Core Competencies – The Compass to Guide Your Work

Does your company have defined values? Do you find it hard to reinforce these values and encourage your people to live and breathe them?

You are not alone. A recent study by MIT Sloan Management Review found that there is no correlation between a company’s values and how well they actually live up to those values. There seems to be a gap between what companies say they value and what their culture actually shows they value.

This is not entirely surprising given how most company values are written – in a somewhat vague and ambiguous way. For example, it’s not uncommon to see values such as “Customer first” and “Be Resilient.” What do these values look like exactly? How does an individual contributor know they are being resilient? How does a leader know they are putting the customer first? If people don’t know what these values look like in action, how can they be expected to live up to them?

One way to make your values and their associated behaviours crystal clear is to align them to core competencies. Core competencies refer to those competencies that apply to every job within the company and are linked to the vision and/or values of the company. For example, if “Team spirit” is one of your company’s values, then a Teamwork core competency might be essential for every role within your organization.

This teamwork core competency would include specific, measurable, and actionable behaviours that highlight what successful teamwork looks like across your organization, from more entry-level positions (e.g., like an individual contributor role) up to higher-level positions (e.g., like a VP role). For example, at an entry-level people might be expected to “share relevant information with team members” and “seek out opportunities to collaborate and exchange ideas.” Whereas in more senior positions people might be expected to “Advise team members on how to resolve differences” and “Provide teams with the resources and opportunities they need to achieve their goals.”