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Guide to Competencies to Prepare You for the Future of Work

Competency models are frameworks that act as guides for governments, schools, colleges, universities, employers, students, employees, and job seekers. Industry-specific competency models are produced by government agencies and trade groups to provide a starting point for the other stakeholders. Competency models are formulated for different industry sectors, roles, jobs, careers, or job groups. By expressing the specific skills and knowledge requirements of an industry, they create the roadmap for career growth. Organizations then use these industry models to produce their versions of the model. These models help us clearly express the behaviors, capabilities, knowledge, skills, and abilities required for jobs. Job seekers can prepare themselves for their industry of choice by using publicly available competency models. Learning and development content creators can use these models to create relevant training courses. Industry competency models also inform the competencies required for licenses, credentials, and certifications. Employees can upskill to be up-to-date with industry expectations for their role.

Macro View

As the diagram below shows a competency model brings many uses and benefits.

National and regional governments use industry models to inform their policy and funding decisions. Schools, colleges, and universities use models to drive curricular and the competencies required to win a credential. As stakeholder Awarding bodies are key. Awarding bodies are also known as test publishers or certification authorities. Awarding bodies use models to define the competencies requires for the certification programs that might be used to documents qualifications and grant credentials.

Competency models underpin critical HR functions such as writing job descriptions, recruiting, interviewing candidates, learning programs, employee development, performance management, selection, promotion, upskilling, certification, and so on.

Finally, individuals use competency models to inform their career choices.

Competency models are dynamic

Competency models are not stagnant management models. Industry and business experts regularly update these models based on economic, business, and technology changes. Competency models must remain current to inform stakeholders. Industry competency models provide governments, and regional economies, insights into trends to develop strategies, policies, and funding to grow the talent pool required for prosperity.

A Competency Model is a collection of defined competencies is known as a competency model. A competency describes what an individual should know and do to perform a specific role or a task. These are used to define one or more job roles within an industry or a particular organization.

Behaviors vs. Capabilities

There are two broad categories of competencies; behaviors define how an individual should behave, and capabilities represent what an individual should know or be able to do.

The actual number of behavioral competencies referenced with a competency model varies from organization to organization but is in the order of 4 to 15.

Capabilities define knowledge, skills, and abilities that an individual must be able to use to complete a task successfully. Sometimes granular levels of details define capabilities, and in some models, only high-level definitions are documented. The number of capabilities referenced with a competency model can range from tens to hundreds.

Competencies serve as a standard and define how to assess and measure performance via differentiating levels such as “Needs Improvement or Support”, “Meets Expectation”, and “Exceeds Expectation.” A good competency definition includes:

  1. Behaviors and capabilities required

  2. Defined benchmarks used to measure the competency

  3. Conditions in which an individual will have to perform

  4. Learning and development opportunities

Competence describes an individual’s ability to perform a specific role or a task successfully within a predefined workplace setting.

Defining a Behavioral Competency

While a competency definition may assume many forms, they always have some shared elements such as the “Competency Name” and “Competency Definition.” For example, a behavioral competency:

  • Competency Name: Teamwork

  • Competency Definition: To be able to complete tasks while coordinating and collaborating with others

Each competency will have a list of desired behaviors outlining the desired abilities and assessment criteria. For example, the desired list of activities for teamwork might be:

  • Staying committed toward the teams’ goals.

  • Facilitating team interaction.

  • Focusing on teams’ goals.

  • Ability to delegate and utilizing each other’s strengths to complete tasks.

  • Mitigating weaknesses by collaborating.

  • Handling conflicts effectively.

  • Staying open to group opinions and suggestions.

  • Motivating group members to submit ideas.

  • Supporting and following group decisions.

  • Effective handling of work-style differences.

Some competency models also contain information regarding the level of mastery required at different organizational and occupational standards. They inform the abilities to be demonstrated to achieve each level of competence. Such information helps create learning and development content and performance measurement. A competency definition typically contains the standards which are used to measure “Needs Support”, “Meets Expectation” and “Exceeds Expectation” performances.

Defining a Capability Competency

A capability competence establishes the knowledge, skills, and abilities to perform a task. Just as with a behavioral competency, these competency definitions also have a “Competency Name” and “Competency Definition.” For example, a capability competency:

  • Competency Name: Install and Configure a Model XL Router

  • Competency Definition: Given a functioning Model XL Router install it within a 19” rack and configure for route IP traffic securely on an internal network

For this capability, a list of tasks would be specified; for example:

  • Determine that the work area is safe.

  • Determine if the new router is to be installed in a “hot” or “cold” rack.

  • Take the necessary precautions if the router is to be installed in a hot rack.

  • Install the router into the rack safely and securely.

  • Apply power to the rack and ensure that it powers up correctly.

  • Using configuration software to ensure that the router passes all internal diagnostic tests.

  • Using configuration software to configure and route IP traffic securely on an internal network.

  • Insert network cables and run security tests to ensure the router is performing correctly.

A capability competency definition will typically contain the levels which are used to measure “Needs Support”, “Meets Expectation” and “Exceeds Expectation” performances. In this example, the individual’s actual performance might be determined by a supervisor or by using virtual reality.

Effective and Targeted Learning

Competency definitions often specify the learning needs of a person who is currently below the expected performance level. By following the learning guidelines laid out by a competency, an individual can access a targeted learning opportunity that allows him to upgrade himself to above expectation or meets expectation performance levels.

Competency Models and Upskilling

Individuals today must continuously upgrade their skills, adapt to, and learn to stay relevant in the job market and provide the necessary skills organizations need to remain in operation. This constant need for improvement is driven by competition at the global level, massive technological changes, and the need for environment-friendly and sustainable solutions. These factors affect the economy directly, and businesses are supporting these trends.

Under such a climate, employers, the government, and the education system are motivated to come together to perform the following critical functions:

  1. Develop industry-specific and open competency models.

  2. Create an education system that is adaptive to the fast-changing world of business.

  3. Decrease income inequality.

  4. Increase workers’ salaries.

  5. Train and prepare workers for better job opportunities.

  6. Allow low-wage workers to upskill and find better jobs.

  7. Develop capabilities and behavioral skills to allow workers to succeed in the 4th industrial revolution.

  8. Help workers succeed in gaining entry into the emerging and fast-growing sectors such as the “alternate energy” industry.

Of course, these responsibilities go hand in hand where one cannot be achieved without the other. Unless someone documents and publishes the skillset and aptitude necessary for high-skill positions, educators would not be able to create curricula and guidance systems to prepare potential workers. Competency models provide the framework for this documentation. Business and industry experts come together to develop comprehensive industry competency models. These models document in great detail the desired skillset for crucial economic sectors and emerging high-growth industries.

When properly formulated, these industry competency models serve as reference frameworks that provide the interconnectedness between governments, academia, employers, and individuals. These models allow employers to define clear job descriptions and describe the topics for upskilling. They help prepare curricula, guidelines, and assessments required to measure the behaviors and capabilities required to perform the tasks of the job. By providing information on the desired credentials and licenses needed to fulfill the competencies, the models offer a clear pathway for career progression and growth.