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Dual Rater Competency Assessment FAQ

1. What is the purpose of the dual rater assessments?

The purpose of the dual rater competency assessment is to provide a clearer picture of the individual’s developmental needs by combining self-assessment and supervisory input. Together, these two viewpoints provide a more informed assessment of individual strengths and developmental needs. Managers/supervisors and employees will be able to use competency assessment results to identify and address critical skills gaps through targeted training and development.

From an organizational perspective, the competency assessment process enables organizations to assess workforce competencies and helps ensure its current workforce has the right knowledge and skills to accomplish the mission. Competency assessment results enable an organization to prioritize training resources and create annual training plans that are based on quantifiable data outlining workforce development needs.

Assessment results are NOT to be used as input to performance evaluations or linked to pay.

2. What is the relationship between performance and competencies

The relationship between competencies and performance is indirect. As employees increase their proficiency levels, their performance outputs would generally be expected to improve. Organizations whose employees have high proficiency levels are organizations that would be expected to have superior organizational performance. However, this is not always the case. An individual may possess the required knowledge, skills, abilities, and behaviors but may be performing at a lower level than expected due to various factors, e.g., personal problems, lack of focus, job dissatisfaction, negative reaction to organizational change, lack of organizational resources, etc.

Performance plans establish goals (i.e. specific, measurable, attainable, relative, time-bound tasks and expectations) for individuals based on the needs of the organization to accomplish its mission. Employees are rated on performance in relation to how well they have accomplished the goals/tasks set out in their performance plans.

3. What is the Dual Rater Assessment tool’s Three-Step process?

The Dual Rater Assessment tool involves the following three steps:

  1. Self-evaluate your skill levels
  2. Submit data to supervisor for review
  3. Receive a report identifying skill-improvement areas with corresponding learning and training recommendations

4. Why should I care about the competency assessment?

Supervisors are responsible for ongoing workforce development. However, career development is an individual responsibility too. Competency assessments are key tools for strategically identifying individual development needs. The assessment will help employees to:

  • Customize their Individual development and career planning activities
  • Identify relevant competency based training and development opportunities for sustained career growth
  • Discuss with their supervisors the employee’s strengths, areas for growth, and suggested training, and developmental activities
  • Understand the competencies they would be expected to have to move into a new job, particularly for employees who are interested in becoming supervisors and managers or in changing careers

5. What is an Individual Development Plan (IDP) and how does it relate to competencies, performance, and promotions?

An Individual Development Plan (IDP) outlines developmental and career goals within the context of organizational objectives. It is a developmental "action" plan to move employees from where they are to where they would like to be or need to be. It provides systematic steps to improve performance and build on strengths related to one’s current job, and to meet one’s career goals. The goals of an IDP are developed by the employee with input from the supervisor. The IDP links the individual's career interests and needs to organizational priorities. IDPs are used to help employees:

  • learn new skills to improve current job performance
  • maximize current performance in support of organizational requirements
  • increase interest, challenges, and satisfaction in current position
  • obtain competencies that can help lead to career changes


  • A developmental partnership between the employee and manager, involving feedback, clarification, and discussion about developmental needs, goals, and plans. Manager-employee communication is a key to the success of the IDP process. The mutual interests and concerns of the individual and the organization must be considered in the IDP process. The best IDPs begin with a plan to maximize current job performance. The activities can assist the individual in meeting both personal and organizational goals for success.
  • A broadly defined developmental plan which may include on-the-job assignments, self-development activities, and formal classroom training.
  • An active and ongoing process in the organization. Ideally, IDPs should be reviewed, updated, and revised every six (6) months, or as needed


  • A performance appraisal. The IDP is not a means to formally assess the employee's performance. In this regard, it does not replace the performance appraisal system to determine promotion, pay, awards, etc. Development is the purpose, not appraisal.
  • A contract for training. Employees should include all training interests on an IDP. However, training is not guaranteed because it is on an IDP. Training decisions are made in accordance with DOE's policy, priorities, and budgetary constraints.
  • A way to clarify or revise a position description. If a position description does not accurately describe the duties performed, this is a matter for the manager and the Office of Human Resources to solve.
  • A guarantee of a promotion to a higher grade. An IDP can help prepare an employee to become qualified for a higher graded position, but does not guarantee advancement.
  • A panacea for manager-employee relations problems. The IDP is only one part of the comprehensive efforts of an organization to enhance job satisfaction and cooperative work relationships.

6. How does this competency assessment relate to my Individual Development Plan (IDP)?

Your IDP, which should outline your short- and long-term development opportunities, is developed in conjunction with your supervisor as part of the performance management process. Use the results from the competency assessment tool’s skill gap analysis to write and update your IDP. Focus on the specific developmental activities and assignments you can complete during the performance cycle.

7. Why should managers and supervisors care about the competency assessment?

The assessment will:

  • Identify specific strengths and skill gaps among your staff
  • Assist with selecting appropriate competency based training offerings, curricula, and certifications
  • Guide employee development efforts
  • Assess the knowledge, skills, abilities, interest, and talents of the organization
  • Identify available workers with the required skill sets

8. What is the purpose of the job behavior examples provided with each proficiency level?

The job behaviors examples provide the behavior expectations that would support a rating at a particular grade level or pay plan. There intent is to show a natural progression from the awareness to expert level as individuals advance in their careers. They are by no means all encompassing and other observed behaviors can support a rating at a particular proficiency level.

