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Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Competencies of Records and Archival Profession

Utilizing Competencies to Build Skills and Promote the Records and Archival Profession

Cheryl Pederson & Marilyn Bier
ARMA International

Information is one of the most vital assets an organization possesses. It is critical to making and documenting strategic decisions, protecting property rights, managing projects, processing transactions, serving customers, generating revenues, and preserving history. Especially in the face of rapidly changing technologies and evolving business needs, the challenges of effectively managing information, including archives, can be met only by organizations that have in place people with the appropriate skills and knowledge – or competencies – to get the job done.

ARMA International’s recently published Records and Information Management Core Competencies is a valuable resource for organizations that need help identifying the resident information management skills and knowledge they need to operate effectively and efficiently.

What Are Competencies?
Competencies are “the knowledge, skills, characteristics, or traits that contribute to outstanding performance in a particular profession.” Rather than focusing on what tasks an employee must accomplish, competencies focus on how employees accomplish their work.

Why Evaluate One’s Competencies?
Well-defined competencies are essential for creating a common bond of understanding and a common language for discussing performance requirements. Competencies may be used to design and develop position descriptions, training and educational programs, and performance evaluation instruments.

How Were the RIM Core Competencies Developed?
ARMA’s Records and Information Management Core Competencies represent the collective expertise of more than 2,000 records and information management (RIM) professionals and more than two years of work. That work began with a four-day meeting of more than 40 RIM professionals with vast and varied expertise, who analyzed job tasks and developed a working document.


That group turned its data over to ARMA International’s Education Development Committee (EDC), who compared it to related resources, including Canada’s Information and Records Management Competency Profile and Australia’s Records and Archives Competency Standards, then organized refined, and distributed it to group of nearly 2,000 RIM and other information practitioners for validation. The EDC considered every content-related comment from this validation group before it finalized the document and ARMA published it in late 2007. 


How Are the Competencies Organized?

A competency model, such as ARMA International’s Records and Information Management Core Competencies, organizes a series of competencies for a specific profession, and it differentiates between levels of expertise.


ARMA’s RIM competencies are organized by four levels – from entry to executive – with each level reflecting the knowledge and experience needed for each of six domains of major responsibilities.

Domains of Responsibilities
1.       Business Functions knowledge and skills necessary to administer, implement, or maintain the non-RIM specific functions an organization performs (e.g., supervising, budgeting, providing customer service, identifying and mapping work processes, providing input to management, and strategic planning)
2.       RIM Practices knowledge and skills required to systematically manage records and information from creation or receipt through processing, distribution, organization, storage and retrieval, and ultimate disposition (e.g., making information readily available to assist in management decision-making, provide litigation support, improve organizational efficiency, document compliance with legislative and regulatory requirements, and provide historical reference)
3.       Risk Management knowledge and skills necessary to proactively mitigate and manage the potential for damage to or loss of records and information (including risk analysis, risk assessment, business continuity planning, and disaster preparedness and recovery)
4.       Communications and Marketing knowledge and skills necessary to effectively exchange thoughts, messages, or information by speech, writing, or behavior and to effectively champion the benefits of a RIM program within an organization
5.       Information Technology -  knowledge and skills necessary to develop, maintain, and use information processing systems, software applications, and supporting hardware and networks for the processing and distribution of data (e.g., selecting software, reprographics, and imaging equipment, establishing requirements for IT related to managing electronic repositories, and identifying emerging technologies)
6.       Leadership knowledge and skills necessary to motivate groups of people toward the achievement of the RIM program goals within the context of the organization’s overall goals

Levels of Responsibility
The four levels are outlined hierarchically to acknowledge how knowledge and skill sets increase from entry to executive level positions:

Level 1 is an entry-level position requiring no previous RIM experience. Participants:
·         Are acquiring basic, foundational knowledge and skills for the RIM field
·         Have a basic understanding of what records and information management encompasses
·         May or may not have an undergraduate degree or work experience in another field
·         Can demonstrate:
-          Basic computational skills
-          Basic, legible writing skills
-          Basic keyboarding skills
-          Reading comprehension
-          The ability to follow directions and procedures

Level 2 participants will have prior RIM knowledge, skills, and experience. They:
·         Understand more than the basic techniques and technologies
·         Have managed or developed records management projects
·         Have knowledge of information management lifecycle concepts
·         May be developing specialty skills (e.g., analysis, auditing, warehousing, and application technologies)
·         May have experience supervising other RIM staff
·         Generally hold an undergraduate degree, usually in a RIM-related field
·         Should be able to:
-          Apply percentages and ratios to numerical data that may be collected
-          Compare growth and decreases in numerical data between defined periods of time
-          Respond in writing to requests for information
-          Demonstrate advanced keyboarding and data entry skills
-          Demonstrate basic skills with office suite products, RIM software applications, and databases
-          Conduct simple, efficient information searches
-          Demonstrate basic project management skills

