University of California, Riverside

Human Resources

UCR Core Competencies

UC Core Competencies

UCR Core Competency Model

The University of California, Riverside Competency Model is comprised of the identical competencies found in the UC Core Competency model. The Background tab provides details on the development of these competencies. The UCR Core Competencies are considered enabling competencies meaning they are critical behaviors and skills that support an individual's ability to perform the technical or domain competencies of a job. For example, the communication competency is pertinent for both a chancellor as well as a custodian while the technical aspects of these jobs are very different.

The UCR Core Competency Model Behavioral Indicators provides behavioral statements for each competency categorized by two levels: operational and mastery. These levels serve as guides to behavior that might be demonstrated at each level. These statements are also used in the Performance Factors and Campuswide Standards Guidelines where they are categorized by performance factor. While the information on this website is primarily intended to assist supervisors in the use of the UCR Core Competency Model in recruitment and selection and performance management processes, it is also useful to all employees for professional development purposes.

UCR Core Competencies

Each core competency in this model consists of a brief descriptor as well as several behavioral indicators which are intended to identify a broad spectrum of successful behaviors.

Competency Descriptor — The term and the related description of the Knowledge, skills, abilities, and other characteristics (KSAOs) linked to a particular competency.

Behavioral Indicators — A set of general observable behaviors associated with a particular competency. The behavioral indicators are intended to be general in order to best fit across job groups.

By integrating UC Davis Career Compass Core Competency Model we have incorporated two action based categories for the descriptive behaviors:

  1. Operational — Acceptable behavior that can be improved by proper feedback and coaching.
  2. Mastery — Desired behavior; mastery level behavioral indicators build upon the operational level behavioral indicators of each core competency.

The UCR Core Competency Model includes nine competency categories for all employee levels and an additional category for those in the role of manager. Following is a brief overview of the UCR core competencies:

  1. Communication: shares and receives information using clear oral, written, and interpersonal communication skills.
  2. Diversity and Inclusion: models and promotes the University Of California Principles Of Community and complies with UC policies on Diversity and Non Discrimination.
  3. Employee Engagement: demonstrates commitment to the job, colleagues, the University and its mission by acting in ways that further the accomplishment of its goals.
  4. Innovation and Change Management: uses personal knowledge and professional experience to envision the future, anticipate change, capitalize on opportunities, and develop innovative options that further the strategic direction of the organization.
  5. Job Mastery and Continuous Learning: demonstrates responsibility for one’s own career path and continuous learning by identifying and applying new skills as needed to perform successfully on the job.
  6. Resource Management: demonstrates integrity, accountability, and efficient stewardship of university resources in a manner consistent with the UC Standards of Ethical conduct and other policies.
  7. Result Orientation and Execution: demonstrates the ability to analyze situations or problems, make timely and sound decision, construct plans, and achieve optimal results.
  8. Service Focus: values and delivers high quality, professional, responsive and innovative services.
  9. Teamwork and Collaboration: collaborates with colleagues in order to achieve results in alignment with the operations and mission of the University of California.
  10. People Management: leads and engages people to maximize organizational and individual performance through alignment with the University mission and attainment of strategic and operational goals.

Using Core Competencies in Recruitment & Selection

This competency interview guide provides the hiring managers with a tool for interviewing and selecting the most qualified candidates. Competency-based interviewing is based on the simple principle:

Past behavior is the best predictor of future behavior.

Hence, the responses provided by the candidate to interview questions resemble past work behaviors rather than what the candidate might do in the future. By emphasizing on past behavior competency-based behavioral interview ensures candidate’s response is based on actual behaviors in the workplace rather than what the candidate thinks the interviewer wants to hear.

Behavioral competencies emphasize on abilities and characteristics that assist individuals with making the most of their technical competencies on the job. They focus on how a person has achieved results in the past.

For example, how the person has demonstrated ethical behavior in conflict resolution, not if.


One of the principle strengths and most important applications of a competency model is in the area of recruitment. The use of UCR Core Competency model in the area of selection helps managers apply more effective recruitment procedures by employing more effective job recruitments definition and using specific detailed behaviors.

A review of the core competencies (enabling competencies) and descriptive skills will reveal in that many, if not most, cannot be taught easily- they may be strengthened, but not instilled in an adult. Domain competencies are, on the other hand, taught successfully in all stages of life. It is more critical therefore for an organization to hire employees who already possess the needed enabling competencies. Core competencies and skills can be incorporated into the recruitment and selection processes by using the information in job description and requirements. Also, interview questions, which have been formulated based on the UCR Core Competency Model, are available to supervisors to use for the purpose of workforce planning decisions.

How to Employ UCR Core Competency Model into the Selection Process

When utilizing competency-based interviews as part of the selection process, managers must follow guidelines to ensure interview questions are job relevant and good predictors of individual behaviors on the job.

