Lessons in Developing and Hiring on Core Competencies

December 28, 2015

Earlier this year, we posted our thoughts on creating an awesome company culture and what that means at Gravie. This week, our human resources manager, Jen Bucki, is back to talk about developing and hiring on core competencies.

At first glance “company culture” and “core competencies” look one in the same; after all, they both play pivotal roles in shaping an organization. But, from a human resources perspective, they are distinctly different.

Let’s take a quick look back at the four values Gravie identified as critical to our own company culture:

  1. Remove Obstacles by creating the shortest route from Point A to Point B for our customers and fellow employees.
  2. Reasonable People Do Reasonable Things, meaning we trust our employees to use their judgment on how to do things.
  3. No Jerk Policy. We don’t hire jerks, we don’t work with jerks, and we don’t act like jerks. Period.
  4. Everybody Owns Everything. Our employees own a piece of the company and share in our success, which is an important part of the Gravie compensation philosophy. Beyond compensation, everyone is empowered to contribute to different parts of the company, even if that means a developer is working with marketing on an idea or if an advisor has an idea for the product team.

This is the framework we used to build Gravie and we’ve built a culture we’re proud of to prove it. But, it also presented our human resources team with an interesting dilemma. We defined our culture, but how do we hire to maintain it? How do we measure which of our current employees are doing a spectacular job or, conversely, re-evaluate those who just may not “fit” at Gravie? What criteria do we use? What “it factor” do we look for?

With help from a book titled FYI: For Your Improvement, we brainstormed a list of preferred traits, and boiled it down to a “top 25” list. The list included things like respect, organizational skills, and attention to detail. Of course these characteristics are all desirable. And, of course, every human resources professional looks for them in a candidate. Where did that leave us? We had a list of core competencies, but none that were necessarily uniquely Gravie.

Our leadership team encouraged us to think about where Gravie is going, and what talent we need to move us in that direction—in 2016 and in the long term. It didn’t take us long to discover Gravie isn’t meant to be defined in traditional corporate terms, and neither are our employees. The result? The four core competencies Gravie uses to measure current talent and evaluate potential candidates:

  • Creativity: Someone who takes initiative, challenges the status quo when coming up with new ideas, and is comfortable with being wrong.
  • Authenticity: Someone who is completely transparent and genuine, can admit they don’t know something, and has the ability to laugh at themselves and the situations around them.
  • Curiosity: Someone who can imagine the possibilities and articulate them, absorb and thoughtfully respond to others’ ideas, and seek understanding by asking relevant questions.
  • Outcome-oriented: Someone who is a “doer” instead of a thinker, and has a bias toward action in taking ideas from beginning to end.

Like the values that define our corporate culture, our core competencies give us a vocabulary to talk about intangibles. The core competencies:

  • Drive our interview process. Anyone involved in interviewing can quantify and articulate their “gut feelings” about candidates using words that are commonly understood internally.
  • Provide teachable moments. Interviewing is both a skill and an art. The core competencies teach people what to look for in candidates, and to learn the techniques and questions to ask that help core competencies surface during interviews.
  • Remove the gray area. Whether evaluating a candidate or providing feedback on current employees, we use the core competencies as a “skill scale” to identify strengths and weaknesses in numeric terms.
  • Favor objectivity. Working with tangibles instead of feelings encourages open dialogue and valuable feedback.

When you work with Gravie, it’s easy to see that we practice what we preach. Our core competencies transcend something “human resources does” to something our employees embody—and our customers respond. It’s part of what makes Gravie unique. Take a minute to consider what traits define your business. Are you using them to your best advantage? In staffing for short- and long-term success? Focusing on our core competencies has helped us define who will do well at Gravie. We think it can do the same for your company, too.

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