Smart hiring managers know that to find the right employees for their organization, it’s important to look beyond an applicant’s basic technical skills. They also need to evaluate and measure candidates’ behavioral competencies. Beyond the job description, which lists the specific tasks, functions and responsibilities for a position, competencies are the skills, abilities, or other behavioral characteristics needed to successfully perform the tasks, functions and responsibilities of a position. These can include specific technical skills such as typing speed or computer ability, or more behavioral skills or characteristics such as stress tolerance or adaptability.
Understanding the relationship between job competency and the skill sets of an individual are vital if the right person is to be placed within the correct working environment. When job competency is not properly evaluated, either in the behaviors required by the position, or in the abilities of the applicants for the position, the end result is often negative for both the corporation and the employee.
We’re going to look at one job family, Customer Service, as an example. For simplicity, we’ll also just focus on customer service in a contact center environment but the same approach can be applied to customer service in retail, hospitality, etc. In this example, we’ll define one competency and discuss how to measure that competency during the pre-hire process.
To understand competencies, it is helpful to ask your hiring team some questions:
- What competencies does a new hire need to demonstrate in order to be successful on the job?
- Do these critical competencies differ by function (sales, collections, customer service, and technical support)?
- Do these critical competencies differ by environment (in-office, remote, field, corporate)?
For Customer Service jobs in contact centers, compliance is consistently rated a critical competency by subject matter experts.
In general, compliance means conforming to a rule, such as a specification, policy, standard or law. In psychology, compliance refers to the act of responding favorably to an explicit or implicit request offered by others (Cialdini, R. B. & Goldstein, N. J. (2004). Social influence: Compliance and conformity. Annual Review of Psychology, 55, 591-621). In a contact center, compliance often takes the form of following rules, policies, and guidelines and can be measured in a number of ways. When attempting to evaluate a job candidate’s likelihood of demonstrating compliance on the job, an organization can use work samples or job simulations that require or prompt rule-following behavior, for example, or they may utilize a questionnaire or self-report measure (often a personality assessment) to gauge the candidate’s tendency to follow rules. When attempting to evaluate a customer care agent’s level of compliance on the job, an organization may examine objective metrics that relate to following rules or policies, such as attendance, absenteeism, tardiness, or schedule adherence, or they may ask supervisors who regularly observe the agent’s behavior to evaluate the extent to which the agent demonstrates compliance on a day-to-day basis.