The aims of developing competency frameworks


This study aims to develop the managerial competency framework for the middle level managers of the general insurance sector in India. Secondary research provides the overview of existing generic competency models. The need was observed for a competency based framework in the insurance sector in India. Survey was conducted among ninety eight middle level managers of the public and private sector general insurance companies. The results revealed the fourteen managerial competencies: analytical skills, communication skills, creativity, decision-making, delegation, flexibility, initiative, interpersonal skills, job knowledge, leadership, managerial skills, motivation, planning and team spirit.


Competencies are the knowledge, skills, abilities, personal characteristics, and other person-based factors that help to distinguish between outstanding performance and average performance (Pritchard, 1999). Heffernan and Flood (2000) also said that, "one new and emerging human resource theme is that of competencies".

Boam and Sparrow (1992) outlined a number of business pressures creating the need for new competencies in organizations. Among these pressures are new technology, the drive for quality, more flexibility and responsiveness in organization, augmentation of resources, new competitive arrangements, the internationalization of business and the assessment of information.

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Boam and Sparrow (1992) suggest that two main factors have led to the development of the competency-based approach. These are:

The failure of large-scale change programs to deliver the necessary changes in individual behavior.

A growing link between business performance and employee skills such that sustained business performance can only be achieved through improved management capability.

Organizations need managers to be able to attain their objectives. They need competent managers to be able to approach these objectives both efficiently and effectively. Ginzberg andVojta (1981) have pointed out that "…human capital, defined as the 'skill, dexterity, and knowledge' of the population, has become the critical input that determines the rate of growth of the economy and well- being of the population."

Management writers and theorists, such as Analoui (1990, 1995a); Jones (1988); Kakabadse, Kirchoff (1977); Labaff and Analoui (1996); Peters (1989); and Willmott (1984) opines that the acquisition of the right managerial skills will contribute to the effectiveness of managers.

Defining competencies

There are many explanations of the term competencies. Hoffmann (1999) suggests that the purpose of defining competencies "is to improve human performance at work".

A review of the literature by Hoffmann (1999) shows three main positions taken toward the definition of the term. Competencies were defined as:

observable performance (Boam and Sparrow, 1992; Bowden and Masters, 1993);

the standard or quality of the outcome of the person's performance (Rutherford 1995; Hager et al., 1994); or

the underlying attributes of a person (Boyatzis, 1982; Sternberg and Kolligian, 1990).

There are five types of competency characteristics.

Motives-The things a person consistently thinks about or wants which causes action. Motives 'drive, direct or select' behavior towards certain actions or goals.

Traits-Physical characteristics and consistent responses to situations or information.

Self-concept-A person's attitudes, values or self-image.

Knowledge-Information a person has in specific content areas.

Skill-The ability to perform a certain physical or mental task.

Competencies Studies

Over the past few decades, many researches have been done in the area of competency framework development. Some relevant studies are mentioned below:

Hogg (1993) communicated McKinsey's Seven S Framework, and applied it to the telecommunications industry, and concluded that it is the skills of the people which will give one company competitive advantage over another. They examined the relative value placed on 22 management competencies by managers in six European telecommunication companies.

Marquardt and Engel (1993) identified sixteen competencies that HR practitioners need to have for being effective in cross-cultural settings. These include broadly, respect for other cultures, tolerance of ambiguity, commitment, HR principles and practices, initiative and a sense of humour.

Tricker and Lee (1993) demonstrated the senior management competencies identified by the Mamagement Charter Initiative are judgment, self-confidence, strategic perspective, achievement focus, communication, information search, building teams and influencing others.

Bernotavicz and Muskie (1994) outlined the competency clusters for Maine Child Welfare Caseworker. The five competency clusters are work management skills, conceptual knowledge and skills, interpersonal knowledge and skills, self management skills and technical knowledge.

Karns and Mena (1998) identified twenty three general essential managerial competencies which are good oral/written communication skills, customer focused, team worker, interpersonal skills, dependable, proficiency in foreign language, problem solver, purposeful, technical expertise, flexible/adaptable, staff developer, previous experience in living and working in a foreign country, results oriented, leadership skills, hard worker, quality focused, business expertise, uncompromising, safety conscious, time manager, professional dress, imaginative and risk taker.

