Defining a competency architecture and all of its components

July 5, 2016 Kelly

A competency architecture describes the common rules for defining competencies within an organization. It includes the guiding principles that describe how the profiles will be designed for the entire organization – e.g., the format for displaying the competency profile, content for the profile (behavioral / technical / professional competencies), core vs. unique competencies, etc.

The model shown below illustrates a basic competency architecture, starting from the vision, values and strategic business priorities of the organization. The various elements of this model are defined below:




Core Competencies:
The Core Competencies include very general/generic competencies that all employees must possess to enable the organization to achieve its mandate and vision (e.g., Teamwork or Client Focus or Achieving Excellence). These competencies describe, in behavioral terms, the key values of the organization and represent competencies that are organizational strengths or help the organization differentiate itself from its competitors.

Job Family Competencies:
Job Family competencies are those competencies that are common to a group of jobs. They often include General Job competencies that tend to be required in a number of Job Families (e.g., Partnering), as well as Job Specific competencies that apply to certain job families more than others (e.g., Project Management). These tend to be related more to knowledge or skill required for certain types of jobs (e.g., Accounting for jobs involving financial administration).

Technical / Professional Competencies:
The technical/professional competencies tend to be specific to roles or jobs within the Job Family, and include the specific skills and knowledge (know-how) to perform effectively (e.g. ability to use particular software; knowledge in particular professional areas such as finance, biochemistry; etc.). These competencies could be generic to a Job Family as a whole, or be specific to roles, levels or jobs within the family.

Leadership Competencies:
Leadership competencies are key for roles in an organization that involve managing, supervising or influencing the work of others in some way. Some organizations view “leadership” to be a part of every job of the organization in that employees are expected to contribute and offer new or better ways of working regardless of their level or role in the organization. Leadership is required in teams, project management, as well as at the managerial, executive and board levels.


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.

Previous Article
Using competencies to eliminate skill gaps
Using competencies to eliminate skill gaps

It should be everyone’s goal to improve their skills, but if you don’t know where your skills are lacking t...

Next Flipbook
Multi-level competencies: Building a foundation for strategic HR
Multi-level competencies: Building a foundation for strategic HR

Competencies have emerged as the gold standard for talent management. Research shows that companies using c...

Next steps: Learn how competencies are implemented

View our guide