Case Studies

How we conduct assignments

Wherever possible, we recommend the use of an ROI based approach. However, this requires that performance in the job be measured for all job holders and that a business case be established before the program commences. The rationale being that this will allow client management to evaluate the expected ROI of the competency based program before approving the necessary expenditure much as they would with any other form of investment proposal.

However, we know from experience this approach is not always possible. As a result we have adopted a more flexible approach which allows clients to enter the competency continuum at various points, depending upon their situation or need.

This means that clients may retain us, for example, at the lower end of the scale/continuum to simply evaluate their own work in relation to developing a competency model or program so that they receive the benefit of some experienced, objective advice.

Competency Modeling and Career Development

One client wished to bring together in a common language a number of competency models which had been developed independently by their operating units.

The task was to harmonize the competency language used in the different models so that they could be used at corporate level in a career framework which spanned all the operating units, across different countries. We identified common task elements of the various job families and then converted/matched the different competency descriptions to a common competency framework..

Actual consultancy time was 3 weeks. This provided a comprehensive competency platform which then allowed jobs in the different operating units to be compared/evaluated on a common task/competency basis for the purposes of career choice/development.

At the other end of the scale we have the resources to design, develop and implement long-term competency based programs covering all aspects of strategy implementation on a world-wide basis.

Competency-Based Performance Improvement and Strategic Alignment

One client of Competency International wished to:

(a) reduce the variation in financial performance of several hundred of its General Managers world-wide who were responsible for running their operating units, and (b) to implement the new direction required for the company as expressed in the CEO's statement of strategic intent for the future.

This program started with the development of a competency model based upon interviews and a model building workshop with a group of superior performing General Managers from different countries. This established the benchmark against which all other General Managers were to be assessed and then developed so as to move their performance further up the curve.

The first phase of the program was to run over a 3 year period.

During this period a series of development programs covering strategy implementation including Balanced Scorecard initiatives, competency development, customer service, organizational climate, motivational style etc. were conducted in several languages so as to cover the entire General Manager population.

Where relevant competency based selection programs were also conducted.

Client personnel, both HR and Line Managers, were involved in various aspects of the program and the client project leader trained to a high standard so as to be able to conduct the bulk of the interviews and to run workshops.

The outcomes of the program were evaluated statistically using control groups where appropriate to determine the realized/measurable benefits. It was determined that the program training had significantly improved bottom line performance with an ROI figure of several hundred percent.

In addition it was found that the key competencies in the model could predict a substantial percentage of the variation in profit growth 2 years ahead, thus proving the validity of the model. A useful point when trying to predict/identify the competencies required in the future. Currently research is under way to see how far ahead the predictive validity of the competency model extends so as to determine what changes/updates may become necessary over time.

Specific performance data gathered from the first 3 year phase has formed the basis for an extension of the program so as to increase innovative/entrepreneurial activity in the future. This continuation of the original program, much of which will be delivered in an e-learning format, is seen as necessary by the client so that people development becomes a permanent part of business operations and not just a one-time initiative in response to a problem.

 Improving Customer Service Through Competency-Based Job Profiles

As an example of a mid-range entry to competency analysis, one client, as part of its strategy to improve customer satisfaction with its service, had both redefined key job roles and created new roles/jobs in certain cases.

The task was to develop competency models for:

a) an existing job where some of the roles and therefore some of the job tasks had been changed and,

b) a new job role which only had a very limited number of current job holders with very limited experience in the role due to its being so new.

Interviews were conducted with a small sample of job holders who had been nominated by the client as being superior performers for job a) and job b).

The interview data relating to the job holders' successful incidents was analyzed and competency models produced for both jobs.

The output information contained in the competency models was then applied by the client as follows: in job a) where role changes had been introduced, the model allowed the client to see the extent to which job holders were displaying competency behavior consistent with the new direction embodied in the role changes and where there were gaps requiring further development.

Interestingly, one of the superior performers had already seen the need to change approach before the job role changes had been introduced and was already beginning to act in ways the client now sought to make a regular part of the job.

This is consistent with what we have found in other studies, i.e. that some top performers "see the future" and start to adapt their behavior to the changing conditions or situation and try to push the organizational envelope within the limits of their power or others they can influence. In this case the client, as an organization trying to introduce change, found such information useful as it allowed them to leverage off/build upon this behavior so as to speed up the process when implementing their intended job role changes.

With job type b) which was still new, only having been in operation for a little less than a year, the model provided fresh insights into the tasks and competencies of the job. These insights into how the job was actually being performed allowed the client to refine their original concept of how the job should function and also to help focus development activities much more accurately and economically.


In each of these examples there is an underlying, common element in that they were all based on a validated set of competencies.

This is important because it allows for a unified progression from one point on the competency continuum to another as clients wish to apply competency initiatives in greater/increasing depth.

Not all competencies in use today have been validated in the sense that a statistically proven relationship exists between an individual's or people's possession of a set of competencies and their measurable job performance.

Our approach is to use a set of competencies based on our previous scientific research and customized through applied research in the particular client organization so as to demonstrate and reflect how the competency is actually being displayed in the context of the specific client situation/task.

We have found that this gives us the rigor of analysis that is necessary to make possible accurate predictions regarding outcomes from competency applications. The approach also provides a very clear, practical and understandable language and set of behavioral examples from which development and selection programs may be prepared and implemented.

Finally, we have accumulated sufficient experience within the Competency International team to allow us to offer clients virtually anything in the competency field from a 1 day briefing on the subject to a major, long-term, strategically driven, system based competency program - whatever the client needs.


References and Case Studies

It is a general policy of Competency International not to publicize widely the work done on behalf of clients. Most client relationships span several years working closely to develop strategic capability/ competence in key job areas. Such information is normally proprietary. However, in select cases we have worked with clients who were interested to share outcome data and best practices. Some of the cases are documented on this web site and have been used as case studies and reference material in recent books:


Selected References

Spencer, L. M. (2001). The economic value of emotional intelligence competencies and EIC-based HR programs. In C. Cherniss, C. & D. Goleman, D. (Eds.), The Emotionally Intelligent Workplace: How to Select for, Measure, and Improve Emotional Intelligence in Individuals, Groups, and Organizations. San Francisco, CA: Josey-Bass.

Spencer, L. M. (1986). Calculating Human Resource Costs and Benefits . New York: John Wiley & Sons, Inc.

Spencer, L. M., Pelote, V., & Seymour, P. (1998). A causal model and research paradigm for physicians as leaders of change. New Medicine, 1998(2), 57-64.

Spencer, L. M. (1997). Competency assessment methods. In L. J. Bassi & Russ-Eft (Eds.), What works: Assessment, Development, and Measurement,Alexandria, VA: American Society for Training and Development.



About Us

Competency International is a research and consulting group dedicated to the application of scientifically validated techniques to the management of human capital in organizations. Committed to advancing the science of motive and competency assessment, application and development, our consultants adhere to the highest standards of ethics and practice.

Partial Client List



  • @RobEmmerling frequently posts tweets related to assessment and development of competencies in the workplace.