Striking the right balance

County Council found that having a transparent system that staff have
confidence in can smooth the path to effective human capital management. Keith
Rodgers reports

County Council took six months to define the five core competencies it now
assesses its employees against: ‘working together’, ‘personal commitment’,
‘delivering quality outcomes’, ‘continuous improvement’ and ‘effective and safe
use of resources’.

to Rita Sammons, county personnel and training officer, getting agreement was
sometimes a difficult process.

more than 1,500 different job types in the council, it was difficult to define
competencies that would meet all requirements,” she says. “Defining a balanced
scorecard of values and behaviours made things easier for us, and we developed
the competencies from these.”

core competency is analysed at one of four different levels, depending on the
seniority of the employee.

assessing a worker’s ability to ‘deliver quality outcomes’, for example, a
Level A employee is expected to ‘work consistently to achieve high standards’
and meet customer needs.

Level B, achieving high personal standards is no longer enough: the employee
should also be striving to improve team service.

Level C, they are required to set ‘realistic and stretching performance
indicators’, while the top competency demands someone who ‘creates a culture
that understands the importance of quality results’.  

HR department has also given managers a number of guidelines to identify
‘ineffective’ behaviour for each of these competencies. At Level A, for
example, an employee is judged to be ineffective at ‘working together’ if they
use too much jargon, or can’t express ideas. By level C, ineffectiveness
includes working to their own agenda, and failing to give bad news.

these core competencies, the council also assesses technical and professional
competencies (largely on the basis of external metrics), and leadership.

leadership model consists of eight broad competencies, ranging from ‘making it
happen and seeing it through’, to ‘championing team working’. In turn, each of
these is defined by a series of bullet points. ‘Creating a learning culture’,
for example, is defined by behaviours such as ‘encouraging everyone to aim
high’, and ‘taking time to stop and review in order to learn from setbacks’.

competencies have now been fed into a ‘classification matrix’, incorporating
broad ‘accountabilities’ that take the place of thousands of different job
descriptions across the council, and performance targets. That matrix will be
available to all staff when the new pay scheme is introduced next year, and
will help them to work out where they stand in the corporate structure, as well
as what kinds of opportunities are available to them across the council.

more on measuring competencies, go to Fitness Testing on p18 in this week’s Personnel

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