Competency Definition

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Words: 2426 |

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13 min read

Published: Oct 31, 2018

Words: 2426|Pages: 5|13 min read

Published: Oct 31, 2018

Those activities and skills judged essential to perform the duties of a specific position (Tas, 1988, p. 41). Competencies specify how to perform job tasks, or what the person needs to do the job successfully. A brief overview of the definition of managerial competencies Perhaps CH. Woodruff defined this problem the best, when in his article: What is meant by a competency he claims that managerial competence is used as an umbrella under which everything fits, what may directly or indirectly relate to job performance. He defines it as "a set of employee behaviors that must be used for the position that the tasks arising from this position competently mastered." According to him, the competent manager must fulfill three basic conditions at the same time to fulfill their tasks.

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These are to:

  1. Possess the knowledge, skills, and abilities, which are needed to this behavior,
  2. Be motivated to this behavior and be willing to spend the necessary energy,
  3. Have the possibility to use this behavior in business environments. ( Kubeš, M., Spillerová, D.&Kurnický, R., 2004).

To understand the concept of managerial competence and it's the practical use, the best contribution is from Boyatzis, R. E.( 1982). According to him, managerial competence consists of two components, which are different from each other. One of them is a task that is necessary to fulfill and the second is the skills that workers must have to fulfill the role at the required level. In other words, we distinguish between what we do and what behavior is needed to fulfill the task in an excellent way. S. Whiddett and S. Hollyford ( 2003), define managerial competencies as "sets of behaviors that enable individuals to demonstrate the effective performance of tasks within the organization." N. Rankin says that "competencies are essentially the definition of expected performance, which should as a whole provide a complete picture of the most valuable behavior, values, and roles required for the success of the organization."

Armstrong .M. & Stephens. T ( 2008) perceive the managerial competence as:

  • "any individual characteristic that can be measured or counted reliably and that can demonstrate the significant distinction between effective and ineffective performance"
  • "basic skill and have facility needed for good work performance"
  • "all personal traits related to the work, knowledge, skills, and values which encourage people to do their job well?. F. Hroník (2007) defines a managerial competence as a "bunch of knowledge, skills, experience, and characteristic, which support the achievement of the objective."

F. Krontorád and M. Trcka (2005), define the concept of managerial competence as "a combination of knowledge, skills, abilities, and behaviors that an employee uses in carrying out their work and they are critical to achieving results which are consistent with the strategic goals of the organization.

According to Lojda J (2011), managerial competence is "the ability of the person (employee) to perform the job, to the required extent and desired quality of a particular job or activity." Managerial competencies also reflect the ability to flexibly react to the changing conditions. In life, we encounter situations where workers are not aware of their managerial competencies, however, they take the view that they have these competencies, even if they do not. The authors of this article argue that managerial competence perceives the ability, which effectively raises the characteristic behavior of the manager, whose results can be achieved above-average performance for the manager position. 10 begin with, the word "competencies" today is a term that has no meaning apart from the particular definition with whom one is speaking (Zemke 1982). Some examples of efforts to define the term from SMEs representing each of the groups in the sampling plan include:

    • "The knowledge, skills, and attributes that differentiate high performers from average performers."
    • "Competencies are not fundamentally different from traditionally defined KSAOs (i.e., knowledge, skills, abilities, and other characteristics )."
    • It is a construct that helps "define the level of skill and knowledge."
    • "Observable, behavioral capabilities that are important for performing- in key responsibilities of a role or job."
    • "Mishmash of knowledge, skills, and abilities and job performance requirements."
    • "I can't."

Some of the more frequently cited definitions from the literature include:

  • A mixture of knowledge, skills, abilities, motivation, beliefs, values, and interests (Fleishman, Wetrogen, Uhlman, & Marshall-Mies, 1995).
  • A knowledge, skill, ability, or characteristic associated with high performance on a job (Mirabile, 1997).
  • A combination of motives, traits, self-concepts, attitudes or values, content knowledge or cognitive behavior skills; any individual characteristic that can be reliably measured or counted and that can be shown to differentiate superior from average performers (Spencer, McClelland, & Spencer, 1994).
  • A written description of measurable work habits and personal skills used to achieve work objectives (Green, 1999).

