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1. Introduction

Cambridge Business English Dictionary directly links behavioral competencies with professional success and define them as "a personal quality or characteristic that influences how successful someone will be in their work." Competency models are more and more streamlining the organization culture for companies across the world. Company values are cascaded to employee level through behavioral competencies that are implemented in key human resources processes like recruitment, performance management, promotion, career development, succession planning and training.

Rodriguez (2002: 309) considers that "competencies provide the foundation through which human resource professionals can contribute to the success of their organization." When companies decide to introduce competency frameworks, they must reflect the organizations' goals and match the culture they want to shape because competency frameworks that are implemented into HR processes become powerful tools in creating an organization culture that will support the strategy of the company. In current human resources practice, to ensure this, CIPD--The professional body for HR and people development in the UK recommends "first to check that the organization's aspirations are clear and agreed." If they are not clear, they need to be defined and agreed by the company senior management before the design of the framework (Whiddett and Hollyforde, 2007).

To develop customized competency frameworks, companies go through a long, complex and expensive process that requires thorough job analysis and in-depth understanding of the company strategy and the industry. In the 21st century, considering all the developments in the world, globalization and the rapid changes in the job markets, companies have become more and more sophisticated in their approach and the behavior competencies implemented across HR processes are "generally characterized as being (a) transversal (relevant across different fields), (b) multidimensional (they include knowledge, skills and attitudes), and (c) associated with higher order skills and behaviors that represent the ability to cope with complex problems and unpredictable situations" (Voogt and Roblin, 2012).

The purpose of this study is to demonstrate that even though companies invest a lot of effort in developing tailor made behavioral competency frameworks, there is a great degree of similarity between behavioral requirements for their employees to be successful in their job and in the company.

2. Method

We conducted this research based on a literature review aiming to understand what the theoretical approaches are to developing behavioral competency frameworks. Also, the study analyzed the behavioral competency frameworks from two groups of companies across different geographical locations to highlight similarities and differences. The first group comprised of 12 companies from different industries and the second group comprised of 9 banks with a strong presence in the GCC.

3. Literature Review

The Business Dictionary defines competency modeling as the "process of analyzing and describing types and range of abilities, knowledge, and skills present in an organization, or which it needs to acquire to gain a competitive advantage."

3.1. Main approaches in the development of competency frameworks

Mansfield (1996) in his article Competency Models for HR Professionals considers that "the two most common ways of developing and using competency models--(1) the single-job competency model and (2) the 'one-size-fits-all' competency model". The author considers that multiple-job approach to competency model building would be a quick and low-cost approach. This includes "a set of common building block competencies, provision for customization of competencies for individual job models and defined levels of performance for each competency".

Regarding the methodology, competency models are created through data collected from job analysis interviews conducted in person or by telephone, focus groups, surveys of systems management experts by questionnaire, and up-to-date job descriptions. "Management of each company decides the amount of detail to use to describe competencies that will be included in the organization competency model" (Mirabile, 2016).

3.2. Previous studies of similarities between competency frameworks

During the development of a U.S. Army leadership competency framework, Horey and Fallesen (2003) examined 6 existing U.S. military and civilian behavioral competency frameworks and identified similarities and differences in terms content and structure. They concluded that in half the cases, the frameworks appear to be very similar. Among the 41 constructs analyzed in this study, 20 are included in three or more frameworks, 15 are included in two frameworks, and 6 are unique to a single framework.

Young and Chapman (2010) consider that significant efforts have been made to identify the generic competencies required to be successful in different workplace contexts. The authors have reviewed generic competency frameworks developed in Australia, New Zealand, the US, Canada, the UK, and other European countries and concluded that there are significant areas of commonality amongst the frameworks. However, regional differences are also apparent.

Voogt and Roblin (2012) analyzed 8 competency frameworks that informed curriculum policies and educational practices across various countries. 3 of the frameworks analyzed in this study have been developed under the initiative of international organizations (EU, OECD, UNESCO), and the remaining five were developed with the support of private organizations. The study findings were that the frameworks analyzed converged on a common set competences: collaboration, communication, computer literacy, and social and/or cultural competencies (including citizenship). Most frameworks also mention creativity, critical thinking, productivity, and problem-solving.

4. Analysis of Several Competency Frameworks

In trying to understand similarities and differences between different behavioral competency frameworks, we analyzed in terms of structure and construct frameworks from two groups of companies across different geographical locations. The first group comprised of 12 companies from different industries and the second group comprised of 9 banks with a strong presence in the GCC.

4.1. Structure analysis

Structure analysis was conducted just on the first group of companies. The 12 companies are from different industries across United Arab Emirates and Oman and their competency framework varies significantly in terms of structure. The frameworks include a different number of behavioral competencies that range from 5 to 30 and each competency is structured into 1 or more levels to reflect the complexity of behaviors expected. The competencies and the levels are mapped to the roles across the organization so the employees are assessed just on the behaviors expected for their role. The expectations will be higher for more senior roles in the organization, therefore, senior roles have mapped a bigger number of competencies and the expected behaviors will be more complex than for more junior roles.

4.2. Construct analysis

In the construct analysis, to allow the comparison and to understand the importance of the industry in defining the competency framework, we have analyzed competency frameworks from two groups of companies. The first group comprised of 12 companies from different industries from United Arab Emirates and Oman and the second group comprised from 9 local and international companies from the banking industry.

