Skills Management

How to Create a Competency Definition for Your Organization

A competency definition works as the foundation for skill requirements to specify the knowledge, skills and abilities necessary for success at work.


Helping clients write out competency definitions is one of the most important roles I play, while helping clients automate their talent management strategy.  Below are some of the tips and tricks I have learned along the way.

What is a competency definition?

A competency framework is the ability to implement or utilize a set of related knowledge, skills, and abilities needed to effectively carry out “critical work functions” or duties within an identified work environment.

Competencies often work as the foundation for skill specifications that specify the degree of knowledge, skills, and abilities necessary for success at work along with possible measurement criteria for evaluating competency definition attainment.

What is the difference between a competency and a learning goal?

Competencies determine the utilized skills and knowledge that enable individuals to effectively conduct their work while learning goals tend to be distinct to a course of training. Competencies are related to an individual’s work responsibilities, roles and abilities. These are generally a way to validate that a learner has in reality learned what was designed within the learning goals.

Learning goals on the other hand explain what the learner must be able to accomplish at the conclusion of a learning period. Learning goals ought to be specific, quantifiable statements and written in behavioral terminology. In a nutshell, goals state what we should want the individuals to understand and competencies state how you could be certain they will understand it.

The following is an example of competencies and learning goals and how the inter-relate:

Competency Definition for a spreadsheet:

  • Use standard formulas and functions, format and modify content, and demonstrate competence in creating and formatting spreadsheets, graphs, or charts

Learning goals from a training course that pertain to the competency spreadsheet:

  1. Indicate the names and functions of the Excel interface components.
  2. Enter and edit data.
  3. Format data and cells.
  4. Construct formulas, including the use of built-in functions, and relative and absolute references.
  5. Create and modify charts.
  6. Preview and print worksheets.

How to write a competency definition:

  1. Start with a present tense action verb. (Example: Transform standard references to absolute references.)
  2. Every action verb needs an object. (Example: Recognize cell errors.) (Verb followed by object)
  3. Every competency definition is quantifiable and/or observable. (Example: Explain common methods creating a chart.)
  4. Each competency definition will be based on overall performance. (Example: Assess spreadsheet function validity testing values against know outcomes.)
  5. Do not utilize evaluative or relative adjectives. (Never utilize terms like good, successful, suitable.)


If you follow these simple rules as you write out your competency definitions, your framework will be bound for success.

Below is a list of blog articles that will supplement your knowledge in building out competency frameworks

As always if you have any question please feel free to reach out to me here at SkillsDB.


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