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Received November 2003 Revised November 2004 Accepted December 2004

Towards a multidimensional competency-based managerial performance framework

A hybrid approach

Mei-I. Cheng and Andrew R.J. Dainty

Department of Civil and Building Engineering, Loughborough University, Loughborough, Leicester, UK, and

David R. Moore

Scott Sutherland School, The Robert Gordon University, Aberdeen, UK

Abstract

Purpose – To report on the development of a new, more balanced approach to managing the performance of key employees in project-based organizations.

Design/methodology/approach – Following the establishment of the role-based criteria for performance excellence through focus groups and subsequent factor analysis, performance profiles of a range of superior and average performing managers were compiled. These were based on behavioural event interviews (BEIs) from which job, person and role-based aspects were derived. The final performance model was validated through assessments with an expert panel of HRM specialists.

Findings – This research has developed and demonstrated the potential of a more holistic approach to managing performance which includes reference to the job requirements, personal behaviours and the role context. It was found to be particularly suitable to measuring managers’ performance in dynamic team-based environments.

Research limitations/implications – The empirical work upon which the new performance framework is based was derived from a limited study within two construction organizations. Future work will explore the applicability of the approach within other organizations and industries.

Practical implications – Applying this framework to key HRM activities has the potential to improve the ways in which companies manage, develop and retain their key managerial resources. Notably, they should be able to engender a more participative, developmental approach to the HRM function, thereby helping to ensure sustained performance improvements in the future and improved resource usage effectiveness.

Originality/value – The paper presents the basis for a completely new performance management paradigm which embeds managerial competence/competency in a way which more accurately reflects the realities of managerial practice.

The Emerald Research Register for this journal is available at The current issue and full text

Journal of Managerial Psychology Vol. 20 No. 5, 2005 pp. 380-396 q Emerald Group Publishing Limited

0268-3946

DOI 10.1108/02683940510602941

Keywords Performance management, Competences, Modelling, Managers Paper type Research paper

Introduction

Devising more effective ways of managing the performance of key managerial employees has become a cornerstone of organizational development in recent years. As part of this movement, the establishment of the competence or competency of individuals, within both their general contribution to the organisation and their specific contribution in the context of their occupational role, is central to defining the necessary routes to further development within the organization. Indeed, competency

assessment has been seen as an increasingly versatile and powerful tool to underpin many contemporary human resource management (HRM) practices (Armstrong, 2003). Such assessments can help to define job-role characteristics and desired levels of performance and hence, can provide a basis for many aspects of the HRM function. However, although the general use of the terms “competence” and “competency” is fairly indiscriminate, there are important conceptual and practical distinctions to be made that fundamentally effect their application within modern organizations. Within traditionally structured organizations, performance management systems tend to rely upon competence-based approaches where managers are appraised against a range of technical job function requirements and in relation to outturn performance criteria or metrics (Martin and Staines, 1994). Thus, it is focused more on the performance requirements of job positions than on the jobholders themselves (Stuart and Lindsay, 1997). Indeed, the underlying characteristics of jobholders are already assumed to exist (Garavan and McGuire, 2001). In contrast, competency-based approaches, where managers’ behaviours are utilised as the basis of performance management and development activities, are less commonly encountered, although they are more popular in the United States than in Europe (Garavan and McGuire, 2001). This approach relies upon predominantly input-based criteria, with a focus on person related variables that individuals bring to a job (Boyatzis, 1982; Spencer and Spencer, 1993). Bergenhenegouwen (1996) argued that in a managerial context, managers must possess a range of personal competencies along with task-specific competences to perform effectively. Many organizations therefore combine both personal competencies and job-based competences, but most models do not necessarily balance these two differing aspects effectively (Bergenhenegouwen, 1996). This is disadvantageous for the organization as it delimits the potential of learning to correct any imbalance between the two sets. Rather, a more robust hybrid approach that draws on the best aspects of both approaches could offer a more effective and innovative performance management paradigm. This paper reports on research, which has developed a hybrid performance management approach and its practical application within a dynamic industrial context. The research examined the competence and competency requirements of the project manager role in the construction industry, one of the most demanding project-based industrial sectors. This offered a test bed to evaluate the practical utility of a multi-faceted performance management approach for key management occupations. Based on the empirical evidence gathered, the paper explores whether such a hybrid approach could define a new and more robust methodology for measuring and improving managers’ performance within the context of contemporary organizations and business practices.

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Differing dimensions of managerial competency

Performance management is a core strategic HRM activity to which competence and/or competency frameworks can be applied. By reviewing managers’ performance against performance standards or desired behaviours (both approaches being examples of the application of performance criteria), they can be developed and rewarded accordingly. However, it is also important to recognise that performance actually takes place in a unique social and cultural context, which is inexorably linked to the job in hand.