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Rothwell et al. (1999) says that the Singapore Training and Development Association in a study revealed that HRD practitioners in Singapore require these ten competencies: adaptability to changes, ability to see the "big picture", communication skills, visioning skills, knowledge of own strengths and weaknesses, creative thinking skills, relationship building skills, leadership skills, consulting skills and understanding of improvement in human performance.

Tornabeni and Longest (2001) referred these six core competencies necessary to manage an integrated health system-conceptual, technical managerial/clinical, interpersonal/collaborative, political, commercial, and governance competencies.

Naquin (2002) published a survey report conducted on public managers in which competency clusters were identified these clusters are: Personal and organizational integrity, managing work, leading people, developing self, change leadership, systematic integration.

Carroll and the Public Health Informatics Competencies Working Group (2002) designed competencies to complement the more general set of core competencies for public health professionals. The group developed and refined the competencies into three groups which are effective use of information, effective use of information technology and effective management of information technology projects.

Koustelios (2003) analyzed and revealed important management competencies in fitness centres in Greece, the four factors consisting of sixteen competency statements: marketing and communication (five items), human resource management (five items), financial management (three items) and administration (three items).

Chen, Bian, and Hom (2005) aimed to identify Taiwan HRD practitioners' perceived competency levels, and evaluate the importance of fifty two workplace learning and performance competencies. The six important competency clusters are analytical, technical, leadership, business, interpersonal and technological.

Eck, and Verwey (2007) reported a study in which they developed a framework containing a set of leadership competencies required for major change types, which are as follows:

Ability to create a clear vision

Ability to execute the vision

Ability to communicate until understood

Ability to get buy-in from all levels of staff by creating a willingness in people to change.

Ability to build credibility with people through integrity, consistency, transparency

Ability to lead by example, in other words walk the talk

Open minded, flexible i.e. willing to change

Empowering people by creating a culture of participation that makes people feel that they are part of the process

Lead with empathy

Ability to recognize that people react to change differently, being attuned to people's feelings, being sensitive to people's needs

Have the relevant technical skills with an understanding of the core business

The Middle Managers

Middle managers, accomplish their goals largely by managing relationships. There are few things that the managers can do alone; they must usually rely on the support, co-operation, or approval of a large number of people. They "get things done through others."

Luthans et al. (1988) used observation techniques to categorize managerial behavior and activities like: routine communication, traditional management, networking and human resource management. Garvin (1998) referred to the complementary managerial processes as direction-setting processes, negotiation and selling processes and monitoring and control processes.

Today's managers need adaptability to meet changing demands and situations, manage complex and dynamic situations, handle multiple lateral relationships, demonstrate cross-cultural sensitivity, set and implement agendas, cope with stress and uncertainty, and develop self-confidence, self-awareness, and perseverance for continued development. There has been increasing evidence to suggest that successful managers learn these critical competencies through developmental work experiences (McCauley, Ruderman, Ohlott, and Morrow, 1994).

Present status of the Insurance Sector (changing scenario)

Insurance sector is playing a leading role within the financial system in India and has a significant socio-economic function. It is being considered as one of the fast developing areas in the Indian financial sector. It has also been facilitating economic development with an objective to address the needs of the real economy and socio-economic objectives. Insurance industry has faced a deregulated environment in which several private players have partnered with multinational insurance giants. Insurance today has emerged as an attractive and stable investment alternative that offers total protection - life, health and wealth. As the recent trends show an upsurge in consumer awareness, insurance industry is enduring an immense and unavoidable pressure.

Need for more competent managers

Over the past few decades the insurance rules have been rewritten because of three fundamental changes in the competitive environment; deregulation, global competition, and further intensification of the pressure for short-term results. The changing nature of work in the insurance industry requires evaluating workforce competencies that are different from those evaluated in the past. Predictions are that work will become more difficult, fluid, and more inter connected for the managers in the insurance sector. As a result, the future managers will require certain specific competencies which need adequate research and development for enhancement of the same.


