Using competencies to eliminate skill gaps

March 20, 2018 Caitlin Leishman

It should be everyone’s goal to improve their skills, but if you don’t know where your skills are lacking then where do you start? By determining where your skill gaps lie, you will be able to see what areas you need to focus your efforts on and plot an effective course for improvement.

By using competencies, you can determine whether employees are at the required skill levels, and what gaps exist. The appeal of competencies is their ability to make talent more visible. In simple terms, competencies identify the observable behaviors of top performers—not just WHAT employees do, but HOW they do it.

Competency-based job descriptions provide concrete examples of what it looks like when employees demonstrate a certain skill on the job.

For instance, employees that demonstrate strong client focus on the job demonstrate the following behaviors: showing clients their perspectives are valued, keeping clients up to date on progress, enhancing client-facing systems and processes, and so on. With clear descriptions of competent on-the-job behavior, expectations are less ambiguous, discussions about performance are more objective, and any performance shortcomings can be clearly recognized by both the supervisor and the employee.

Soft skills can unfortunately often be judged based on bias, and are far more ambiguous to evaluate than hard/technical skills. An easy way to get around this problem is to use behavioral competencies, which identify the observable behaviors of top performers. For instance, each HRSG competency covers multiple levels of proficiency, outlining the behaviors for someone at level 1 versus levels 2, 3, and more.

For instance, this means you can get to the root of what makes someone exemplary at communication or problem solving, versus someone at a more basic level. This makes the process transparent and accessible. Every employee can clearly see the skills, traits, experience, and knowledge required for any job. They also have a clear understanding of what their own competencies are, and can evaluate their readiness to take on a new role.

There are many other benefits to using competencies to identify skill gaps. Competencies allow you to offer a competitive training program to your employees, pinpointing specific areas for improvement and analyzing their strengths and weaknesses. This means that employees who undertake competency-based training are more likely to see results faster and avoid wasting time developing unnecessary skills.

Employees who are exceeding expectations in training can also be rewarded, encouraging increased productivity and engagement, and overall better organizational performance. This has great benefits for onboarding practices, ensuring that new hires acclimate successfully to a role and are more likely to stay with a company long-term.


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

Download your Competency Toolkit using the form below.



Post last updated: June 27, 2019.

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