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Understanding this context is important as it may affect the ways in which management performance can be evaluated. Holmes and Joyce (1993) characterised three different approaches to measuring managerial performance, which are grounded in different job role contexts:

(1)

job-focused;

(2)

person-focused; and

(3)

role-focused criteria.

These are discussed below.

The job-focused approach

The job-focused approach concentrates on identifying the key tasks of managerial work. This approach treats the job as existing independently of the jobholder. It can be analysed completely into a coherent set of discrete elements. This view corresponds with functionalist approaches such as those found within the UK and Europe. For example, the Standards Programme defines “competence” as “a description of something which a person who works in a given occupational area should be able to do, it is a description of an action, behaviour or outcome which a person should be able to demonstrate” (Training Agency, 1988, p. 5). Competence is expressed in terms of the job purpose and the standards of performance expected to be achieved, which is known as “micro competence” (Elkin, 1990). This perspective is highly centralist in that it determines the push for skill in job performance rather than understanding and fixing the output standards that regulate education and training (Burgoyne, 1993). The functional analysis approach has been widely criticised for the inappropriate and inflexible standards that it promotes, particularly for higher-level and management positions (Cole, 2002). Such a model cannot take account of the complex and dynamic context in which managerial performance is manifested. The conception that individual managers all engage in similar methodical activity to achieve the job or organization’s objectives is contradicted by numerous studies of actual managerial practice. As Cheng et al. (2003) argue, management is a creative activity and the lower levels may be open to the measurement of competences, while top management is a process of knowledge implementation that is more than the practice of measurable skills. Moreover, soft qualities such as creativity, sensitivity and flexibility are regarded as vital to an organization’s competitiveness (Jacobs, 1989). Barnett (1994) suggested that the NVQ/competence-based approach maintains an impoverished view of human action in which individuals are caused to perform against external standards. Additionally, its focus on studying competence within the boundaries of current jobs may not help organizations to face the challenges of the emergence of new job demands in the future. Additionally, Holmes (1995) stated that this approach fails to provide adequate guidance on how competence can be inferred from observations of past performance.

The person-focused approach

The person-focused approach considers a manager’s performance in terms of how it relates to their personal background, personality, values, motivation and so on

(Holmes and Joyce, 1993). This approach views competencies as macro in nature and distinct from the task-specific micro competences of the job-focused perspective. An individual is therefore enabled to deal effectively with non-routine and complex situations and also in the development of generalisable abilities. Macro competencies are of particular importance to the performance of managers when dealing with the complexity typical of managerial work (Brown, 1993; Spencer and Spencer, 1993). Competencies are intangible and dynamic; identifying them is an essential, elusive and growing problem for management (Fowler et al., 2000). Failure to recognize embedded, often tacit competencies, can have detrimental effects on an organization’s ability to compete (Cohen and Levinthal, 1990). When management is viewed as a creative activity, it follows that imposing rigid management processes renders those “creative” managerial competences that achieve success unusable (Henderson, 1993). In actual managerial practice it would be more appropriate to view managers as not being simply performers against external standards, but also as reflective actors (Henderson, 1993). The current use of the person-focused approach used in the USA originates from the studies of McBer Associates commencing in the 1970s as an attempt to identify the characteristics that distinguish superior from average managerial performance. As competencies are seen not as the functional tasks of the job, but rather as those actions which enable people to carry out their job effectively (Mansfield, 1999), personal qualities are central to this approach.

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The role-focused approach

The role-focused approach attempts to understand managerial performance by focusing on the social context in which performance is undertaken. Job performance is considered as the enactment of a role, which emerges through the interaction between the role holder and the others in the social situation, with their varying perceptions and expectations (Holmes and Joyce, 1993). A role-focused approach emphasises the process of examining the various demands, which are made of the individual manager by others and the extent to which the manager accepts them. It also examines the degree to which the manager’s performance meets demands imposed by both themselves and others. In doing this, the role approach is grounded in the reality of the individual manager’s situation, rather than in an abstract model of what any manager should be doing. An aspect of the role approach that illustrates a possible performance inhibiting impact flowing from a manager’s social context is provided through consideration of role conflict. Handy (1999) identifies the possibility of an individual possessing several roles, one of which will be what they regard as their primary function. The job-focused approach may well be used by themselves and others in judging their performance in this primary role; their perception of the role may be in terms of what tasks it contains, irrespective of who is carrying it out. Similarly, the person-focused approach may allow an individual to perceive their primary role as flowing from their background (personal experience, training, values and beliefs, etc.) and as being the result of a holistic perspective on a combination of diverse factors. They judge themselves against the generally agreed concept of a role rather than a discrete model, as in the job focused approach. In both cases an individual could have the capacity and the motivation to perform a specific role and is then offered the opportunity to perform. In this situation there is no role conflict as the perceptions of all of those involved are congruent; the

