16 min read

9-Step Guide to an Effective Competency Mapping Process

HR & workforce management


Lorelei Trisca


June 04, 2024

Last Update

July 10, 2024

Table of Contents

Step 1: Define the objectives and scope of the mapping process

Step 2: Define the list of roles to map for and conduct a job analysis

Step 3: Determine core, functional, technical, and leadership competencies

Step 4: Compile and finalize the competencies list(s)

Step 5: Map competencies to roles

Step 6: Develop a competency model for each role/department and validate it

Step 7: Communicate and implement the competency model

Step 8: Assess and map competencies for all team members

Step 9: Discuss the path forward with team members

Competency mapping template

Tools and techniques for competency mapping

Challenges organizations face implementing competency mapping and how to overcome them

Enable clarity, alignment, performance, and growth with Deel Engage

Competency mapping is a strategic HR process that identifies and outlines the specific skills, knowledge, and attributes required to perform a particular job within an organization successfully.

In this article, you'll get a step-by-step guide to performing an effective competency mapping process, as well as expert solutions to the most common challenges of the process.

Step 1: Define the objectives and scope of the mapping process

Understanding the organization’s strategic goals provides a foundation for competency mapping.

The process starts with human resources establishing clear goals for the competency mapping exercise. Some examples include:

  • Improving employee performance management
  • Supporting career development and succession planning
  • Enhancing training programs
  • Improving employee engagement and retention
  • Upgrading the recruitment process to match existing skills gaps

The next step is defining the scope of the mapping process. Are you focusing on a specific department, role, or level within the organization, or are you mapping competencies for the entire organization?

Once you've determined the scope, identify the key stakeholders who will contribute to the project, such as department heads and senior management. They will work alongside the HR team during this process.

This step is critical for gathering relevant expertise to develop a robust and relevant competency framework and for gaining buy-in during the implementation process.

Step 2: Define the list of roles to map for and conduct a job analysis

Create a list of the specific roles for which you need to map competencies, keeping the project’s scope in mind. Ideally, you would conduct competency mapping for every department or career path in the organization. However, for smaller organizations, this might not be necessary.

The next step is conducting a job analysis to capture information about each role:

  • Gather detailed information through job descriptions and employee performance evaluations 
  • Document each role’s primary tasks, responsibilities, and expectations
  • Conduct interviews with employees and managers to identify what skill sets are vital for each role and what success looks like at particular role levels

Step 3: Determine core, functional, technical, and leadership competencies

Identifying and defining competencies is critical to aligning your organization’s workforce capabilities with its strategic goals. This step involves determining the core competencies that are essential for all employees, as well as the functional, technical, and leadership competencies specific to certain roles or levels within the organization.

Core competencies

Core competencies are fundamental skills and behaviors that apply to all employees in an organization. They align with the company’s mission, vision, and values and are critical to its success.

Example: Creativity and innovation are core competencies for a company like Apple because they are integral to its identity and success.

Tip: Engage senior leadership and C-suite teams to define these competencies.

Here are some sample questions to ask:

  • What is the company’s mission and vision statement?
  • What are the core values?
  • What is the Unique Selling Proposition(USP) of the products/services/company?
  • What are the key organizational goals for the next year? How about for the next five years?
  • What interpersonal skills (e.g., communication, teamwork, leadership) are vital for the organization?
  • What personal attributes (e.g., integrity, reliability, adaptability) are vital for the organization?
  • What behaviors and attitudes are critical for success in the organization? How do these behaviors align with the company values and culture?
  • Which competencies are most important to meet the company’s business goals and uphold its core values, vision, and USP?
  • Think about the top-performing employees. What competencies do they share that contribute to their success?

Outcome: Identify 7-8 core competencies.

Free template

Core competency matrix for any industry
With 50 universal competencies and strategic details for effective performance management, our core competency matrix is the ultimate resource for developing the skill sets essential for any industry.

Functional and technical competencies

Functional competencies are specific to particular functions or departments within the organization. They align with the tasks and responsibilities of specific roles.