Competency-Based Interview Guidelines
  1. Review UCR Core Competencies — Reviewing the UCR Core Competencies prior to beginning the selection process ensures managers are familiar with the competencies valued by the UC system.
  2. Review job description — A detailed review of the job description assists the hiring manager in identifying the competency interview questions that are most relevant to the job.
  3. Identify Critical Skills — Identify the critical skills/competencies required to perform successfully on the job. For example, if a job requires the individual to work as part of a group the individual needs to demonstrate proper communication skills to effectively interact with other group members.
  4. Identify Most Job Relevant Competencies —Refer to the 9 competency categories (for managers 10) in the UCR Core Competency Model. Select the most relevant competencies.
  5. Identify Competency Level — Identify the level of competency required to perform the job for each competency (this would be the minimum requirement).

    Note: UCR Core Competencies are categorized into two different proficiency levels: Mastery and Operational. For example, for a management position the individual needs to demonstrate mastery level communication skills while a maintenance position will only require operational level communication skills. For sample behavioral indicators please visit UCR Core Competency Behavioral Indicators.
  6. Select Interview Questions — Read each question and the corresponding behavioral indicators carefully. Select the most relevant questions to the job.

    For example, to identify candidate’s skills in Job Mastery and Continuous Learning, you may ask the candidate to “describe how in the past two years you have demonstrated your dedication to continuous learning and self-improvement.” (From Job Mastery and Continuous Learning Behavioral Interview Questions)

    Note: Ensure to only ask questions listed on UCR Sample Interview Questions.

    For a copy of interview questions along with the behavioral indicators specific to each question please contact the Principal Employment Analyst.
  7. Assemble Interview Questions — Prior to the interview put together a series of questions selected from the UCR Competency Model Sample Interview Questions.
  8. Conduct Interview — During the interview make note of the behavioral indicator responses of the candidate. Evaluate and score candidate’s responses according to the behavioral indicators provided in the competency model using one of the two Behavioral Interview Rating Sheets. If you have selected multiple questions in a competency category, calculate the average score and input the score into the Behavioral Interview Rating Sheet.

    Note: if the competencies you have identified are equally important, you may select either the Behavioral Interview Rating Sheet or the Behavioral Interview Weighted Sheet. If some competencies are more essential than others, use Behavioral Interview Weighted Sheet.

Using Core Competencies in Performance Management

Performance is defined as the outcomes of employees’ behavior on the job.

Literature defines performance management as “continuous process of identifying, measuring, and developing the performance of individuals and teams and aligning performance with the strategic goals of the organization.” It examines job outcomes and how they were achieved.

An effective performance management system will help improve the overall organizational performance by improving individual performance through aligning individual goals with organizational goals.


Competency-based performance management shifts the emphasis of performance appraisal from organization results achieved by employee to employee behavior and competencies demonstrated to achieve the results.

Literature shows that an increased use of “Core Competencies” in performance management by high performance organizations has helped them become more effective by enhancing their ability to better translate corporate values and goals into meaningful objectives.

Competency based performance management allows managers to focus on aspects that lead to superior performance. It assists managers in distinguishing between high and low performers based on employees’ personal competencies and to support employees in improving their competitiveness by monitoring and evaluating their performance and providing them with feedback and coaching.

How to Employ the UCR Core Competencies into the Performance Management Process

When employing competency-based performance management managers must ensure they follow proper strategies in order for their efforts to be successful. The following is a guideline to assist managers in employing effective performance management:

  1. Identify essential job functions/tasks — To ensure effective performance management specific job functions and tasks must be identified by managers based on position job analysis. A detailed description of position responsibilities can be found in job description. If essential job functions have changed, you must contact Human Resources department to update the job description. This step ensures performance management criteria remain job related and safeguards its legality.
  2. Review UCR Core Competencies — A detailed review of the UCR Core Competencies helps managers to align the goals of the performance management with organizational goals.
  3. Identify competencies — The competencies required to perform job functions successfully must be identified. Detailed job related competencies can be found in job description document.
  4. Identify behavioral indicators — Using the UCR Core Competency model, behavioral indicators related to each competency required for successful performance on the job must be identified.
  5. Identify proficiency level — Using the UCR Core Competency model and position job analysis, the required proficiency level to successfully perform on the job must be identified.

    Note: UCR Core Competencies are categorized into two different proficiency levels: Mastery and Operational. For sample behavioral indicators please visit UCR Core Competency Behavioral Indicators.
  6. Set standards and expectations — Standards and expectation for behaviors that lead to successful performance on the job must be developed and discussed by managers and employees.
  7. Identify employee behavior (observe and document) — Document performance in behavioral terms, rather than inferential or judgmental. For example:

    Instead of: Sherrie is a team player.
    Document: on two occasions Sherrie volunteered to take on additional assignments while a co-worker was out ill.

