Knowing how to work the angles in the workplace is a skill set in and of itself, often separate from the skills needed to actually do one’s job. Sigourney Weaver played Katharine Parker, one of the worst bosses in the history of the world, in the movie Working Girl. She knew how to work these angles and took professional advantage of her assistant, Tess McGill (Melanie Griffith’s character). Katharine was able to use cunning innovation, strategic planning and creative thinking to her benefit. Of course, since the movie had to have an underdog happy ending, she lost out in the end, but far too many of us know that is not always (usually?) the case in actual organizations.

Have you ever thought about those online and email virus creators? What an incredible set of skills and knowledge to put to use for such a devious outcome. Aren’t there some private company or public entity roles that these people could be given to use their powers for good instead of evil?

For most managers, encouraging the application of individual competencies is way down on the To Do List. Just getting the work done takes precedence daily. There may be production quotas to fill or customer activity that requires constant attention and service. Time marches on, and despite a desire to know and apply individual competencies, it doesn’t happen.

The two-sided nature of a process called competency mapping, particularly in a climate of heightened, competitive talent acquisition and robust organizational growth, will put this task on a healthier and directed path for necessary completion. The first side of the process is to assess the individual competencies – defined as knowledge, skills, aptitude, abilities and personal attributes – through a short series of information gathering. For instance, the use of survey software to ask managers what they observe (behaviors give insight into the application of competencies) in each staff member. Whether those competencies are directly related to the role held by the individual contributor is irrelevant. What have you seen this person do or be?

On the self-identification side, the same survey platform can be used to ask employees about what they know how to do and how they know they can do it. This information gathering can also take the form of a more organizational psychology approach through scientific assessments. Engaging an IO Specialist or a seasoned HR practitioner may help to get this done. Ultimately, this will draw out the functional skills applied to the work being done as well as to work that could be done. It will put forth knowledge that the individual has, the demeanor with which work is done and the leadership, if any, put forth to accomplish objectives.

This becomes an inventory to draw upon as well as an alignment check to the actual role assigned. Herein is the other side of the coin. What competencies does it take to perform each role the company has? Map the competencies for the role itself, without looking at the person filling the role currently. This one can be tricky because it’s tough to separate, but it allows for a more holistic and honest review of what is needed for successful management, completion and/or performance of the job. Just because someone is in a role, even if in that role for years, does not mean the person is aligned to the work being done well. Remember working the angles?

Haven’t you heard staff ask, “How did So & So get that job?” And usually that question is not asked in a positive light! It’s a question of alignment. In order to appreciate the how, the question to first ask is the what. What does it take for someone to be successful in this role? What competencies does the person currently in the role have? Do they match up?

Don’t let the title of the exercise – competency mapping – throw you. Yes, it takes directed effort to complete this and may require an outside resource to help, but it’s absolutely worth it in the long run. It will, also, help to move people like Katharine Parker out of the organization quicker. She had to go!

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