Development of a Competency Model for a Consulting Company in a Blended Approach of Job Requirements Analysis and Competency Modelling

Master's Thesis, 2010

89 Pages, Grade: 1,9



Definition of the company’s problem
Aims and objectives of the research project

Literature Review
Job Requirements in Management Consultancies
Requirements Analysis
Methods, Tools, and Practical Application
Quality Criteria
Competency Modelling
Methods, Tools, and Practical Application
Quality Criteria
Integration in a Blended Approach

Project Report
Purpose of the Study
Methods of Research
Preliminary Study
Participants and Execution
Interview Guidelines
Data Analysis
Results of the Preliminary Study
Quantitative Analysis: Employee Survey
Participants and Execution
Survey Questionnaire
Data Analysis and Results
Recommendations and Solutions

Critical Reflection
Reflection and Critical Analysis of the Research Process
Ethical issues
Results in Context of Literature Review


Appendix A - Results of the Employee Survey
Appendix B – Cover Letter for Interviewee Invitation in the Preliminary Study
Appendix C - Interview-Guide of the Preliminary Study
Appendix D - Hyper Dimensional Taxonomy of Managerial Competence
Appendix E - Multidimensional Competency-based Managerial Performance Framework
Appendix F – The Great Eight Competencies
Appendix G - Categorisation Matrix
Appendix H – Cover Letter of the Employee Survey
Appendix I - Questionnaire of the Online-Survey

List of Figures

Figure 1 - Hierarchical Levels of Consulting Staff since 2001

Figure 2 - Indirect estimation model: Inference conclusions for job and requirements analysis (Morgeson & Campion, 2000)

Figure 3 - Characteristic fields of activities of management consultants, differentiated by hierarchical level

Figure 4 - Competence profiles of management consultants, differentiated by hierarchical level

Figure 5 - By a competency model affected areas of HR management

Figure 6 - Results on the career model out of the 2007 employee survey

Figure 7 - Demand for more consequent and more transparent career planning in the 2007 employee survey

List of Tables

Table 1 - Results of a survey in British companies about the main use of competency models

Table 2 - Section A of the questionnaire: Analysis of job-related requirements

Table 3 - Section B of the questionnaire: Analysis of future requirements

Table 4 - Theoretical foundation of category definitions

Table 5 - Interview results about future trends and requirements for managing consultants

Table 6 - Categorisation system of identified competencies with exemplary interview responses and corresponding criteria from literature review

Table 7 - Presence of competence categories in interviews with senior managers

Table 8 - Overview about chosen scales in pre-test questionnaire

Table 9 - Statistical analysis of survey data

Table 10 - Mean and standard deviation by hierarchical level

Table 11 - Titles and High-Level Definitions of the Great Eight Competencies

This dissertation is the result of my own work. Material of the published or unpublished work of others, which is referenced to in the dissertation, is credited to the author in question in the text. The dissertation is 13,017 words in length. Research ethics issues have been considered and handled appropriately within the Durham Business School guidelines and procedures.


Research shows that high-performing people are critical for high-performing organisations. Especially for professional service firms, such as management consultancies, people can be seen as the critical success factor. The competencies of their employees assure the long-term competitiveness of consulting firms. Thus, recruiting and selection as well as personnel development are strategically crucial for consulting firms. In other words: a strategic competency management, which is based on critical-to-success criteria, have to be in focus within this industry. But how can be distinguished between high-performing and non-high-performing people? What characterises a successful consultant? What are knowledge, skills, and abilities, which determine job performance within the consulting industry? The research paper at hand tries to answer these questions with the help of a concrete example.

Over the last decades two mainstreams to answer this type of practical as well as scientifically relevant questions emerged: the requirements analysis approach, which is more quantitative and focuses on task related requirements, and the competency modelling approach, which is more related to individual characteristics and which attempts to describe how the tasks are mastered. With a blended approach, this study tries to integrate the advantages of both and to identify, what are typical tasks of consultants, which behaviour differentiates high-performing from less successful consultants, which competencies enable high-performing job holders, and which requirements can be derived from that?

In the first instance a preliminary study in a European consulting firm aims to explore thy typical duties and tasks at each of five career levels using the Critical Incident Technique according to Flanagan. Then, a survey amongst all job holders in this consulting firm shall reassess the findings of the preliminary study. Finally a scientifically substantiated and at the same time implementable model with competency profiles for each career level is drawn, whilst limitations of this approach and further recommendations for implementation are shown.


