What are Competencies?

Any time I examine a position in the organization, I try to determine what makes the best performers tick. We can benchmark and look at best practices but they may not be much use within a specific organization.

In looking at a specific position, you can divide the work into the what and how of the job. The “what” part consist of key responsibilities and tasks. For example, a sales person may need to call on at least 40 prospects per day. The “how” part consists of the behaviors, skills, traits, and abilities needed to perform well. Following our example, when the sales person calls a prospect, the way he or she should communicate with courteousy, effective listening, effective questioning, proper rate of speech, proper tone and volume, and should follow a process for achieving the desired outcome of the call. Each of these could be a different competency that someone prospecting over the phone would need to engage in to do their job well.

One thing in particular that I have seen is that people developing competencies struggle with what the difference is between a skill and a competency. After all, the word skill is used in a preponderance of the definitions of competencies. My suggestion is to not get caught up in trying to differentiate the two. While academically it matters, practically it doesn’t. People that will be using the competency models we create really don’t care. They just want a model of what they should do and how the best performers do it.

In taking a look at documenting this, the “what” part of a job is usually contained in the job description. The “how” part of a job is contained in a competency model or list of skills. When taken together, you now have a profile of what success looks like for a particular job.

One last piece of advice is to get everyone behind the definition of what a competency is before developing your models. Agreeing on a common language is sometimes difficult but serves as a guideline when developing models.


3 thoughts on “What are Competencies?

    1. Hi Amy. Great to hear from you too! I love your site and the ideas you present. They align with my next book topic which is about developing your performance to the exemplary level in order to achieve your career dreams.

      I would love to present for you. I am working at a company called Signature Consultants. We are an IT staffing company and I am the VP of Learning and Performance. As you probably know, I can present on a variety of learning and performance topics so let me know what aligns with what you want to achieve.

      Hope all is well with you. Take care!

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