    Instead of: Carl’s work is sloppy.
    Document: Carl’s monthly reports reflect numerous typographical and mathematical errors. On two occasions, pages have been out of order.
  8. Identify gap — Identify the gap between employee behavior and expected behavior.

    For example: Mary’s job as a supervisor requires mastery level communication skills.

    Mary’s behavior: Receives and learns from feedback.
    Expected behavior: Encourages feedback and uses it as a factor when considering personal and or organizational changes. (From Communication Behavioral Indicators)
    Gap: Mary needs to focus and improve on: Seeking feedback and utilizing feedback in decision making
  9. Set goals — Goal setting is a critical step in Performance management. It creates a clear vision for the employee of what is expected to be accomplished. Goals must be specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, and trackable.
  10. Coach employee — A critical step in performance management is to guide employee on how to align his/her behavior toward organizational goals.
  11. Ongoing feedback and coaching — Constructive feedback, ongoing coaching, and mentoring are critical in effective performance management. This step ensures employee understands organizational goals along with behaviors valued by the organization.
  12. Reward and recognition — It is important to recognize and reward behaviors that are aligned with organizational goals. Rewards and recognitions provide positive feedback to employees, reinforces the positive behavior, and motivates employees to continue improving their behaviors toward achieving organizational goals.

For detailed instructions on how to perform each step mentioned in this guideline please visit Supervisor’s Guide to Performance Management.

Using Core Competencies in Professional Development

Individual Development Plans (IDPs) are considered an extension of the performance management process. IDPs are constructed based on the competency evaluation of employee through performance management process.

While the same competencies will apply to all individuals who are doing the same type of work, employees have different developmental needs based on their strengths and weaknesses. Therefore Individual Development Plans should be customized for each employee.

Many successful organizations have adapted an Individual Development Plan for each employee developed based on the competencies critical for successful performance on the job and unique to employee’s needs and learning style.


Individual Development Plan is defined as “a uniquely tailored action plan that contains developmental activities aimed at enhancing proficiency in specific competencies to meet established goals.”

Incorporating core competencies into training and development is considered a valuable support system for employees to develop skills in areas which they have developmental needs and to enhance the areas of their strengths. When organizational values and business necessities are made salient and linked to specific behaviors, individuals will have a better understanding on how to improve those behaviors, therefore leading to a more productive workforce.

Four key components contribute to an effective Individual Development Plan:

  • Constructive Feedback
  • Reasonable goals
  • Keeping the plan current
  • Continuous monitoring of development activities

How to Employ the UCR Core Competencies into Individual Development Plans

When using IDP strategies both managers and individuals are responsible to participate in development and implementation of the plan. The role of the manager is to provide employee with support and resources necessary for successful development of IDP.

Nine steps are suggested for a successful development and implementation of Individual Development Plan:

  1. Identify Required Job Competencies — The employee and the manager should identify the competencies required for a successful performance on the job. The information on job related competencies can be obtained from previous IDPs.

    If the job requirements since the last IDP have changed, the position required competencies can be identified through subject-matter-experts (e.g., job incumbents, supervisor, etc.), job descriptions, and performance management forms.
  2. Collect Feedback:

    Current Employee: Prior to developing an IDP, the managers should encourage the employee to gather feedback to better understand their areas of strength and weakness. A 360 feedback can be obtained by collecting assessments completed by the employee, managers, coworkers, and customers.

    Note: 360 feedback refers to collecting formal and/or informal feedback from people in an employee’s immediate work circle such as managers, coworkers, customers, and the employee himself/herself. The feedback is obtained from those who are familiar with the employees work and performance.

    New Employee: Because there is no information available on new employees’ performance, managers can utilize methods such as surveys to obtain information on employees previous performance on situations that are similar to what they may encounter on the current position. It is useful to ask situational/behavioral questions that can assist both managers and employees identify possible skill gaps.

    For example, If the position requires employee to possess teamwork and collaboration skills at the mastery level the survey can ask scenarios such as:

    “Explain the things you have done in your previous role to improve the team environment.”(From Teamwork and Collaboration Behavioral Interview Questions)

    The employee response may present as follow: “my previous job entailed working as part of a team on a series of projects. In order to ensure the project runs smoothly, I always made sure to demonstrate flexibility and cooperation with other team members. I have a sense of responsibility to complete my share of work on time. At times I have suggested team activities as icebreakers to foster positive relationships among team members.”

    By breaking down the employee’s response we can identify the behavioral indicators associated with teamwork and collaboration competency as follow:

    Operational level: Demonstrated flexibility and cooperation; and sense of responsibility (From Teamwork and Collaboration Behavioral Indicators)

    Mastery Level: Promoted activities to enhance relationships among team members. (From Teamwork and Collaboration Behavioral Indicators)
  3. Identify Areas of Strength and Weakness — The employee and the manager should identify the areas that the employee performs well as well as the areas that need improvement.

