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Behavioral competency refers to any personality characteristics and behavior attributes individuals may have, which can help determine how successful they will be at the role they are aspiring for. It is used to define employees’ behavioral merits that ensure their success in their future endeavors in the workplace. Behavioral competencies include skills, attitudes, actions, and qualities that distinguish top-performers.
Any behavioral characteristic such as skill set, knowledge, technical know-how, leadership skills, etc., which contributes to an individual’s development in the organization to assume significantly bigger roles is known as behavioral competency. Individuals at all levels (be it top, middle or lower level) come within its purview. Measuring core behavioral competencies is not as easy as it seems, but it is, by and large, a critical step in the hiring process. A potential employee always looks for a candidate who can successfully perform the work.
Behavioral competency refers to any personality traits, and behavior attributes an individual may have, which can help predict how successful he/she will be at the role they are aspiring for. It is used to define employees’ behavioral merits that ensure their success in their future endeavors in the workplace.
There are four types of behavioral competencies:
Core behavioral competencies can be explained as the list of specific competencies for a job. These competencies include character traits, motivations, and abilities required to perform effectively, regardless of the nature of the job. Such competencies highlight a set of behaviors that aligns a company’s objectives with observable behaviors, thus helping achieve organizational goals.
Core behavioral competencies are the fundamental values of an organization expected to be embodied by each of its employees. They are akin to a blueprint of an organization on which the workforce is built. For a customer-facing organization, the core behavioral competency could be customer-centricity. Core behavioral competencies are different across industries, organization size, type, function, etc.
Behavioral competencies vary based on job level because of the scope of the work. A fresher is expected to be an avid listener and learner, but someone in a managerial role needs good analytical skills. Here is a list of behavioral competencies that can be employed to develop a behavioral competency framework, carry out a behavioral competency profiling exercise, identify employees’ behavioral indicators, structure the hiring process, and ask the right questions to measure their competencies. The list covers behavioral competencies for managers, freshers, and senior leaders.
Organizations should have defined behavioral competencies of managers. The reason being that some people are born with an innate capacity to effectively lead and manage others to achieve common goals, while others need some help developing crucial manager competencies. That’s why companies need to have a consistent competency model for their leadership team.
Behavioral competencies should form the basis for human resource development and significantly contribute to competency frameworks when making important talent decisions. All organizations, irrespective of their type, size, and function, can benefit from using behavioral competencies in the following ways:
Common Language: Behavioral competencies can lay the foundation for everything critical to an organization. They can dictate expected workplace behavior, a precise and shared understanding of performance standards, and an organization’s values and objectives.
Objective Recruitment: Analyzing and improving the existing hiring strategy is the first step towards improving employees’ quality. Behavioral competencies provide an objective platform to evaluate the screening process and promote a better organizational culture. Behavioral competencies assessed through interviews, assessments, exercises, and tasks eliminate interviewer bias, enable filtering the right talent, and set them on a trajectory to success from the very beginning.
Employee Development: Once an organization has identified behavioral competencies pertinent to a particular role and level, they can benchmark their workforce against those competencies and initiate individual developmental plans accordingly. Behavioral competencies can also enable employees to identify transferable skills for career progression.
Organizational Planning: Behavioral competencies are the bedrock of all organizational planning initiatives, such as high-potential identification, succession planning, leadership development, etc.
“Behavioral competencies lie at the core of work culture and department behavior. They make an organization’s values, mission and vision more achievable. They form the core of an organization’s behavior norms.
Since every group is different, it is vital to conduct an organization-wide exercise of nailing down behavior that employees know to be important that support the six principles – trust, interdependence, genuineness, empathy, risk resolution and success. In this way, hiring, succession planning, training and development, high potential identification, appraisals and promotion are in alignment.
When an organization has determined its group behavior norms, they can be put into performance reviews, performance-related hiring questions and the onboarding process. They can also be used to build skills so that people who demonstrate these behaviors also demonstrate the skills needed to lead people. If Gallup’s research is true, organizations promote the wrong people into leadership positions more than 82% of the time. One must look to behavior as a root cause.”
– Dianne Crampton, President, TIGERS Success Series, Inc.
Behavioral competencies are essential indicators of future workplace success and crucial for workforce planning, recruitment, training and development. Many organizations may already have a process to observe or assess employees’ behavioral competencies without realizing it. For instance, interview questions in the hiring process are inadvertently directed at measuring personality attributes and interpersonal skills.
Behavioral competencies are inherent attributes and personality traits an individual might have, such as knowledge, abilities, and proficiency, which are essential in determining how efficient a person will be at the job he/she is applying for. These competencies are crucial for deciding the behavioral strengths of employees. Employers often refer to the behavioral competencies list to align employee behaviors with company objectives.
Behavioral competency assessments are new-age digital tools to measure behavioral competencies in a simulated work environment. These assessments require candidates to demonstrate their behavioral skills in an activity that resembles an actual organizational situation.
You can also conduct psychometric assessments, in addition to behavioral assessments, to measure candidates against particular competencies and predict job performance with detailed scores of different competencies. Else, you also can opt for role-based behavioral competency tests that can help you save time in your hiring decisions while allowing you to gain insight into the candidate’s real personality.
Mercer | Mettl’s suite of behavioral assessments and tools can be used in isolation or combination in any phase of the employee lifecycle, which includes selection, promotion, employee development, leadership development, team development, and leadership effectiveness.
Originally published July 13 2020, Updated August 24 2021
Bhuvi is a content marketer at Mercer | Mettl. She's helped various brands find their voice through insightful thought pieces and engaging content. When not scandalizing people with her stories, you’ll find her challenging gender norms, dancing to her own tune, and crusading through life, laughing.
Behavioral assessments are extensively used in education and workplace settings to observe, identify, and explain behavior. In the corporate context, behavioral assessments require individuals to demonstrate behavioral competencies through multiple activities relevant to the job role and resemble an actual organizational situation.