Talent Management for the Finance Community - Employee Guide to Competency-Based Management
Office of the Comptroller General
Financial Management Sector
Capacity Building and Community Development
Table of Contents
- 1 Competency-Based Management Context
- 2 Competency-Based Management 101
- 3 The Career Management Cycle
- 4 Additional Information
- Appendix A: Financial Management FI Competency Profiles and Dictionary
- Appendix B: Generic Job Competency Profiles (FI-01 to FI-04)
- Appendix C: Financial Management Competency-Based Assessment Template
- Appendix D: STAR Formula Template
The Employee Guide to Competency-Based Management is a tool that is part of the overarching Financial Management Human Resources Management Framework (FM HRMF). The aim of the framework is to enable and support a self-sufficient, top quality FM community across the federal public sector. The framework provides an infrastructure along with tools and support services to position the FM community as professionals who perform unique, value-added work within the Government of Canada. Community-wide implementation of the framework across departments will therefore help foster a robust and sustainable FM community.
The Comptroller General recognizes the many strengths of the community, and encourages the cooperation of Chief Financial Officers (CFOs) and Deputy Chief Financial Officers (DCFOs) in implementing the framework in order to advance the professionalization of the community.
The FM HRMF is a holistic approach to talent management because it facilitates hiring the right people, helps focus on learning and training at all levels of the community, clarifies roles and responsibilities and increases retention. It helps executives and employees manage their career and clarify job expectations.
The Office of the Comptroller General (OCG) will continue to assist the FM community in formulating advice and developing approaches that are timely, value-added and risk-targeted.
The OCG, in collaboration with the financial management (FM) community, has developed the Financial Management Human Resources Management Framework to help the community in its efforts to maintain a self-sustaining, professional workforce. At the core of the framework is a competency-based management system that provides a set of common tools designed according to best practices in both the private and public sectors.
The Employee Guide to Competency-Based Management works interdependently with the FM competency profiles and dictionary, explains the FM competency-based management system, and walks employees through a self-assessment process to help determine their strengths and developmental opportunities, which ultimately will help them develop their career more effectively.
The competency-based management system supports the conversation that employees have with their supervisors about their present work and career aspirations by identifying elements that should be included in their learning plan.
1 Competency-Based Management Context
1.1 Development of Competency-Based Management Tools
Competencies were first introduced to the FM community in 1995 with the development of the financial officers’ competency profile and its accompanying guide and automated self-assessment tool. Although the profile and its associated tools were endorsed by the FM community, its integration and use was sporadic.
In 2007, renewed efforts were put forward to reviewing and updating the FI competency profile to appropriately reflect the changes in the FM working environment. Initiatives such as the development of the FI to CFO Career Path (2006), the development of the Financial Management Strategic HR Framework (2006-07), and the launch of a new competency-based development program for financial specialists (2007) all supported this renewed interest in competencies.
The project was developed in two parts: the development of a behavioural competency profile (2008-10) and a functional competency profile (2010-11).
The behavioural profile includes three key skills required by all FM professionals as well as the seven Key Leadership Competencies developed by the Office of the Chief Human Resources Officer.
The functional competencies align with the four major functional streams (Accounting operations, Planning and Resource Management, Financial Policy and Financial Systems) as well as the functional experience outlined in the FI to CFO Career Path.
Work was also undertaken to document the FI competency profiles’ alignment with the competency maps of the three professional accounting bodies in Canada (CA, CMA, CGA).
The DCFO Council has endorsed the behavioural and functional profiles.
Appendix A contains the complete competency dictionary for the FM community and includes the behavioural and functional competencies as identified in Table 1.
1.2 Competencies in Context With Other Human Resources Tools
Competency proficiency indicators describe the minimum skills and knowledge needed to execute the work successfully. They can be used to assess how work is carried out, for example:
- Applying appropriate accounting principles and standards, tools and techniques to assigned work; or
- Independently applying appropriate resource management principles, methodologies and techniques in unique and complex situations.
The results of a competency assessment will provide information about the skills, knowledge and behaviours that will enable you to perform your work more successfully.
