A lot of people are familiar with the word “competency”. In fact, people use it so often that it has become an everyday business language.
We hear the words “competency” and “competent” at corridors when employees are discussing, C-suite executive meetings when top management are seeking ways to increase profitability, and conferences when issues relating to capacity development are discussed.
The term “competence” was first used in an article by R.W White in 1959 and has since gained widespread acceptance and usage.
But what really is “competency”? How did it evolve into our business vocabulary? And what are the types and examples of competencies?
If you ask people today what competency means, you are sure going to get different answers. For some, competency means the knowledge and skills possessed by a person that makes them do their job well.
Others may view competency as the totality of knowledge (practical and theoretical), skills, traits, and values used to increase productivity and performance.
Although competency means different things to different people, one thing that is common among all the definitions of competency is that competency is something you need to do your job well. In other words, for you to be successful at your job, you need to have some competencies.
Competencies include the observable behaviours, knowledge, skills, abilities and other attributes that form part of your job. They enhance productivity and performance, just as ingredients that make meals taste delicious.
So, what are the types of Competencies?
Several categories of competencies exist. This is largely due to the different competency requirements for different roles and positions within organizations.
Nevertheless, three categories of competencies are very common within organizations. They include core, behavioural, and functional competencies respectively.
1. Core competencies
These are capabilities or technical expertise that are unique to an organization. Core competencies differentiate an organization from its competitors. They refer to areas in which an organization seeks to gain a competitive advantage.
For instance, the processes, technologies and strategies used by organisations create a competitive advantage for them.
Core competencies vary depending on an organisation’s sector, nature of the business, and strategic direction. Some examples of core competencies include problem solving, integrity, initiative, leadership, and decision making among others.
2. Functional competencies
These competencies refer to the knowledge, skills and abilities required to fulfil day-to-day job tasks, duties or responsibilities. Functional competencies are job or role-specific.
In addition, functional competencies are essential in delivering quality results. Without them, it becomes extremely difficult to do the assigned task or responsibility effectively and efficiently.
Some examples of functional competencies include data analysis, client service, software programming, and financial planning.
A closely related competency to functional competencies is cross-functional competencies. Cross-functional competencies are those that are not directly related to a specific task or responsibility.
However, they are very important in carrying out tasks across different functions and departments. Some examples here are teamwork, computer skills, facilitation, planning, etc.
3. Behavioural competencies
Behavioural competencies encompass the knowledge, skills, abilities, and other traits which help to determine how successful someone will be at a job. They help form the basis for assessing a candidate’s fitness for a job role or position.
Examples of behavioural competencies include adaptability, stress management, initiative, business acumen, etc.
Okay then, are Competencies in stages?
Have you heard of something like, “Did I just do that?” or “I can’t do that, I don’t know how to go about it”. The statements are common in today’s business world. The stages of competence help us to be aware of our competence or incompetence.
There are four stages of competence. They include:
- Unconscious incompetence – You don’t know that you don’t know how to do something. You are completely ignorant
- Conscious incompetence – You know you don’t know how to do something. You are bothered
- Conscious competence – You know that you know how to do something with some effort. You are confident.
- Unconscious competence – What you know has become second nature. You rock at it.
And how do I identify Competencies?
There are several ways of identifying competencies. In my opinion, the most effective way of identifying competencies is to develop a Skill and Competency Framework.
The skill and competency framework help align competencies with the needs and priorities of the organisation.