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individual concerned meets the agreed criteria for capacity and willingness and therefore is presented with opportunity. The role focus approach goes further than either the job or person focus perspectives, in that it allows a level of interaction between the individual, those working with them and the environment as perceived by all involved. By examining the various demands and expectations made on the individual

  • 384 manager by others and the extent to which the manager accepts such demands, the

role-focused approach acknowledges the extent to which their performance meets imposed demands (Holmes and Joyce, 1993). It also recognises the factors that impact on job performance (e.g. actions of co-workers, leader behaviour, organizational culture and values). Thus, assessing and managing the performance of the manager is grounded in the reality of the individual manager’s situation. This perspective is particularly appropriate for managers whose activities and performance are contingent upon the particular circumstances of the project/tasks in hand.

The hybrid approach: a multidimensional competency-based managerial performance framework

The previous sections of this paper have explicated the definition, discrimination and relationship of differing dimensions of managerial performance. Each approach has its own merits. However, arguably, they should not be regarded as being mutually exclusive, but as potentially complementary. This demands the systematic combination of both micro competences and macro competencies within a new, more holistic framework, underpinned by role-focused measures. Such a holistic managerial performance framework includes a clear description of the work tasks managers should be competent at (i.e. micro competences), what enables them to complete those tasks effectively (i.e. macro competencies) and specific role-focused criteria for performance excellence (social context) to assess his/her job performance. This has the potential to be more constructive and utilisable to the realities of managerial practices than are the current fragmented approaches. The ability of such an approach to identify and respond to changes in each of the three sections provides a managerial framework within which the performance management function can achieve a more effective usage of resources. The application of the proposed framework will provide opportunities for the HRM function to become more aware of the real-world demands placed upon managers. Such increased awareness can only beneficially inform the performance management process with regard to the allocation of resources to the development of an individual manager’s performance.

Methodology

The job role forming the focus of this study was that of the construction project

manager. This role was chosen for its complex, multifunctional nature and the many dimensions and influences on performance that could be measured. Thus, the job role has a broad range of discrete but mutually reinforcing competence, competency and role requirements that could benefit from a multidimensional competency-based managerial performance framework. The collaboration of two leading organizations at the forefront of process improvement within the construction sector provided a source for the data necessary for the work and ensured the practical utility of the managerial performance framework within the industry context for which it was designed.

Company A was a privately owned contracting organization. Employing over 1,000 people, it operated in all construction markets including product and component manufacture, traditional building contracting and design/management services. Company B was a Public Limited Company also employing over 1,000 people. The core focus of this organization was building and civil engineering contracting. Both companies operated throughout the UK through a divisional operating structure based on service specialisation and geographical radius of operation. However, both had centralised HRM departments, which co-ordinated the management of the performance management systems used by the firms. Neither of the firms were implementing integrated, multidisciplinary (task, role and person-focused perspectives) performance management systems. Development of a multidimensional competency-based performance framework requires a methodology combining all three perspectives within a single analytical framework. The research began with the establishment of the role-based criteria for performance excellence (phase 1). Three focus groups were held in which a stratified sample of managers ðN ¼ 20Þ ranging from first line supervisors to senior head office-based managers were used as an expert panel to define the requirements of performance excellence for the job role. These individuals all relied upon the outputs from the project manager for the completion of their own job role. The focus group discussions lasted for a period of between two and three hours, following which the discussions were recorded, transcribed and then combined into a comprehensive list of performance criteria. The full range of criteria were then listed and the original participants asked to rate the importance of each criterion on a seven-point Likert scale on an individual basis. The independence of the Likert responses ensured that any influence over subordinates from senior managers during the focus groups was minimised. Exploratory factor analysis was used as the data reduction tool to reduce the number of indicators to a manageable and meaningful number of criteria expressed as factors. In order to understand the underlying constructs of the variables, a principal components analysis was performed with varimax rotation for eigenvalues greater than unity. Phase 2 involved the development of the micro competency model (the job-focused approach) and macro competency model (the person-focused approach). The role-based criteria for performance excellence developed in phase 1 were used to identify a group of superior and a comparison group of average performers to form the basis of the main data collection phase. A panel of HRM specialists, construction managers, project managers and site managers from each participating company identified 24 superior managers and 16 average performers. A variety of data were collected from a total of 40 managers’ interviews. First, a job-tasks interview was carried out. This asked the superior managers to describe their job tasks and key responsibilities so as to identify the micro competence(s). The second stage comprised a series of behavioural event interviews (BEIs) to assess macro competencies (McClelland, 1998). BEIs were conducted with both superior and average managers. They were asked to describe critical situations encountered in their jobs. The interviewer then explored what the situation or task was, who was involved, what the interviewee thought, felt and wanted to do, what they actually did and what the result or outcome was. The interview lasted from two to three hours. All interviews were tape-recorded and transcribed verbatim for analysis.

