Blog post

What is the difference between Skill and Competency?

When implementing Competency Management it is vital to understand the difference between skills and competencies, as well as the different types of competencies needed within an organisation.

There are no black and white definitions for ‘skills’ and ‘competencies’ and these terms are often interchanged. However, they can generally be considered as:

Skills are something you know and learn – something ‘tangible’. They are the ‘nuts and bolts’ of what a person does in their job or role within an organisation. An ability that allows a person to carry out a task or job.

Competencies are the effective application of those skills. They cover ‘how’ the job is done successfully, by using the skills they have learnt as well as implementing appropriate personality traits, behaviours and attitudes.

Why do companies resist implementing competency management
Competency Management is playing an increasingly important role in the training of a workforce. However, many organisations are resistant to implementing an effective programme. This may be for many reasons. We believe these are the most common:

  • It’s difficult – many HR departments want a ‘one size fits all’ approach to their systems and training, rather than a tailored approach to each role or individual within their organisation.
  • Skills are easier to define – with skills, you either have them or you don’t. Competencies are broader and open to interpretation. They tend to make things grey rather than well defined.
  • Recruitment rarely deals in competency – job opportunities generally ask for particular skills and experience. Very few identify competencies they’d like to see candidates bring which would add value to their company. Having a competence management system in place would enable an organisation to look beyond skills when they recruit.

What competencies are needed regardless of industry?
All organisations need a set of basic competencies to be engrained in their employees general behaviour. These are a set of human skills acquired via teaching or direct experience that are used to handle problems and questions commonly encountered in daily human life. The common ones are:

  • Intentional communication – too much of today’s communication in organisations is hidden and guarded. Being intentional is a competency that could change the culture of many companies.
  • Integrity – people still want honest colleagues. Employees that display genuine integrity are priceless in today’s challenging workplace environments.
  • Character – people want to work with others that are genuine. It’s true that strong character shows drive, initiative, and engagement.
  • Emotional intelligence – this is an area that is very broad and open to interpretation. Organisations want employees to be empathetic, adaptable and open to understanding their colleagues needs. Employers would delight in an ‘others focused’ competency instead of being ‘self-focused’.
  • Problem Solving – using logic, as well as imagination, to make sense of a situation and come up with an intelligent solution. It is connected to a number of other skills such as level-headedness, analytical skills, creativity and logical thinking.