Definition of the company’s problem

The research object is a European based consulting firm with a focus on corporate and organisation management. The service portfolio covers the following subjects:

- Strategic management - development and implementation of organisational strategies
- Process management and organisational development - optimisation of business processes as well as of organisational structures facilitating operations and workflows
- Management control - design and implementation of management tools to control the organisation (such as planning, reporting, risk management etc.)

With more than 450 employees in Austria, Germany, Hungary, Romania, Spain, Switzerland and the United States the company offers classical management consulting as well as selection and implementation of supporting software solutions and training services. Founded 25 years ago the consultancy grew very fast over the recent eight years especially by enhancing its service offering as well as expanding its international business. Due to this development employees experienced a fundamental change affecting their job profiles as well as the way of fulfilling the different roles within the organisation.

Within the organisation five hierarchical levels are defined representing the status of the employees as well as their remuneration or their rights and duties. Due to the fast growth and the mentioned change of the organisation there is no common understanding of the characteristics of specific levels as well as of requirements on the holders of a related position.

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Figure 1 - Hierarchical Levels of Consulting Staff since 2001 (Source: Company Information)

During an annual process the management decides, which employees are promoted to the next level, accompanied by a decision about an increase of salaries. Hence the hierarchical pyramid is widely recognised as career track, even if it is not consequently related to defined requirements or measures, which support development to the next level.

Furthermore the levels are not clearly distinguished from each other. For example the level Senior Project Manager was originally introduced as additional title with the aim to indicate experienced project managers. This title could be hold both at the level Managing Consultant and at the level Principal and was granted independently from the promotion process. But after a while it emerged that there was not a single promotion from the level Managing Consultant to the level Principal without an intermediate step becoming Senior Project Manager. Hence this title was also recognised as additional level within the pyramid but without any definition of the differences between the three steps - except a common sense that one indicates a longer experience in consulting business than the other.

Consequently managers experience difficulties to show career tracks to their subordinates and especially to explain what an employee has to do to advance his/her career. But exactly this is highly demanded to an increasing degree as feedbacks from an annual employee survey show (see appendix A). Vice versa, employees do not clearly know how they can influence their professional career, which leads to a widely spread “black box”-feeling, which has to be seen as a risk for employee retention. (Source: company information)[1]

Another effect of the insufficiently defined roles and requirements is that the recruiting process is focussed almost on professional skills such as business know-how in the field of management accounting. The personal competencies, which are at least of the same importance, are only limited assessed. Often there is a gut feeling about a personal fit but managers do not base their decisions on a set of carefully selected criteria. This in turn leads to an approach, which fosters “similar to me” decisions where applicants with a similar personality profile are preferred. Basically these selection decisions might be not wrong but over a longer period of time workforce becomes more and more homogenous, which incorporates a risk to refuse a qualified candidate or even to derogate the firm’s innovation potential and similar capabilities, which are highly affected by workforce diversity. (Lang-von Wins, Triebel, Buchner, & Sandor, 2008)

Aims and objectives of the research project

Recent management literature and a change in manager’s mindset over the last decade claim, that “high-performing people are critical for high-performing organisations” (Rodriguez, Patel, Bright, Gregory, & Gowing, 2002). Especially for professional service firms, such as management consultancies, employees seem to be a critical success factor. The competencies of the employees of a consulting firm assure its long-term success as well as a preservation and development of its competitive position. (Plate, 2006)

Recruiting and selection of eligible employees, performance evaluation and personnel development according to the strategic alignment are crucial for these companies. Thus a criteria based human resource management as part of a strategic competency management can be understood as critical to success for players in this industry. (Nienaber, 2007)

But what are the critical competencies, which characterise high-performing people? As requirements on employees vary depending on business model, job roles, organisational culture and numerous other factors a generally applicable set of competencies probably cannot be found. Hence this question shall be answered with a focus on the before mentioned consultancy firm, which is characterised by relatively homogenous job profiles with a focus on project related work.

As explained more in detail later in this paper the research process itself has an impact on the use and acceptance of the research results. There are generic models, which are probably applicable to most of the relevant organisations. But the involvement of the staff as well as the development of an individual, company specific approach drives acceptance of the emerging competency model and the derived HR tools. Hence a case study as preferred research approach was chosen.

Considering the above mentioned the following research question for this study can be defined:

1. What are the typical duties and responsibilities on each of five career/expertise levels?
2. Which behaviour differentiates between high-performing and less successful job holders mastering their duties?
3. Which competencies enable high-performing job holders to consist in mastering their duties successfully?
4. Which requirements can be derived to redefine selection criteria for applicants as well as career tracks for employees?