Example: For a marketing department, functional competencies include market analysis, digital marketing, and brand management.

Technical competencies are specialized skills and knowledge required for specific technical roles. These competencies are often role-specific and critical for performing particular tasks.

Example: For IT roles, functional competencies include programming, network security, and database management.

Tip: Engage department heads, functional managers, and subject matter experts to define these competencies.

Here are some sample questions to ask:

  • What are the primary responsibilities and duties of roles within your department?
  • What specific skills and knowledge are essential for success in these roles?
  • What are the key performance indicators (KPIs) for your department? Which competencies impact these KPIs?
  • What technical skills are necessary for roles within your department?
  • How do these competencies align with the overall strategic goals of the organization?
  • What technical skills are required for your role or department?
  • What specific tools, technologies, or methodologies are essential?
  • How do technical competencies support the achievement of the organization’s goals?

Outcome: Identify 7-8 functional and technical competencies.

Note: Different roles might require different weights of competency types. For example, highly technical industries require a greater emphasis on technical competencies.

Free template

Create actionable competency frameworks effortlessly
Download our competency framework template and select the most relevant competencies from over 140 core, functional, and technical competencies across five mastery levels.

Leadership competencies

Leadership competencies are essential for managerial and leadership positions within the organization. They focus on skills required to lead teams, make strategic decisions, and drive organizational success.

Example: Leadership competencies include strategic thinking, decision-making, people management, and change management.

Tip: Engage senior leaders and executives to define these competencies. 

Here are some sample questions to ask:

  1. What leadership skills are required in your team or organization?
  2. How do these skills influence team performance and morale?
  3. What are the KPIs for leadership roles? Which competencies impact these KPIs?
  4. How do leadership competencies align with the company’s vision and strategic goals?

Outcome: Identify 5-6 leadership competencies that apply to the organization.

Note: Leadership roles can have a higher proportion of leadership competencies.

Free template

Create actionable leadership competency frameworks
Our leadership competency framework template includes 25 leadership competencies, along with hundreds behavioral indicators and performance metrics. Download it now and start empowering your future leaders.

Step 4: Compile and finalize the competencies list(s)

Use the answers from the stakeholder consultations to gather valuable insights into the competencies required across the entire organization and for specific roles:

  • Identify any recurring themes or competencies that appear across multiple sources
  • Compile a shortlist of core, functional, technical, and leadership competencies
  • Submit the shortlist for feedback from key stakeholders
  • Ask this fundamental question: Of all the competencies identified, which ones do you consider most critical for organizational success? How about success in specific departments or roles?

Based on the feedback, finalize the list of competencies. For department-wide competency models, aim for:

  • 7-8 core competencies
  • 7-8 functional and technical competencies 
  • 5-6 leadership competencies

By maintaining a balanced ratio of core, functional, technical, and leadership competencies, organizations can create a robust competency model that supports diverse roles and strategic goals, ensuring a comprehensive approach to talent management.

Step 5: Map competencies to roles

Now that you have a comprehensive list of core, functional, technical, and leadership competencies, it is time to map competencies to roles. 

Create a list of the tasks associated with each role. Rate each task between 1 and 3 depending on how relevant it is to the role's defined competencies—1 being Not relevant and 3 being Very relevant. Calculate an average relevance score for each competency and sort the scores from the highest to lowest.

If you use our competency mapping template, it will automatically calculate an average score for each competency. Once the users input how many competencies they want to define at the end of the mapping exercise, the template will automatically use the scores to highlight the most relevant competencies for the role or department and populate a “Top competencies” table.

Let’s consider an example of a content marketing manager

At the beginning of the competency mapping exercise, the HR team, together with the marketing leaders, identified eight technical and functional competencies relevant to the marketing department: 

  • Content strategy development
  • SEO knowledge
  • Content creation
  • Data analysis
  • Social media management
  • Project management
  • Brand strategy and positioning
  • Sales enablement

Additionally, the company has eight core competencies and four leadership competencies that apply to the entire organization.

