What Is A Competency?
The term competency is now generally defined as the behaviours that employees must have, or must acquire, to input into a situation in order to achieve high levels of performance.
Competencies emerged in the 1980s as a response to organisational changes and to wider changes in society. These changes included:
- Flatter organisational structures resulting from the reduction in management layers
- Employees being required to show more flexibility by developing a wider range of skills and adapting to changes in working practices
- Increased globalisation of organisations, demanding the introduction of a consistent set of standards within different cultures
- Effective use of competency frameworks was thought to provide employees with a clearly defined set of objectives, and managers with a consistent measurement tool that could be used across geographical, cultural and work boundaries.
Examples of some of the most widely used competency headings include:
- communication skills
- people management
- team skills
- customerservice skills
Uses Of Competencies
- Training and development – identifying gaps and helping employees develop in the right direction
- Development, promotion and succession planning – assessing employees’ readiness or potential to take on new challenges
- Annual appraisals and/or performance related pay – appraising and managing performance according to competency
- Recruitment and selection – choosing the right people to join and progress in an organisation
- Change management – using competencies when restructuring or dealing with other cultural changes
- Grading structures
Recent research has reported that the top 5 uses of competencies were appraisal/performance management, training and development, selection, recruitment and promotion. An effective competency framework however has applications across the whole range of human resource management and development activities.
The main benefits of a competency-based system are:
- Employees have a set of measures to work towards and are clear about how they are expected to perform in their jobs
- The appraisal and recruitment systems are fairer, more open and more objective
- Processes are measurable and standardised across organisational and geographical boundaries
- Performance management is made easier through having clear measures of performance