Literature Review

Job Requirements in Management Consultancies

For (management) consultancies numerous definitions can be found in literature. But a standardised, commonly accepted definition does not yet exist. (Plate, 2006) For this research paper the following abstract and broader definition was taken as basis:

As management consulting we understand a service, which is individually delivered by an independent, on own responsibility acting, professional advisor to a client organisation. The service aims to solve a management problem in a common, interactive process between consultant and advisor as well as to solve the solution on demand. (Hoffmann, 1991)

According to Schein, consultation processes can be distinguished by the nature of advice and the role of the consultant into three categories (Schein, 1988):

- Purchase of Expertise Model: the client, which is usually an individual manager or a group within an organisation, is purchasing expert information or expert services. The client’s organisation might have only limited resources or time to fulfil that specific need.

- Doctor - Patient-Model: the client decides to bring a consultant in as he perceives that there are organisational areas, which do not function properly and might need attention or perceives symptoms like dropping revenues or quality problems. The client itself knows that there is an issue but does not know how to analyse and solve it. The consultant has the task to find out, what is wrong and to solve the problem like a doctor who prescribes medicines.

- Process Consultation Model: the essential purpose of consulting is to pass on skills of how to diagnose and fix organisational problems so that the client can prospectively improve the organisation on his own.

The job of a management consultant is characterised by manifold social interactions. In focus is a project-related work, in which always several persons are involved. Thus a consultant must be at least basically able to work in teams and to master also complex social situations. (Sommerlatte, 2000) Over the course of a project a consultant can take over different roles as advisor: crisis manager, problem solver, expert or promoter. Thus consultants must be flexible enough to switch between these roles, which in turn require different skills and abilities.

According to Plate a high customer orientation, flat hierarchies, delegation of responsibilities, and the need to permanently update management and business knowledge are determinants of job requirements. (Plate, 2006) Van der Wagen highlights that particularly person-related competencies are relevant within a service environment and recommends to prospectively focus on the development of industry-specific competency models (1994 cited from (Garavan & McGuire, 2001)), which are not yet formulated in detail. (Plate, 2006)

Requirements Analysis


The identification of requirements by a requirements analysis can be defined as “the process of gathering, analyzing, and structuring information about a job’s components, characteristics, and job requirements ...” (Sanchez & Levine, Accuracy or consequential validity: which is the better standard for job analysis data?, 2000) This definition integrates the job specification with the job analysis whilst other authors claim that both have to be seen separately. Figure 2 shows the concept of Morgeson & Campion who belong to the latter group and who draw three different types of conclusions:

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Figure 2 - Indirect estimation model: Inference conclusions for job and requirements analysis (Morgeson & Campion, 2000)

1. The job descriptive inference is the description of duties and responsibilities with the aid of tasks and/or activities.

2. The job specification inference is the requirements analysis which infers characteristics and criteria which are necessary for successfully mastering work activities.

3. Finally the operational inference allocates which criteria account for the mastering of a before identified task or activity (Morgeson & Campion, 2000)

The approach of requirements analysis is focussed almost on the present. As it usually does not consider future developments and change within the organisation or of environmental factors it has to be seen as relatively static and inflexible. Hence this approach cannot lead to a long-term oriented competency model, which has to integrate both, present requirements and future changes.

Methods, Tools, and Practical Application

To conduct requirement analyses different approaches can be chosen:

- Intuitive based on the individual experiences of selected experts
- Empirical focussing on workplace requirements
- Empirical focussing on the differences between successful jobholders

In general an empirical approach is less subjective than the intuitive one as they are based on a wide database about duties, tasks, and responsibilities respectively about systematically collected critical for success criteria of jobholders. (Schuler, 2001) (Reimann, 2005)

All three approaches provide information on different levels: job related, competence related, and behaviour based. The latter is the most widely spread as it is applicable to the full spectrum of people management: selection, assessment, and development of employees. (Schuler, 2001) Furthermore a behaviour-based approach fosters reliability as well as validity of requirements analyses and increases the credibility of assessment tools that base on it. (Tett, Guterman, Bleier, & Murphy, 2000) Thus behaviour-based requirements are the foundations of a criteria based human resource management.

Additionally methods for requirements analyses can be characterised by their degree of standardisation (Reimann, 2005):

- Not standardised, such as unstructured interviews, freely written reports, or document analysis – these methods may be helpful to get an overview about duties and responsibilities but they are difficult and only with high effort to interpret.

- Partly standardised, such as the Critical Incident Technique according to Flanagan, working diaries, semi-structured interviews or systematic observation with a lower risk to miss central aspects of requirements.