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Data analysis proceeded in line with the two-stage interview process, with the initial objective being the production of a micro competence model. The transcripts of the 24 superior managers’ job-task interviews were analysed using the QSR NVivo qualitative analysis package. Each of the three research team members coded the transcripts with the objective of identifying and coding the job tasks and key responsibilities. The second stage of the analysis had the objective of producing a

  • 386 macro competency model. The transcripts of 40 completed BEIs were coded against the

competencies contained within the McBer Competency Dictionary (Spencer and Spencer, 1993). Each transcript was reviewed and passages were then coded to the appropriate tree node(s). Each analyst independently identified similar patterns and themes for each competency. Any motives, thoughts, or behaviours that matched those provided by the McBer Competency Dictionary were coded and those absent from the standard dictionary (which therefore are unique construction management competencies) were extracted. It should be noted that the analysts were not aware of the group placement (i.e. superior vs average) of any of the interviewees during the coding process. The interview coding was analysed statistically to see if the analysts reached an acceptable level of inter-rater reliability. Examples of competencies were copied from the transcript to a “dictionary” to provide customised examples of each competency level coded. The dictionary was customised by tailoring the definitions of competencies and competency levels to describe the data being coded and a behavioural codebook was then developed. This coding process provided quantitative data that was used to test the findings for statistical significance. The one-way analysis of variance (ANOVA) was conducted to examine whether the differences among the competencies of the two groups (superior vs average managers) were significant. Subsequently, a forward stepwise logistic regression analysis was performed to create a parsimonious model for the prediction of job performance. The suitability and applicability of the role-focused and micro competence models were examined by employees (senior line managers) and employers (HRM specialists) from each participating company. To validate the macro competency model, a panel of assessors (HRM specialists and senior line managers) with first-hand knowledge of the performance and competencies of the candidates, were asked to select a second criterion sample of managers (12 superior managers and eight average performers) using the role-based criteria for performance excellence. Subsequently, the panel was asked to rate the competencies of candidates by using criteria from the developed, construction bespoke, behavioural codebook to see if the macro competency model predicted the superior and average managers in the second group.

Results

The role-focused model

Principal factors extraction with varimax rotation was performed using SPSS. The exploratory factor analysis resulted in 12 factors with eigenvalues greater than unity being extracted, but the scree test suggested that a nine-factor solution was most appropriate. Owing to the relatively small sample size, an inter-rater agreement was also employed to help interpret the data and refine the factors. Along with the inter-rater agreement, 43 performance criteria were identified which are summarised by nine factors. The first factor was labelled “Team Building” and explained 22.36 per cent of the variance;

the second factor was concerned with “Leadership” and explained 17.71 per cent of the variance; factors 3-9 were concerned with “Decision Making”’ (11.10 per cent of the variance), “Mutuality and Approachability” (8.19 per cent), “Honesty and Integrity” (7.03 per cent), “Communication” (5.32 per cent), “Learning, Understanding and Application” (4.73 per cent), “Self-Motivation” (4.10 per cent) and “External Relations” (3.93 per cent). The nine factors extracted therefore accounted for 84.45 per cent of the variance in responses. The details of the constituent indicators of each of the nine factors extracted can be found in Dainty et al. (2003).

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The job-focused model

The job tasks obtained from the first stage of interviews were sorted into 14 elements:

(1)

to ensure work is properly considered prior to work commencing;

 

(2) to deliver the job to client satisfaction and maintain long-term relationships;

(3)

to maintain budgetary control and maximise the company’s profits;

 

(4)

to

ensure

that

the

project

is

completed

within

the

original

programme

(5)

requirements; to ensure that the quality of the end product meets all stakeholder expectations;

(6)

to adhere to health and safety and environmental standards;

 

(7)

to ensure all staff and supervisors are aware of their roles and responsibilities;

(8)

to ensure that design and other production information is appropriately and effectively communicated to members of the project team;

(9) to promote continuous improvement through team learning and development;

(10)

to promote and share knowledge;

(11)

to champion company standards and approaches;

(12)

to input into tendered work and submissions;

(13)

to chair meetings and coordinate activities; and

(14)

to employ, coordinate and ensure the co-operation of supply chain partners.

