The U.S. Office of Personnel Management (OPM) publicly shares its Competency Models. Here’s how the OPM competency models can support your workforce planning.
In the ever-evolving landscape of business, workforce planning is a critical aspect of organizational success. And managing workforce skills and competencies is essential for workforce planning. An updated competency model will help you align workers’ skills with your business needs. But if you’re just getting started, or haven’t updated your model in a while, what tools or assets are available to help?
Fortunately, the U.S. Office of Personnel Management (OPM) shares its General Competencies and Competency Models with the public. And, in September 2023, the OPM released updated competencies for 80 federal occupational series. Though not all the jobs will be relevant to your business, many will – giving your organization a jumpstart for next steps.
What are the OPM Competency Models?
The OPM’s general competencies are a set of key skills, knowledge, and behaviors that individuals should possess to perform effectively in federal government positions. Competencies can include both technical and job-specific skills as well as more general interpersonal, leadership, and communication skills.
These competencies provide a framework, a set of competency models, that outline the skills and attributes that contribute to individual and organizational success. Specific OPM models are based on the occupational series or job roles within the federal government. While initially designed for the public sector, the OPM competency models are highly transferable and applicable to small and mid-sized enterprises.
Here are seven ways the OPM competency models can support your workforce planning.
1. Aligning Competencies with Strategic Goals
Workforce planning is most effective when aligned with your strategic goals. The OPM competency models provide a framework for mapping individual skills to broader organizational objectives. For example, the skill of “Strategic Thinking” encourages employees to consider the bigger picture, coordinating their efforts with your company’s long-term vision. By aligning skills with strategic goals, you can ensure that your workforce is not only proficient in day-to-day tasks but also actively contributing to the company’s overarching success.
2. Jumpstarting Your Competency Model Next Steps
If you’re just starting to build a competency model for your organization — or, if you’re ready to refresh your models — the OPM resource can provide a good start. For more than two decades, OPM has been conducting governmentwide occupational studies using its Multipurpose Occupational Systems Analysis Inventory – Close-Ended (MOSAIC) methodology. The September 2023 Federal Workforce Competency Initiative (FWCI) update replaces the MOSAIC data with a current, data-based foundation for a wide variety of federal workforce initiatives. Check the OPM models to see if they’ve already captured the core skills you need for your roles. They have models for HR management, general administration, accounting, security, and many other professions.
3. Building on Core Skills
One of the primary advantages of incorporating OPM competency models into your workforce planning is that many of the OPM-identified skills and attributes transcend specific roles. If you’re like most small and mid-sized enterprises, you have limited resources. That likely means that your employee base needs to be versatile — accepting and adapting to a range of responsibilities. By including the OPM general skills in your competency models, your workforce can develop not only the technical skills required for their jobs but also foundational skills that contribute to long-term company success.
4. Hiring for Skills
When OPM released their updated competencies, the accompanying memo confirmed that the FWCI surveys and related competency models are intended to “support the expanding use of skills-based hiring across the federal government with the increased use of valid assessments that carefully measure candidates’ ability to perform the job.”
Reducing the importance of formal education when setting job qualifications is a trend across a range of commercial, nonprofit, and government organizations. A skills-first approach to hiring, backed by strong competency models, can help expand the talent pool for your open positions. It also sets up employee expectations, from the start, that their skill development will be valued and supported by your organization.
5. Fostering a Culture of Continuous Learning
Competency models can help emphasize the importance of ongoing learning and development. In today’s business world, agility is key. And cultivating a culture of continuous learning is imperative.
By incorporating competencies such as “Learning and Knowledge Management” and “Flexibility and Resilience,” you can encourage employees to embrace new challenges, acquire new skills, and adapt to changing business environments. When you have individual learning paths aligned with both company strategy and employee goals, it will be clear which skills employees need to develop next.
This approach not only enhances individual performance but also ensures your company remains competitive in a dynamic market.
6. Enhancing Employee Engagement
Strong employee engagement can strengthen your culture and improve productivity, retention rates, and overall organizational success. Skills and competencies such as “Teamwork and Collaboration” and “Interpersonal Skills” address the relational aspects of work. When you include these skills in your competency model, it’s one way to commit to sustaining a positive work environment where employees feel valued, connected to others, and committed to your mission.
7. Planning for Succession and Developing Leaders
A big part of workforce planning is succession planning, so you have people ready to step in when others are promoted, retire, or otherwise leave their positions.
The OPM competency models can help outline a roadmap for leadership development within your organization. Though you probably don’t have federal government job “grades” within your company, the grades in the OPM model show a series of progressive steps that your future leaders can use to build their skills and experience as they take on greater responsibilities over time.
By emphasizing skills and competencies such as “Leadership” and “Conflict Management,” you can identify individuals who have the potential for future leadership roles. Regular skills assessments will give you – and them – feedback on how they are progressing and where there are gaps to overcome.
This proactive approach to succession planning ensures long-term continuity and minimizes disruptions during transitions.
In short, the OPM general competencies and competency models provide a valuable framework for business and HR leaders seeking to enhance workforce planning strategies. Incorporating skills and competencies into your job descriptions, recruitment, employee development, and succession planning processes will help you not only meet the demands of today but will prepare you and your workforce for the challenges of tomorrow.
If you’re ready to build or refresh a competency model for your organization, Download our Competency Management Toolkit for tips on how to use skills and competencies to support your workforce planning. Or contact us to see if Avilar’s WebMentor Skills™ competency management systems may support your team.
What is Workforce Planning? 6 Strategic Steps for Success
How to Get Started with Competency Management, Part 1
How to Get Started with Competency Management, Part 2
Contemplating Competencies: An Interview With an Expert
OPM’s MOSAIC Studies and Competencies
OPM Federal Workforce Competency Initiative (FWCI) Competency Handbook