Core competencies:

  • Communication
  • Teamwork
  • Adaptability
  • Problem-solving
  • Creativity
  • Integrity
  • Customer focus
  • Time management

Leadership competencies:

  • Strategic thinking
  • Decision-making
  • People management
  • Change management

Through job analysis, HR identified the following key tasks for the role:

  • Developing and executing a comprehensive content marketing strategy
  • Conducting keyword research and implementing SEO strategies to increase organic traffic
  • Creating various forms of content, including blog posts, whitepapers, case studies, and social media posts
  • Analyzing content performance metrics and optimizing strategies accordingly
  • Collaborating with the design and product teams to ensure consistent branding and messaging
  • Managing the content calendar and ensuring timely delivery of content

HR and departmental leaders mapped the tasks to the competencies and created a competency model with the following competencies:

  • Six core competencies: communication, teamwork, adaptability, problem-solving, creativity, integrity
  • Four technical and functional competencies: Content strategy development, SEO knowledge, content creation, data analysis

Additionally, for leadership roles, they included the following leadership competencies:

  • Strategic thinking
  • People management

Step 6: Develop a competency model for each role/department and validate it

You are now close to the ideal competency matrix. The next step is collating all the details gathered in the previous three steps.

Organize the identified competencies into a structured framework that categorizes them into core, functional, and technical competencies.

Create definitions for each competency and establish clear and measurable proficiency levels for each competency, such as beginner, intermediate, advanced, and expert.

Finally, define specific behaviors and performance metrics for each proficiency level to ensure clarity and consistency.

Leveling frameworks on Deel Engage

Here is an example relevant to the content marketing manager role: 

Competency name: Content creation

Definition: The ability to produce high-quality, engaging, and relevant content that aligns with the organization’s brand and strategic goals. This includes writing, editing, and curating content for various platforms and understanding the target audience.

Proficiency levels:

  1. Basic level: Creates simple, clear, and accurate content based on guidelines. Requires supervision and feedback to ensure quality and relevance
  2. Competent level: Produces well-structured, engaging, and audience-focused content with minimal supervision. Demonstrates a strong understanding of content marketing principles and adapts content to different platforms and audiences
  3. Expert level: Leads content creation strategies, ensuring alignment with organizational goals. Innovates in content creation, mentors others, and drives high-quality output. Demonstrates expertise in various content formats and platforms

Performance metrics: 

  • Content quality: Measure the clarity, accuracy, and engagement level of produced content
  • Engagement metrics: Evaluate how well the content resonates with the target audience through metrics such as time spent on page and website traffic
  • SEO performance: Assess the effectiveness of content in improving search engine rankings and organic traffic
  • Timeliness: Track the ability to meet deadlines and adhere to the content calendar

Share the draft competency model with stakeholders for feedback and validation. Incorporate their feedback and make necessary revisions to the competency model.

Step 7: Communicate and implement the competency model

Introduce the competency model to the organization through communication channels such as meetings, emails, and training sessions.

Embed the competency model into existing HR processes, including recruitment, performance management, and training programs.

Free resource

For more implementation advice, refer to our guide on creating a comprehensive competency model.

Step 8: Assess and map competencies for all team members

Your competency models are the ideal states of competency levels for roles in your organization. But how do employees in those roles fare against these models?

Assess current employees’ proficiency levels against the identified competencies:

  • For core competencies, collect 360 feedback (including self-assessments, peer reviews, and manager feedback)
  • For functional and technical competencies, conduct competency-based performance reviews—note that anyone can evaluate an employee’s communication skills, but not all teams will be able to assess whether a marketing employee is proficient at SEO 
  • For functional, technical, and leadership competencies, you can also conduct skill assessment tests

Free template

Unlock employee potential with competency-based performance reviews
Start giving your employees tailored feedback and development opportunities to achieve their full potential. Enhance your performance management process today.

Analyze the assessment results to identify competency gaps and areas for development and upskilling.

Step 9: Discuss the path forward with team members

The last step is sharing the assessment results with your workers. Discuss:

  • What proficiency levels are they currently at versus the expectations for the role
  • What key competencies and proficiency levels they need to move up the ladder

Follow up your conversations with personalized training and development plans to address identified competency gaps and support employee growth.

