Quick Tip: Understanding the Inter-Modular Relationships of the SuccessFactors Competency Model

Competencies and jobs are fundamental parts of many HR talent modules. Having a consolidated view of the jobs and competencies in an organization, and creating catalogues that are matched to them, is essential for deriving the full benefit of a competency model. (Catalogue is a SuccessFactors term that denotes the group of jobs and competencies that an organization uses for all its employees.) Jobs, in turn, are related to compensation structures that are indirectly influenced by decisions made by HR departments about how to drive the corporate competency model.  

To create a new competency, go to the Employee Central Admin Center screen from the Home menu (Figure 1). Click the Performance Management option and then Manage Competencies. This opens the screen in Figure 2, where you can begin creating new competencies.

Figure 1
Launching competencies from Performance Management in SuccessFactors

Figure 2
Begin creating a new competency

The competency of individuals shows up in various aspects of the HR life cycle. Primarily based on jobs, competencies are used for different functions in different modules; for example, for evaluating a candidate for a job or identifying a successor for a position. Understanding the data model on which competencies are based helps provide a clearer picture of a person’s job competency, and influences a single effective data capture method that covers all modules. (I provide more detail about this cross-module functionality later in this article.) Without this understanding, talent leaders can waste a lot of time updating competencies and resolving conflicts as they try to define them for each module.

Competency is an inherent data point in talent applications. If you are recruiting new talent, you want to know what competency a candidate has. If you are dealing with an employee’s performance appraisal, you need to evaluate or rank his or her competency in order to give a rating based on consistent standards. 

When an employee takes a course, for example, the training may have an effect on the very competency you are trying to measure during the employee’s performance evaluation. As a result, the training needs to be tracked so that it can be included in the next performance appraisal or evaluation. As part of the employee’s career development, competency in critical areas is vital to assessing, training, and developing employees during their career development plan.

Wouldn’t it be nice to have the competency data all in one place so that it can be leveraged efficiently without redundancy? Conventional wisdom says, yes—that would be great. However, there is a problem. Talent applications do not always treat competency as a fundamental entity. For example, the competency model is not something that is documented in the SAP SuccessFactors manuals. Each module describes aspects of competencies that are relevant for use in that function, but there is no one go-to manual that covers this aspect across SAP SuccessFactors. Therefore, HR users do not have a good sense of how powerful and intricate the competency model can be.

I provide a holistic perspective of the competency model. This includes showing some basic inter-relationships between modules, and presenting readers with a sense of unification that is key to deciding competency data requirements for any of the modules that may be in scope.

First, here is a brief overview of the competency data model. 

The Competency Data Model

Competency is a proficiency in a certain skill that matters enough to the business that there is a need for it to be measured. It is also important to know how a particular competency relates to particular roles. The relationship between the two—the competency and the role—is built on its expected rating. In the diagram in Figure 3, the crow’s feet between each box represents many relationships. So one competency (for example, accounting job knowledge) may have many ratings (novice or expert). A role of Entry-level Accountant may require a minimum competency rating of novice, but a role of Senior Accountant may require someone with an expert rating.

Figure 3
The competency data model

Ratings can be configured according to company-specific requirements, but a common example has three basic values:

  1. Novice
  2. Proficient
  3. Expert 

Say, for example, that accounting proficiency is a specific value for competency, and each competency can have one of these three ratings. Now think of jobs and the hierarchical data model that they are structured around. In SuccessFactors, a job family has several roles and a role may have several jobs. For example, in the Finance job family, Accountant is a role that has the jobs of Accountant A, B, and C. This role of Accountant requires an expected rating of 2 for the Accounting competency.

The screen in Figure 4 is the initial screen for creating a new job role.

Figure 4
Create a new job role

In the Admin Center screen, click the Company Settings option, and then select Manage Job Roles. This opens the screen in Figure 5 where you create the new job role.

Figure 5
Job families

Click the Administration link to choose an existing family (to copy from) or to create a new family. This opens the screen in Figure 6.

