Welles: MCAT is not a test

It is a Management Competency Assessment Tool that OPM uses for managerial workforce planning.

Management Competency Assessment Tool

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Its name sounds like the exam college graduates take to enter medical school, but the new MCAT — the acronym refers to the Management Competency Assessment Tool — is not a test. Or at least that’s what Office of Personnel Management officials said about it. MCAT is a new online tool that the government can use to help guarantee that federal leaders have the management skills they need and that agencies have the right people in the pipeline to become future leaders. 

OPM revised its Executive Core Qualifications for the Senior Executive Service last year and issued guidance for developing managerial skills. As part of its efforts to improve the qualifications of federal managers, OPM created MCAT. 

Not many managers know much about MCAT, but they soon will as agencies begin using it. OPM introduced the tool in February with a presentation and demonstration at various agencies. Officials can schedule one-on-one consultations with OPM to learn how to use it.

MCAT is a Web-based instrument that lets employees conduct a self-assessment of their skills, competencies and weaknesses. Supervisors can use the same tool to assess employee skill gaps as a basis for providing additional training for employee development or leadership succession planning. When an organization finds gaps in management skills, that information can be valuable in hiring and training new managers to fill vacancies. 

The versatility of MCAT makes it useful for assessing the competencies of managers, supervisors and team leaders. It remains to be seen whether agencies will use MCAT as a factor in calculating managers’ performance ratings. The assessment produces no score, Kevin Mahoney, OPM’s acting associate director, told Federal News Radio.

“It’s really not a test,” Mahoney said, “just an online tool, a voluntary process.” He added, “You can evaluate yourself to identify weak areas and talk with your supervisor.”

OPM designed MCAT to assess five leadership competencies that it considers critical for federal executives. Those competencies relate to initiating change, leading people, achieving results, demonstrating business acumen and building coalitions.

Mahoney said MCAT lets managers determine what skill gaps they have in their organization and how to use that information as a basis for filling those gaps.

“If there’s a skill gap, for example, in customer service, you can look at what kind of education might build up the competency level,” he said.

With more information about needed skills, “you are more likely to find the right people,” Mahoney said.

Welles is a retired federal employee who has worked in the public and private sectors. She lives in Bethesda, Md., and writes about work life topics for Federal Computer Week. She can be reached at judywelles@fcw.com.

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