Quality Competencies

5 Signs that your Competencies are Bad Quality

Competencies come in all shapes and sizes. Some are good and some are not so good. With the variety and number of competencies on the market, it can be hard to know what good quality competencies look like.

Let’s look at some examples of competencies that you will want to avoid.

1. They are too vague
Why is this a problem? Do your competencies include only a name and a 1-2 sentence definition? If yes, then chances are your competencies are hard for employees to understand. They are too open to interpretation and therefore are not good quality competencies.

Examples of vague definitions:

  • Is an experienced communicator
  • Communication: Shares information with others using a variety of communication formats.

2. They only have one level
Why is this a problem? Do your competencies only have one level of behaviours? If yes, then you are actually making things more complicated. You will need to create different versions of the same competency to describe success across the range of jobs in your company.

Example of bad quality one-level competency:
Bad One-level Competency

3. They are too long
Why is this a problem? Do your competencies have 6 example behaviours per stage of development? What about 7 or 10? If you answered yes, then they are too long and are not good quality competencies. Imagine trying to measure yourself against a list of 10 things! Examples should focus on the most critical behaviours. This way they are easy to understand and easy to use.

Example of bad competency that is too long:
Bad Long Competency

4. They are outdated
Why is this a problem? Do your competencies talk about specific software/technology or focus on specific tasks? If the answer is yes, then your competencies will need to be updated often. People may also resist using them if they can’t relate to them.

Examples of outdated tasks:

  • Uses communication technology, such as Microsoft Word 2018 and fax machines (is this still a thing?).
  • Applies an understanding of the Ontario Humans Rights Code, section x to…

5. They aren’t measurable
Why is this a problem? Can you directly observe someone doing the behaviour? If the answer is no, then you can’t measure someone against that competency. If you can’t objectively measure someone against the behaviours then you can’t use them to make hiring or performance decisions. This is a key sign of a poor quality competency.

Examples of unmeasurable tasks:

  • Demonstrates the ability to think outside the box.
  • Develops team spirit.


What Should You Look for in a Quality Competency?

It can seem complicated. But it doesn’t have to be. Just remember that when looking for competencies, quality competencies are the ones that:

  • Have a clear name and definition.
  • Have at least 4 stages of development.
  • Provide 3-4 sample behaviours per stage of development.
  • Are observable – You can answer the question, I know it when I see it?