HR Technology Primer on Competency Mapping: Definition, Process and Models

Competency mapping is one of the most important activities in human resource development (HRD). In the modern era that is riddled with designing complex job profiles and evaluating employee performance based on productivity, mapping of competencies has emerged as a critical driver of success. In today’s HRTech Series primer, we will explore the various definitions of competency mapping, and how HR managers work with HR technologies in this area of HRD.

Competency Mapping: Top Definitions Prevalent in the Industry

“Arthashastra” by Kautilya was one of the first textbooks to treatise the need for competency mapping for rulers and chiefs. Fast forward to the 20th century and suddenly, business owners and managers realized they need a set of metrics and analysis to evaluate what skills and capabilities best suit their job profiles. Job analysis only did half the work for managers and recruiters initially, and that’s why mapping of competencies came into the picture.

The modern-age competency movement began the early 1950s in the first few years of the Cold War setting a new order of technological advancements and industrial revolution with computerized systems. Professor David McClelland is referred to as the founder of the modern competency theory. He first explained the competency mapping theory in his paper titled, “Testing for competence rather than for intelligence” (1973).

Competency mapping is made up of two words: “competency” and “mapping.”

  • Competency refers to an individual’s ability to relate and apply their innate capabilities, acquired knowledge, skills and experience to accomplish a task in a defined work environment.
  • Mapping refers to a sequential process of making, matching and scheduling activities to accomplish a set of tasks.

An individual is the fundamental unit of organization. When individuals come together to achieve a certain set of goals in a coordinated manner, it is called a group. In a group, members would display certain skills and competencies that would enable them to achieve the goals. When every member is aware of their role in the group, they are likely to make more contribution to goal achievement. For HR managers, employee competency mapping is a key activity.

ow, when a skilled person fails to achieve targets or accomplish a task, fingers would be raised at the HR. Did we perform the mapping to match competencies required for the job? Let’s understand how mapping is defined for HR organizations.

Definition 1: Competency mapping is the process of identifying the key competencies required for a job at hand and mapping it to the strengths and weakness of employees who are supposed to perform that job. (source)

Definition 2: Competency mapping is a method of examining the weaknesses and strengths of an employee or organization. (source)

Definition 3: Competency mapping is an HR strategy focused on evaluating the competencies of employees in a structured and repeatable way to gain awareness of the current skills inventory in the organization, as well as identify existing skill gaps. (source)

Definition 4: Competency mapping is a process to identify the presence of essential underlying characteristics in an employee required to achieve superior performance in job. (Source: Sareen, etal, 2018; Asian Journal of Management)

Definition 5: Competency Mapping is a process of identifying key competencies for an organization, the jobs and functions within it. It is important not just for organization development but also for career progression determined through achievements, on and off job training and so on.

Definition 6: Different from job analysis, competency mapping is not meant to drive rewards and recognition. It is solely focused at determining current and future skills required for job fulfillment and for mapping HRM initiatives with multi-skill development programs.

Definition 7: Mapping of competencies is a tool to identify skills gaps and to fill these gaps through training and development programs, to encourage internal mobility and to drive retention of employees in high growth roles.

Core Areas of Competency Mapping in Organization Behavior Assessments

According to the UNIDO’s 2002 model of competency development, adult learning involves three aspects or fundamental units called as K-A-S:

  • Knowledge for cognitive learning
  • Attitude / affective
  • Skills (psychomotor)

An individual can complete a task or activity using their knowledge, skills and attitude.

Main aspects in competency model (UNIDO, 2002)
Main aspects in competency model (UNIDO, 2002)

Some researchers and HR philosophers also include motives, intent, values and self-assessment (OTHERS) in KAS to come up with KASO concept. In totality, this is understood through the Iceberg model of competency mapping.


In human resource development, competency mapping is done as part of skills matching, need fulfillment, strategic HR alignment to improve performance and efficiency of the organization.

There are 3 types of competencies:

  • Core competency
  • Functional competency
  • Cross-functional competency

At interpersonal level as part of strategic HR management, competency mapping could focus on these four areas of assessment:

  • Technical
  • Managerial /  leadership
  • Behavioral/ interpersonal
  • Conceptual

In the new world of hybrid management using AI, analysis, and automation, the fifth dimension  could also be added to the assessment. This would be digital transformation or digital twin*.

Now, let’s discuss the next aspect of competency mapping — models and theories.

In a modern workplace, UNIDO’s competency model can solve only half the problem. We need to understand the concept of competency mapping using Iceberg’s model.

Based on our analysis of the HR landscape, we found that organizational behavior and development could use different competency mapping models to achieve their goals. Here are some of the most relevant competency mapping models for your reference.

Competency Mapping: Popular Models and Techniques

We have already highlighted two key models for competency mapping that HR philosophers advocated to link individual traits with business outcomes. These models are UNIDO and Iceberg’s model of surface and central competencies.

Let’s move our focus to other contemporary models that are used to develop competency mapping processes in the modern organizations.

We will explain these models and their applications in the physical world using practical examples in our subsequent HRTech Series Primers.

Competency Mapping Process

Competency mapping can be used as a very reliable tool for not just employee performance management and leadership development but also for creating a solid value system within the organization that rewards diverse skills and knowledge. In order to succeed with performance management, HR managers should follow a checklist of workflows and techniques. We have mentioned some of the most popular tools HR managers use to map competencies in their organization.

  • DACUM (Developing A Curriculum)
  • Assessment centers
  • Competencies analysis
  • Personal interview and questionnaires (CMQ, PAQ, WPS, and MOSAIC)
  • Critical incidents assessment technique (CIA)
  • Social and psychometric tests
  • Evidence-based lessons and workshops
  • Simulations and case-studies based analysis exercises

In any organization, your competency mapping starts right from selection and hiring processes. A reliable mapping tool would allow you:

  • to identify the differences between “perceived” competencies and “exact” skills for the role
  • to improve hiring and selection practices based on analysis
  • to identify existing internal challenges and skills gaps
  • to enhance alignment between person and job
  • to match competencies based on behavioral and technical assessments
  • to evaluate and rank KASO competencies in a relevant order of importance
  • to match internal strengths and weakness with threats and opportunities in the external environment
  • to identify unconventional competencies that could be trained and refined for futuristic applications
  • to develop leadership and succession planning
  • to build a team of motivated and self-driven workers who have complimentary skills with mutual accountability
Benefits of having a Competency Roadmap for Organizational Roles

HR facilitators have realized the benefits of mapping each role and function for their teams, groups and strategic business units. One of the major benefits of mapping is that a defined, well structured roles and definitions specific to each job stimulates strategic management and human resource development. Other benefits include:

  • reduced gaps between talent and expectations
  • reduced cost of employee attrition cost
  • increased job satisfaction
  • enhanced productivity
  • better synchronization between various HR components and frameworks
  • skills mapping for succession mapping and long-term career planning

It is important to note that mapping process is a corporate strategy and culture where every metric refers to how employees can be trained and professionally developed into assets that enhance the overall standard and productivity of your organization.