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It has been found, based on the literature review, that there is need for further study on managerial competencies in general insurance sector in India. There is meager evidence of any model that is capable of predicting the requirements of managerial competencies for the middle-level managers in the general insurance sector. The research study is exploratory in nature, which aims at studying the managerial competency requirements for the middle-level managers in the general insurance sector.

Research objectives

The objective was to derive the requisite managerial competencies for the middle level managers of general insurance sector. This was carried out by conducting survey among ninety eight middle level managers of general insurance sector. The managers were from eight major/ important cities across the country. The respondents were asked to mention ten general competencies and five specific competencies required by them to perform effectively at workplace. This survey revealed that there are fourteen requisite competencies for middle level manager's in general insurance sector.

Research Methodology

Ninety eight responses from middle-level managers from general insurance sector were collected from eight cities of north and west region in India. The general idea for contacting these managers was to find out the required competencies in order to perform effectively at workplace for which they were approached with an open ended form in which they were required to mention the general and specific competencies for their effective performance. The following tables describe the respondents profile as per the demographic variables used for the study.

The analysis of survey forms lead to the identification of fourteen competencies, the meaning and concept of each is mentioned below.

Analytical Thinking - Ability to view a problem by using a logical, systematic, and sequential approach, so as to identify the cause-effect relationship, and to use it to make effective decisions.

Communication - Ability to organize and present information through effective verbal presentations so that the receivers get the meaning as intended.

Creativity - Ability to develop new, uncommon, original or unique ideas, using imagination, and perceiving relationships not noticed by others.

Decision-making - Ability to identify and understand issues, problems, and opportunities; comparing data from different sources, and arriving at conclusions after taking into account available facts, constraints, and probable consequences.

Delegation - Allocating tasks together with decision-making authority and responsibility to specific individuals or groups so as to maximize one's own and the organization's effectiveness.

Flexibility - Ability to adapt to and work with a variety of situations, individuals and groups, in the face of different and opposing perspectives.

Initiative - Ability to identify what needs to be done and, as a self-starter, acting on it so as to achieve improved output or contribute new ideas.

Interpersonal Skills - Ability to understand the feelings, attitudes, motives, and behavior of others, and to cooperate with them in accomplishing common objectives.

Job Knowledge - Demonstrating an understanding of knowledge specific to a technical, professional, or administrative field of work, through the application of related principles, theories, concepts or procedures.

Leadership - Exhibiting judgment in guiding others towards meaningful objectives, defining their roles and responsibilities, and sustaining their interest through constant support and encouragement.

Managerial Skills - Taking responsibility for one's own and the subordinates' performance by setting clear goals and expectations, tracking progress, promptly addressing performance problems and issues, and developing their individual competencies.

Motivation - Possessing an inner force to accomplish personal and organizational goals, creating in people the desire to perform, recognizing their achievements, and rewarding them for their contributions.

Planning - Establishing systematic courses of action for self and others, to ensure accomplishment of specific objectives; setting priorities, goals and timetables to achieve optimum productivity, given the existing and expected availability of resources.

Team Spirit - Working effectively in groups to accomplish organizational goals; recognizing the needs and contributions of group members, and subordinating own objectives to those of the group.


After grouping the responses of 98 middle-level managers on the basis of their general meanings; it was found that Job Knowledge was listed as the most important competency. The second most important competency stated was Managerial Skills. The other competencies which are necessary in view of the managers so as to perform effectively are Communication Skills, Interpersonal Skills, Team Spirit, Leadership, Planning, Motivation, Decision Making, Flexibility, Delegation, Analytical Skills, Initiative and Creativity in the decreasing order of preference. However, the total response rate was 67.14% and out of the mentioned responses 10.41% were discarded as these responses could not be categorized as competency, hence were irrelevant.

While mentioning the specific competencies required, the 17.96% managers emphasized on the Job Knowledge. The other competencies mentioned had significantly lesser frequency with 6.33% to 0.20%. These competencies are Managerial Skills, Communications Skills, Interpersonal Skills, Team Spirit, Flexibility, Planning, Creativity, Leadership, Decision Making, Analytical Skills, Initiative, Motivation and Delegation. The response rate was 58.16% and out of which 13.88% responses were not found relevant.