Level 3 is a seasoned practitioner who has worked at the enterprise level of an organization. He or she:
·         Has extensive knowledge of the design, creation, implementation, and management of a records management program and staff
·         Looks to high-level experts for best practices, advanced techniques, or technology innovations to learn and grow in the field
·         Generally holds advanced degrees and/or appropriate certifications
·         Should be able to:
-          Develop, submit, and adjust a budget and monitor expenditures
-          Convert numerical data into chart and graph formats
-          Demonstrate problem-solving techniques
-          Perform research and present results in an appropriate format (e.g., chart, report, narrative)
-          Demonstrate proficiency with office suite products, RIM software applications, and databases
-          Conduct complex, efficient information searches
-          Implement RIM systems

Level 4 is the executive level. Professionals at this level make strategic decisions, partner with organizational executive management, and give enterprise direction to RIM program staff and program users. They
·         Hold advanced degrees and appropriate certifications
·         Focus personal growth on continuing education in business strategy, change management, business policies, leading teams, and collaborations and partnerships
·         Should be able to:
-          Conduct surveys and validate analysis and results
-          Interpret complex data and evaluate independent studies and results
-          Use data sets to perform and analyze research
-          Demonstrate usage of language and vocabulary including professional terminology and jargon
-          Present and engage in discourse with peers and business professionals
-          Propose RIM systems
-          Develop and lead RIM program strategy and advocacy

Competency Descriptions

Each competency is described by tasks, knowledge, and skills.

Task statements identify the knowledge and skills required to perform the task competently. Each task statement addresses a specific work activity
·         What activity is performed
·         To whom or at what the activity is directed
·         How the activity is accomplished
·         Why this activity is performed
Taken together, task statements offer a comprehensive view of the work activities that comprise the domains at each level.

Knowledge is learned factual or procedural information that support the ability to perform the task statement.

Skills embody observable, quantifiable, and measurable performance parameters that involve physical, verbal, or mental manipulation of data, people, or objects.
Knowledge and skills together demonstrate competency of a specific task statement.
Below is a Level 1 task statement in the “Business Function” domain. The task statement appears below the description of the level and the domain. It is followed by a description of the knowledge and skills required for the task.

Level 1: This level RIM practitioner is defined as holding an entry-level position in the RIM profession requiring no previous RIM experience. Participants at this level should be acquiring basic, foundational knowledge and skills for the RIM field and have a basic understanding of what records and information management encompasses. A person at this level may or may not have an undergraduate degree or work experience in another field.

Domain: Business Functions
Level 1
Business Functions: This domain pertains to the knowledge and skills necessary to administer, implement, or maintain the non-RIM specific functions an organization performs, or needs to perform, to achieve its objectives. Examples of business functions include the supervision of RIM staff, budgeting, providing customer service, identifying and mapping work processes, providing input to management, and strategic planning.
Identify, document, and provide input to management related to business processes to improve the quality of the RIM program. (010102)
Knowledge of:

Daily routine and task assignments

Communicate the task sequence of RIM processes effectively

Basic RIM principles

RIM best practices

Basic written communication

Mastery of tasks within a particular domain and level is needed to advance to the next level of domain specialty.

Within a particular organization, mastery in several domains at a specific level is necessary for advancement to the next level.

How Can RIM Competencies Be Used in the Business Environment?
A competency-based assessment program has a number of benefits for both organizations and employees.

At an organizational level, a competency-based program provides benefits in the areas of:
·         Developing job descriptions
·         Screening job candidates and hiring personnel
·         Validating compensation
·         Planning for succession

Supervisors can use the competencies for:
·         Providing performance feedback
·         Determining salary increases
·         Devising training and development plans
·         Guiding career development

For individuals, the competencies can help them in:
·         Identifying professional strengths and weaknesses
·         Identifying areas for skill development and training options for career advancement by identifying gaps between their current knowledge and skill sets and what is needed for performing optimally in the current job or for advancing to the next job level
·         Tracking education and training throughout the year to ensure that identified gaps are being filled

What Other Tools Are Available?
As a complement to the competencies, ARMA developed and made available earlier this year an online RIM self-assessment tool ( that enables individuals to assess their RIM knowledge and skills against the competencies and construct a professional development plan. This tool:
  • Identifies the competencies needed for a specific career level
  • Confirms knowledge and skill strengths
  • Identifies where growth is needed through a gap analysis report
  • Identifies specific resources available to help strengthen knowledge and skills

Another complement to the RIM competencies is the just-published Records and Information Management Job Descriptions. This publication (available at is a guide for creating effective (RIM) job descriptions at four different levels – from entry to executive. It describes for each of 11 “typical” RIM jobs:
·         General function of the position
·         Education and experience recommended
·         Relevant certifications and certificates
·         Career mobility
·         Core competencies – tasks, knowledge, and skills – required in each of the six domains

Because organizations often combine positions or tailor job descriptions to the specific activities required, an accompanying editable Word version of this document is included as a free download to purchasers. This editable version provides the job description information in a “pick list” type of format that will allow purchasers to customize the descriptions to the specific requirements of their organizations.

What’s Next?
The next phases of ARMA’s competency project will include developing industry-specific competencies and addressing international issues. Expert contributions from ICA Congress attendees will be particularly important to the success of this phase. Please watch for announcements from ARMA for opportunities to participate.