Let’s see how this competency modeling process works, shall we?

In the prior blog article we introduced Acme Inc., a fictional nonprofit that Brighter Strategies worked with to develop competency models for its employees. There, we looked at the “who” and “why” of this case study. Now it’s time to unpack the “how.” Learn more about Brighter Strategies’s comprehensive competency modeling process.

Step One: Project Kick-Off

At the initial kick-off meeting with key decision makers throughout Acme, Brighter Strategies introduced project objectives, the project timeline, and next steps. During this phase, Acme and Brighter Strategies established the intended outcomes of competency modeling and identified the four staffing levels that the process would impact. Read more about Step One here.

Step Two: Gather Data

Gathering data to determine competencies within each employee grouping is a multi-pronged approach. First, Brighter Strategies looks at current job descriptions within each staffing level and lists all of the knowledge, skills, and abilities (KSAs) required for an employee to be successful in that role. For Acme, Brighter Strategies presented a list of 50 competencies within each staffing level (strategic visionary, subject matter expert, tactical implementer, and non-supervisory staff).

Next, Brighter Strategies administered an employee survey to solicit feedback on the four competency lists and narrow each to the 10 best KSAs. All Acme employees had an opportunity to provide input by indicating which competencies they believed were most critical for job success. Focus groups for each job family followed the survey; Brighter Strategies presented the newly narrowed list of competencies and asked for qualitative feedback. Questions posed included:

  • Which competencies are required before an employee enters the job? (What is Acme hiring for?)
  • Which competencies can be learned on the job? (What is Acme training for?)

Step Three: Identify Key Competencies

The KSAs identified in Step Two include both behavioral competencies and technical competencies. As we described in our introduction to competency modeling, behavioral competencies are a set of core behaviors applicable to employees throughout an organization or particular job family, whereas technical competencies are underlying KSAs that are necessary for employees to perform a certain type or level of work activity.

Acme identified the following competencies for each of its staffing levels:


Job Family Competencies

Strategic Visionary

Staff empowerment/Delegation
Exercising independent judgment
Building confidence in abilities to lead

Subject Matter Expert

Improving business acumen
Generating and recognizing new ideas and solutions
Delegation and staff development

Tactical Implementers

Performance planning: Setting expectations
Team leadership
Basic business acumen

Non-Supervisory Staff

Planning and organizing skills
Communication skills and other competencies that align with organizational goals and values


In three steps, Acme successfully completed the first objective on its intended outcome list: Identify competencies for each of the four levels of staff. The next blog article will illustrate how Acme used these models to meet the remaining objectives.