Cohen’s (1960) Kappa was calculated to assess inter-rater agreement ðk ¼ 0:97Þ. Job tasks on which raters could not agree concerning placement into a job task group were dropped.

The person-focused model

One-way analysis of variance (ANOVA) was conducted to identify the competencies, which distinguish superior managers from those performing at an average level. It was found that 12 competencies distinguish superior from average performers. They are:

(1)

achievement orientation;

(2)

initiative;

(3)

information seeking;

(4)

focus on client’s needs;

(5)

impact and influence;

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(6)

directiveness;

(7)

teamwork and cooperation;

(8)

team leadership;

(9)

analytical thinking;

(10)

conceptual thinking;

(11)

self-control; and

(12)

flexibility (Table I).

The definition of each competency is detailed in the Appendix. Logistic regression analysis (forward stepwise) was conducted to discriminate the most predictive competencies among the 12 identified to generate a parsimonious model that can predict job performance. To determine a prediction model with the best possible fit to the data for job performance (superior vs average managers) variable, all 12 variables were regressed on the dependent variable, job performance. The 12 competencies were entered in a stepwise logistic regression analysis using forward selection ( p to enter , 0.01) and backward elimination ( p to move . 0.10) based on likelihood ratio estimates. Once completed, predictive competencies are tested with the results employed in creating a parsimonious model to predict job performance. Two competencies made a significant contribution to the prediction of job performance. At the first step, self-control was entered. The correct class rate of the discrimination of average managers and superior managers was 92.50 per cent with a chi-square of 30.93 (1df ) ð p , 0:0001Þ. At the second step, team leadership was entered. The correct class rate of this elaborated model was 95 per cent with an increased chi-square (at p , 0:0001 of 44.17 with 2df ). After that, none of the other competencies could be added. A classification table (Table II) is presented here to illustrate how well the model fits the data. As the table shows, the classification results from the logistic regression revealed an impressive prediction success, an overall correct class rate of 95 per cent

Table I. Comparison of competencies of average managers ðN ¼ 16Þ and superior managers ðN ¼ 24Þ

 

Average managers

Superior managers

ANOVA

Variable

M

SD

M

SD

F (1.38)

Achievement orientation

0.56

1.41

3.21

0.78

58.18

*

Initiative

1.06

1.18

2.75

0.68

33.04

*

Information seeking

0.75

1.00

2.54

1.53

16.98

*

Focus on client’s needs

2 0.44

0.89

1.42

1.28

25.20

*

Impact and influence

0.94

0.93

2.30

0.69

28.00

*

Directiveness

0.56

1.21

3.92

2.15

32.12

*

Teamwork and cooperation

2.19

1.80

4.92

1.44

28.22

*

Team leadership

0.75

1.34

4.46

1.69

53.97

*

Analytical thinking

0.94

1.00

3.00

0.83

50.16

*

Conceptual thinking

0.69

0.79

2.50

1.02

35.84

*

Self-control

0.31

1.30

2.96

0.75

66.51

*

Flexibility

1.13

1.26

3.00

0.42

46.22 *

Notes: *p , 0:001

Managerial

 

Average vs superior

Predicted

performance

Observed

0

1

Percentage correct

framework

Step 1

Average

0

14

2

87.5

Superior

1

1

23

95.8

389

Overall percentage

92.5

Step 2

Table II.

Average

0

14

2

87.5

Classification table for

Superior

1

0

24

100.0

job performance (cut

Overall percentage

95.0

value is 0.40)

for the total sample of 40 managers. The resulting parsimonious model accounted for 66.90 per cent of the variance in job performance. The resulting logistic parsimonious regression equation is as follows:

 
 

1

ProðsuperiorÞ ¼

1 þ e 2ð29:08þ2:40

self 2controlþ1:79 team leadershipÞ :

 

Validation results

HRM specialists (employer’s perspectives) and senior line managers (employee’s perspectives) confirmed the suitability and applicability of the role-focused model and the micro competence model. The resulting full macro competency model was validated by a second criterion sample. The t-test results show that superior managers were significantly higher than average managers on the 12 distinguishing competencies previously identified (Table III). For the parsimonious model, the scores of self-control and team leadership competencies were put into the model to assess the probability of an individual being a superior performer. The results show that the model misclassified 4 of the

 
 

Average managers

 

Superior managers

t-test

Variable

M

SD

M

SD

t (19)