A performance agreement describes the deliverables and timelines that you must complete for a given year. A performance objective is very specific to what you must produce, for example:
- Complete the review of the departmental financial statements by December; or
- Analyze the implications for the department of a new central agency policy and provide advice to senior management by September.
Work descriptions describe the key activities, responsibilities, and authorities of a position. For example:
- Responsible for validating departmental revenue and expenditure transactions.
Table 2 summarizes the key differences between these three human resources (HR) tools:
|Competency Proficiency Indicator (How)||Performance Agreement Objective (What)||Work Description (What)|
|Note: Although competency level and job level are often used interchangeably, they have different meanings. A job level refers to the education, skills, and knowledge required for a specific job; a competency level refers to the personal attributes of the person occupying the job.|
2 Competency-Based Management 101
This employee guide will walk you through competency-based management to help you manage your FM career more effectively.
2.1 Characteristics of Competencies
Competencies are measurable and observable skills, abilities or knowledge that enable an employee to perform satisfactorily in a position. Competencies outline a precise and shared view of what enables an employee to successfully complete the work at his or her position level.
Each competency has a progressive range of proficiency levels, and each level has indicators.
Competency proficiency indicators are as follows:
- Measurable (exclude verbs such as “to understand” or “to be aware”);
- Relevant to the progression scale of the competency;
- Meaningful to FM; and
- Significant in that they represent the key skills, knowledge and behaviours needed to undertake FM work.
The following is an example of a proficiency indicator at the FI-02 proficiency level for the negotiating/persuading competency:
- Facilitates positive dialogue between others with the goal of resolving differences and reaching a win-win solution.
2.2 Types of Competencies
Competencies can be behavioural (e.g., is effective at working in teams) as well as functional or knowledge-focused (e.g., use of specific knowledge of a program area in a particular context), for example:
- Resource management (functional): Knowledge-based skill developed through training and demonstrated through the execution of procedures; or
- Management excellence - people (behavioural): The effective application of behaviours that require emotional effort.
Behavioural and functional competencies work in tandem. Although planning and resource management is important, an individual will be successful only if he or she is also able to demonstrate behaviours related to strategic thinking analysis and ideas in providing sound financial advice and guidance to management. Planning and resource management, by its nature, requires an individual to demonstrate strength in identifying critical elements of an issue and finding innovative solutions to address it.
A competency dictionary and job profiles assist in the following:
- Clarifying individual capability requirements for staffing and recruiting FM positions:
- Statements of merit;
- Interviewing and testing candidates; and
- Knowing what level of competence is required when applying for positions within your department or in another FM function;
- Providing clear objectives that learning and training activities must deliver to align with a given job classification level:
- Learning plan objectives; and
- Aligning training with job-level requirements; and
- Providing a common vocabulary and clear expectations for employee performance management:
- Performance agreements and deliverables.
2.3 Reading the Competency Dictionary
The competency dictionary is found in Appendix A. The dictionary is organized by competency and displays the following information:
- Competency title;
- A short definition; and
- Key indicators associated with each proficiency level.
The FI competency profile has four levels of proficiency for each competency. Each level has been associated to a level within the FI occupational group (Level 1: FI--01, Level 2: FI--02, Level 3: FI--03, and Level 4: FI--04).
The performance indicators capture the essential skills that must be demonstrated to meet the proficiency level. Only the key performance indicators are included. The concept is similar to risk-based planning where some elements have more weight, and others have no significant impact on the overall result.
The progression across the levels is cumulative. For example, exhibiting behaviours at level 3 implies a demonstration of behaviours related to levels 1 and 2.
Each indicator has been written to reflect how a FM specialist who meets expectations would demonstrate his or her level of proficiency in terms of quality, timeliness and responsiveness.
Indicators use measurable verbs and describe actions that are under the control of the person demonstrating the proficiency (see Figure 2).
2.4 Understanding the Competency Profiles
FM specialists can perform several types of work that contribute to the mandate of their FM group within one of the following work streams:
- Accounting operations;
- Planning and resource management;
- Financial policy; and
- Financial systems.