Again, these definitions were extracted from a number of different sources:

A cluster of related abilities, commitments, knowledge, and skills that enable a person (or an organization) to act effectively in a job or situation. Competencies refer to skills or knowledge that lead to superior performance. Measurable skills, abilities and personality traits that identify successful employees against defined roles within an organization A competency is more than just knowledge and skills. It involves the ability to meet complex demands, by drawing on and mobilizing psychosocial resources (including skills and attitudes) in a particular context. A measurable pattern of knowledge, skills, abilities, behaviors, and other characteristics that an individual needs to perform work roles or occupational functions successfully.

Competencies, therefore, may incorporate a skill but are MORE than the skill, they include abilities and behaviors, as well as the knowledge that is fundamental to the use of a skill.

Conceptual framework

The rise of knowledge on economy and socio-economic transformation of the societies have led knowledge to be the fundamental means of wealth and prosperity (Drucker, 1993; Hope and Hope 1997; Bozbura, 2007). From the business perspective, knowledge seems to be a key factor for organizations’ success in the long run (Mansell and When, 1998; Stewart, 2001; Tat and Hase, 2007). Due to that, leveraging the knowledge resources effectively and efficiently appears to be a vital issue in order to gain the competitive advantage and to ensure the sustainable development for the societies, as well as for the organizations (Nonaka, 1998; Davenport and Prusak, 1998; Storey and Barnett, 2000). In the knowledge economies, there is a shift from task-based approaches to competency-based approaches. Therefore, the popularity of competency management systems has gained a special concern both from practitioners and academicians (Clardy, 2008). Competency management can contribute to organizations knowledge base and increase the knowledge utilization capability of an organization. Hence, it became an important research object in the more general area of knowledge management and is often integrated with learning management systems (Draganidis and Mentas, 2006). Recent studies in this field, clarified that individual competency management is an area of research attracting efforts to leverage personal development, knowledge generation (Abou-Zeid, 2002), development (Bhatt, 2000), sharing (Sveiby, 2001), and utilization (Bender and Fish, 2000), organizational learning, innovation and effectiveness (Malhotra, 2000).

In addition to being regarded as a focal point for planning, organizing, integrating and improving all aspects of knowledge management and human resource development systems. Competency management modeling is also regarded as an approach focused on improving organizational performance. The main objective of this study is to compose a useful individual competency model in services industries based on the “banking model” of employee competencies, which consists of three major dimensions: core competencies, managerial competencies and functional (task-related) competencies (Stephen and Uhles, 2012). Secondly, this study aimed to analyze the effects of the aforementioned dimensions of competencies on individual and organizational performance. Based on the provided data, 2679 questionnaires collected from 30 different companies of services industries in Turkey. The data analysis indicates that there is a positive linear correlation between the aforesaid key dimensions of competencies and both individual and organizational performance.

There is a variety of research that clarifies the relationship between competencies and employees’ job (task) performance (McClelland, 1973; Liu, 200; Dainty, 2004; Levenson, 2006; Ryan,, 2009). For example, findings of’s (2009) study demonstrate the suitability and potential usefulness of their competency-based model that reflects elements of both performance behaviors and outcomes in predicting the performance. Similarly, there is other research (Ryan, 2009; Spencer, 2008) highlighting the validity and utility of competencies in predicting employees’ work performance. Furthermore, there are studies that indicate the effects of certain competencies on individual job performance. For example, Qiao and Wang, (2009) suggest that team-building, communication; coordination, execution, and continual learning are critical competencies for the success of middle managers in China. Likewise, there empirical evidences indicating the relationship between competencies such as HRM (Fleury and Fleury 2005; Liu,, 2005; Collings, 2010, Anwar,, 2012), leadership (Clark and Armit, 2010; Asree, et. al, 2010; Pereira and Gomez, 2012). The relationship between individual competencies and organizational performance is also stated. However, there is less empirical evidence found in this issue (Levenson,, 2006, Ryan, 2009; Gammie and Joyce, 2009). On the other side, despite the increasing tendency in using competency models, there are still some confusion and skepticism about the relationship between competencies and performance. These are mainly because of the difficulties in assessment of competencies (Currie and Darby, 1995) and the complex and lengthy process required for identifying the appropriate competency performance relationship (Vakola, et. al., 2007). In addition to that organizational performance has many dimensions, yet it is not easy to connect individual competencies to organizational performance (Liu, et. al., 2005; Vakola 2007).