Achievement orientation

0.50

0.76

2.50

0.80

2 5.61 ***

Initiative

0.75

0.71

3.33

1.44

2 4.69 ***

Information seeking

1.25

0.89

3.08

1.31

2 3.45 **

Focus on client’s needs

0.88

0.64

1.91

1.44

2 1.91 *

Impact and influence

1.63

0.52

2.75

0.87

2 3.29 **

Directiveness

1.75

0.71

3.50

1.00

2 4.27 ***

Teamwork and cooperation

1.88

1.13

3.92

1.68

2 3.01 **

Team leadership

1.50

1.60

4.33

1.78

2 3.63 **

Analytical thinking

0.75

0.46

2.67

0.65

2 7.17 ***

Conceptual thinking

1.00

0.53

2.58

1.08

2 3.81 **

Self-control

0.50

1.20

2.66

0.78

2 4.93 ***

Flexibility

1.25

0.46

3.00

0.95

2 4.80 ***

Notes: *p , 0:05 (one-tailed); **p , 0:01; ***p , 0:001

Table III. Comparison of competencies of average managers ðN ¼ 8Þ and superior managers ðN ¼ 12Þ

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20 individuals. The parsimonious model can predict 80 per cent overall accuracy of job performance (Table IV).

Discussion

Elkin (1990) suggests that human resource management practitioners face a dilemma; on one hand, the underlying macro competency/person-focused approach seems

  • 390 removed from the everyday reality of most jobs and the need to demonstrate

immediate benefits from training and development. However, adopting a micro competence/job-focused approach is normative and geared towards the development of “identikit” managers (Mangham, 1990). Thus, a sole focus on either competence or competency-based systems is unlikely to yield rounded, technically competent managers with the ability to move organizations forward. There is, however, no intention here to assert that all managers should aspire to become superior performers. Rather, the suggestion is threefold. First, managers may, in appropriate circumstances, be encouraged to develop a level of performance, which is superior to their existing performance in order to contribute to the achievement of a superior organisational (rather than superior individual) performance. Such a scenario would equate to that faced by a transitional or transforming (moving forward from a transactional to a transformational culture) organisation. In such a case the emphasis is on incremental performance improvements by many individuals as a means of gradually building a transformational culture. Secondly, a strategy of supporting the development of a core of managers with the objective of raising their performance to a superior level may be appropriate in dealing with expansion of an organisation’s area of activity. An example would be engaging in new activity with regard to what D’Herbemont and Cesar (1998) refer to as sensitive projects and which have particular demands for project manager behaviours not demanded by “normal” projects. Thirdly, that in extreme cases the so-called neutron-bomb approach may be exercised. In this scenario, there is a rapid and complete displacement of one management culture by an “improved” culture which drives the organisation forward in a quantum leap. Such an approach requires a speedy (rather than gradual) development of superior performance in a selected group of managers. The required speed of this development will place demands on the selection process so as to identify managers who are already close to the required level of performance. The extent of differentiation regarding performance development outlined above suggests a need to add a consideration of a third dimension, one with an emphasis on the role rather than the job or person-centred issues. This research has developed and demonstrated the potential of a more holistic approach to managing performance, which focuses on the job (micro competences), the person (macro competencies) and the role (performance excellence in the social contexts). This hybrid approach represents a

Predicted

 

Average vs superior

 
 

Observed

0

1

Percentage correct

Table IV.

Average

0

6

2

75

The classification table

Superior

1

2

10

83

for parsimonious model

Overall percentage

80

radical departure from the appraisal and review strategies currently dominating many project-based sectors. Such traditional approaches are useful in assessing performance within the context of a single focus (job or person) and are therefore arguably appropriate to an organisation with a transactional perspective and operating in a slowly changing environment. However, project-based organisations are faced with increasing rates of change in their external environments and a single-focus performance management approach is not appropriate to such environments. Used as the basis of a performance management system, the framework could promote discussion and diagnosis of the key capabilities and development needs of individual managers regarding their past and future contributions towards project focused performance excellence within organizations. This can be achieved due to the nature of this multifaceted performance framework being both past and future oriented and combining quantitative and qualitative assessments of performance. Furthermore, it is sensitive enough to facilitate discussion on specific career development issues aligned to business requirements. In particular, the hybrid approach is appropriate for:

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. uncertain environments where results are not under manager’s control and evaluation should be based on whether managers did everything they could, whether they demonstrated the right behaviours rather than achieving targeted results;

.

team-based environments where the contribution to the group process may be more important than individual results; and in

. dynamic environments and organizations where managers’ potential to contribute to the company in the future may be more important than their past performance.

