Competency Triangulation

Steven Cesare, Ph.D.

A landscaper from Virginia contacted me the other day seeking lucidity to the bureaucratic essence of human resources.  Even though she was exerting considerable effort toward her human resources program, it was primarily reactive, fragmented, and ineffective.  Quicksand is an appropriate metaphor.

While the entire conversation is well beyond the scope of this posting, let’s focus on one part of the puzzle.  The landscaper was visibly overwhelmed while at the same time being unaware of the key components of her staffing model.  Bereft of a conceptual plan, the landscaper was simply trying to put the pieces in place, thinking she was adding value, when in fact she was multiplying confusion.  

At a fundamental level, three staffing components must be aligned:  the job description, the interview protocol, and the performance appraisal form.  This triangulation evinces simplicity, consistency, and integration, all of which underscore clarity to the supervisor, the employee, and the organization.

To be brief, every legitimate job description should contain 5-7 competencies (i.e., job-related factors related to success).  For example, the job description for a Landscape Foreman could contain the following behaviorally-defined competencies;  Safety, Results Orientation, Field Operations, Horticulture, Job Quality, Customer Service, and Interpersonal Skills.  Given the fact that the job description is the legal foundation upon which the entire Human Resources Program resides, it is easy to understand how those identified competencies underscore a Landscape Maintenance Foreman’s job responsibility.

With those competencies identified, defined, and validated, they must then be directly included in the Landscape Maintenance Foreman  Interview Protocol.  Thus, the supervisor of the Landscape Maintenance Foreman position (e.g., Field Supervisor, Account Manager, Branch Manager) must develop job-related questions for each of those competencies.  Any questions included on the Interview Protocol beyond those competencies represent potential sources of bias, discrimination, and litigation, and as such, should not be asked during the interview.  Simplicity dictates:  Keep the Landscape Maintenance Foreman Interview Protocol completely aligned with the Landscape Maintenance Foreman Job Description, threaded by the same competencies found on both instruments.

Given that the job description has defined the core competencies for a position, it is all-too elementary that those same competencies must also appear on the Landscape Maintenance Foreman Performance Appraisal Form.  Asked rhetorically, why would a supervisor not evaluate a position’s effectiveness on the primary indices that define that position?  That question will not be asked rhetorically by the attorney representing his/her plaintiff in a discrimination lawsuit.  Be ready.

Thus, as I presented to the Virginia landscaper, the unmistakable utility of triangulating the same core competencies originating from the job description, interwoven through the interview protocol, and culminating in the performance appraisal form reduce much of the bureaucratic drivel inherent within human resources, adds clear performance linearity to the employee-incumbent and supervisor, and represents significant legal defense when challenged in a lawsuit.

Any lack of point-to-point correspondence across these three instruments, signals clear risk to the organization.

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Steve Cesare Ph.D.

has more than 25 years of Human Resources experience. Prior to joining The Harvest Group, Steve worked with Bemus Landscape, Jack in the Box, the County of San Diego, Citicorp, and NASA. Steve earned his Ph.D. in Industrial/Organizational Psychology from Old Dominion University, and has authored 68 human resources journal articles. As a member of The Harvest Group, Steve’s areas of expertise include: staffing, legal compliance, wage and hour issues, training, and employee safety.  Read Steve's full bio.