Competencies - a roadmap for CERN Staff

Back in November, the new CERN Competency Model (CCM), a framework defining the competencies that “ drive performance and lead to excellence”, was introduced by Anne-Sylvie Catherin, Head of the Human Resources (HR) Department, in a special edition of the "Spotlight on CERN" interviews.


What are competencies? Competencies are the characteristics that allow you to do the job you have been assigned. In more precise terms, competencies may be described as the knowledge, skills and types of behaviour that individuals demonstrate in carrying out a given task. Listing all the competencies that make CERN work is an impossible task but one can identify the two main types: technical and behavioural. Both are needed to work effectively in this Organization.

While technical competencies are simply the domains of expertise that CERN needs – examples include physics, mechanical engineering and information technology – behavioural competencies are those aspects of our own behaviour which can have a positive or negative impact on the way the task is carried out. CERN’s behavioural competencies are underpinned by the Organization’s values and include both core competencies applicable to all staff members - such as accountability, managing oneself, achieving results, communicating, solving problems, learning and sharing knowledge, building relationships, working in teams and in the interest of the Organization, flexibility – and leadership competencies where applicable.

But how are these competencies used? In more specific terms: how will this competency model affect our performance? Practically speaking, the competency model will provide us with a reference framework and a common language with which to discuss performance and, in this respect, the sample indicators supporting each competency will help us to understand what are the types of behaviour that are valued by the Organization.

Time-wise, there will be no change in the performance appraisal process for the reference year 2010 (2010-2011annual MARS exercise ). However, before the next annual exercise begins, we should be aware that we will be preparing the ground for future discussions on competencies. This means that, at the end of the next annual exercise, the results of our work objectives will be expressed in terms of "what?" (achievements) and "how?" (competencies demonstrated or needing further development). There will be no rating of competencies as such during the performance appraisal, and the overall performance rating (particularly meritorious, meritorious and non-meritorious) will remain unchanged.

The Competency Model will have an impact not only on the performance appraisal but also on many other HR activities, such as the selection criteria used during recruitment; the criteria used in the middle and at the end of the probation period; the assessment criteria used during the limited duration to indefinite contract process and the criteria used in the career path guide during promotion exercises.

To illustrate the CCM, the HR Department has published a dedicated webpage containing explanatory documents and video interviews. It has also launched a new training campaign which has initially targeted staff members involved in the recruitment process but which has been extended to all staff members as from January 2011. The half-day training course aims at introducing us to competencies in general, with practical examples and activities, and providing us with a hands-on opportunity to discover the new CERN Model in particular. We are all encouraged to attend it. For more information, please contact:

by CERN Bulletin