- Standardised, such as questionnaires, checklists, and observed interviews, which provide the highest objectivity and reliability amongst the three approaches but which are characterised by a lack of flexibility.

Particularly interesting is the Critical Incident Technique (CIT), which represents a group of empirically behaviour-based and workplace related methods. It is rather a generic term for different but similar procedural methods than a specific tool. (Kanning & Holling, 2002) The basic principle is that critical to success incidents are identified as well as behavioural patterns, which help to overcome them. Critical to success means according to Flanagan a particularly important or frequent event. To overcome the respective challenge decides about success or failure in performing a workplace activity. (Flanagan, 1954) The CIT is a popular and widely used approach although it is a very complex method and lacks of an overview about the interrelation, interdependencies, and sequence of duties and tasks. (Reimann, 2005)

Just as for the methods there are several alternative sources of information: especially skilled job analysts as well as job holders, supervisors or representatives of HR functions come into consideration. In scientific research often students play a role but this group is less relevant for business practise. (Voskuijl & Meyer, 1999) Basically there is no common sense in scientific literature how to select the relevant control sample: Brannick and Levine as well as Borman et al recommend to select a large sample to get representative data (Bormann, Dorsey, & Ackerman, 1992) (Brannick & Levine, 2002) whilst others claim that smaller groups of carefully selected subject matter experts (SME) deliver comparable results at lower costs within a shorter period of time. (Maurer & Tross, SME committee vs. field job analysis ratings: Convergence, cautions, and a call, 2000) Generally it is recommended to consider at least experienced jobholders and their supervisors as the latter can contribute a wider perspective integrating the context of a job role, the interdependence with other jobs, and objectives as well as development trends of the organisation whilst jobholders provide the highest reliability for specific job analyses. (Dierdorff & Wilson, 2003), (Gael, 1988) Further it should be considered that the participation of both groups has an impact on the acceptance of requirements analysis and the later derived measures, tools, and processes.

Quality Criteria

Job and requirements analyses are not done for their own sake. Rather they are conducted with the aim to generate a basis of information, which shall be used for recruiting and selection, people development or performance measurement. But they can only serve this purpose if they are adequately reliable and valid: “Inaccurate job analysis information will presumably impair decision quality and reduce individual and organizational effectiveness and efficiency.” (Sanchez & Levine, Accuracy or consequential validity: which is the better standard for job analysis data?, 2000) According to this Morgeson and Campion claim that the inquiry of quality criteria for the analytical procedures in this field must be given high importance in scientific research. (Morgeson & Campion, 1997) However this ambition seems not to be met so far and quality criteria are only developed on a limited scale. (Dierdorff & Wilson, 2003); (Schuler, 2001)

Usually job and requirements analyses are based on subjective valuations. Hence they are prone to numerous sources of errors and biases. Morgeson and Companion have developed a theoretical framework, which shows parallels to empirically tested influence on judgment and respective interference factors in social and cognitive psychology. Even if empirical evidence is still outstanding, an attempt to eliminate subjectivity is the aggregation of several individual valuations to an overall assessment. Accordingly the consistency in valuation by several subject matter experts is the most frequent used quality criterion for job and requirements analyses. (Morgeson & Campion, 1997) But a review of scientific literature shows that there is a controversial debate if valuation differences between observers actually have to be seen as error or if they have to be seen more as systematic differences. Related is a controversial debate if there even can exist an objective standard description for job duties or if they are always subjective constructions. (Morgeson & Campion, 2000); (Sanchez & Levine, Accuracy or consequential validity: which is the better standard for job analysis data?, 2000); (Harvey & Wilson, 2000) A decision to follow the argumentation of one group has an impact on the selection of an appropriate measurement model: classical test theory is based on the assumption that high consistence amongst observers represents a quality criterion for job and requirements analysis whilst differences have to be seen as errors. (Lievens, Sanchez, & de Corte, 2004) On the other hand the origin of differences in valuation might be a different interpretation of tasks and duties or a different way to perform a task rather than an error. (Sanchez & Fraser, On the choice of scales for task analysis, 1992) This seems to be valid especially for tasks and duties with a low degree of standardisation and highly effective degrees of freedom. (Bormann, Dorsey, & Ackerman, 1992)

If quality criteria for jobs and requirements analyses are even defined, then almost reliability is used but not validity. (Dierdorff & Wilson, 2003) But Sanchez and Levine refer to a so called consequential validity - for lack of objectively “right” data they define quality related to the conclusions and consequences, which are drawn out of the data: “In our opinion, rethinking the notion of job analysis accuracy implies carrying out evaluation studies centred on the consequences of job analysis data and the consequences of rules governing job analysis-based inferences in organizational programmes like selection and training.” (Sanchez & Levine, Accuracy or consequential validity: which is the better standard for job analysis data?, 2000)

