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Using Competencies To Manage Business Challenges

By Sarah Beckett on August, 7 2015
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Sarah Beckett

A recent report published by the Hay Group identified six megatrends that organizations of every type will face in the coming years. 

The list includes changing demographics, globalization, and technological convergence.

How can competencies help HR professionals strengthen the organization and prepare it to address specific challenges?

One of the advantages of using competencies to manage the talent lifecycle is the consistency and coordination they bring to the process. Once the right competencies have been selected, they become the foundation of every HR activity, from selection to development to succession planning.

Regardless of the HR objective, consistency ensures better outcomes, but it’s an essential principle when the organization needs to effect change, such as shifting focus or developing new areas of strength. Initiating and sustaining change is never easy, and rolling it out on an organizational level requires diligence and persistence.

By organizing talent-management efforts around clearly defined competencies that support specific skills, HR professionals can ensure that every activity moves the organization forward in the right direction.

And according to the Deloitte Human Capital Trends report for 2015, HR professionals need all the help they can get when it comes to tackling the challenges: the report identified significant gaps in HR’s readiness to address the most urgent talent issues—issues such as culture and engagement, strong leadership, and workforce capability.

Let’s look at three of the most urgent challenges in today’s business landscape, and examine the competencies that can help organizations prepare to meet and overcome them.


The Hay Group report Engaging Hearts and Minds looks at the megatrends affecting the business world and identifies productivity as one of five key challenges facing organizations as they find their way forward.

For the US, labor productivity fell during the two economic downturns during 2000-2010, and Canada has lagged even further behind. At the same time, the rapid growth of countries such as China have disrupted the global marketplace and increased competition.

Enhancing organizational productivity will be crucial, but according to the Hay Group, few companies are ready to support greater productivity. Nearly half of employees believe their organization does not operate efficiently (44%) and is not effectively organized and structured (45%).

Every organization’s productivity rests on a unique set of variables, but decades of research into the capabilities required to support a productive workplace have broken the issue down into its essential elements.

Incorporating the following competencies into your organization’s job profiles will ensure those elements are positioned at the forefront.

  • Performance management
  • Improving business processes
  • Planning and organization
  • Managing resources
  • Ensuring accountability
  • Achievement orientation


Engaging employees—inspiring, empowering, and retaining them for the long term—is one of the biggest challenges facings organizations today.

As skills become more specialized and competition becomes heavier, many companies are scrambling to create an engagement strategy.

According to the Deloitte report, the number of respondents who identified culture and engagement as “very important” nearly doubled between 2014 and 2015—from 26% to 50%. The Hay Group has studied the rewards of engagement for decades and found that companies that excel at engagement see very tangible benefits, including achieving 4.5 times the revenue growth of their less engaged peers and improvements in staff retention of up to 54%.

Finding and keeping the right people with the right skills is getting harder as skill sets become more specialized and competition for those skill sets heats up. Building the organization’s capacity to engage employees needs to be a priority for HR.

If engagement is an issue for your organization, make sure your leaders possess the following competencies:

  • Inspiring others
  • Embracing diversity
  • Acting with empathy and compassion
  • Developing others
  • Continuous learning
  • Exemplifying integrity

Fast growth:

Globalization and rapid advances in science and technology are accelerating the pace of innovation and competition. According to a report by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), in the decade spanning 1995 and 2005, the intensity of R&D efforts (a measure of innovation) increased in 33 of 40 countries measured, including a number of emerging market economies.

A recent report from the Center for Creative Leadership explores this accelerated environment and describes it as one of “perpetual white water,” citing an IBC study of 1,500 CEOs that revealed “ managing growing complexity” as their number-one concern.

DDI echoes this sentiment, describing it as the “VUCA vortex,” a combination of “volatility, uncertainty, complexity, and ambiguity” that even experienced leaders struggle to master.

The competencies that support organizational growth include:

  • Resilience
  • Leading change
  • Nurturing innovation
  • Visioning and alignment
  • Initiative

Today’s organizations face challenges that were unimaginable even a few years ago. If you haven’t re-examined your talent strategy within the last three years, chances are that it’s out of alignment with your business realities.

As an HR professional, you have an opportunity to make talent management an integral part of the way your organization prepares for its biggest challenges. Ask yourself:

  • Does my talent-management strategy support the organization’s key objectives?
  • Does it recognize and address the organization’s vulnerabilities?
  • Does it help employees at every level (especially leadership) navigate complexity?
  • Does it prioritize and support strong, innovative leadership?


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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