Purposeful Talent Development: Develop a Competency Model That Delivers

hand drawing squiggles that run through a target with an arrow and then straight out the other side
Jennifer Stangl Photo
Director of Professional Development

2 minutes

Four tips for making yours an effective roadmap to leadership effectiveness.

Well-designed and implemented competency models should identify key behaviors and describe actions that demonstrate a person’s proficiency in a particular area. But there is some debate about whether competency models are helpful in today’s world.

In my experience, the success of a competency model depends greatly on how it is used. An effective competency model is realistic in expectations, specific to the organization, and empowering for current and future leaders. 

Here are four tips for developing a competency model that delivers: 

1. Align It to Your Credit Union

Don’t simply pick a model off the shelf and put it in place in your organization. Instead, select competencies that are specific to your organization. Identify what behaviors your leaders need to support the organizational strategy and mission. Establish competencies that are critical to the success of the credit union, not just those that are popular or common practice. Since functional areas should know how their work impacts organizational goals, an individual should be able to draw a connection between the value of developing within a competency and the impact it will have on his/her role, the team and the organization.

2. Make It Attainable

Creating a competency model with too many competencies is overwhelming and reduces an individual’s ability to focus. If there are, say 15 competencies, leaders may not know where to begin or take on too much and therefore struggle to make progress developing within any. Develop a model with five to seven competencies, directing leaders to focus on one or two areas of development at a time based on their needs.

3. Remember, the Competency Model Is Not a Magic Pill 

Competency models are not the be-all, end-all tool of developing a leader. Simply having a competency model does not create the perfect leader. A well-designed competency model serves as a starting point, offering guidance and direction for identifying opportunities to focus development in key areas. As with an organization’s values, it should be connected to any leadership development programs or initiatives.

4. Be Realistic

There is no perfect leader. No one individual demonstrates every desired and needed behavior, 100% of the time. Expecting a competency model to create perfect leaders is an unfair expectation of leaders and human resources/talent development teams. Use a competency model to help leaders see where they can and should place effort in developing, where they can foster connections to share their strengths and leverage the strengths of others.  

Developed and used well, competency models can serve leaders, development plans and organizational initiatives extremely well by becoming a roadmap for leadership effectiveness. The key is to design a model aligned to your organization, create realistic expectations of development and focus on attainable development. 

As you plan your 2020 talent development initiatives, remember to use your competency models as a guide. Or reach out to CUES if you would like guidance to create a competency model to support your future efforts.

Jennifer Stangl is CUES’ director of professional development.

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