Even if these remarks imply that methods for job and requirements analysis are afflicted by some uncertainty as well as with some shortcomings, they are consistently characterised as quality assuring measures (Schuler, 2001) or as empirically founded corrective for the identification of requirements and the following design of tools for selection, development and, assessment of employees. (Chen, Carsten, & Krauss, 2003); (Etzel & Küppers, 2002); (Heider-Friedel, Strobel, & Westhoff, 2006)

Competency Modelling


Academic literature does not show a common definition of “competencies”. The term itself was probably first mentioned by McClelland who described them as “any psychological or behavioural attitudes associated with success”. (McClelland, 1973) More recent concepts understand competencies as so called KSAO s (Knowledge, Skills, Abilities, and Other characteristics) which help individuals to perform in their job (Laber & O'Connor, 2000) or as a “set of observable performance dimensions, including individual knowledge, skills, attitudes, and behaviours, as well as collective team, process and organizational capabilities that are linked to high performance and provide the organization with sustainable competitive advantage” (Athey & Orth, 1999). Especially the latter definition considers a long-term orientation, which is often missed with the requirements analysis approach.

Competencies are often differentiated by the area of application:

- Professional competence (or expertise) with a focus on knowledge and skills
- Methods competence with a focus on the ability to solve problems
- Social competence facilitating effective behaviour in groups such as communication and cooperation
- Personal competence covering self management and self reflection
- Organisational competence which is shown if an individual is familiar with processes and workflows and identifies itself with the organisational culture (Nienaber, 2007)

A competency model finally can be seen as a best practice framework “that describes the behaviours that an employee must have or must acquire to achieve high levels of performance”. (Sloman, 2007) Some authors understand it far more as standards of performance, which are expected to achieve. (Cheng, Dainty, & Moore, 2005)

Competency models describe primarily how duties are mastered successfully. Particularly the focus of aptitude research on relevant personality traits as predictor of professional success gave them a significant boost. Representative the work of Professor Bartram should be mentioned, who developed eight broad competency factors which generally allow a better prediction of future job performance.[2] (Bartram, 2005)

A review of the relevant literature shows that there is a controversial debate on competency modelling: one site claims that there is no common definition of competency modelling and furthermore that “in an area that seems to be of significant interest for practitioners ... there is no empirical research on its effectiveness” (Laber & O'Connor, 2000) whilst the others contrasts “Competencies - stop worrying about the theory, just implement” (Sloman, 2007).

Representatives of the requirements analysis criticise the competency modelling approach as inadequately methodologically substantiated and put the validity of this construct in question. (Sanchez & Levine, Accuracy or consequential validity: which is the better standard for job analysis data?, 2000) Indeed, the critical point is the question for the validity of competency models: are competencies, which are expected by an organisation really crucial for success? The decision which competence should be seen as average performance driver or as high-performance driver depends on the respective organisational culture. Hence competency models often reflect the behaviour, which is expected by the management. But this does not necessarily mean that this behaviour has an impact on future corporate performance. (Athey & Orth, 1999)

However, even if the extracted criteria are often very similar, in practice competency models are predominantly developed for specific organisations. (Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD), 2007) The main reason for that may be that additionally to the specific result the extraction process has its own value for the organisation. By involving all affected organisational groups such as jobholders, supervisors, and management an increased transparency and a common wording about the relevant criteria facilitate a wider acceptance of aligned HR tools. (Sloman, 2007)

Methods, Tools, and Practical Application

For the development of competency models there are different alternatives. In the focus of classical methodologies is the Behavioural Event Interview (BEI), which is based on the Critical Incident Technique. By interviewing successful and less successful jobholders about critical situations in their job, the respective approach to solve the problem and the final results particularly successful behaviour for a specific duty shall be identified.

