Competencies (An Introduction)



Today I had the pleasure of chatting with a highly energetic and competent individual whom I had been interacting with as part of one of my ongoing projects. As a Talent oriented professional, I asked to see her CV to see how is she presenting herself in the market, and maybe give her some pointers since she wasn’t an HR professional. Upon a quick review of the resume, I noticed that she didn’t mention some competencies where I know she excels in.

That got me reflecting

In a mature organization, you will find that they have a competency framework that is always linked to the career framework and job descriptions. during my recruiting days, I used to view hundreds of resumes a day, I would take less than seconds in reviewing a resume (especially in the initial sourcing phase). and I would be looking for someone that possess the aforementioned competencies. That can be identified with senior professionals (as the experience (quantity and quality) can be a very helpful indicator). but I remember that with junior professionals and fresh graduates that would be tougher to identify. That is something that has been on my mind for a while and I think it is about time to go into the subject.


What is a Competency?

Competence is the set of demonstrable characteristics and skills that enable, and improve the efficiency of, the performance of a job. The term “competence” first appeared in an article authored by R.W. White in 1959 as a concept for performance motivation. In 1970, Craig C. Lundberg defined the concept in “Planning the Executive Development Program”. The term gained traction when in 1973, David McClelland wrote a seminal paper entitled, “Testing for Competence Rather Than for Intelligence”. It has since been popularized by Richard Boyatzis and many others, such as T.F. Gilbert (1978) who used the concept in relation to performance improvement. Its use varies widely, which leads to considerable misunderstanding.

Types of competencies

Organizational competencies: The vision, mission, values, culture, and core competencies of the organization that sets the tone and/or context in which the work of the organization is carried out (e.g. customer-driven, risk-taking, and cutting edge).

Core competencies: Capabilities and/or technical expertise unique to an organization, i.e. core competencies differentiate an organization from its competition (e.g. the technologies, methodologies, strategies, or processes of the organization that create competitive advantage in the marketplace). An organizational core competency is an organization’s strategic strength.

Technical competencies: Depending on the position, both technical and performance capabilities should be weighed carefully as employment decisions are made. For example, organizations that tend to hire or promote solely on the basis of technical skills, i.e. to the exclusion of other competencies, may experience an increase in performance-related issues (e.g. systems software designs versus relationship management skills)

Behavioral competencies: Individual performance competencies are more specific than organizational competencies and capabilities. As such, it is important that they are defined in a measurable behavioral context in order to validate the applicability and the degree of expertise (e.g. development of talent)

Functional competencies: Functional competencies are job-specific competencies that drive proven high-performance, quality results for a given position. They are often technical or operational in nature (e.g., “backing up a database” is a functional competency).

Management competencies: Management competencies identify the specific attributes and capabilities that illustrate an individual’s management potential. Unlike leadership characteristics, management characteristics can be learned and developed with the proper training and resources. Competencies in this category should demonstrate pertinent behaviors for management to be effective.

Leadership competencies: Leadership competencies are leadership behaviors and skills that can contribute to superior performance. By focusing on competency-based leadership, companies and organizations will be able to better identify their next generation of leaders.

Competency identification

Competencies required for a post are identified through job analysis or task analysis, using techniques such as the critical incident technique, work diaries, and work sampling. A future focus is recommended for strategic reasons.

Now, it may be a very good time to reflect on yourself and your current organization (or target organization), here are some questions to ask:

  • Does the organization have a competency framework?
  • What are the (Core, Technical, Behavioural, Leadership) competencies that the organization has defined and measured?
  • Do I possess the competencies? Can I prove that (through a track record, experience, knowledge)?
  • What is my proficiency level on each competency? And how can I prove it?

In the upcoming articles, I will go into more technical areas of the competencies, and I will furthermore expand on the competency framework.

Competencies (An Introduction)
Article Name
Competencies (An Introduction)
Competence is the set of demonstrable characteristics and skills that enable, and improve the efficiency of, the performance of a job.
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HR MasterKey
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2 comments on “Competencies (An Introduction)

  1. Abdel Nasser sedrSed

    Excellent topic and critical one as well just if we consider the time spent and efforts done by David Mc Clelland consulting firm- Mc Ber- in 1970s and 1980s . Huge works that led to the scaled competency dictionary in1996. Well done m’y dear – as usual- .
    Looking forward to read what coming next.


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