In the analysis of the 12 competencies from different industries, there was a total of 175 competencies, that have behavioral descriptors for a variable number of levels. From the semantic and construct analysis resulted a number of 66 different generic constructs that were described through the 12 competency frameworks that were analyzed. 3 constructs are present in 9 competency frameworks (75% of the companies), 7 constructs are present in at least half or the frameworks analyzed and 10 constructs are present in 5 competency frameworks. From this analysis, we can understand that most companies consider very important for their success that their employees display behaviors related to adaptability, communication and customer focus.

The behavioral competencies from 9 banks have been analyzed from the semantic and construct point of view. There are a total of 51 competencies and 31 different generic constructs have been identified. From these, just 9 constructs are present in 2 or more frameworks. 2 constructs are present in 6 of the 9 frameworks analyzed (67% of the companies) and 3 constructs are present in 3 frameworks (33% of the companies). From this analysis, we can understand that most banks consider very important for their success that their employees display behaviors related to delivering results and teamwork. Other behaviors considered important are related to creativity, excellence and integrity.

5. Conclusions

The industry culture impacts expected behaviors and the competencies present in the banks analyzed differ from the ones across the group of companies from different industries. Competencies that most companies expect their employees to demonstrate are adaptability, communication and customer focus. The group of banks analyzed is more focused on achieving results and the sets of behaviors most present in their competency frameworks are related to delivering results and teamwork.

For developing their behavioral competency frameworks, companies invest a considerable effort. Although competency frameworks vary significantly in terms of structure and every company is unique and has an individual strategy that is cascaded down to individual level to drive performance, there are sets of behaviors expected from the employees across different companies reflecting the universality of some of the behavioral competency concepts.


Behavioural competency [Def.]. Cambridge Business English Dictionary. Retrieved September 12, 2016, from

Competency modelling [Def.]. Business Dictionary. Retrieved September 12, 2016 from

Horey, J., and Fallesen, J. (2003). "Leadership Competencies: Are We All Saying the Same Thing?" Paper at 45th Annual Conference of the International Military Testing Association, Pensacola, Florida, 3-6 November, 721-733.

Mansfield, R. S. (1996). "Building Competency Models: Approaches for HR Professionals," Human Resource Management 35(1): 7-18.

Mirabile, R. J. (1997). "Everything You Wanted to Know about Competency Modeling," Training & Development 51(8): 73-77.

Rodriguez, D., Patel, R., Bright, A., Gregory, D., and Gowing, M. K. (2002). "Developing Competency Models to Promote Integrated Human Resource Practices," Human Resource Management 41(3): 309-324.

Voogt, J., and Roblin, N. (2012). "A Comparative Analysis of International Frameworks for 21st Century Competences: Implications for National Curriculum Policies," Journal of Curriculum Studies 44(3): 299-321.

Westera, W. (2001). "Competences in Education: A Confusion of Tongues," Journal of Curriculum Studies 33(1): 75-88.

Whiddett, S., and Hollyforde, S. (2007). Competencies. Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development, retrieved September 2016 from

Young, J., and Chapman, E. (2010). "Generic Competency Frameworks: A Brief Historical Overview," Education Research and Perspectives 37(1): 1-24.


The Bucharest University of Economic Studies


The Bucharest University of Economic Studies
Table 1 Structural characteristics of competency frameworks from
companies across different industries in UAE and Oman

No.    Company                     Industry

1      PPM                         Facility management
2      Al Ghurair University       Education
3      Azadea Group                Retail
4      Topaz Engineering           Heavy Industry
5      Sharaf DG                   Retail
6      Oman Football Association   Sport
7      AROC                        Aviation
8      Emirates                    Aviation

9      PeopleFirst                 Consultancy
10     OBC                         Telecommunication
11     Jumeirah                    Hospitality
12     Nawras                      Telecommunication

No.    Country          No. of         No. of
crt.                    behavioral     levels

1      Abu Dhabi--UAE   5              2
2      Dubai--UAE       15             1
3      Dubai--UAE       16             4
4      Dubai--UAE       18             3
5      Dubai--UAE       25             3
6      Oman             14             2
7      Abu Dhabi--UAE   8              5
8      Dubai--UAE       30             1

9      Dubai--UAE       12             1
10     Oman             8              3
11     Dubai--UAE       15             5
12     Oman             9              5

Table 2 Constructs that are present in 5 or more frameworks from the
12 behavioral competency frameworks analyzed for companies across
different industries in UAE and Oman

No.    Construct                     No. of frameworks   Percentage

1      Adaptability                  9                   75%
2      Communication                 9                   75%
3      Customer focus                9                   75%
4      Creativity                    7                   58%
5      Planning and organizing       7                   58%
6      Teamwork                      7                   58%
7      Delivering results            6                   50%
8      Accountability                5                   42%
9      Business acumen               5                   42%
10     Decision making               5                   42%
11     Influencing and negotiating   5                   42%
12     Initiative                    5                   42%
13     Integrity                     5                   42%
14     Leading people                5                   42%
15     Networking                    5                   42%
16     Problem solving               5                   42%
17     Strategic thinking            5                   42%

Table 3 Constructs that are present in 2 or more frameworks from the
9 behavioral competency frameworks analyzed for banks

No.    Construct              No. of frameworks   Percentage

1      Delivering results     6                   67%
2      Teamwork               6                   67%
3      Creativity             3                   33%
4      Excellence             3                   33%
5      Integrity              3                   33%
6      Customer orientation   2                   22%
7      Pioneering             2                   22%
8      Strategic thinking     2                   22%
9      Transparency           2                   22%
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Article Details
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Author:Profiroiu, Alina-Georgina; Hurdubei, Roxana
Publication:Economics, Management, and Financial Markets
Article Type:Report
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Sep 1, 2018

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