BEIs are part of an overall process, which consists of the following steps (Spencer & Spencer, 1993) (Dalton, 1997):

1. Definition of criteria for success
2. Selection of control sample
3. Conduction of BEI
4. Data analysis and competency modelling
5. Validation
6. Design of tools for selection, assessment, and development

Alternative approaches to collect data are expert panels, questionnaire-based surveys, job and requirements analyses or observations. (Spencer & Spencer, 1993) Often data collection is done in a two-tiered process: Initially a smaller group of subject matter experts, such as supervisors, are interviewed. Then a questionnaire is designed based on the results of the initial study and a larger control group, such as jobholders, is invited. Sometimes competencies are defined solely by experience-based, intuitive interviews with senior managers, which caused critics that competency modelling is not methodologically substantiated from a scientific viewpoint. (Schippmann, et al., 2000)

Just as requirements analyses, competency models provide a decision base for several questions in human resource management, such as selection of employees, succession planning, performance appraisals, and promotions as well as the definition of training and development measures. (Laber & O'Connor, 2000), (Spencer & Spencer, 1993) Thus, competency models are named as basic framework or focal point of modern human resource management. By harmonising decision criteria for selection, assessment, and development as well as following the respective HR tools a higher consistency of criteria based HR work shall be achieved. Further a common understanding of relevant requirements and a common language can be achieved as well as more transparency and a higher acceptance of performance assessments or promotion. With a competency model performance criteria and deducted requirements can be frank and open communicated to the workforce and specific recommendations for training and development measures can be developed. (Dalton, 1997), (Laber & O'Connor, 2000)

Additionally to the before mentioned application to operational human resource management competency models can be used for a strategic competency management. But a study of the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD) from 2007 shows that at least in the participating UK companies the focus is still on support of operational HR issues:

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Table 1 - Results of a survey in British companies about the main use of competency models (Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD), 2007)

Depending on the applied methodological approach the data source respective the composition of the control sample can be chosen. Basically the same as for the requirements analyses can be used. Schippmann claims that representatives of the senior management level have to be involved in each case to integrate their strategic orientation as well as their focus on future developments (Schippmann, et al., 2000) whilst Spencer suggests to consider jobholders selected by performance criteria to conduct Behavioural Event Interviews: “you always learn most from your superstars”. (Spencer & Spencer, 1993) But it has to be mentioned that performance criteria and the decision, whom to see as a superstar, often are very subjective. Hence it is questionable if it is even possible to name the right persons as high performers.

According to the studies of Lievens, Sanchez, and de Corte the involvement of different groups of subject matter experts such as jobholders, supervisors or internal customers, have a positive impact on the quality of competency models. Hence they recommend to compose the SME samples with representatives of these groups and to avoid, being too homogeneous. Ideally different groups of persons contribute different perspectives on the analysed job role. (Lievens, Sanchez, & de Corte, 2004)

Quality Criteria

Just as the requirements analysis competency modelling does not find an end in itself. Rather it is the starting point for the development of numerous applications within in human resource management. Hence, any failure in the derivation of critical for success competencies is continued in concept and design of HR tools, which may finally lead to wrong personnel decisions. (Schippmann, et al., 2000) Even if this indicates that quality criteria for competency models should be highly relevant, they are hardly empirically examined. Steinmayr comments that competency modelling seems to be more an industry, which is well received by practitioners due to its high face validity, than empirical research (Steinmayr, 2005) whilst Lievens et al. criticize a lack of empirical studies, which explore the quality of inferences when competency models are developed. (Lievens, Sanchez, & de Corte, 2004)

Generally the quality of competency models is hardly evaluated and if any then almost in a descriptive form testing...:

- is the model comprehensive from a practitioner’s perspective?
- is the language within the model understandable for later “users”?
- are the definitions mutually exclusive and suitable for the assessment of employees?

Only if these criteria are met a crucial precondition for acceptance within an organisation is fulfilled – even if these are quality criteria out of a practitioner’s approach rather than quality criteria in a scientific research.

Integration in a Blended Approach

The above description of requirements analyses and competency modelling shows that there are numerous similarities in central characteristics of both approaches. Steinmayr points out that qualitative methodologies outweigh quantitative ones for competency modelling whilst it is vice versa for requirements analyses, (Steinmayr, 2005) whilst others recognise a difference in competency models’ focus on business strategy compared to a narrower focus of requirements analyses on job tasks and duties. (Laber & O'Connor, 2000), (Schippmann, et al., 2000)

Particularly interesting is a study of Schippmann et al., which shows that job requirements analyses focus on task related content and describe what is done as part of a job, whilst competency models highlight individual-related characteristics and describe how it is done. But is has to be considered that for both approaches wide ranges of application exist and any comparison is only valid for typical requirements analyses respectively typical competency models. (Schippmann, et al., 2000)

A study of Lievens, Sanchez, and de Corte empirically supplies an indication that a blended approach, which integrates both methodologies and considers task-related information when relevant KSAO are derived, diminishes the variability between judgements of SME and increases distinguishability between different job roles compared to a typical approach for competency modelling: “blending a task analysis approach with a competency-based approach might enhance the quality of the inferences that job experts draw about competency requirements. (Lievens, Sanchez, & de Corte, 2004) Schippmann expects that the boarders between both approaches become blurred and a “blending of best practices” happens. As “best practice” he sees an approach, which methodologically sound derives requirements and considers business strategies and future development. (Schippmann, et al., 2000)