9. How do I determine the correct proficiency level for my grade or pay plan and what should I do if the job behavior examples don’t match my employee(s)?

First read the definition of the competency and the job behaviors that describe how employees may demonstrate that competency. Then review the proficiency scale and familiarize yourself with the different levels. You will want to consider the ways that you have recently demonstrated that competency and select the most applicable proficiency level. For the General Competencies in particular, the expectation is for individuals and their direct supervisors to make determinations against the proficiency level associated with their pay grade and work experiences.

Proficiency Level GS/GM grade level EK/EJ pay plan level
Awareness  1-4 (DOE not rating at this level)
Basic  5-8 1
Intermediate  9-12 2
Advanced  13-14 3
Expert  15 4-5







The job behaviors are only examples, other observed behaviors can also fit the definition. The person being assessed does not have to demonstrate all the behaviors—one may be sufficient to fit the definition.

10. What is the next step after I assess my level on the DOE proficiency scale?

After you assess your level on the DOE proficiency scale, your supervisor should also assess your level. Then, you and your supervisor should discuss the assessments and establish an action plan or Individual Development Plan (IDP) that documents the steps you should take to continue to develop your proficiency level.

11. What does it mean if I do not meet the target proficiency level?

If you do not meet a specific target proficiency level, it may indicate that you should focus your development efforts on this particular competency. However, there are also other factors that will affect your development efforts, such as organizational priorities, team needs, etc. Therefore, you should obtain guidance from your supervisor to discuss the highest priority competencies for development.

12. How can employees increase their proficiency levels?

This can be done in many ways. For example, employees may take formal training to help build their proficiency levels. Employees may participate in developmental assignments on the job or on a detail to another job, read articles and books, participate in activities of a professional organization, take e-learning courses, be coached, be mentored, etc.

13. Why do the advanced and expert proficiency examples often assume someone is in a supervisory position?

The automatic assumption that a person must be a supervisor to demonstrate behaviors associated with the advanced and expert is not necessarily correct. However, the competencies can and should be used to develop people along the path to leadership positions. Competencies will be one of the criteria for determining Mission Critical Occupations, selection of leadership positions, and succession planning. That said, a supervisory position might require additional competencies.

14. Why does the Dual Rater Assessment tool include only six of the 30 DOE General Competencies?

EM leadership in consultation with the Office of Learning and Workforce Development determined concluded that EM managers and staff have significant demands (e.g., workload) on their time, and 30 competencies would be far too numerous and time consuming to perform a meaningful assessment. Therefore, EM leadership decided to limit the number of general competencies for the upcoming assessment effort to the following:

  • Conflict Management
  • Integrity/Honesty
  • Interpersonal Skills
  • Oral Communications
  • Problem Solving
  • Written Communications

15. What occupational competencies are included in the Dual Rater Assessment tool?

There are six engineering occupational competencies included in the assessment tool:

  • Environmental Engineers
  • Fire Protection Engineers
  • General Engineers
  • Mechanical Engineers
  • Nuclear Engineers
  • Safety Engineers

In addition, staff that performs Project Management or Acquisition duties will be assessed on specific occupational competencies.

NOTE: Employees that are assigned occupational competencies will also be assessed on the six general competencies (Conflict Management, Integrity/Honesty, Interpersonal Skills, Oral Communications, Problem Solving, and Written Communications).

16. What if there are other competencies that are relevant for my job but are not included in the models?

The DOE occupational models describe the global competencies required for all employees in a specific occupation. The occupational models do not describe every competency relevant to a job. If there are other competencies important to your specific job/role, you should discuss them with your supervisor and determine the best approach for incorporating them into your overall career development plan.

17. How will a dual rater assessment work if my supervisor is not trained in my occupation?

All assessments should be based on the display of behavioral indicators as observed by the supervisor. Once we progress to multi-rater (360°) assessments, peers, subordinates, and customers may also contribute to the assessment. The important thing to remember, assessment of a competency should be by observed behaviors.

18. What was the vetting process for the occupational competencies?

A number of occupational competencies were originally developed in 2008/9. DOE used the list of competencies as our starting point to develop and conduct occupational surveys. Respondents were asked to review and rank order the competencies that are most critical to their occupation. They were allowed to identify and rank order up to 15 competencies and were also provided the opportunity to add any competencies they felt were missing from the list. Based on the results, a list of critical competencies was developed and then further refined by a representative working group of DOE subject matter experts in the occupation.

19. How do competencies compare to Technical Qualifications?

The Technical Qualifications define the skills and abilities for the work and competencies define how you apply them to perform excellent work; competencies are how you use these skills/abilities at a higher level. They should not conflict but rather be the next iteration of technical qualifications. There is a very fine line between competency proficiency and performance achievement. But let’s be clear, competencies will be used for development purposes only.