For the purposes of this exercise, we have limited ourselves to the generic FI role within government, making no distinction of its work stream or its individual role. These generic job profiles can be used as a starting point to developing individual job profiles within government departments and agencies. For example, an FI-02 financial advisor responsible for a particularly large and complex client group may require a high level of diplomacy in communications and client engagement. The profile for this position within the planning and resource management work stream would reflect this by assigning a higher proficiency level to those competencies if warranted.
Competency profiles describe the corresponding proficiency level for each competency in the competency dictionary. Competency profiles not only provide information on the expectations but can also be used to assess readiness for promotion or a move to another FM work stream (career path).
3 The Career Management Cycle
The career management cycle will walk you through an eight-step process to reveal the skills, knowledge and behaviours that you use to complete your work, and to identify areas for future development. Once the areas for development are confirmed by your supervisor or mentor, you can begin to work on improving your skill level and chart your career progress in FM. Statements of merit, possible interview questions, and learning needs will become clearer.
Steps 1 to 6 are described in section 3.1, and steps 7 and 8 are described in section 3.2.
3.1 Assessing Your Proficiency Level
The assessment process is straightforward: you, a colleague, your mentor and/or your supervisor analyze how well you demonstrate each competency at the required proficiency level. This assessment can be done using the profile of your current position or that of a desired future position.
Step 1: Mapping –Using the Assessment Form in Appendix B, identify the generic job for which you want to perform the assessment. Indicate (as noted in the profile) the proficiency level requirements for each of the competencies in the column titled “Required Proficiency.”
Step 2: Identify Performance Indicators –Review each of the proficiency indicators for the target proficiency level to ensure that you understand what is being measured. See section 2.1 for details on proficiency indicator characteristics.
Step 3 Situational Examples –List the projects and activities that you have completed in the last 6 to 12 months. Describe how you applied the performance indicators in completing your work.
To help in describing the situational examples, use the STAR formula (“situation,” “task,” “action” and “result”). Appendix D contains a template of the STAR formula.
Step 4 Assessment –Perform the assessment against your existing position and/or a future position. This step is vital to the process and requires a high level of self-awareness. Being honest with yourself will enable you to identify what areas you need to work on to achieve your goals. Seek confirmation from others with whom you have worked and that you trust.
The assessment-rating scales measure to what extent you have demonstrated the indicators in your past activities and how consistently you demonstrate the indicators while executing your work
|Incorporate Into Learning Plan||Expected Range of Performance|
|Limited or No Evidence of All Behaviours||Moderate Evidence of Some Behaviours||Evidence of All or Most Behaviours||Strong Evidence of All or Most Behaviours|
|The individual has not yet had an opportunity to demonstrate the behaviour/knowledge, or there is not enough information to make a valid assessment||The individual applies this behaviour/knowledge in common situations that present limited problems. Requires guidance to deal with more challenging situations.||The individual applies this behaviour/knowledge in a full range of typical challenges with minimal need for guidance.||The individual applies this behaviour/knowledge appropriately in unusual or complex situations. Can guide others in dealing with unique and challenging situations.|
You may wish to discuss with your supervisor and/or mentor the best way to address areas that resulted in a “basic” or an “insufficient” rating in order to develop learning and development activities to incorporate into your learning plan. These activities could include attending a specific course, undertaking a developmental assignment or project, obtaining an accounting designation, or working with a coach.
Step 5: Environmental Considerations – Gaps in learning and/or competency development may be identified in the assessment process. These gaps will help you target your efforts and enable you to take concrete actions to manage your career.
Step 6 Validation –Have your supervisor complete the competency assessment and compare notes. This step provides an opportunity to look at different perspectives and come to an agreement on your learning and development priorities. The competency dictionary will provide you and your supervisor with a common vocabulary to guide the discussion.
* To be successful remember that you should work on a maximum of two to three competencies over a 6 to 12 month period. Plan accordingly.