Following its respective detractors both approaches are also afflicted with specific disadvantages. The requirements analysis is objected with to be too static, inflexible and too much focused on presence whilst competency models cope better with fast changing organisational realities by taking strategies and future challenges into account. (Schippmann, et al., 2000)

Project Report

Purpose of the Study

Purpose of the explorative research study is the development of a competency model for a management consultancy. This competency model shall provide a substantiated foundation for all HR related tools and processes from recruiting and selection over performance management to career development. Hence it has clearly to describe the specific tasks and duties for each hierarchical level of the organisation as well as the competencies, which enable applicants and employees to fulfil the identified tasks.

The competency model shall help to

- Address appropriate target groups which can be easier and more clearly defined
- Define the right selection criteria for applicants
- Define appropriate criteria for performance measurement
- Provide transparent requirements for career development through the hierarchical levels (which requirements are demanded on the different levels and how have employees to behave to get promoted to this level?)
- Identify the best candidate for succession if a position has to be reoccupied
- Support decisions about outplacements of employees

Finally not only the duties and competencies should be defined. Rather the competency model should additionally provide a common understanding within the organisation, what is meant with the required competencies as well as ensure that the identified are the appropriate ones.

As mentioned before there is no preferred research approach to answer the research question, according to the academic literature. With regard to the characteristics of the organisation, which is focussed by the case study, an appropriate research design has to be defined.

At first view the approach to use standardised, common competency models seems to be appropriate. Models such as the Great Eight (Bartram, 2005) probably deliver a framework, which might not be perfect but from a practitioner’s view absolutely satisfying. But a specific development process integrates the persons concerned, which should lead to higher acceptance (Sloman, 2007). Hence the use of a generic model could be eliminated as an alternative as it is very important to create a commitment of all employees and managing partners as well as to establish a common language about the content.

Methods of Research

The specific research approach for this project includes a qualitative preliminary study during that semi-structured interviews based on the Critical Incident Technique are conducted to identify common duties as well as critical to success behaviour of management consultants. According to the indirect estimation model (Morgeson & Campion, 2000) thus ensures a relationship between duties/tasks and requirements. The critical to success behaviour can be understood as operationalisation of competencies, which have to be aggregated to competence clusters and a behavioural codebook. (Spencer & Spencer, 1993)

In a second step all jobholders should participate in a survey, which asks for the importance of the identified behaviour for their current job role. Participants have to rank the level-specific behaviour inventory at a rating scale to weight them as well as to quantify the congruence of the valuation of all participants as a quality criterion.

Preliminary Study

Participants and Execution

As the senior management team of the example organisation decides about the engagement of new staff, performance appraisals, and promotions its representatives can be seen as the major information source for the qualitative interview phase. Members of the senior management team can additionally provide insights into expectations about the future of the company whilst all managers are future users of adjusted HR tools, which is important under acceptance considerations.

Aspired is a census with all members of the management team - especially to gain a higher acceptance within this crucial group of the staff. Within the considered organisation this group consists out of 24 members. 20 of them are in charge for a specific business unit with business as well as managerial responsibility whilst four of them form the board of directors with a more strategic perspective. All of the participants in this phase are at Partner level (see figure 1).

The interviews are semi-structured to ensure comparability at one hand and flexibility at the other. Firstly participants should describe the most important duties and tasks from their perspective. Most important does mean that they frequently occur, are critical to success or hard to learn and understand. According to the Critical Incident Technique, participants should then describe successful as well as less successful behaviour. (Flanagan, 1954) Finally participants should give their expectations about future changes and their impact on successful behaviour. This has to be done separately for each hierarchical level. All answers are fully documented with a voice recorder for later analysis.

The interviews are conducted face to face to enable the researcher to deepen important issues or to clarify answers if necessary. Paper based interviews do not provide this possibility - hence they are too inflexible as a later clarification is almost not possible.

After conducting all interviews the answers are analysed (see section Analysis and Interpretation) and transformed into a first draft of a competency model.

Interview Guidelines

As foundation for the semi-structured interviews a questionnaire was developed, which ensures a minimum of standardisation whilst at the same time specific issues can be emphasised. This questionnaire was set up with three modules:

1. Current job-related requirements
2. Future job-related requirements
3. Professional/methodological requirements and qualifications

The third module was integrated to use an opportunity to collect data about professional skills, which are commonly required throughout the whole organisation, although this is not in focus of this research project. Hence the related data won’t be subject of further consideration in this report.

