College of Science and Health Theses and Dissertations

Date of Award

Spring 6-10-2016

Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)



First Advisor

Jane Halpert

Second Advisor

Doug Cellar

Third Advisor

Goran Kuljanin


The practice of competency modeling has been widely applied as a strategic human resource initiative in the United States and abroad (Schuler & Jackson, 2005). It is estimated that 70–80% of Fortune 500 companies use some form of competency modeling within their talent management programs to define and/or measure work performance (Stone, Webster & Schoonover, 2013). This widespread popularity is likely explained by the many proposed benefits of competency modeling adoption. Some of these benefits include directly linking future-oriented talent requirements to business objectives and strategies, integrating talent programs across HR functions, and offering a more flexible and adaptable method to study work in a dynamic business environment.

While many articles debate competency modeling methods and best practices, little empirical evidence exists to support the broad claims that competency modeling improves organizational performance, warranting the need to empirically and critically examine proponents’ claims (Dubois, 1993; Lucia & Lepsinger, 1999; Rahbar-Daniels, Erickson & Dalik, 2001; Stone et al., 2013). As such, this is a topic wanting and ready for empirical research. This research seeks to address this gap and extend the literature by examining the effectiveness of competency modeling as an organizational development intervention to improve organizational performance.

The organization that served as the case study and foundation of the research is a residential education department at a large private, Midwestern university that implemented a competency model immediately after redefining their mission, vision, goals and values to reflect the departmental philosophy following reorganization. By implementing a competency model as an organizational development intervention, the department could directly articulate how employees’ roles and responsibilities relate to the overall department philosophy and ensure that all personnel practices and organizational activities are aligned to fulfill the departmental mission, vision, goals and values (Campion, Fink, Ruggeberg, Carr, Phillips & Odman, 2011; Shippmann, Ash, Battista, Carr, Eyde, Hesketh, Keyhoe, Pearlman, Prien & Sanchez, 2000).

The goals of this research were twofold. First, validity evidence was established for the competency model as a tool to measure and improve employee performance. Secondly, the effectiveness of the competency modeling as an organizational development intervention to improve organizational performance was investigated using a longitudinal non-equivalent control group quasi-experimental design. Results provided the first published empirical evidence demonstrating that competency modeling can sustainably improve organization performance and lend support to the theory and practice of competency modeling as an organization development initiative. While initial results are promising and support some of the claimed benefits of competency modeling to date (Dubois, 1993; Lucia & Lepsinger, 1999; Rahbar-Daniels et al., 2001; Stone et al., 2013), the causal mechanisms that are involved and impact practical effectiveness of competency modeling are still not well understood by the field. This area of study has much to explore and would continue to benefit from additional research to explain both how and why competency modeling may be effective in improving organization performance. Practical implications as well as contributions of the research to the literature are discussed.

SLP Collection