In summary, the results of a competency assessment will provide FM specialists and their supervisor with information on the following:
- Behaviours to successfully perform at a given level;
- Information on areas that require further development in relation to a current or future job; and
- Information on learning activity objectives that would help close any gaps and address areas for development.
3.2 Building Your Learning Plan
A learning and development plan is an agreement between the employee and his or her supervisor that enables the employee to develop the competency proficiency needed to meet the requirements of his or her position or to advance his or her career by preparing for a future position. The plan allows individuals to reflect on their current situation and potential career aspirations and to explore various available learning and developmental opportunities.
Learning constitutes formal courses, on-the-job training, developmental assignments, networking meetings, and any activity where skills and knowledge are improved.
Take the time to reflect on questions such as the following: Am I performing at my highest ability? What is keeping me back? What other work would I like to perform? Am I ready for a promotion? What else do I need to consider? Answers to these questions will help you identify areas to include in your learning plan.
The steps for drafting a learning and development plan are to use the tools in the appendices of this guide, complete steps 1 to 6 of the Career Management Cycle, be open, seek feedback, reflect and chart your next steps in managing your career.
Step 7: Learning Plan –Identify the training budget and learning opportunities that are available to you.
Identify a range of possible learning activities that could help close the gaps. Using the budget and input from your supervisor, narrow down the options to specific courses, workshops, developmental assignments, readings and on-the-job activities that will enable you to improve your proficiency levels. Learning and development options include the following:
- Formal classroom training offered by your department or agency, the Canada School of Public Service; the provincial Chartered Accountant, Certified General Accountant and Certified Management Accountant associations; colleges and/or universities; and private sector organizations (i.e. the Financial Management Institute);
- On-the-job training through assignments and projects within your department or agency; and
- Support provided by experienced colleagues, supervisors or managers and mentors.
Your supervisor will often make recommendations within the context of broader organizational needs. Document the results of discussions in your departmental learning plan form.
Step 8: Evergreening –Keep your competency assessment up to date so that it reflects how new experiences, projects and training have affected your proficiency levels. Update your completed portfolio of projects and be mindful of competencies that you will need to develop in the future.
4 Additional Information
4.1 Frequently Asked Questions
Why is competency-based management being supported?
Competency-based management is a way of defining the expectations of how work should be performed at different working levels and for different types of work. As competency-based management becomes adopted in the FM community, the expectations for each job level will become clearer and more consistent.
For example, irrespective of the home department of an FI-03, the position’s baseline expectations for this level at different departments will be the same. Competency-based management will remove the guesswork from knowing what the minimum expectation is for each job level.
What is the difference between my performance review and the competency assessment process?
Your performance review evaluates the work that you accomplished in the past fiscal year. Your competency assessment is an assessment that allows you to identify areas where you need further professional development.
For example, your performance review will have deliverables and timelines such as “complete the review of the departmental financial statements by ,” whereas the competency profile for your job will describe how you do this work.
Am I obligated to use competency-based management tools or complete the self-assessment?
No. The tools are available to help you progress in your career, the assessment is done voluntarily and is intended to guide you in your professional development and career path. Departments retain the authority to determine their own management tools.
What are the benefits of assessing my competency level?
Competency assessment is a process of self-discovery. It enables you to identify your strengths and weaknesses in relation to your current job. It also helps you identify the competencies required for a desired job, thereby allowing you to plan your career path and learning needs to obtain the skills needed to move ahead.
What if my supervisor has not yet adopted the competency-based approach to human resources management?
Competency-based management lets you manage your career independently of how your supervisor manages your development. You can still use the competency-based management tools in discussions with your supervisor. The dictionary will provide the vocabulary and clear indicators needed to describe how your work should be performed. Employees should complete the self-assessment before holding discussions with their supervisors.
What if I disagree with my supervisor on the gap analysis results?
The competency gap analysis helps identify areas where you are doing well and areas where you need to improve. This information will feed into the discussion with your supervisor and help shape your learning plan. You and your supervisor can have different assessment results; however, you will need to agree on what will go into your learning plan.
If I exceed or do not meet the minimum proficiency levels for my position, how will my current job classification be affected?
