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Types of Competencies and When to Use Them

There are four main types of competencies that can be used to describe successful job performance for the roles within your organization. The four types include:

    • Core Competencies
    • Job Family Competencies
    • Job Specific Competencies
    • Leadership Competencies



    These four types of competencies can be used in any combination to describe the roles within your organization. For example, some organizations that are implementing competencies for the first time may opt to only use core competencies for now, in an effort to align all employees to the organization’s core values. Organizations with a more sophisticated competency framework may use a combination of all four types of competencies.

    Below, we define each type of competency and explain why you may want to include them within your competency framework.

    Core Competencies

    Core competencies apply to every job within the organization and are often linked to the vision and/or values of the organization. For example, if being innovative and creative is a critical value of the organization, Innovation may be a core competency that is essential for every role across the entire organization and would be found in each competency profile. These competencies also help to link all employees’ behaviour to the goals of the organization. For example, if one of the goals of the organization is to be number one in their market when it comes to customer service, then making sure that everyone is focused on customer-centric behaviours becomes very important.
    Why use core competencies? Core competencies can be a way to bring your organizational values to life, give them meaning, and make them observable and measurable. You may wish to consider using them if you are looking for ways to hire people and keep people that share the organization’s values and culture. They can also be linked to the organization’s goals.

    Job Family Competencies

    Job family competencies apply to a subset or grouping of jobs within the organization that share a common function or logical career stream. For example, an organization could have an IT job family that includes a Problem-Solving job family competency, because problem solving is critical to all jobs within the IT job family.
    Why use job family competencies? Job family competencies can align employees within a career stream and can help make the transitions between roles within that family easier. They can also be tied to the achievement of area goals as they are the behaviours that help employees to achieve those key area performance indicators.

    Job Specific Competencies

    Job specific competencies apply to a specific job or subset of jobs. For example, an IT Project Manager role could require a Project Management competency, whereas an IT Support Desk role might not require project management but perhaps an IT Troubleshooting competency instead.
    Why use job specific competencies? Job specific competencies get at the specific requirements for a job ensuring a proper fit between the employee and the job, and in turn results in more targeted talent management (e.g., selection and development). These types of competencies can also be tied to the achievement of individual goals or key performance indicators.

    Leadership Competencies

    Leadership competencies apply to roles with leadership responsibilities. These competencies define behaviours that focus on what it takes to provide vision, set strategy, act with integrity, and help support others to set and reach their goals. Typically, smaller organizations where leaders are highly involved in the day-to-day operations treat leadership competencies as job specific competencies, whereas larger organizations interested in developing a cadre of leaders treat leadership competencies as job family competencies.
    Why use leadership competencies? Leadership competencies can help to develop the cadre of leaders and help identify high potential employees within the company.