Leveraging the power of competency checklists

Leveraging the power of competency checklists

While assessing employees’ demonstration of competencies is an important part of performance management and can yield valuable information for other talent management programs, not all competencies are created equal. As a result, you may need to use different methods to rate different kinds of competencies.

Most of us are familiar with behavioral competencies, where the best method for evaluating performance is to provide a detailed description of the competency and descriptions of the various levels of proficiency or demonstration, then ask managers to rate employee performance using these descriptions as the scale.

But in many settings, especially healthcare and manufacturing settings, it’s important to evaluate an employee’s demonstration of more “technical” competencies. Here, usually for quality or safety reasons, you typically need to verify that an employee can properly use a piece of equipment or perform a specific task.

With these more “technical” competencies, competency checklists can be a much more efficient, effective and valuable tool.

A competency checklist typically uses a matrix format or layout. This allows you to assess and capture a variety of data, including things like: rating, date observed, method of verification, evaluator or preceptor’s initials, etc. They are particularly helpful when an organization needs to gather and provide data for regulatory or standard compliance.

eAppHC Competency Matrix

You might even want to use your competency checklists to allow employees to choose their preferred method of verification from a predetermined list of appropriate options — an approach that competency assessment expert Donna Wright advocates. Allowing employees this choice better engages them in the process and can drive up accountability

Some common applications for competency checklists

While many organizations use the matrix format for assessing some competencies on their annual employee performance review forms, there are other great uses for competency checklists, outside of your annual performance appraisal process.

  • Documenting staff clinical competencies for regulatory compliance in healthcare settings
  • Validating safety procedures on a manufacturing floor
  • Verifying competence using new equipment or procedures
  • Verifying the acquisition of competencies or skills after training
  • Tracking completion of onboarding or orientation activities for new hires
  • Tracking completion of required training, such as WHMIS, HIPPA, ethics, sensitivity, sexual harassment, quality system, security, etc.

In many cases, someone other than the employee's manager (like a preceptor, instructor, team leader, etc.) needs to verify and document competence. The completed competency checklist can then be used as a formal record and referenced from the annual performance review form if required.

If you require documented verification of clinical or technical competencies as part of your annual performance appraisal process, you can still handle the actual competency verification separately from your process. Just make sure the competency verification process has been completed before you start your annual performance appraisal process. You can then simply include a question in your performance appraisal process for managers to verify that the competency checklist is complete.

Key benefits of competency checklists

Competency checklists allow you to:

  • Quickly document that employees demonstrate the necessary knowledge/skill
  • Verify competence of a large number of “technical” competencies
  • Easily gather required supporting data, in addition to information about competence
  • Give employees better ownership for completing their required competency assessments and choosing their preferred verification methods

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