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Competency Matrix in Bangladesh

Competency Matrix in Bangladesh

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Published by Tahseen Zakaria
How a GSK factory in Bangladesh tried to develop a new Competency Assessment method to facilitate performance appraisal and manpower development
How a GSK factory in Bangladesh tried to develop a new Competency Assessment method to facilitate performance appraisal and manpower development

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Published by: Tahseen Zakaria on May 04, 2010
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“Initiation of a value stream HR process in GMS Chittagong: The Competency Matrix approach”

Introducing the generic measurement tool in conducting unbiased talent reviews, recruitment, and training need analysis for a GlaxoSmithKline factory in Bangladesh. -Tahseen Zakaria “Mens agitat molem”- the mind moves the mass; as said in Latin. In a regular evening Tariq Dar, the Site Director of a GlaxoSmithKline factory (GMS Chittagong) called-in the newly recruited Training officer in his room- a young boy whom he recruited a month ago. In presence of the Human Resources Manager the Director explained his vision of creating a scale- a generic measurement tool, which he believes would facilitate assessment of his workforce. ‘A ‘Competency matrix- as he told the Training Officer, ‘which would help us to have a clear picture of individuals’ competency levels; and thereby would enable us to plan their training & development program’. Instigated, the boy moves on. Being excited to find a new opportunity for learning- he later found out the notion is not entirely new for the site. Some works were carried out previously regarding the matrix but was later abandoned. Relying on academic literature, company documents and past experiences shared by colleagues, the boy had to start the whole thing from the beginning- with a greater objective, and to redesign the whole training process around it.

What is competency? In what way competencies are been clustered, & how many competencies have so far been identified? Competency Matrix is a structured list of competencies along with the advantage to assess and record existing level of each single competency against each particular person. However, it is important to understand that the definition of competency (in many cases) is not clearly defined and literary argument still persists about this. Hoffmann (1999) has identified two main meanings of the term, one refereeing to the outputs, or results of training- that is competent performance. And other referring to the inputs, or underlying attributes, required of a person to achieve competent performance. This second notion has been adopted as the appropriate definition in context of GMS Chittagong. In a general context, a single competency could be described as a set of knowledge (what to do), skill (how to do) and attitude (willingness to do), which affect employee’s productivitythus putting this issue as a great deal of concern to HR and the management.

The Human Resources (HR) department at first thought of clustering all the required competencies into three main categories namely behavioral competencies, business competencies, and technical competencies. However, much time was spent previously in deciding what competencies would fit in what category and vice versa. To reduce this confusion and to increase efficiency of the new matrix, only two categories were chosen namely Core competencies and Technical competencies. Mainly behavioral traits and characteristics were put under Core competency cluster. The term ‘core’ refers inner-born or entirely internal personality traits of human being. This cluster include competencies such as networking skills, communication, ability to develop people, managing people, ability to use time efficiently, ability to adopt changes, teamwork

etc. So far 13 such competencies have been identified by GMS Chittagong. Technical competencies, on the other hand, are related to day-by-day work activity but not exclusive to that. In fact Difference between some managers failed to competency and successful job realize the difference accomplishment between technical competency and job-activity. At first some in the management team thought of putting all the job activities as separate Technical competencies which were already described in a person’s Job Description and Role Template documents. They failed to realize that activity and competency are two different notions. Competency facilitates performance, but performing activity does not necessarily mean a higher competency. Consider a simple job activity such as making a cup of tea. A tea bearer knows the process that has been defined to him, and in return he just needs to follow the process- which is first boiling the water (up to a certain temperature), mixing tea (up to a certain amount) and milk in a separate pot with hot water; and then serving the tea in a tea-cup. If he follows the whole process flawlessly, there should be no problem with the quality of tea. Should this person be considered as a competent person in this field? The argument is- no. According to Hoffmann (1999) this could be described as a competent performance, which is solely an output based definition of competency. Hoffmann (1999)

has used another definition of competency from a different angle, which refers to the inputs, or underlying attributes, required of a person to achieve competent performance. GMS Chittagong considers this second notion as the appropriate definition of competency. What if there has been a certain change in the process of making tea and the person has failed to realize it? What if due to faulty cattle, water is not boiling up to the expected temperature (and every time he serves tea it is not of the same quality)? Understanding these facts, suggesting alternatives, or adopting a change process would in fact make this person a competent person. Therefore, whatever problems would come into this person’s day-to-day job activity (i.e. making the tea) he should possess the necessary level of knowledge and skills to solve the problems, thus ensuring a competent performance. Therefore it would be logical to invest resources in order to develop one’s competency rather than teaching how to perform a specific work. Improving the level of knowledge, skill and attitude (KSA) of a person eventually guarantees competent performance, thus making him a competent person in his field. So far four Technical competencies have been identified namely analytical capability, businesses awareness, business negotiation, and computer operations. This list might become longer if the management of GMS Chittagong feels the need.