With a view to current job requirements initially the most important tasks and duties of management consultants are asked for. Important in terms of this research project are alls tasks, which occur particularly often, which are critical to success, or which are difficult to learn. The analysis is done separately for each of the hierarchical levels Consultant, Managing Consultant, Senior Project Manager, and Principal. Then, typical examples for successful and (where applicable) less successful behaviour are requested according to Flanagan’s Critical Incident Technique. By linking the answers to the before identified fields of activity the reference of tasks and duties in defined requirements shall be ensured.

Complementary the questionnaire provides the possibility to ask for auxiliary skills, abilities, and personal attributes. But these questions are not asked until concrete behaviour was described. This follows Westhoff’s recommendations how to lead interviews: statements about personal attributes can be part of diagnostic analyses but before the behaviour in a specific situation has to be described. Otherwise there is a risk that only the manager’s theories about qualifications and requirements are documented, which are not necessarily right.[3] (Westhoff & Kluck, 1998) But objective of the interviews is to identify actually critical to success behaviour.

Abbildung in dieser Leseprobe nicht enthalten

Table 2 - Section A of the questionnaire: Analysis of job-related requirements

The second module of the questionnaire contains questions about the interviewee’s opinion on in the future relevant requirements. To support the response to this question the strategy map of the company was shown. It has to be mentioned that this document is well known to the interviewees, as it is result of a mutual strategy discussion amongst the senior managers, who are also in the sample group. Basically it can be assumed that all participants of the preliminary study are familiar with the company’s strategy but seemed to be helpful to provide the same basis to all to derive the future requirements.

Abbildung in dieser Leseprobe nicht enthalten

Table 3 - Section B of the questionnaire: Analysis of future requirements

The questionnaire was tested during pre-test interviews regarding comprehensibility and practicability. At the same time the pre-test interviews were helpful to estimate the duration, which can be quoted with approximately 90 minutes. The pre-test interviews served solely for testing purposes and are not part of any results analysis. All pre-test interviewees were informed about the test approach and asked for critical feedback to improve the quality of the questionnaire. From this a necessity to adjust the questionnaire did not emerge.

Data Analysis

To prepare the data analysis all interviews were fully transcribed under usage of transcription software “f4”, which was developed by Marburg University.[4] The detailed rules for transcription follow the remarks of Kuckartz et al. with slight adaptations for the specific application in this research project. (Kuckartz, Dresing, Rädiker, & Stefer, 2007)

The analysis of the transcripts was done in two iterations with view to two different areas of content: initially the central job tasks of the hierarchical levels should be identified. Then the focus was on critical to success behaviour within the observed management consultancy.

For the identification of job tasks no specific analytical approach was chosen, as this was just a matter of summarising and structuring uncontentious facts. In contrast for the analysis of the critical behaviour the approach of a qualitative content analysis was chosen. This approach consists of three steps (Kuckartz, Dresing, Rädiker, & Stefer, 2007):

- Definition of relevant categories
- Indication of specific text passages as anchor examples
- Formulation of coding rules, which allow a clear classification of text passages in the defined categories

Characteristically for this approach is the development of a behavioural codebook, which describes relevant critical to success competencies for a specific job role and operationalises them on the basis of detailed behaviour descriptions. Each category, which was drawn out of the transcripts, represents a competence category and thus, the category system can be seen as a blueprint for a competency model. (Spencer & Spencer, 1993) Additionally a literature review was conducted to exploit common personnel assessment tools and competency models, which are relevant for management consultancies. The following standardised models were used to get suggestions for competence categories:


[1] The author conducts the annual employee survey since 2001 and has exhaustive access to survey data.

[2] See appendix H

[3] For example almost each senior manager of a consultancy will intuitively name analytical competencies when asked for important qualifications of a consultant, as it is part of the self-perception of this industry to work highly analytically. But this is rather the answer to a question of faith than a requirement that emerges from actual job tasks.

[4] Detailed information are available under:

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Development of a Competency Model for a Consulting Company in a Blended Approach of Job Requirements Analysis and Competency Modelling
Durham University  (Durham Business School)
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development, competency, model, consulting, company, blended, approach, requirements, analysis, modelling
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Alexander Göttling (Author), 2010, Development of a Competency Model for a Consulting Company in a Blended Approach of Job Requirements Analysis and Competency Modelling, Munich, GRIN Verlag,


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