Figure 6
Job roles

Here you may edit or create a role—in this example, Administration Assistant 2. Click that option, and the screen in Figure 7 opens.

Figure 7
Assigning jobs and managing competencies for job roles

Here you can assign the jobs for this role by clicking the Edit Properties link. Notice that this role is already assigned to the Job Code Administration Assistant 2 (VN_ADM_AA2). Standard practice is to have the same name for the job roles as the name in the job code, since SuccessFactors does not allow direct assignment of competencies to job codes. Click the Map New Competencies button and the screen in Figure 8 opens.

Figure 8
Map competencies to job roles

Here you can choose the competencies you need for this role and assign ratings by using the options shown in the figure.

How, you may ask, do you connect this job role to the employee? Employees are assigned a job code through their Employee Profile. An employee’s job can be viewed by searching for his or her name from the Home page and then viewing the Employment Information as shown in Figure 9.

Figure 9
Employee Profile (Job Info)

Now that I’ve explained how the basic data model works, you can see these inter-relationships in the talent-wheel illustration in Figure 10. In this diagram, at the center is the data model discussed previously. This holds the competency data for all the SuccessFactors modules, represented by the boxes in the figure (for example, Employee Central, BizX, Recruiting Management, Succession Planning, and so on). The green arrows show the natural sequence of the processes that each module covers.

Figure 10
Competencies and the talent cycle

In the next sections, let’s take a look at what happens to competency in each of the modules shown in Figure 10.

Recruiting Management

When creating a job requisition, HR must include certain ratings that must be met by candidates to be deemed qualified. An example of this would be a requisition for an entry-level accountant. A candidate is interviewed and the fit for the role is evaluated. This evaluation goes beyond the candidate’s accounting competency and is stored in the system as a series of actual ratings for different competencies of the candidate. If the person is hired, all ratings for all the competencies are available for other processes such as Succession Planning. Therefore, a competency that was rated during a candidate’s interview can be used to evaluate if a candidate is qualified for another job in the organization.

For example, if you are looking for an Entry-level Accountant, you may have hired a candidate in this role but this interviewee may have demonstrated a great organizational quality for which the interviewers rated this person Expert in the Organizational Ability competency. This may qualify the person for a project administrator’s position requiring an expert organizer, alleviating the need for recruitment to fill this new position. It is common for such positions to come up suddenly in an organization when a project is launched in the middle of the year.

Succession Planning

In order to do Succession Planning, you are in search of a suitable candidate who has a certain proficiency. In this case, you are dealing with actual ratings and you can search for the successor based on the actual rating of a competency. For example, you are looking for a successor for a conference organizer in your company. Once the required proficiencies have been determined, you create actual ratings or rankings for employees in the system. This way, once established, you can search for successors for this position based on the actual rating of a competency. These ratings can come from the Recruiting Management module (as discussed above) or the Performance Management module (as discussed below).

Performance and Goals

The competencies that are connected to the employee’s job should automatically appear during the performance evaluation process. The supervisor, after evaluating the performance, assigns an actual rating. For example, the incumbent may have received an expert rating in the Organizational Ability competency, thus making this person eligible for a higher-level role when it opens up in the company. Or, in another scenario, an employee expresses interest in organizing big events and the supervisor recommends a course that qualifies the employee for this position.

Learning Management

Once a learning item has been identified and developed, it is associated with a competency and a rating. For example, a three-week accounting course results in a rating of proficient for the Accounting competency requirement. Or, another example is that the completion of two-week course in event management can result in an expert rating in the Event Management competency.

Career Development

As soon as the employee completes the event-management course, the results appear in the Career Development section of the performance management form. The supervisor is then able to view and confirm that the course has been successfully completed. This event management proficiency can then be related to the employee’s competency for Organizational Ability (since the supervisor recommended this course in the first place) and assign an actual rating of expert for this competency requirement in the career development section of the employee’s performance evaluation form. The employee is now eligible for the Conference Organizer role in Succession Planning. The cycle of talent thus completes a full circle.