Offer access to training programs, workshops, and other development resources to help employees enhance their competencies.

Competency mapping template

Our learning scientists have created a competency mapping template with detailed instructions for finding role-specific competencies. 

This template is a convenient, straightforward sheet that helps people managers or department heads complete this exercise:

  • Link role-based activities with competencies
  • Prioritize and narrow these competencies down
  • Map competencies to roles and workers

Free template

Identify, assess, and align competencies with organizational roles and levels
Download this competency mapping template and develop a robust and effective competency framework that supports talent development and aligns with organizational goals.

Tools and techniques for competency mapping

By leveraging a combination of these tools and techniques, you can effectively map competencies to roles, assess employee proficiency, and identify gaps that inform training and development initiatives.

Tools for competency mapping

  1. Competency frameworks and libraries: Define competencies using existing frameworks, such as the SHRM Competency Model or industry-specific competency libraries, or develop custom frameworks tailored to your organization’s specific needs and roles
  2. Software and HR systems: Systems like Deel Engage offer modules for competency mapping, tracking, and management; moreover, with the LMS feature, you can integrate competency mapping with training and development programs
  3. Survey and assessment tools: Use tools like Google Forms to gather input from employees and stakeholders on required competencies; alternatively, with the Deel Engage performance module, you can ask employees to self-assess their competencies against pre-defined criteria
  4. Project management tools: Use tools like Trello, Asana, and to organize and track the competency mapping process, assign tasks, and monitor progress
  5. Document collaboration tools: Use Google Docs and Sheets or the Microsoft Office suite to create and edit competency frameworks and assessment forms collaboratively

Techniques for competency mapping

  1. Interviews: Conduct structured interviews with employees, managers, and other stakeholders to gather detailed information about job roles and responsibilities
  2. Surveys and questionnaires: Distribute surveys to collect quantitative and qualitative data on job requirements and necessary competencies
  3. Focus groups: Facilitate discussions with groups of employees and managers to identify key competencies and performance criteria
  4. Behavioral event interviews (BEI): Use BEI to explore specific instances of behavior in job performance, focusing on the actions taken, competencies demonstrated, and outcomes achieved
  5. Task analysis: Observe employees performing their tasks to identify the skills, knowledge, and behaviors required for effective performance; conduct workshops with employees and subject matter experts to break down tasks and identify associated competencies
  6. 360-degree feedback and performance appraisal data: Use 360-degree feedback to gather comprehensive input on employee competencies from supervisors, peers, subordinates, and, if relevant, clients; analyze historical performance appraisal data to identify common competencies associated with high performance in various roles
  7. Benchmarking: Compare your organization’s competency requirements with industry standards and best practices to ensure relevance and competitiveness

Challenges organizations face implementing competency mapping and how to overcome them

Obtaining buy-in from stakeholders

For Lalit Chaturvedi, Vice President of HR - Talent Management at ELGI, one major challenge organizations face is “a lack of understanding of the science of competency mapping.” Companies fail to bring all the stakeholders on the same page, creating gaps in the system.

Solution: Educate your workers about the competency mapping process and involve employees at all levels. Senior managers and team leaders already own a few parts of the mapping processes.

Performing incomplete competency mapping

It’s common for organizations to have incomplete competency maps stating only technical or functional competencies. This shows a limited understanding of the mapping process.

Solution: Follow our nine-step process to ensure comprehensive and efficient competency mapping.

Not having a consistent system for competency mapping

Back-and-forth Excel sheets to rate and assign competencies only go so far. It also makes the entire process tedious and error-prone.

Solution: Use technology to define and assign competencies. It makes the process more straightforward for admins and managers to track.

Tip: Innovative uses of AI in HR include enlisting AI to define competencies.


Using poorly described competencies

For Preeya Patel, Senior Business Psychologist at Clevry, poorly defined competencies full of vague keywords, jargon, and no exact expectations are a common problem in the competency mapping process. 

