A case for competencies: Assessing the value of trait-based performance appraisal for non-faculty university employees

Emily A Messa, Catherine L. Horn, Teri Elkins Longacre, F. Richard Olenchak, Lisa M. Penney


A case study analyzed how supervisors at one university selected competencies, or trait-based skills, for non-faculty employees. This case study provides a valuable contribution by focusing on employees at one institution type–a large, public research university. While it has been documented that non-faculty employees provide important contributions to higher education, there is more to be discovered about this population of university employee, noted as more than 2 million U.S. employees in 2011. The research question guiding this study was: Within a university setting, how are employee competencies valued by job title within colleges and divisions? Multiple correspondence analysis evaluated supervisor competency selection for 1,836 non-supervisory and 565 supervisory employees using data from this university’s 2012 performance appraisal. For non-supervisory employees, the first dimension accounted for 65.11% of adjusted inertia, or explained variance. The second dimension accounted for 23.89% of adjusted inertia. For supervisory employees, the first dimension accounted for 86.57% of adjusted inertia. The second dimension accounted for 8.26% of adjusted inertia. The key study finding was that, despite the availability of other higher-education specific competency alternatives and best practices for competency use in the appraisal, this institution’s implementation of competencies was found to be mechanical. This study proposed best practices for this and similarly situated institutions as to how competencies can be used to develop employees and improve their performance.


non-faculty employees; performance appraisal; competencies

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DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.14507/epaa.24.2212

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