The concept of “competency” is a confusing term and particularly mixed up with “skill”. It is mainly because different terms have often been used interchangeably. From the management perspective, competencies are defined by two main streams: organizational or personal. Human Resource Management (HRM) literature focuses on the individual competencies. McClelland (1973) used the term as a symbol for an alternative approach to traditional intelligence testing. According to the author, competence is a characteristic trait of a person that is related to superior performance and a demonstration of particular talents in practice and application of knowledge required to perform a job. Boyatzis (2008) also analyzed managerial competencies and defined competencies as an underlying characteristic of a person that could be a motive, trait, skill, aspect of one’s self-image, social role, or a body of knowledge which he or she uses. These characteristics are revealed in observable and identifiable patterns of behavior, related to job performance and usually include knowledge, skill, and abilities. In another definition, competencies are specified as a mean of ‘being able to perform a work role to a defined standard with reference to real working environments’. It is generally seen as “a cluster of related knowledge, skills, and attitudes that affects a major part of one’s job (a role or responsibility), that correlates with performance on the job, that can be measured against well-accepted standards, and that can be improved via training and development” (Özçelik and Ferman, 2006). Dingle (1995), adds awareness to this definition. According to Dingle, competence is a combination of knowledge, skill, and awareness. In this definition, knowledge refers to the understanding of fundamental principles required to accomplish the task in hand, skill refers to the application of this understanding and awareness refers to the proper application of skill, in accordance with professional and corporate “good practice”. In addition, Pate (2003), distinguish individual competencies from the epistemological standpoint as rationalist and objectivist. From a rationalist perspective, competence is a specific set of attributes used in performing a job. In the rationalist perspective there is a distinction between job and worker. Thus, job oriented side of competence is associated with characteristics of high performing employee such as motives traits and social skills that can be learned through education, experience or vocational training. A task-oriented aspect of competence, on the contrary, deals with the behavior of particular individuals and how they act in the organizational environment. From the subjectivist perspective, worker and work are considered as one entity. Accordingly, competency is composed of a person’s experiences and personality combined with job-related factors that stem from the formal and informal organization. Hence, this approach focuses on the interaction between the individual and the job, thereby, taking into account what the individual brings to the job and the characteristics of the job itself. Behavioral Competencies Life skills are problem-solving behaviors used appropriately and responsibly in the management of personal affairs. They 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. Examples are Communication, Analytical Ability, Problem Solving, Initiative, etc.

There are nine behavioral competencies, split into three overarching groups: Working with others, Delivering Results and Focusing on the Future. Each-competency has a descriptor to give an overview of what it means. Each of the overarching areas contains three competencies, each split into four levels of achievement.

Functional (or Technical) Competencies Functional Competencies relate to functions, processes, and roles within the organization and include the knowledge of, and skill in the exercise of, practices required for successful accomplishment of a specific job or task. Examples are Application Systems Development, Networking, and Communication, Database Analysis and Design, etc. Professional Competencies are competencies that allow for success in an organizational context. They are the accelerators of performance or – if lacking in sufficient strength and quality – are the reason people fail to excel in jobs. Examples are Business Environment, Industry and Professional Standards, Negotiation, People Management, etc.

The OECD proposes three categories of competencies needed to operate successfully in the knowledge economy:

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  • Acting autonomously: building and exercising a sense of self, making choices and acting in the context of a larger picture, being oriented toward the future, being aware of the environment, understanding how one fits in, exercising one’s rights and responsibilities, determining and executing a life plan, planning and carrying out personal projects.
  • Using tools interactively: using tools as instruments for an active dialogue; being aware of new tools; accommodating to the potential of new tools; being able to use language, text, symbols, information, and knowledge, and technology interactively to accomplish goals.

Functioning in socially heterogeneous groups:

  • being able to interact effectively with other people, including those from different backgrounds; recognizing the social embeddedness of individuals;
  • creating social capital ;
  • being able to relate well to others, to cooperate, and to manage and resolve the conflict
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Competency definition. (2018, October 26). GradesFixer. Retrieved June 13, 2024, from
“Competency definition.” GradesFixer, 26 Oct. 2018,
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