The multifaceted managerial performance framework is useful for supporting a range of HR functions including recruitment, deployment, training, promotion, reward management and succession planning. For example, in deployment, the manager may well be regarded as the most appropriate person to carry out a particular role, even though they do not meet all the criteria established by either the job-task competence or behavioural competency models. The role-focused performance excellence model goes beyond such criteria in that it allows a level of interaction between the individual, those working with them and the environment as perceived by all involved. In this context, the role-focused model can be argued to be an example of performance management within the context of transformational organizations. Moore (2002) suggests that this form emphasises issues such as sapiential authority (Banner and Gagne, 1995) whereby appropriate leaders are selected by those participating in a scenario, rather than by the hierarchy or the guidance of others not directly participating. Performance management therefore becomes more immediate in nature. In the case of employee selection, it would be more cost-effective to employ someone already able to evidence those behavioural competencies required for performance excellence. Such an individual would be expected to bring immediacy to a higher level of performance and thereby offer the organization an opportunity to raise its performance over a shorter timescale. The identification of discriminative behavioural competencies for employee performance, in addition to providing a rich assessment with regard to the nature of an individual’s deficiencies (and thereby identifying priorities for training and development), would also be of significant potential value in the context of

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organizational performance management with regard to the recruitment of high performing individuals to the organization. The priority for training and development, for example, should be based on the relationship between the assessed (current) levels of relevant competencies to be exhibited by individual managers and the impact of this on their performance. Higher priorities will be those where an individual is assessed as evidencing a low level of a specific behavioural competency having a high impact on

  • 392 job performance. Behavioural competencies with a high impact on performance levels

are suggested as being those identified as achieving the high level of discriminative ability (self control and team leadership) with regard to an individual’s level of performance being either superior or average. The research has also addressed the idea that inferred competency is of more significance than observed performance (Holmes and Joyce, 1993). Such a perspective highlights the need to understand the distinction among job-task competences, behavioural competencies and overall performance; as Boyatzis (1982, p. 21) states:

...

.action, their results, and the necessary characteristics being expressed do not

necessarily have a one-to-one correspondence”. Thus, the concept of performance flowing from competency diminishes if the judgement of being competent is limited to observation of only one of the facets of performance explored in this research. The judgement of whether someone is competent depends in the confidence of the future performance of the person to whom the term is applied. Such decisions have direct

relevance to selection, placement, succession planning, training and development. As a result, managers should therefore be assessed on all facets relevant to performance excellence and should be given the opportunity to develop “deficient” facets accordingly. Applying this framework to these key HRM activities has the potential to improve the ways in which companies manage, develop and retain their key managerial resources. Notably, they will engender a more participative, developmental approach to the HRM function, thereby helping to ensure sustained performance improvements in the future.

Impact of the research

Although conceptually robust, questions remain as to whether this multifaceted managerial performance framework really reflects practice and if so, to what extent is it an utilisable framework? Kane (1992) noted that the validity of competency measures is difficult to determine, as usually there are no definitive measures that can be used as a criterion reference. However, the key merit of this research is that the resulting competencies are empirically correlated to successful performance outcomes. This arguably adds legitimacy and weight to the hybrid framework, as the competencies are demonstrably predictive of performance excellence. Furthermore, the use of specific behavioural examples drawn from the BEIs can be used as tangible examples of how elements of the competency framework can be manifested in real-life workplace situations. The behavioural codebook developed in this research allows a precise definition of job competency requirements to be formulated and also makes the identification of behaviours clear along with providing a means by which they become measurable. It is also important to note that the job competency assessment methods adopted in this research, by identifying operant thoughts and behaviours related to performance excellence, are free from bias by race, gender, age, or demographic factors (Spencer and Spencer, 1993).

Furthermore, Armstrong (2003) stated that areas of competence (micro competence) are derived by a methodology known as functional analysis. This proceeds by asking what jobholders do – i.e. what they must be competent at. In this research, a refined methodology was adopted by asking superior managers about their key job tasks and responsibilities. The resulting micro competence model is what superior managers must be competent at. The descriptions are accessible in that they are in the language of the managers. Furthermore, the identified competences are context sensitive; they describe what superior mangers actually do in their organizations, not what psychological or management theory assume is needed for success. The hybrid competency framework presented here represents a radical departure from the appraisal and review strategies currently used within the construction sector. This research has attempted to address the need for bespoke performance management mechanisms, which align employee’s competency with performance improvement requirements in the context of the organizational environment and the job demands. The potential implications for performance levels within the construction industry are significant. For example, the parsimonious model can be utilised for employee selection, as it is far more cost-effective to hire someone with these two predictive competencies, than those without them. For example, personality tests (e.g. 16PF, OPQ) can be used to assess these two competencies in recruitment. For training and development of current employees, it would be more effective to use all 12 competencies so as to ensure that construction project managers have the full range of competencies required to do their job effectively. Applying this framework to these key HRM activities has the potential to improve the ways in which construction companies manage, develop and retain their key managerial resources. Notably, they should be able to engender a more participative, developmental approach to the HRM function, thereby helping to ensure sustained performance improvements in the future.

