

  • Role Play: Similar to a short play, where a group of employees are assigned roles and given a situation. Only difference, role plays are not scripted. The assessors may ask leading questions to help elicit behaviors that needs to be observed and noted. If convenient, role plays should be video recorded so that it can be played later to identify specific behaviors.
  • In-basket: This competency tool makes use of a daily scenario at work – sending or receiving mails, memos and other information – on which the employee is expected to act, by prioritizing and making decisions. This is followed by a discussion with the employees who highlights the rationale behind their decision.
  • Case study: As part of administering this tool, detailed information about a case, situation or aspect of the organization is provided to the participants. The candidate is required to analyze the case study and reach a conclusion with some logical reason to support his or her decision. Based on the conclusion reached and the logic provided, the competencies of the participants can be determined. Most of the time, case studies are created using real scenarios in the organization so that the real potential of the candidate can be gauged.
  • Psychometric assessments: As a competency tool to evaluate competencies, psychometric assessments are also popularly called aptitude tests. However, aptitude is just one aspect that psychometric assessments measure. The list of behavioral traits and competencies that can be assessed using psychometric tools is lengthy. Psychometric assessments can be used to assess reasoning skills, personality traits, intelligence, cultural competence, teamwork, sales orientation, emotional intelligence, problem solving, and so on. Such psychometric assessments give an objective basis to measuring competencies.

Using psychometric assessments, one can map the scores obtained on one competency to an acceptable benchmark for a particular job role. Such a tool simplifies the process of competency mapping. Objectivity and high reliability make psychometric assessments the most sought-after method for evaluating competencies.

To sum up, when you are selecting competency tools for evaluating competencies, watch out for the following four characteristics:

  • The tool should be able to assess the strengths and challenges of the workforce
  • The tool should be highly reliable and valid and free from subjective-bias. If the tool is subjective, collect information from a panel of people rather than just one individual. This will help to cancel out biased responses
  • The tool should be able to assess performance and competencies against future job prospects
  • The tool should be flexible enough to assess employees against ad-hoc requirements with ever-changing business dynamics

When evaluating competencies, always prefer using a combination of tools whenever feasible to obtain accurate competency measurement.