Solution: Keep definitions and proficiency levels as actionable as possible. Add behavioral indicators that clearly explain how employees can use this competency.

Formulate your definitions as if speaking to a layperson outside of your organization.

Consider this key question: How can a person reading competency definitions for the first time understand what behaviors are associated with a specific competency?

Preeya Patel,

Senior Business Psychologist, Clevry

Staying bias-free

Adi Holmes, Head of Talent at jelli Group, stresses that competency mapping and assessments can be subjective, influenced by personal biases, and prone to interpretation.

Having a system driven by only a few contributors can let biases creep in and make the entire process futile.

Solution: Form focus groups with the right mix of people to map competencies: 

  • Senior leaders
  • Managers
  • HR
  • Team leads
  • High-performing employees to get a more balanced list of competencies

To mitigate bias in competency assessments for employees and candidates, offer a clear set of questions aligned with desired competencies and involve multiple assessors.

Adi Holmes,

Head of Talent, Jelli Group

Having too many job profiles

Laura M Hume, an Executive Consultant and Strategic Advisor, says one blunder she spotted in companies she consulted was having too many job profiles. For example, a firm with 5,000 employees had 20.000 job profiles.

Solution: Have a standardization in defining profiles. For example, sales teams can have four profiles: junior executive, senior executive, manager, and head. Creating a new profile for every new joiner will make conducting mapping and training challenging.

Seeing competency mapping as a standalone process 

Jo Taylor, Managing Director of Let’s Talk Talent, says the most common reason competency mapping frameworks are ineffective is that they are developed in isolation as a standalone tactic used solely for performance management.

Create competency frameworks that are looking at supporting your people’s growth and showing them possibilities. Not a stick to beat them with at the end of the year.

Jo Taylor,

Managing Director, Let's Talk Talent

Solution: Integrate competency mapping into HR processes. Weave the mapping throughout the employee lifecycle, from accurate job descriptions, employee development plans, and training to performance management.

Enable clarity, alignment, performance, and growth with Deel Engage

The biggest challenge of competency mapping is engaging stakeholders and ensuring coherence across the entire organization. Integrating it into other key talent management processes is another key challenge. After all, competency mapping should be a piece of your people strategy puzzle, not a self-standing silo. 

Deel Engage helps you solve this challenge with:

  • Career frameworks: Define clear competency models and career paths for each role in your company
  • Competency-based performance reviews: Assess your workers’ competency levels and track future progress
  • Learning: Conduct training based on competency gaps with thousands of cherry-picked courses; you can customize and create courses as well

Book a demo now and let one of our experts help you create a comprehensive talent management system.

Investing in our employees and their development is critical for us. We use Deel Engage’s smart tech to give employees a transparent outlook on their career progression, run bi-yearly feedback reviews, and train people globally.

Barbara Imm,

Director of People and Culture, roadsurfer


Competency mapping clearly defines competencies for every role. It supports the entire talent management lifecycle to make better hiring decisions, conduct training, and manage employee performance.

The main purpose of competency mapping is to identify and define the specific skills, knowledge, and behaviors required for effective performance in various job roles within an organization. 

Competency mapping helps: 

  • Align individual capabilities with organizational goals 
  • Facilitates targeted training and development
  • Enhances recruitment and selection processes 
  • Improves performance management

By clearly outlining the competencies needed for each role, organizations can ensure that employees have the necessary tools and support to succeed, ultimately driving organizational efficiency and effectiveness.

Companies can integrate competency mapping with performance management systems by incorporating competency assessments into performance reviews. Reviewers evaluate employees’ competencies alongside their job performance, providing a comprehensive view of their strengths and development needs. This integration helps in setting clear performance expectations, identifying skill gaps, and creating personalized development plans.

Competency mapping involves identifying the skills, knowledge, behaviors, and attributes required for a job. It provides a holistic view of what is needed for success in a role. On the other hand, a skills assessment focuses specifically on evaluating an individual’s proficiency in particular skills. While competency mapping is broader and more strategic, a skills assessment is more tactical and focused on specific abilities.

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