Competency has different meanings, and remains one of the most diffuse terms in the management development sector, and the organizational and occupational literature.
Competencies are also what people need to be successful in their jobs. Job competencies are not the same as job task. Competencies include all the related knowledge, skills, abilities, and attributes that form a person’s job. This set of context-specific qualities is correlated with superior job performance and can be used as a standard against which to measure job performance as well as to develop, recruit, and hire employees.
Competencies and competency models may be applicable to all employees in an organization or they may be position specific. Identifying employee competencies can contribute to improved organizational performance. They are most effective if they meet several critical standards, including linkage to, and leverage within an organization’s human resource system.
Core competencies differentiate an organization from its competition and create a company’s competitive advantage in the marketplace. An organizational core competency is its strategic strength.
Competencies provide organizations with a way to define in behavioral terms what it is that people need to do to produce the results that the organization desires, in a way that is in keep with its culture. By having competencies defined in the organization, it allows employees to know what they need to be productive. When properly defined, competencies, allows organizations to evaluate the extent to which behaviors employees are demonstrating and where they may be lacking. For competencies where employees are lacking, they can learn. This will allow organizations to know potentially what resources they may need to help the employee develop and learn those competencies. Competencies can distinguish and differentiate your organization from your competitors. While two organizations may be alike in financial results, the way in which the results were achieve could be different based on the competencies that fit their particular strategy and organizational culture. Lastly, competencies can provide a structured model that can be used to integrate management practices throughout the organization. Competencies that align their recruiting, performance management, training and development and reward practices to reinforce key behaviors that the organization values.
Dreyfus and Dreyfus introduced nomenclature for the levels of competence in competency development. The causative reasoning of such a language of levels of competency may be seen in their paper on Calculative Rationality titled, "From Socrates to Expert Systems: The Limits and Dangers of Calculative Rationality". The five levels proposed by Dreyfus and Dreyfus were:
The process of competency development is a lifelong series of doing and reflecting. As competencies apply to careers as well as jobs, lifelong competency development is linked with personal development as a management concept. And it requires a special environment, where the rules are necessary in order to introduce novices, but people at a more advanced level of competency will systematically break the rules if the situations requires it. This environment is synonymously described using terms such as learning organization, knowledge creation, self-organizing and empowerment.
Within a specific organization or professional community, professional competency is frequently valued. They are usually the same competencies that must be demonstrated in a job interview. But today there is another way of looking at it: that there are general areas of occupational competency required to retain a post, or earn a promotion. For all organizations and communities there is a set of primary tasks that competent people have to contribute to all the time. For a university student, for example, the primary tasks could be:
The four general areas of competency are:
Organizational competencies: The mission, vision, 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). How we treat the patient is part of the patient's treatment.
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 be defined in a measurable behavioral context in order to validate 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.
Initiative and creativity
Plans work and carries out tasks without detailed instructions; makes constructive suggestions; prepares for problems or opportunities in advance; undertakes additional responsibilities; responds to situations as they arise with minimal supervision; creates novel solutions to problems; evaluates new technology as potential solutions to existing problems.
Makes sound decisions; bases decisions on fact rather than emotion; analyzes problems skillfully; uses logic to reach solutions.
Works harmoniously with others to get a job done; responds positively to instructions and procedures; able to work well with staff, co-workers, peers and managers; shares critical information with everyone involved in a project; works effectively on projects that cross functional lines; helps to set a tone of cooperation within the work group and across groups; coordinates own work with others; seeks opinions; values working relationships; when appropriate facilitates discussion before decision-making process is complete.
Quality of Work
Maintains high standards despite pressing deadlines; does work right the first time; corrects own errors; regularly produces accurate, thorough, professional work.
Personally responsible; completes work in a timely, consistent manner; works hours necessary to complete assigned work; is regularly present and punctual; arrives prepared for work; is committed to doing the best job possible; keeps commitments.
Commitment to safety
Understands, encourages and carries out the principles of integrated safety management; complies with or oversees the compliance with Laboratory safety policies and procedures; completes all required ES&H training; takes personal responsibility for safety.