What is the structure of competency matrix? Why single job activities are still included and used in assessing individual’s competency levels? At first the matrix development team consisting of Functional Heads had to decide which competencies would be required against a specific post because of the fact that all the listed competencies in the matrix need to be very task specific. It should be noted that competency matrix is post specific and each individual employee should possess one matrix against his/her individual position- with a number of selected competencies. For example, among the 13 Core competencies the Human Resources Manager might require all of them, whereas the Training Officer might need 8 of them. The same notion applies for Technical competencies and to the individual job activities as well. To assist them in this process- 13 behavioral and 4 technical competencies were already available from HR department. Apart from the competencies, individuals’ job activities are also required to be listed in the matrix. Why? Despite of the fact competency and job-activity are two different notions (the first one is input based and the second one is output), practices still exist where competency of a person is often

assessed by judging the person’s ability in accomplishing tasks. Besides, it is also feasible for a company to know the level of standard in accomplishing a particular task/activity that an individual has performed. This enables management to adopt short-term actions for improving one’s performance (not competency), which ultimately benefits the organization in an immediate time span. Similar perception was demonstrated by the competency matrix development team of GMS Chittagong. “Technical competencies should be defined as technical proficiency through a number of technical activities” – opinioned Site Director in one such constructive meetings. “Therefore, despite of having all the behavioral and technical competencies, we should also list down the single activities which individuals are required to perform”. The HR Manager and the Training Officer agreed. Using this above mentioned notion, the structure of the competency matrix could be formulated in somewhat like this manner: Competency Assessment = Core Competency Assessment + Technical Competency Assessment (+ Technical Activity Assessment). Nevertheless, the Competency matrix is a live document and addition or modification of any competency or job activity is allowed as per organizational need.
How many levels are there for each single competency in the matrix?

The question at this stage is how levels of individual competencies and technical activities have been structured and developed? Each competency and each technical activity is separately divided into five different skill levels namely- level 1 (Negative competency), level 2 (Existing competency to an awareness level), level 3 (Competent to a satisfactory level), level 4 (Competent to an expert level), and Level 5 (Strategically sound and competent). A competency level consists of several separate behavioral or technical attributes, which are mutually interrelated and relevant to that specific competency. Figure 1 in the Appendices section represents a competency structure as designed in competency matrix. Unlike competency, the job activities do not posses attributes. However, they are still subjected to the five levels as described above. Figure 2 in the Appendices section illustrates some technical activities as used in a competency matrix. How individual’s competency level could be determined using the matrix? Based on annotations from GlaxoSmithKline’s High Performance Behavior, job descriptions, academic journals and examples of other performance based competency literature of GSK- the GMS Chittagong has developed its own Competency Matrix, which covers all the knowledge, skills and attitude required to ensure a smooth operation of the site and development of workforce to a substantiate level. Now comes how individual’s competency level would be assessed using the matrix? The matrix development team consisting of respective Functional Heads and Departmental Managers has already defined the expected levels for each competency which are required for a specific position (See figure 1 in Appendices section for example). The global GSK literature suggests that each employee should belong in at-least to the ‘competent level’ (i.e. level 3) for each required competency. However, in order to increase the matrix’s feasibility and efficiency of personnel, GMS Chittagong has customized its own required levels based on successful Functional Need Assessment (FNA). For each required competency, the minimum required level has been highlighted as ‘Expected’. Therefore, employees belonging under the ‘expected’ level would have to be developed to the expected one by any possible mean. The possible means include trainings, coaching or mentoring, academic courses, additional job responsibilities, or project work. The following three steps will have to be performed chronologically in order to use and/or implement the matrix: 1. Assessment of Core Competency level of individuals 2. Assessment of Technical Competency level of individuals

3. Assessment of Technical Activity level of individuals The management team agreed that the Departmental Managers with support from Functional Heads, Human Resources Manager and Quality Assurance Manager must identify the gaps between required and the current level of competency for each subordinate under their authority. This practice will undergo each year by the end of September and could be named as CMA (Competency Matrix Assessment) sessions. The completed Competency matrix is to be signed by the Functional Head as preparatory, checked by HRM and approved by the Quality Assurance Manager and the Site Director. Only the competencies identified as required for the post while developing the matrix are listed against a specific person. For each corresponding attribute under a competency, the assessor is required to highlight either ‘Agree’ (if the statement is absolutely applicable in case of the individual person i.e. true), or ‘Disagree’ (if the statement is not applicable i.e. false in case of the individual person) from the far-right column of the matrix (see Figure 1 in appendices section). If the statement is partially applicable and/or uncertainty exists regarding the statement being absolutely true, the assessor marks

‘Partially Agree’ column. Without fulfilling all the attributes in previous level, an employee can not move forward to the next level. The person failing to fulfill all the attributes in a certain level is considered being competent up to the previous level (e.g. if a person fails to fulfill one attribute in level-3, he/she will be considered competent enough up to level 2). Therefore, an employee will have to gradually shift his/her position from level 1 to the desired level, thus enabling a scope for systematic continuous personal development. Unlike competency, determining level of existing technical activity is relatively easy due to the fact that there exists no interrelated attribute. Against each listed technical (job) activity, the assessors are only required to determine the level of performance, which they ‘believe’ the person under scrutiny demonstrates. The assessors are required to use generic means such as experience, judgment and peer’s opinion to decide whether the person has fulfilled a certain attribute, or the existing level of performance as demonstrated against a specific competency and technical activity. A summary sheet (see figure 3 in the Appendices section) after each assessment needs to be filled up to provide better understanding of competency levels and to decide future actions for improving individual’s performance level.

