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Align competencies with core company values to create the culture you need

November 16, 2020

For many HR professionals and executives, culture is an intangible that defines an organization's character. It reflects a specific collection of values, traditions, assumptions, customs and norms that are embraced by individuals and groups within an organization.

  • Why are intangibles important?
    Because intangible assets - things like company culture, know-how, collaboration activities, and more importantly people - directly impact effectiveness, productivity, wastage, and opportunity costs in an organization. Therefore, cost, revenues, customer service, satisfaction, market value and share price. Intangibles like culture are a key source from which competitive advantage flows, or is destroyed. And for organizations today, it is human capital that is the primary source of intangibles.

So how can you actively create and nurture your organization's culture, ensuring it becomes an intangible asset? One way is through your talent management programs.


Your talent management programs can help you explicitly communicate your organizational culture in terms of competencies, and reinforce these at every point in the employee lifecycle.


The employee life cycle identifies strategic opportunities for HR and management to address many issues related to hiring, compensation, orientation, promotion, discipline, training and succession planning.


Competencies describe how a job or task is to be performed. For example, how the person takes initiative, how they communicate and work with others and how they deal with conflicts or challenges. Core competencies apply to every role in the organization, while job-specific competencies apply to a specific role or job family.

By aligning core and job-specific competencies with values, or even better, capturing your organizational values as core competencies, you can communicate and develop these in your employees at every talent management touch point, reinforcing your corporate culture.

In this application, it's important to develop your own, organization-specific list of competencies, definitions and descriptions of the levels of demonstration. You need to describe what a competency looks like in your organization and how it provides you with a competitive advantage. Off-the-shelf competency libraries can help give you ideas and direction, but are no substitute for describing your organizational culture and values. Once you've identified and described them, you can use them to underpin all your talent management processes and build your culture.

For example, if exceptional customer service is a cultural value, the importance of wanting to help or serve clients and meet their needs can be included in all job descriptions as a core competency. This gives managers a tool for evaluating the behavior desired for each competency. It also communicates the value and expectations to all employees.

When you include that core competency in requisitions and postings for new jobs, it allows you to hire people who are a good fit for the organization and already demonstrate customer focus. Individuals who are deemed a good fit are likely to be more motivated, interact more easily with other employees and be happier on the job. All of which translates into a higher performing employee who will stay longer and potentially become a candidate for succession plans. However, the inverse can be true when the hiring decision goes wrong due to cultural fit.

Once you hire a candidate, you can reinforce the organization's values and culture through your onboarding programs, again referencing and communicating your core competencies.

For a particular job, in addition to the core competency, you might also identify a job-specific competency related to customer service that is assessed during performance reviews, like the ability for the individual to focus their efforts on discovering and meeting their client's needs.

Managers should also give employees feedback on their performance all year long, and coach employees to continually improve at delivering exceptional customer service in their role.

Your learning and development team can source or create learning activities that help develop core and job-specific competencies in employees so that when managers identify a performance gap, they can address it with targeted development plans.

Your compensation and recognition programs can also reward excellence in customer service, further reinforcing your culture.

And you can ensure that high potential employees who are being groomed to assume increasingly strategic roles in the organization are honing their customer focus at the same time, so your key players and leaders all embody this cultural value.


Organizations require an executive and organizational mindset that supports the importance of talent's role in business strategy execution.

Once this buy-in is in place, you can implement the talent processes, tools and systems that are designed to enable the business to manage talent using sophisticated competency management practices as described earlier.

C-level executives can attest to the impact of the right talent management systems in supporting and reinforcing corporate culture. Dave McAnerney, President and CEO of Sun-Rype comments on the important role of competency management in helping everyone in his organization deliver against the strategic plan.

"We are a results-oriented culture," confirms McAnerney. "We get that through tracking not only what gets done but how it gets done, and that's been built into our competency definitions," he says. This "results emphasis" has also been built into the way Sun-Rype's managers work to help employees improve performance." Sun-Rype's talent management suite "... not only helps us track individual deliverables but also ensures they're aligned to our strategic plans."

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