Support of diversity
Treats all people with respect; values diverse perspectives; participates in diversity training opportunities; provides a supportive work environment for the multicultural workforce; applies the Lab’s philosophy of equal employment opportunity; shows sensitivity to individual differences; treats others fairly without regard to race, sex, color, religion, or sexual orientation; recognizes differences as opportunities to learn and gain by working together; values and encourages unique skills and talents; seeks and considers diverse perspectives and ideas.
Job knowledge/technical knowledge
Demonstrates knowledge of techniques, skills, equipment, procedures and materials. Applies knowledge to identify issues and internal problems; works to develop additional technical knowledge and skills.
Quantity of work
Produces an appropriate quantity of work; does not get bogged down in unnecessary detail; able to manage multiple projects; able to determine project urgency in a meaningful and practical way; organizes and schedules people and tasks.
Writes and speaks effectively, using conventions proper to the situation; states own opinions clearly and concisely; demonstrates openness and honesty; listens well during meetings and feedback sessions; explains reasoning behind own opinions; asks others for their opinions and feedback; asks questions to ensure understanding; exercises a professional approach with others using all appropriate tools of communication; uses consideration and tact when offering opinions.
Listens and responds effectively to customer questions; resolves customer problems to the customer’s satisfaction; respects all internal and external customers; uses a team approach when dealing with customers; follows up to evaluate customer satisfaction; measures customer satisfaction effectively; commits to exceeding customer expectations.
Anticipates problems; sees how a problem and its solution will affect other units; gathers information before making decisions; weighs alternatives against objectives and arrives at reasonable decisions; adapts well to changing priorities, deadlines and directions; works to eliminate all processes which do not add value; is willing to take action, even under pressure, criticism or tight deadlines; takes informed risks; recognizes and accurately evaluates the signs of a problem; analyzes current procedures for possible improvements; notifies supervisor of problems in a timely manner.
Attention to detail
Is alert in a high-risk environment; follows detailed procedures and ensures accuracy in documentation and data; carefully monitors gauges, instruments or processes; concentrates on routine work details; organizes and maintains a system of records.
Remains open-minded and changes opinions on the basis of new information; performs a wide variety of tasks and changes focus quickly as demands change; manages transitions from task to task effectively; adapts to varying customer needs.
Able to manage multiple projects; able to determine project urgency in a practical way; uses goals to guide actions; creates detailed action plans; organizes and schedules people and tasks effectively.
Works to improve the performance of oneself and others by pursuing opportunities for continuous learning/feedback; constructively helps and coaches others in their professional development; exhibits a “can-do” approach and inspires associates to excel; develops a team spirit.
Establishes high standards and measures; is able to maintain high standards despite pressing deadlines; does work right the first time and inspects work for flaws; tests new methods thoroughly; considers excellence a fundamental priority.
Responsiveness to requests for service
Responds to requests for service in a timely and thorough manner; does what is necessary to ensure customer satisfaction; prioritizes customer needs; follows up to evaluate customer satisfaction.
Able to challenge conventional practices; adapts established methods for new uses; pursues ongoing system improvement; creates novel solutions to problems; evaluates new technology as potential solutions to existing problems.
Competency models can help organizations align their initiatives to their overall business strategy. By aligning competencies to business strategies, organizations can better recruit and select employees for their organizations. Competencies have been become a precise way for employers to distinguish superior from average or below average performance. The reason for this is because competencies extend beyond measuring baseline characteristics and or skills used to define and assess job performance. In addition to recruitment and selection, a well sound Competency Model will help with performance management, succession planning and career development.
Selection: The use of behavioral interviewing and testing where appropriate, to screen job candidates based on whether they possess the key necessary job competency profile:
Training and development: Development of individual learning plans for individual or groups of employees based on the measurable “gaps” between job competencies or competency proficiency levels required for their jobs and the competency portfolio processed by the incumbent.
Performance management: Provides regular measurement of targeted behaviors and performance outcomes linked to job competency profile critical factors.
Career paths: Development of stepping stones necessary for promotion and long term career-growth
Succession planning: Careful, methodical preparation focused on retaining and growing the competency portfolios critical for the organization to survive and prosper
SkillsTech has been working with the Competency Improvement concept since inception. Being associated with many of the Competency Improvement projects in both Govt and Non-Govt organisations, SkillsTech is promoting this technology driven structure.