Your ranking against the FM competency profiles has no bearing on the classification level of your position. The job profiles simply identify the knowledge, skills and abilities that you need to demonstrate at your level to effectively do your work. The profiles should be viewed as a means to inform your learning and development.
The specified proficiency levels describe how work should be performed to ensure reasonable success at a job; someone who exceeds at each competency will not become eligible for a level upgrade in their current position. The FM competency-based management system has no automatic promotion component. However, exceeding the required proficiency level is a validation of an employee’s abilities and should signal a candidate’s readiness to participate in competitions to advance his or her career.
Scoring poorly on a competency assessment will not affect your current job level. The results will help identify areas in which you need to improve and will help you focus your learning plan. Your learning plan will be adjusted and updated, as necessary, to help you meet your target proficiency levels.
Does my competency level determine my job level or pay rate?
No. Your competency level determines only how well you perform in your job. Your job level and pay rate are related to the work description for the position you occupy. However, by improving your competency level you become better prepared to participate in competitions to advance your career.
Are there other functional communities using competency-based management?
Yes. Several functional groups within the federal public service are adopting a competency-based approach to their human resources in order to help employees progress efficiently in their careers.
The Computer Science (CS) group; the Real Property, Asset Management and Procurement (PG) groups; and the Internal Audit Group (IA) are now using competency-based management.
Where can I get further information on competency-based management and associated tools?
For more information, contact the Financial Management Capacity Building and Community Development of the Office of the Comptroller General, by telephone at 613-946-6242 or Contact Sylvie Seguin by email.
Appendix A: Financial Management FI Competency Profiles and Dictionary
FI Behavioural Competencies
The behavioural competencies can be found in the Financial Officer (FI) Competency Profile web pages.
FI Functional Competencies
The functional competencies can be found in the Financial Officer (FI) Competency Profile web pages.
Appendix B: Generic Job Competency Profiles (FI-01 to FI-04)
Appendix B: Sample Job Competency Profile can be found in the Manager's Guide to Financial Officer Competency-Based Management.
Appendix C: Financial Management Competency-Based Assessment Template
Consult the FI competency profiles and identify the required proficiency level for the job or role you have chosen. Using the STAR formula (see Appendix D), for each competency, provide one or two examples of situations where you demonstrated the behavioural indicators or criteria. Evaluate each situation against the proficiency level for the job or role you have chosen. Section 3 contains detailed instructions.
Figure C1. Competency Profiles
|Competency||Required Proficiency||Insufficient||Basic||Proficient||Advanced||Situational examples|
|Oral and Written Communications|
|Values and Ethics|
|Strategic Thinking – Analysis|
|Strategic Thinking – Ideas|
|Management Excellence – Action|
|Management Excellence – People|
|Management Excellence – Finance|
|Planning and Resource Management|
Figure C2. Identifying Gaps in Competencies
|Competency||Gap identified||Target and Specific Behaviours||Comments|
|Oral and Written Communication|
|Values and Ethics|
|Strategic Thinking – Analysis|
|Strategic Thinking – Ideas|
|Management Excellence – Action|
|Management Excellence – Action|
|Management Excellence – Finance|
|Planning and Resource Management|
Note: Employees should work on improving a maximum of two or three competencies a year.
Appendix D: STAR Formula Template
The STAR formula ("situation," "task," "action" and "result") is a process used to describe real-life work situations in order to demonstrate competency proficiency. A completed example of using the STAR formula can be found on the following page.
Section 1: Situation
(background to the situation: 50 to 100 words)
Set the scene: what is the problem or issue?
Section 2: Task and Action
(what you did, how you did it, and/or your role in the situation: 200 to 400 words)
Indicate what task you were assigned, and explain the action you took.
Section 3: Result
(Outcome of the situation: 50 to 100 words)
What was the outcome of your actions?
Why is this a good example of how you demonstrate this competency?
The following is an example of a behavioural example for the Strategic Thinking – Ideas competency at the FI-02 level using the STAR formula ("situation," "task," "action" and "result").
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