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SkillsvsCompetencies.WhatstheDifference?TalentAlign
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Home/ITHRGuruBlog/SkillsvsCompetencies.WhatstheDifference?

SkillsvsCompetencies.WhatstheDifference?
PostedbyGailSturgess | December6,2012

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ThetermsSkillsandCompetenciesareused,virtually,interchangeably.Infact,withmanyHRpractitioners,
CompetenciesseemtoonlyrelatetoBehaviouralcompetenciesasdefinedinaCompetencyDictionary.But
thisreallyisnotthecase.So,wemakeanattemptatdefiningthedifferencebetweenSkillsandCompetencies,
andprovidingsomeinsightintothedifferenttypesofCompetenciesandthelevelofcriticalityofCompetencies
inorganisations.

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What is a Skill?

October2014
Thesedefinitionswereextractedfromanumberofdifferentsources,buttheyallseemtosay,moreorless,the
samething:
Proficiency,facility,ordexteritythatisacquiredordevelopedthrough
trainingorexperience.

Theability,comingfromonesknowledge,practice,aptitude,etc.,todo
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Anabilityandcapacityacquiredthroughdeliberate,systematic,and
sustainedefforttosmoothlyandadaptivelycarryoutcomplexactivities
orjobfunctionsinvolvingideas(cognitiveskills),things(technical
skills),and/orpeople(interpersonalskills).

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Askillisthelearnedcapacitytocarryoutpredeterminedresults
Alearnedabilitytobringabouttheresultyouwant,withmaximumcertaintyandefficiency
Proficiency,facility,ordexteritythatisacquiredordevelopedthroughtrainingorexperience.
So,aSkillissomethingLearnedinordertobeabletocarryoutoneormorejobfunctions.

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What is a Competency

September2012

Again,thesedefinitionswereextractedfromanumberofdifferentsources:
Aclusterofrelatedabilities,commitments,knowledge,andskillsthatenableaperson(oranorganization)
toacteffectivelyinajoborsituation.
Competenciesrefertoskillsorknowledgethatleadtosuperiorperformance.
Measurableskills,abilitiesandpersonalitytraitsthatidentifysuccessfulemployeesagainstdefinedroles
withinanorganisation
Acompetencyismorethanjustknowledgeandskills.Itinvolvestheabilitytomeetcomplexdemands,by
drawingonandmobilisingpsychosocialresources(includingskillsandattitudes)inaparticularcontext.
Ameasurablepatternofknowledge,skills,abilities,behaviours,andothercharacteristicsthatanindividual
needstoperformworkrolesoroccupationalfunctionssuccessfully.
Competenciesspecifythehow(asopposedtothewhat)ofperformingjobtasks,orwhattheperson
needstodothejobsuccessfully.
Competencies,therefore,mayincorporateaskill,butareMOREthantheskill,theyincludeabilitiesand
behaviours,aswellasknowledgethatisfundamentaltotheuseofaskill.

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An Example
AnexampleofthisinanITcontextisProgramming.Toeffectivelywriteacomputerprogramoneneedsgood
analytical,logical,andinterpretiveabilityaswellastheskilltowritetheprograminaspecificlanguage.So,
learningJava,C++,C#,etc.isaSkill.Butunderlyingtheabilitytousethatskilleffectivelyisanalytical,logical
andinterpretiveabilitythoseareCompetencies.

http://www.talentalign.com/skillsvscompetencieswhatsthedifference/

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4/16/2015

SkillsvsCompetencies.WhatstheDifference?TalentAlign

Thereasonthatwesuggestthisisbecauseitisrelativelyeasytolearnotherprogramminglanguagesonceone
knowsonelanguagewell(andItalkfrompersonalexperience).However,withouttheunderlyingCompetence,
itisvirtuallyimpossibletowriteaneffectiveprogramirrespectiveofthelanguage.

Types of Competencies
Competencieseffectivelyfallinthreegroups:
Behavioural(orLifeSkills)CompetenciesLifeskillsareproblemsolvingbehavioursused
appropriatelyandresponsiblyinthemanagementofpersonalaffairs.Theyareasetofhumanskills
acquiredviateachingordirectexperiencethatareusedtohandleproblemsandquestionscommonly
encounteredindailyhumanlife.Examplesare:Communication,AnalyticalAbility,ProblemSolving,
Initiative,etc.
Functional(orTechnical)CompetenciesFunctionalCompetenciesrelatetofunctions,processes,
androleswithintheorganisationandincludetheknowledgeof,andskillintheexerciseof,practices
requiredforsuccessfulaccomplishmentofaspecificjobortask.Examplesare:ApplicationSystems
Development,NetworkingandCommunication,DatabaseAnalysisandDesign,etc.
ProfessionalCompetenciesProfessionalcompetenciesarecompetenciesthatallowforsuccess
inanorganisationalcontext.Theyaretheacceleratorsofperformanceoriflackinginsufficientstrength
andqualityarethereasonpeoplefailtoexcelinjobs.Examplesare:BusinessEnvironment,Industryand
ProfessionalStandards,Negotiation,PeopleManagement,etc.

Levels of Criticality
InanyorganisationtherearesomeCompetenciesthataremoreimportantthanothers,basedondifferent
criteria:
CoreCompetenciesCorecompetenciesarethosecompetenciesthatany
successfulemployeewillneedtorisethroughtheorganisation.These
Competencieswouldgenerallyrelateinsomewaytothebusinessofthe
organisation.
KeyCompetenciesKeycompetenciescontributetovaluedoutcomesof
theorganisation,definingtheabilitiesofindividualstomeetstrategic
demands,andareimportantnotjustforspecialistsbutforallindividuals.
CriticalCompetenciesCriticalcompetenciesarecompetencieswithoutwhichtheorganisationwillbe
unabletoachieveitsgoalsandstrategy.

Summary
WhenimplementingCompetencyManagementitisimportantthereforetounderstandthedifferencebetween
SkillsandCompetenciesaswellasthedifferenttypesofCompetenciesneededintheorganisation.Itisalso
extremelyimportanttocategorisetheCompetenciessothatinvestmentsincoreHRinitiatives,suchas
Development,WorkforcePlanning,CareerManagement,etc.arebasedoninitiativesthatwilldeliversound
ReturnonInvestment.

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