Example: A young man in the Navy graduated from the Nuclear School at the top of his class. When assigned to a nuclear powered ship, they find he is unable to apply that knowledge. He knew what to do but washed out because he was unsuccessful in demonstrating the practical knowledge (behaviors) necessary to be successful in his duties.

20. I have not received a notice to complete a competency assessment but people I work with have. Why it that and what should I do to have an assessment assignment to me?

Currently only Environmental Management (EM) employees with a pay plan of GS, GM, EJ, or EK, excluding of Richland / Office of River Protection employees, are participating in the Competency Assessment pilot.These EM employees that had Online Learning Center (OLC) account as of July 9th, 2012 should have been assigned a competency assessment. If you think you are meant to have a competency Assessment to complete please contact your local OLC administrator to have your name added to the assessment. Your local administrator will need your name, organization, and occupational series to ensure that you have the correct competencies assigned.

General Competencies

1. What is a competency?

A competency is defined by the Office of Personnel Management as a measurable pattern of knowledge, skills, abilities, behaviors, and other characteristics that are needed to perform work roles or occupational functions successfully. Competencies are developed, attained, and sustained through training, rotational and developmental assignments, experience (both professional and personal), education, and self development. Attainment of a certain level of competency is assessed based on demonstrated abilities to apply the competency in different situations and/or circumstances. Attainment is based on observable behaviors.

2. What is a competency model?

A competency model is a collection of competencies - often organized into categories or clusters - considered pertinent to an organization and a particular function within an organization (e.g. occupational series). Individual competencies are usually defined and supported by job behaviors. Models may be general and apply to all employees, while other models may apply to specific occupations or positions. At DOE the General Competency model relates to all DOE employees. Occupation specific competency models are for all employees within a specific occupational series. Not every competency in the occupation specific model may be relevant to an individual’s position.

At DOE all competencies include a definition and key job behaviors along with a proficiency scale.

3. How do knowledge, skills and abilities (KSAs) compare to competencies?

For a number of years, federal jobs have been described in terms of knowledge, skills and abilities (KSAs) which typically focus on technical capabilities for the job. Research has shown that competencies go beyond the technical requirements and also include the “soft skills” that are so critical to an individual’s success on the job. Thus, competencies define the “whole person” and provide the important distinctions for job performance among all employees while also tapping into a more qualified talent pool. The federal government has begun to adopt the use of competencies – a practice used by the private sector as well as state and local governments – to define the job requirements and proficiency levels.

To further clarify the differences between the traditional KSAs and competencies, users of the competency model should think of KSAs as a subset or part of competencies. The remaining subset or part is comprised of those skills, behaviors and characteristics (called “soft skills”) that motivate the person and impact on his/her accomplishment of the technical job tasks. Competencies are often a simpler, broader way of describing the traditional KSAs and soft skills. Examples of how a user would define traditional KSAs in competency terms are:

KSA Description Competency
Ability to draft written technical documents to support findings. Written Communication 
Ability to manage and resolve conflicts in a constructive manner. Conflict Management 

4. What is the Department of Energy’s General Competency model?

DOE’s General Competency model is aligned with the Office of Personnel Management’s (OMP’s) government wide standard for fundamental competencies and Executive Core Qualifications (ECQs). The benefits to this realignment include improved linkage of general competencies with assessment tools and training opportunities available throughout the Federal government.

The DOE model differs from the OPM model in two significant ways:

  • The DOE model includes proficiency level illustrations that provide examples of the job behavior which would support a rating at the grade level or pay plan. These job behavior examples take into account the general behaviors, knowledge, skills, and expectations for a particular pay plan or grade.
  • The model includes two DOE specific competencies:
  1. Workplace Safety
  2. Knowledge of DOE Business

The DOE General Competency Model can be viewed/downloaded on Powerpedia at: DOE General Competencies

5. How have competencies been used by other organizations?

For many years, competencies have been used effectively in both the private and public sectors. They play a key role in organizational development and improvement by articulating the capabilities required for individual and organizational performance. Competencies serve as a solid foundation for human capital areas such as recruitment and hiring of talent, job assessment, employee development and training, performance management, career planning, and succession planning. Depending on the organization’s choice, it can choose to apply competencies to all of these human capital areas or some of them. Competencies may be incorporated into position descriptions, interview guides, hiring criteria and methods, assessment processes, individual development plans (IDPs), performance management processes, and employee development opportunities, e.g. training.


What is the purpose of the dual rater assessments?

The purpose of the dual rater competency assessment is to provide a clearer picture of the individual’s developmental needs by combining self-assessment and supervisory input. Together, these two viewpoints provide a more informed assessment of individual strengths and developmental needs. Managers/supervisors and employees will be able to use competency assessment results to identify and address critical skills gaps through targeted training and development.

From an organizational perspective, the competency assessment process enables organizations to assess workforce competencies and helps ensure its current workforce has the right knowledge and skills to accomplish the mission. Competency assessment results enable an organization to prioritize training resources and create annual training plans that are based on quantifiable data outlining workforce development needs.

Assessment results are NOT to be used as input to performance evaluations or linked to pay.