Competency Iceberg Model

Competency is a combination of skills, job attitude, and knowledge which is reflected in job behaviour that can be observed, measured and evaluated.


What is Competency?

  • Competencies refer to skills or knowledge that leads to superior performance.
  • Competencies are individual abilities or characteristics that are key to effectiveness in work.
  • ‘Competence’ on the other hand means the condition or state of being competent.
  • ‘Competent’ is when a person is qualified to perform to a requisite standard of the processes of a job.
  • Competencies are not “fixed” and causally be developed with effort and support.
  • Competencies can apply at organizational, individual, team, and occupational and functional levels.


Some examples of competencies required by the employees are:

  • Adaptability
  • Motivation
  • Commitment
  • Creativity
  • Independence
  • Analytical Reasoning
  • Foresight
  • Leadership
  • Emotional Stability
  • Communication Skills


Types of Competencies

Competencies can broadly be classified into two categories:


Basic Competencies:

They are existent in all individuals but only their degree of existence differs.  For example, problem solving is a competency that exists in every individual but in varying degrees


Professional Competencies:

They are job related and are above the basic competencies. For example, handling a sales call effectively is a competency that a sales personnel would be required to have


Categories of Competencies

Competencies can be divided into two categories, they are:


Threshold Competencies

  • These are the essential characteristics that everyone in the job needs to be minimally effective.
  • However, this does not distinguish superior from average performers.


Differentiating Competencies

  • These factors distinguish superior from average performers.


What is a Threshold Competency?

It is important to understand whether competencies are unique to a particular job or whether they are generic in nature.

According to the MCBer research, twelve characteristics were identified related to managerial effectiveness, whereas seven were found to be threshold competencies.

Every job at any level in the organization would have a threshold competency.

Threshold competency is the bare minimum required to perform the job.

It is summarized as a quality that a person needs in order to do a job.

It differs from competency, such that it does not offer any aid in distinguishing superior performance from average and poor performance.


What are Core Competencies?

  • ‘Core Competencies’ are the competencies that help transcend any single business event within the organization.
  • It is important for organizations to identify, develop and manage organizational core competencies that drive large enterprise critical projects.
  • This is so because some projects are so complex and massive that it is impossible for a single individual to possess the competencies required to successfully complete a project.


What are Workplace Competencies?

  • ‘Workplace Competencies’ focus on individuals instead of the organization.
  • Therefore, workplace competencies may vary by job positions.
  • The unit of measure is people rather than the business.


Core vs. Workplace Competencies



Who Identifies Competencies?

Competencies can be identified by one of more of the following category of people:

  • Experts
  • HR Specialists
  • Job analysts
  • Psychologists
  • Industrial Engineers etc.
  • In consultation with: Line Managers, Current & Past Role holders, Supervising Seniors, Reporting and Reviewing Officers, Internal Customers, Subordinates of the role holders


Types of Competency Characteristics

Skill :The ability to perform a certain physical or mental task.

Self Concept :A person’s attitudes, values or self-image

Motives :Things about which a person consistently thinks about or wants and that which causes action. Motives drive, direct or select behaviour towards certain actions or goals or away from others.

Knowledge :Information a person has in specific content areas.

Traits :Physical characteristics and consistent responses to situations or information.


Iceberg Model

The Iceberg Model for competencies takes the help of an iceberg to explain the concept of competency.

An iceberg has just one-ninth of its volume above water and the rest remains beneath the surface in the sea.

Similarly, a competency also has some components which are visible like knowledge and skills but other behavioural components like attitude, traits, thinking styles, self-image, organizational fit etc. are hidden or beneath the surface.



Components of the Iceberg Model

  • Traits : Habitual / enduring characteristics- e.g. flexibility, self – control, good listener, builds trust, engages & inspires, mindset
  • Self Image : How people see/view themselves; identity; worth – e.g. an expert, a learner, leader, manager, agent, innovator
  • Skill : Ability to do something well; most easily trained on – e.g. technical skills to use knowledge
  • Knowledge : Content knowledge / information in field of work, – from education to experience


Importance of Iceberg Model

It is important to understand that there is a relation between the competencies which are above the surface and those which lie beneath in an iceberg.

The aspects of competencies which lie below the surface like attitude, traits, thinking styles etc. directly influence the usage of knowledge and skills to complete a job effectively.


What is Competency Mapping?

Competency mapping is the process of identification of the competencies required to perform successfully in a given job or role or a set of tasks at a given point of time. It generally examines two areas: emotional intelligence or emotional quotient (EQ), and strengths of the individual in areas like team structure, leadership, and decision-making.

The process of competency mapping consists of breaking a given role or job into its constituent tasks or activities and identifying the competencies (technical, managerial, behavioural, conceptual knowledge, attitudes, skills, etc.) needed to perform the same successfully.


Competency Dictionary

Things to be considered for developing competency dictionary:

  • Definition
    • Description of behaviour or skills or characteristics
    • Use reference of other competency dictionary
    • Benchmark with other typical industry
  • Dimensions
    • Intensity or completeness of action
    • Size of impact
    • Complexity
    • Amount of effort
  • Proficiency levels or scales
    • Exposed
    • Development
    • Proficient
    • Mastery
    • Expert


Competency Based-Behavioral Interviewing (CBBI)

However, the hiring process has also undergone a change therefore a lot of emphasis is being put on the hidden behavioral aspects as well to make a sound decision.

They believe that the behavioral aspects can be developed through proper guidance and good management.

Most of the organizations look at just the visible components of competencies: the knowledge and skills in the traditional method of hiring.

Hence, a complete picture regarding the competence of a person consists of both visible and hidden aspects and it becomes necessary to understand both to arrive at identifying the best man for a job.

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