How do you balance short term and long term performance?

Elissa Tucker

Best-practice organizations use competencies to enhance performance today and prepare for the future

A competency model is a set of skills, a body of knowledge, or a combination of abilities that employees need to perform a job well. The best-practice organizations featured in APQC’s Collaborative Benchmarking study Technical Talent Management: Sourcing, Developing, and Retaining Technical Talent use competency models to create development plans, assess technical employee performance, and make promotion decisions. For these organizations, competency models ensure that technical workers are prepared to deliver results in the present and the future.

How Best-Practice Organizations Do It

Following are descriptions of the competency models that best-practice organizations use with their technical workers.


Schlumberger’s competency management system is presented in Figure 1. Schlumberger uses the competency system to track employee performance, plan employee career moves, and identify training needs. At Schlumberger, each job has a set of required technical competencies. Employees rate their proficiency on these competencies annually, with proficiency levels ranging from basic to expert. Managers and technical peers verify the ratings. Managers then use the ratings to identify skills gaps and set training requirements.

Employees can use the competency system to plan their careers. Using the information outlined by the competency system, employees can see which skills are required to move into a different technical area, identify skills gaps, and plan for training and development.

Every two years at Schlumberger, committees of technical experts and HR representatives review and update the competencies and proficiency levels.

Schlumberger’s Competency Management System:

Lockheed Martin Space Systems Company (SSC)

Lockheed Martin Space Systems Company (SSC) uses competencies to guide employee development and advancement. Lockheed SSC executives identify core competencies for the business. For each core competency, managers define a list of skills that are critical to developing competence (a "knowledge checklist"). Employees use the knowledge checklists as roadmaps for becoming experts in particular competency areas. Managers use the knowledge checklists to match employees with developmental job assignments. As employees complete assignments, they track their skills acquisitions in SSC’s critical skills database, which managers can view to see employees’ development progress.



Like Schlumberger and Lockheed Martin SSC, Caterpillar uses competencies to develop employees for different stages of their careers. An engineering competency management road map (Figure 2) lists potential careers and associated competencies. An online tool, the road map suggests on-the-job experiences, mentoring activities, and formal learning activities for each competency. At the beginning of their careers, Caterpillar engineers focus on developing foundational engineering competencies, including business acumen, conceptual design, data analysis, process development, and failure resolution.

As they progress in their careers and move along the road map, Caterpillar engineers become deeper experts in their functional areas. Their focus shifts to developing specific technical competencies through technical community experiences related to subjects such as design, development, analysis, and systems integration. At the next level of competency development engineers become technical stewards, or designated experts. Here, engineers learn to set technology strategy and mentor new technical talent. Following technical stewardship competencies, engineers develop engineering leadership competencies. At the top of the competency road map, employees become Caterpillar chief engineers: exceptional technical engineers and leaders that shape the next generation of Caterpillar products.

Engineering Competency Road Map:


For the best-practice organizations, competency models drive technical worker performance and engagement in the present while encouraging technical workers to prepare for and commit to the organization’s future. Competency models communicate to technical workers what constitutes good performance, how performance will be evaluated, and how they should develop professionally.

APQC is a member-based nonprofit and one of the leading proponents of benchmarking and best practice business research.