    For example, for the employee mentioned above, based on the Teamwork and Collaboration behavioral indicators provided on the core competency model the employee areas of weakness and strength are as follow:

    The employee needs to acquire skills to be able to perform at the mastery level:
    • Foster cooperation and collaboration in others through trust-building and relationships.
    • Ability to encourage and enables flexibility.
    • Ability to create a culture of accountability.
    • Ability to foster team communication and dialogue
    • Ability to identify opportunities to gain consensus for team options, decision, and outcomes.

    The employee illustrates mastery level skills in: Facilitating team activities to promote effective peer and work relationships.

    Note: It is important to highlight areas of strengths to ensure employee remains motivated to improve areas of weakness.
  4. Identify Areas of Focus — Once the areas in need of development are identified, the employee needs to select the competencies where development can be most beneficial.

    Note: Remember not all competencies can be improved by training. For example, lack of opportunity to exhibit a certain competency may affect the feedback obtained on employee performance.
  5. Identify Developmental Activities — Identify developmental activities that can assist the employee to improve on the targeted competency. The developmental activity should be selected appropriate to employee learning style.

    The following learning strategies are examples of effective activities for employee development:
    • On-the-job training
    • Classroom training
    • Computer-based training
    • Job Shadowing
    • Reading
    • Off-the-job activities
    • Coaching and mentoring

    For a list of available UCR competency-based trainings please visit Course Offering by Competency.
  6. Set Realistic Goals — Managers and employees should discuss the training expected goals. The outcomes should be measurable; for example, for an accounting position the accuracy of calculations can be used as a measurable outcome.

    In addition to the goal objectives, both managers and employees should set timeframes for the activities to be completed. Setting timelines ensures the progress of the development plan.

    Note: It is very important to keep in mind that two types of goals must be set:

    Individual goals: individual goals are those beneficial to employee such as individual’s current and future career expectation.

    Organizational Goals: goals toward achieving organizational outcomes.
  7. Develop the Plan — Prepare a written document including the methods used to measure the employee competencies, the employee’s areas of strength and weakness, the selected developmental activities, and the expected outcomes/goals.
  8. Implement the plan — The plan should be signed by both the employee and the supervisor as a form of agreement to be completed as planned.

    To ensure proper implementation of development plan, both managers and employees should decide on how to measure progress, who will measure the progress, and how frequently the progress should be measured.

    Note: It is important for the employee to seek feedback from manager, coworkers, and customers to determine any necessary modifications to plan.
  9. Evaluate Progress — To ensure the employee transfers learning into the workplace after completion of activities, both the employee and manager should examine the progress the employee has made toward achieving the established goals. Adjustments to the IDP may be made according to the results obtained.


Developed by the UC Learning and Development Consortium in January 2011, the UC Core Competency Model is to serve as a foundational tool for the assessment and development of staff, managers, and leaders at the University of California. Broader applications for the core competency model are intended to include the following process areas:

  • Employment including job descriptions, job postings, interviewing and selection
  • Compensation including position classification and job family design
  • Performance Management
  • Career Development
  • Succession Management

The literature defines competencies as “a collection of related knowledge, skills, abilities, and other personal characteristics (KSAOs) working in concert to produce outstanding performance.” The literature also indicates the success of an organization depends on the skills and capabilities of its employees. However, too many employees lack the appropriate skills to help organizations grow and succeed. Therefore, more and more organizations are using competency based approach when making personnel related decisions. A competency based strategy moves the focus from jobs towards the employees and the skills they possess.

The UC Competency Model was developed to facilitate the recruitment, selection, and retention of diverse and talented employees on the premise that past behavior predicts future behavior. It is intended to describe targeted, expected or satisfactory performance behaviors at the University of California, where seeking excellence in mission accomplishment is the standard. Additionally, the core competencies described in this model are expected to be accomplished by all employees in the University to some degree. Those in the role of Manager have an additional competency for which they are accountable.

The Competency Model is intended to serve as a dictionary or compendium to define the “What” as processes and programs in employment, compensation, learning and development are designed, implemented and assessed for effectiveness. The “How” of incorporating the Competency Model in to specific location and systemwide talent management efforts will be designed into the next phases of the Consortium’s work. The “Why” a person has or has not attained a certain level of proficiency in the Competency Model is a process step in subsequent program assessment and performance evaluation. The Consortium, in developing the descriptors and behavioral indicators contained in this Competency Model, has deliberately tried to be broad and inclusive of the existing work on Core Competencies that has been developed at several UC locations.

Should you have any question about this guide and/or any employment laws and procedures, please contact University of California Riverside, Human Resources department or visit

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