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Competency basics: A round-up of top posts and resources

By Kelly Craig on April, 1 2016
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Kelly Craig

Sometimes it’s good to brush up on the basics, especially when it comes to competencies. 

While this approach to talent management is no more complex than any other system, it requires a clear understanding of the key components, including the competencies themselves and the competency architecture that creates structure and consistency.

Although the adoption of competency-based talent management systems has accelerated over the past two decades, many HR professionals are still the process of learning about the competency-based approach.

A 1996 survey of more than 1,800 organizations conducted by the ACA (American Compensation Organization) found that only 20 percent of organizations had competency-based systems in place (although another 47 percent were actively examining or developing them).

By 2005, a Hewitt Associates survey of HR executives from 373 public and private U.S. companies and found that 100 percent of the top 20 companies and 73 percent of all other companies had integrated competencies into their business practices.

While the research indicates that a greater number of talent managers are being exposed to competency concepts today than ever before, the discipline is still relatively new, and best practices are still in the process of evolving.

For example, multi-level competency content—which provide up to five graduating levels of proficiency within a single competency—is now gradually replacing single-level competencies for many competency-driven organizations.

If you’re in the early stages of the learning process, or if you could benefit from brushing up on the basics, browse this round-up of blog posts and resources on competency basics and essentials.


What are competencies? 

While competencies have been part of the talent-management landscape for decades, HR professionals whose organizations don’t currently use them—and some whose organizations do—may not have a clear understanding of what they are and how they differ from skills, task definitions, and other modes of defining job performance.

The “Building the case for competencies” blog post provides an introduction to the topic, covering the basics including what they are and how they can improve talent-management activities.

Or watch the short video, “Competencies 101,” for a concise introduction to the topic in just 90 seconds.


What are core competencies? 

Core competencies are a powerful—but often misunderstood—tool for connecting the organization at the most strategic level. These resources help to define their role within a competency-based HR practice.

Values and core competencies are often seen as interchangeable, but there’s a key difference between the two. Read “The difference between core competencies and values” blog post to find out how core competencies and values are different—and how they complement one another.

How many core competencies does your organization need? And how does it work when everyone—from the CEO and the summer intern—shares the same core competencies? This FAQ provides answers to the most-asked questions from HRSG’s core-competency webinar.

Not sure how to implement core competencies? “Choosing core competencies for your organization” explains the process in three steps.

See how core competencies are used to support a specific strategic goal within the organization by reading this core competency case study.


What are technical/general competencies?

Virtually every competency-based initiative is likely to include both technical and general competencies. But what’s the difference between them, and how do they both fit into your HR strategy?

Understanding general and technical competencies” provides key definitions and looks at how these two competency types complement one another.

What is competency architecture?

While most HR professionals have heard of competencies, not all have come across competency architecture. Yet it’s essential to the rigor and structural integrity of any competency-based initiative.

Read “Competency architecture: a blueprint for developing job profiles” to understand how competency architecture works and see an example.


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