New common competency dictionary developed for performance appraisals

October 26, 2016

Most employees feel reassured when they have a clear sense of what their supervisors and managers expect from them in terms of performance, behaviours, and work attitudes.

Clearly laying out expectations can demonstrate an organization’s commitment towards its employees, especially when this is accompanied by steps to ensure everyone has the competencies they need to help the organization reach its short- and long-term goals. In this sense, the Canadian Armed Forces (CAF) is no different than any other organization.

To help the CAF incorporate the Leadership Development Framework (LDF) into various human resources (HR) systems, Karen Rankin and her team from Director General Military Personnel Research and Analysis spent years researching and developing the Canadian Armed Forces Competency Dictionary (CAF CD).

“Two of [the Chief of Military Personnel’s] Defence Renewal initiatives, namely the Canadian Forces Performance Appraisal System replacement project and the Individual Training and Education Modernization initiative, spurred the push to complete the development of a [competency dictionary] that would operationalize the LDF, which had been endorsed by Armed Forces Council as being the CAF’s leadership doctrine,” said Rankin.

The CAF CD comprises 19 competencies that operationalize the five meta-competencies of the LDF. The competencies are global, broad, and comprehensive characteristics such as: knowledge, skills, abilities, personality, traits, and values that describe behaviors expected of all members. These competencies are linked to CAF strategic goals, informing members of CAF values and expectations, provide prescriptive descriptions of expected performance, and will replace the CF Performance Appraisal System’s performance factors in the future Performance Appraisal and Talent Management System. “Each of the competencies is directly related to behaviours of effective leaders, and by using them in performance appraisals, career progression, and succession management and planning will ensure the CAF has a high calibre of leaders,” she said. The CAF CD was designed in four phases. The first phase involved reviewing the competency dictionaries of other militaries and other Canadian government departments, which lead to an initial list of 17 competencies.

The second phase consisted of developing hundreds of behavioural indicators of effective performance for each competency through numerous interviews and focus groups. In the third phase, more than 4000 CAF members, both non-commissioned members (NCMs) and officers participated in a survey that verified the importance and use of these competencies and behavioural indicators, providing thousands of suggestions on various elements of the CAF CD.

Lastly, the project included a thorough review of all gathered information, leading to a single CAF CD with two distinct components: one for NCMs and one for officers. Both reflect the same 19 competencies that represent the LDF.

The CAF CD will facilitate the department's transition to a competency-based HR system that supports personnel appraisal, career planning, and professional development. Plans are underway to have the CAF CD embedded into performance appraisals. Its versatility means it can be used to guide both career managers and members in identifying gaps between performance at a member’s current rank and performance expectations at future ranks.

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