Mentoring with Competency  Models

Using Competency Models for Mentoring

Monday, February 29, 2016

Supporting mentoring programs is hard. By the time you find and train smart, well-rounded people who are willing to be mentors, they often move into new roles. Or, there are so few of them that there simply aren’t enough mentoring hours to go around.

Enter competency models. If you enable people to assess themselves against competency models, you can uncover pockets of skill-based strengths across the organization. How does that help? Well, almost every person has at least one skill in which they excel. If you have the ability to identify these people, and pair them temporarily with others who have skill gaps in those same areas, then you can apply mentors across the organization.


Consider the impact of applying mentors in this manner: 

  • If I’m a high performer with few skill gaps, I have the opportunity to improve my level of proficiency by mentoring others, so I can continue to grow. And I can try to create new tools, templates, and processes to help others consistently apply my techniques.  
  • If I’m an average performer with only a few expert skills—someone who would not be tapped for a traditional mentoring program—I have the opportunity to experience the impact of mentoring others. And this may increase my drive for higher levels of proficiency in other areas, while simultaneously building my internal network. 
  • If I have a skill gap in some area that cannot be well served by a formal learning opportunity, or at least not quickly, I can work with a task-based mentor on a project intimately related to my role, so I can quickly learn, apply, and practice in a safe and relevant environment. 
  • The entire organization builds its bench strength as a team, working together to pull one another up with little to no cost. All the while, the process is creating stronger internal personal connections within and across departments and regions. 
  • As each person gets tapped for something they are really good at, all involved become increasingly engaged as they see their value and purpose grow within the organization. In fact, being assigned as a task-based mentor becomes both recognition and reward.

To implement task-based mentors, you need to have a competency model for those roles, and each person must self-assess against it.  

  • The competency assessment tool should make it easy for managers to identify their direct reports’ individual skill gaps and locate potential task-based mentors across the organization so they can be temporarily paired.  
  • Both the mentor and the mentee should understand the scope of the relationship—to help increase one particular skill.  
  • Time should be set aside for the two to work together on shadowing and practicing the specific behaviors that demonstrate the required proficiency for that skill, which come directly from the competency model. 
  • The mentee should reassess that skill following the opportunity to practice and demonstrate a change in skill, which becomes a positive reflection on both the mentor and mentee. 
  • The mentee’s manager should assess them to confirm that the target proficiency was indeed achieved.

If you want to leverage the expertise that you know exists within your organization and engage everyone’s strengths, take a look at how competency models can help.

About the Author

Cheryl Lasse is SkillDirector’s managing partner. Her goal is helping people and companies achieve their potential. Cheryl has extensive experience with competency model development and implementation, and enjoys sharing her knowledge and passion with others. Check out the LinkedIn group Competency Models For Professional Development.

She believes people are intrinsically motivated to excel, if they are given access to a competency model for their role, the opportunity to assess themselves against that model, and personalized learning to help them close gaps and meet aspirational goals. This philosophy has been embodied in the Self-Directed Learning Engine, the engine behind the ATD Skill Tracker.

Cheryl has a strong background in consulting, marketing, and sales, mostly in technology companies, where training has played a chief role throughout her career. She holds bachelor’s degrees from Syracuse University in computer science and HR, and an MBA from the University of South Florida.

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