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Competency Audit. Are My Competencies Good Competencies?

There are a variety of competency models and types of competencies available on the market today. With all the variability it can be difficult to know what is “good quality” and what is “not so good quality.”

Regardless of the format or structure of your competencies, quality competencies should at a minimum include the following 3 elements.

1. Competency Name

The name or title of the competency should describe what the competency is called, ideally using 1-2 words (e.g., Problem Solving, Innovation).

2. Definition

The definition should describe what the competency means and provide an overview of the expected behaviours covered by the competency. We recommend starting the definition with a verb to ensure that the competency is actionable and observable.

3. Example Behaviours

Example behaviours contain the key aspects of the competency and should define the key observable behaviours that someone needs to demonstrate to be proficient in their role. Good example behaviours are those that:

  1. Begin with one, and only one verb. That is, focus on one single action rather than multiple actions. 
    • Correct: Creates challenging and realistic learning goals. 
    • Incorrect: Creates, measures, and provides feedback on learning goals. 
    • Incorrect: Goals are made with challenging and realistic intentions.  
  2. Are observable. That is, you should be able to see someone doing it.  
    • Correct: Tries new ways of doing things, adjusting approach based on lessons learned.  
    • Incorrect: Demonstrates an open mindset to learning new things.  
  3. Do not include unnecessary adverbs (e.g., effectively, successfully).  
    • Correct: Identifies own learning style and preferences for learning. 
    • Incorrect: Identifies own learning style accurately and preferences for learning effectively.  
    • Incorrect: Successfully and quickly identifies own learning style and preferences for learning.


To learn more about best practices in using competencies, check out our Using Competencies in HR Toolkit!