Skills Management

Skills & Competencies, Similar but Different

Skills are a good place to start but the real focus has to be on competency development. Although they sound similar, they are very different.


It is a known fact that for any organization to grow, its workforce needs to grow as well. But organizations usually focus on developing just the skills of their employees. In today’s day and age, it has become clear that our focus needs to shift towards competencies. Only then can we ensure a holistic development of our workforce. Let us be clear, Skills and Competencies are similar but yet very different. 

How are they similar?

Skills and competencies are similar to the extent that they can determine the ability of a person. An ability that the person has acquired with experience and training. Skills are basically defined as specific learned tasks or activities where people are evaluated on a binary scale. Either you have a skill or you don’t. But this is where the similarities end.

How are they different?

Skills will tell you if a person has it or not. But in addition to that, skills provide little to no additional information. Competencies, on the other hand, can be rated on a scale e.g. person x is either beginner, regular, expert, etc. The position of a person on this scale is measured based on the 3 distinct parameters: skills, knowledge, abilities.

What should organizations focus on?

Skills evaluation is a good place to start, no doubt. However, the focus has to be on a comprehensive evaluation of its employees. An organization has to look towards competencies and competency frameworks. The 3 parameters namely skills, knowledge, and abilities are the foundation of any competency framework.

How should organizations go about using a competency framework?

To efficiently implement a competency framework in the organization, HR needs to encapsulate the 3 said parameters in all their processes related to hiring and employee development. 

Certain parameters of competency need to be finalized for particular job roles. Consequently, people need to be hired based on the fulfillment of these parameters. Further, they should be probed during the interview process to establish their competency levels.

For existing employees, organizations need to first classify them based on their current competencies. Once we know the current capability of our workforce, we can then develop learning plans to increase their competency levels. Competency management is essential for developing a system of employee development.

Why do we need competencies?

Every organization wants to realize its vision and mission. Competency-based evaluation and development systems, help shape this vision and mission into deliverable actions. Further, these systems develop behaviors for their individual employees which will eventually result in the achievement of the goals. Competency-based recruitment, evaluation, and career development will enable organizations in tackling the dynamism of ever-evolving job markets. Organizations will develop the best talent in-house and when required, hire the best person from outside. Thus, it enables organizations to improve upon employee’s abilities and build leaders from within, first and foremost.

Organizations that follow competencies based recruitment and career development, will be better able to

  • Plan for future
  • Develop leadership
  • Retain talent
  • Hire the right people
  • Derive higher effectiveness & efficiency from its workforce
  • Adapt to market changes

What are competency frameworks and competency architecture?

A competency framework is a competency plan, implemented by an organization to achieve its goals and objectives. It comprises of the goals of the system, competencies, competency architecture, competency profiles, the competency initiative, including the standards and processes for determining its success.

A competency architecture is a part of the competency framework. It is similar to a blueprint that will be standardized across the organization. Organizations will be able to achieve consistency and reliability while evaluating employees. It consists of 3 types of competencies:

  1. Core competencies that are common across the organization.
  2. Job family competencies relate to competencies that are unique to certain job families.
  3. Job-specific competencies focus on specific jobs and certain unique competencies which are relevant to them.

For example: Having behavioral competencies like the ability to listen, learn and adapt are some of the core competencies in any organization. Further, competencies related to handling equipment and training personnel on the shop floor can be classified as job family competencies. Finally, competencies like Quality control are some of the job-specific competencies.

How to apply the competency framework in an organization?

Organizations need to evaluate and decide on the most efficient and effective way to implement the competency framework they have designed. SkillsDB is a good place to start implementing a competency framework. SkillsDB helps create job roles and their respective competencies either from its massive library or via custom creation of skills and competencies.

Please go to SkillsDB to set up a free 1-on-1 demo to better understand and implement your competency framework.

How competencies improve HR processes?

For starters, competencies help bring consistency in evaluating employees. HR will hire or assigned a job role to an employee only when the minimum competencies or core competencies are present.

We might have different ways to ascertain abilities. We might be requiring different proficiency levels for different job roles. Competencies bring about consistency in evaluating employees for the same job role across regions. It also helps in demystifying the level of proficiency required for particular job roles.

Competencies help bring structure to the whole process. It enables HR to create simple structures of evaluation which in turn help to create a reliable and accurate description of employee proficiency.

It is one of the best tools to promote and implement employee learning and development. Employees are able to view their proficiency under different skills and competencies. Employees can choose what kind of role they want in the future and what skills and competencies they need to develop to reach their goals.

 Why are competencies more important and useful than skills?

Competencies are much more detailed and demanding than Skills. Unless an employee has the knowledge and abilities in addition to the skills, their true worth cannot be determined. Competencies help in creating a standardized framework for recruiting the right talent, evaluating the right skills for the job role, and developing the employee’s abilities for future growth and development.

All this becomes very easy with SkillsDBPro.

Also Read: How to best Implement a Competency-Based Training Program

Also Read: Good people will leave you! How can a good succession plan help?

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