What are the purposes for developing a competency matrix? Development of the matrix is an ongoing process. However, the standard format of the matrix is already completed, and individual matrices for several top ranking managers have also been approved. Nevertheless, any attribute used in defining competencies adds direct value to an employee’s self development. Therefore, the impact of the matrix from HR point of view is very positive and virtually costs no noteworthy expenditure. Implementing competency matrix at the site therefore has been labeled as a value stream process. The main objective of this matrix is to facilitate individual development process of employees. The matrix facilitates not only people development but also talent hunt process of the site; thus enabling preparation of succession plans for individual employees year-wise. The matrix also facilitates assessment procedure of individual candidates during recruitment. In addition to all these, development of the matrix would facilitate allocating employees in training courses abroad and to organize training sessions using external (or internal) resources as and when needed. In addition to conducting training need analysis from HR point of view, the matrix also encourages individuals to ensure self development. The matrix provides a very clear idea about not only a particular competency

but also the generic attributes in which a person should focus on for self-development. Therefore, it is recommended that the managers reveal individuals’ assessment result in regular intervals so that progression rate could be better understood by the respective employee himself. Aiming high - how cost effective the matrix’s development process is? As part of the site’s commitment to continuous personnel development- the resources used in this regard was nominal. Instead of appointing outside consultants (which many other organizations would prefer to do), GMS Chittagong formed a powerful team of developers from its HR department- chaired by the Site Director himself. The team

finalized the draft competencies and agreed on putting a structure of the matrix. Identifying the gap between required competency and the existing competency of a person (commonly referred to as ‘competency gap’) enables the management to visualize a development plan, either long term or short term which might include training, mentoring, and allocation of project work. The job activity assessment enables to allocate employees in task specific trainings whereas the behavioral competency assessment could facilitate both training and mentoring program. Bu using this tool, managers would be able to pin-point accurate development scopes of respective employees, thus facilitating the succession process of the site.

How competency matrix could be incorporated with the training system? How TNA could be performed through CMA? Much time was spent in analyzing and verifying several alternative What are the development approaches to incorporate means? competency matrix with the existing training system of the factory. Apart from recruitment and facilitating development plan- another major objective of the matrix is to assist in conducting accurate Training Need Analysis (TNA) for both behavioral and technical trainings. Competency matrix would be used side by side with the existing ‘observation’ method for conducting training need analysis. Figure 4 in the Appendices section illustrates the process flow of the factory’s training system. The main role of competency matrix in the intended training system of GMS Chittagong is to facilitate training need analysis at the beginning of the year. Competency matrix Assessment (CMA) would enable the site to allocate people in the trainings through which competency gaps could be addressed significantly. Using CMA side by side while conducting the TNA for the annual training plan would help to develop manpower in a substantiate level. It should be noted at this point that after each listed competency, a title of training(s) is made available to facilitate allocation of trainees. For specific technical activities, this same notion could be followed and relevant training programs could be allocated against individuals.

Future plan: Why should its development activities be justified? Has it so far been successful? A small spark often initiates a large flame- as is the wise saying. It has alsredy been observed by the senior management that the notion of Competency Matrix has already generated a sense of urgency among people- to develop themselves and to assit in developing others. Continuing this project would enhance the possibility of developing employees in some aspects which so far has always remained untouched for the factory. Allocating more resources in to developing and implementing the matrix would be desired. The management has decided to put the process into practice gradually. Employees from the top management would be subjected to the assessment first and gradually the shift would move downwards. And how happy the boy from the matrix development team- the young Training Officer could be? No matter in what

quantifiable measure development of a person could be described- the boy knows the process has benefited him in many extents. Even if no other person could have been ~ Biblography

developed using the matrix yet, the boy is happy that it has developed himself in terms of both behavioral and technical aspects – right from the very beginning!

Hoffmann, T. (1999) “The meanings of competency”, Journal of European Industrial Training, Volume 23, Issue 6, Page 275-286


Figure 1: Single competency (with attributes and levels) in a Competency Matrix

Figure 2: Sample technical activities (with levels) for the competency matrix of EHS Manager.

Figure 3: Sample summary sheet for the competency matrix of EHS Manager

Figure 4: Process flow of the intended training system incorporating training Competency Matrix.

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