Behavior Competencies: The Core of Establishing Hiring Standards

In recent months, we’ve talked a lot about staff retention and how to reduce turnover. Of course, attrition in nursing is a cause for concern and something that continues to be a pain point for many nurse leaders. But, as we all know, no employee can stay forever, nor should they feel like they have to. This is why it is important to establish hiring standards so that when the time comes to do some hiring, you have standards in place to make the process as smooth as possible which is where behavioral competencies come in.
What are behavioral competencies, you ask?
 First things first, behavioral competencies are often defined as “any behavior attribute such as knowledge, skill set, teamwork, leadership skills, technical know-how, etc. which contributes to the development of an individual in the organization to take up bigger roles is known as behavior competency. It can be applied to individuals at all levels, which simply means that it is not restricted to just top, middle, or lower level”1.  This is to say that behavioral competencies look at an employee’s intrinsic behavioral traits to determine whether or not they are a good match for the position as well as the organization overall, rather than just focusing on their professional accomplishments. When analyzing behavior competencies, they can be broken down into two categories2:

  • Organizational competencies: assess characteristics that fit with the organizational culture and are most likely to result in success within the organization. These attributes include but are not limited to: work style/flow, organizations core values, leadership style and communication style.
  • Position-specific competencies: clinical knowledge, skillset, adaptability, compassion level and ability to perform job functions, risk profile.

What does implementation look like?
 Below is a framework to help you identify behavior competencies specific to your organization and positions you are hiring for, and implementing them into your hiring practices2:

  1. Identify behavioral competencies for your organization and the specific position. This can be done by issuing surveys to key stakeholders that identify the top characteristics needed to be successful within the position.
  2. Incorporate competencies into the job description and ensure they are communicated to the recruitment team and all hiring authorities who are involved in the hiring process for the position so that they can include them in the screening process.
  3. Consider behavioral interviewing to gain a better understanding of how candidates have handled situations in the past that were similar to those they are likely to encounter in this position. Hospitals are high pressure environments so having a better understanding of how candidates approach and resolve tense circumstances can give you insight into whether or not their methodology is likely to be successful within your organization.

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