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Competencies and Associated Behaviors

Given the changing face of the IBM population, in 2003, IBM introduced competencies that were employee-focused. This was an expansion of existing competencies that were already focused on the development of leaders. There was a need to establish a common set of competencies that defined what it meant to be an IBM employee. These new competencies and associated behaviors were critical to achieving success for all IBM employees. They provided the foundation for professional growth and underscored company values, as well as established a common standard of high performance across the company. A robust curriculum of hundreds of learning activities were aligned to each of the competencies and their associated behaviors.

The competencies quickly became an underpinning of various HR processes, for example:

  • The competencies are used to select new employees and as criteria for internal job movement. Various recruitment tools, including evaluation of job candidates, have incorporated the competencies as fundamental requirements of a successful employee at IBM, in addition to whatever technical or specialized skills a prospective candidate brings to the table.
  • IBM’s performance management system has incorporated the competencies into its annual evaluation process and has had a significant impact on how results are achieved. Hence managers must consider an employee’s demonstration of the competencies when assessing year-end performance evaluations.
  • The competencies have become a staple in pinpointing areas of focus that are important for individual development planning. Employees are encouraged to consider the competencies as they create their annual development goals and associated learning plans for achieving business performance.

Over time, the competencies have continued to show value to employees. Since the inception of the competencies in 2003, on average, over 300,000 learning activities in the competencies curriculum (classroom and e-learning activities) have been taken annually by IBM employees worldwide.

In a study conducted in June, 2004 by the IBM HR team, over 80 IBM employees across multiple business units participated and reported positive impact by increasing their competencies via the learning activities. Comments from participants include the following:15

  • “I was able to use what I learned in the Adaptability course in relation to recent organizational changes.”
  • “After taking How to Create Effective Presentations, I paid more attention when I created a presentation, which resulted in a more effective presentation.”
  • “I learned how to look at a project from the customer’s point of view. This approach made it easier to understand what they are asking for. Hopefully, this change will lead to better relationships and the ability to provide them with what they want.”

While the competencies have been extremely helpful to employees in defining the “basics” of what they need to demonstrate to be successful in their jobs, at the time of this writing, IBM is going through an extensive research study to determine whether the competencies are in line with the needs of today and tomorrow’s environment. The study may yield a new or refined set of competencies—or even a new structure for how the competencies are reflected in the career framework that is currently being deployed to employees.

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