What is competency-based assessment?

Competency-Based Assessment (CBA) is a set of tools designed to monitor and gather evidence about an employee’s progress towards achieving a set of competencies or pre-set standards.

Competency is a person’s available skills or expertise to achieve a particular goal or complete a particular task. All organizations must go through a competency assessment process, where they compare the existing competencies of the employees with the critical competencies needed to perform their roles. Such a competency-based assessment process helps identify skill-based gaps, and the management can start working on fulfilling these gaps.

Such a model will also help set competency levels or brackets for each role and make it easy for employees to re-skill themselves and move ahead in their careers. If you have just started understanding competency assessment, then our latest blog is something you should start with.

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Why is competency-based evaluation important?

Competency-based evaluation is important for several reasons, some of which are mentioned below.

  • You can customize training programs to ensure they are effective. This will help organizations avoid spending on unnecessary/ineffective training sessions.
  • Competency-based assessment will help assign the right employees to the right jobs. This can help save money on having to hire externally every time there is an opening.
  • Regular competency assessment practices will create a very strong talent pipeline that will turn into the organization’s strength.
  • It can help understand the abilities and talents of employees.
  • You can create a space for regular improvement, skill-wise.
  • You get to gather real-time data to base performance appraisals on.

5 factors that define a good competency-based assessment model

Here are five factors that help define a good competency-based assessment model. Do not create your own model without considering these points.

  • Pre-assessment

Pre-assessment is one of the most important things to do before you even start the actual competency-based assessment process. A competency evaluation process takes time and effort. Experts say that if you cannot assess all your employees (especially in large organizations with thousands of employees), then have a pre-assessment done to identify individuals who have higher needs of being evaluated.

You could use filters like key roles, dependencies on the employee, and criticality of the job to pick employees for competency-based assessment.

  • Identifying the need for assessment

There are different reasons why an organization decides to invest in competency assessment tools. Knowing the need beforehand will give you the reason to take up the task. Some of the needs for assessment can be:

    • Empowering and encouraging current employees to re-skill/up-skill themselves
    • Identifying competency gaps that may be pulling the organization back
    • Getting the correct information to plan training and development programs
    • Helping employees know the needed core competencies of the organization and giving them a chance to align with the organizational needs
    • Rotating employees across different profiles and teams based on their competency-based assessment
    • Having data to base performance appraisals on
  • Picking on the right competency assessment tools

Once you decide to get a competency-based assessment process in place, the next step would be to pick the right tool to support your cause. Starting from tests, to case studies, interviews, and assessment centers, there are so many kinds of tools to pick from. Keep in mind the following factors before choosing competency assessment tools.

    • A tool that also comes with a competency library
    • A tool that supports online processing and evaluation
    • A tool that facilitates 360-degree feedback and communication on competencies
    • A tool that helps analyze and monitor assessment data in real-time
  • Creating a successful competency-based assessment model

The most important factor in this list is actually to create a successful competency-based assessment model. Once you have completed the pre-assessment and have an idea of what tool to use, you need to make sure the model facilitates customization, privacy, and most importantly, scaling.

You can improve privacy by picking the right tools. Basic tools like asking employees to fill a shared spreadsheet may expose employee data to others with access to the sheet. Similarly, a particular model may work for organizations with less than 50 employees. However, the process may get very intensive and impractical for larger organizations.

Customization is about tweaking the tools to match your organization’s requirements. PossibleWorks doesn’t believe in a one-solution-suits-all tool for clients. We always have a framework that we allow our clients to tweak and design to match their needs. This is the kind of model you need to ensure that the competency-based assessment solution is effective.

  • Making use of feedback and communication

While feedback and communication are both generally important in any organization, they become vital resources during and after implementing a competency-based assessment process. Let’s say an employee competency assessment process is designed to identify skill gaps within the organization.

The management needs to be transparent about the process and let employees know what’s expected during and after the steps are taken. Employees need to be constantly communicated about the gaps to help them rectify them. The organization must also appoint mentors who can guide employees to take the next right steps. Without the right feedback and communication, any competency based evaluation process, despite how well it has been designed, won’t lead to the right results.

This step is easy in an organization with ongoing feedback and 360-degree communication processes in place.

PossibleWorks offers an agile performance and continuous feedback platform that brings out exceptional HR tools to approach workplace performances scientifically. The feedback tool from our portfolio enables instant and delay-free communication and creates a culture of continuous feedback across organizational levels.

Our blog on the undeniable benefits of 360-degree feedback in performance management is a must-read to understand more about feedback and its importance.

Best employee competency-based evaluation practices

Here are four short and compelling points about creating the best competency based evaluation practice.

  • Make sure it is all about learning & career progression– While you can use these competency-based assessment tools and practices to evaluate and assess employees, when the assessment and evaluation are not followed by an opportunity to learn in alignment with career progression, it can get very frustrating.
  • Be consistent – An employee competency assessment is not a one-time process. Keep updating the competency library for each role and get the process done regularly. This way, you will know when employees are making an effort to up-skill themselves, and the employees will feel gratified for the efforts they have been taking.
  • Make the process transparent – Employees need to know the critical competencies against which their skills are being compared. They need to be given a chance to explain themselves and take action. The assessment process always needs to be a two-way conversation.
  • Try a pilot project – If this is the first time you are introducing a competency-based assessment model in the workplace, it would be very practical to do a pilot test and see how the model works. You can pick a small sub-group of employees or a single team to try the process out, identify problems, make changes, and then make an organization-wide setup.


The above 5 factors definitely need to be considered before you design a competency-based assessment tool for your workplace. The right competencies, when assigned to the right job roles, can be a game-changer for both the employees and the organization. When employees develop the right competencies to do their jobs well, their productivity increases, their engagement levels shoot through the roof, and they become more independent, reliable, and trustworthy as team members.

If you haven’t considered competency-based assessment evaluations so far, it is the right time to get this started. Do note that critical competencies keep changing with time. Thanks to technological upgrades, a skill valued two years back maybe redundant right now. As a result, it is recommended that you regularly take up competency-based assessments, constantly identifying gaps and taking the right measures to fill them.

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