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Conclusions

The whole issue of competence/competency, a subject at the centre of the debate over management development, comprises a semantic minefield in which the terms are used to mean fundamentally different things. This research has explained how the confusion has come about and proposed a new approach to both establishing what competence/competency is and developing guidance for use in practice. Bringing together and integrating the three models provide a more rounded solution, especially for dynamic and changing industries such as construction. However, measuring achievement against behavioural competencies is difficult and would require an attitudinal sea change within industry. It remains to be seen whether the industry is prepared for such a fundamental shift in approach. It has been suggested that those planning for management’s needs and development should focus on the future (Briscoe and Hall, 1999) and it is vital that the lists of competencies and competences must be reviewed frequently to reflect the best estimate of what the future will require with regard to competences and competencies. This research has demonstrated that a hybrid, multidimensional managerial performance framework can be developed and thereby address some of the criticisms of traditional approaches to managing performance. Notably, it has provided important insights into employee perspectives on their vocational roles. These can be compared with employer’s assumptions of key job, person and role responsibilities

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and so should inform the development of future occupational standards for the construction management function. These insights should also provide a deeper understanding of the conflicts that emerge between managers and organizations in the definition of vocational achievements and so will be relevant to academics working in the HRM and industrial relations fields.

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References

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core competences of organizations as guidelines for the development of employees”, Journal of European Industrial Training, Vol. 20 No. 9, pp. 29-35.

Boyatzis, R. (1982), The Competent Manager – A Model for Effective Performance, Wiley, New York, NY.

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do they work? An alternative approach and new guidelines for practice”, Organizational Dynamics, Vol. 28 No. 2, pp. 37-52.

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Appendix. The definition of macro competency

(1) Achievement orientation. It refers to the manager’s concern for working towards a standard of excellence. The standard may be based against the individual’s own past performance, an objective measure or simply personal goals allied to project and organizational objectives.

(2) Initiative. It is demonstrated by taking proactive actions to avert problems in order to enhance job results and avoid problems. This may involve finding or creating new opportunities within and outside of the project environment.

(3)

Information seeking. It refers

to

an

underlying

curiosity

or

desire

to

know

more about things, people, or issues. Making an effort to obtain more information and

(4)

not accepting situations at face value are key traits associated with this behaviour. Focus on client’s needs. It means focusing efforts on discovering and meeting their client’s requirements, coupled with a desire to help or serve others.

(5)

Impactandinfluence. It refers to the intention to persuade, convince, influence or impress others in order to support their agenda, or the desire to have a specific impact or effect on others.

(6) Directiveness/assertiveness. It refers to their intentions to ensure that subordinates comply with his/her wishes. Directive behaviour has a theme or tone of “telling people what to do”. The tone ranges from firm and directive to demanding.

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(7)

Team work and cooperation. It implies the genuine intention to work cooperatively with others as opposed to separately or competitively.

(8)

Team leadership. It refers to the intention to take a role as leader of a team or other group. Although it implies a desire to lead others and so can be manifested in the form of formal authority and responsibility, effective team leadership also requires the leader to know when not to act authoritatively if they are to extract the best out of the team.

(9)

Analytical thinking. It is the understanding a situation by breaking it apart into smaller

pieces, or tracing the implications of a situation in a step by step causal way. It includes organising the parts of a problem or situation in a systematic way; making systematic comparisons of different features or aspects; setting priorities on a rational basis; identifying time sequences and causal relationship.

(10) Conceptual thinking. It is understanding a situation or problem by putting the pieces together, seeing the large picture. It includes identifying patterns or connections between situations that are not obviously related; identifying key or underlying issues in complex situations.

(11)

Self-control. It is the ability to keep emotions under control and to restrain negative actions when tempted, when faced with opposition or hostility from others, or when working under conditions of stress.

(12) Flexibility. It is the ability to adapt to and work effectively with a variety of situations, individuals, or groups. It is the ability to understand and appreciate different and opposing perspectives on an issue, to adapt an approach as the requirements of a situation changes and to change or easily accept changes in one’s own organization or job requirements.