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6 Key Steps to Selecting Core Competencies

By Kelly Craig on December, 18 2015
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Kelly Craig

Core competencies can be defined as those capabilities that differentiate a business from its competitors. 

These are the specific things that make your organization unique and give it a competitive advantage. 

But how does this translate into employees’ competencies?

In this post, we'll look at the following points:

  • The difference between organizational and employee core competencies
  • 6 key steps to selecting core competencies
  • Next steps


(Need help selecting your core competencies? Check out our Core Competencies Accelerator Package.)


6 Key Steps to Selecting Core Competencies

If you are ready to define core competencies or improve the ones you have, then you are going to have to start with a clean slate. Let’s take this step by step:

1. Begin with your Mission and Vision Statements
If you need to dust off the plaque on your wall to know what these are, take the time to rewrite them first. 

Strong core competencies come from a clear perspective of where you plan to go.  If you have written value statements, you should also review those now.  You might find that these are replaced by your new core competencies. 

I would recommend this replacement since they are often similar and folks will tend to get confused between the two.

2. Understand your Business
It seems simple and trivial, but do you really understand what your organization does, how it does it and who does what? 

Leaders can use multiple tools to complete this step.  Perhaps you will send out a questionnaire to all of your staff asking for input on what they feel makes your organization special.  You might complete a thorough job analysis of all of your roles to better understand what everyone does. 

You could complete a full competitive analysis of all of your products.  Do whatever you need to do to know more.

3. Draft Your Core Competencies
Doodle, draw, brainstorm, meet, survey. 

Competency-based software can also help with this process. The methods are endless and some will be more appropriate to your organization than others. 

Remember, these are competencies that are unique to your organization.

If necessary, do web research, compare yourself against your competitors, talk to your clients, and consult your partners and distributors.  Sometimes it is hard to see your core organizational competencies, except through other people’s eyes.

You will also want the right people around the table at this step.  Perhaps you will have a town hall to gather everyone’s feedback, or you will have a facilitated meeting with your senior leaders.  Your approach depends on what is right for you.

Once you have identified your core organizational competencies it then becomes possible to identify the core employee competencies that will drive your organization down the road to success. 

Again, this will involve leaders, key clients / customers, and others that understand what it takes to deliver on the organization’s identified core organizational competencies.

Want to learn more about using competencies? Get started with our Competency Toolkit:

Download your Competency Toolkit using the form below. Downloaded over 10,000 times by professionals like you. 



4. Validate your Core Competencies
An easy way to fail is to only have 3 heads defining the core competencies for the whole organization.  Especially if you are in a people-driven business, you should receive feedback from every employee impacted by these core competencies. 

As with the previous step, you might want to go outside your organization and hear from clients or end users.  Regardless, get feedback and incorporate it into your final version.

5. Preach the Core Competencies
The next easiest way to fail is to leave your core competencies in a binder on a shelf to collect dust or hide them in a dark corner of your company website. 

Take every opportunity to get the word out on the new competencies and how they can be used in your organization; publish them, use them in daily business life, put posters up on the wall. 

I once encountered an organization that had safety as a core competency.  Every meeting began with a safety tip, even those with contractors in the corporate office far from their production facilities.

6. Implement the Core Competencies
Spending a lot of time here is critical to ensuring that your competencies endure and actually provide you with some value.  Your core competencies must be integrated into your regular business practices to actually make a difference. 

This might mean including them in everyone’s performance evaluations, reorganizing a production line or having clients more involved in a planning process. 

Set measurable objectives for your core competency implementation and report back on your progress to everyone in your organization.  The more employees that are accountable, the better chance that actual change can occur.



Next Steps

If you complete this process in a week, you haven’t done your job right.  A thorough core competency implementation (core organizational or employee competencies) can take months to fully come to fruition, especially if all the work is done in-house.

If you’re unsure of your abilities, invest in some expert guidance for your competency initiative.  A consultant will often have a more objective view and be able to pick up on issues and ideas that are hard identify as an insider.

They are also likely to have many tools and techniques that will help streamline the process.  

When you're ready to get started, HRSG’s Professional Services team can help you in selecting the right organizational and employee core competencies.


Learn More About Core Competencies: 


Post last updated: January 8, 2021