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Well-designed and implemented competency frameworks, sometimes referred to as models, provide metrics for selecting talent, developing individuals’ skills, and evaluating their performance equitably.

Without frameworks that reflect their values and align with their objectives, organizations are likely to place people in inappropriate roles, miss growth goals, and see declines in employee engagement and customer loyalty.

Clear competency definitions that align with an organization’s priorities and set accurate expectations for specific job roles help embed its vision and values into its expectations of employees’ capabilities and behaviors.

What is a Competency Framework?

As explained in Talent Transformation: Develop Today’s Team for Tomorrow’s World of Work, organizations group individual competency definitions into competency frameworks that describe the required knowledge, skills, abilities, behaviors, and experiences employees need to succeed.

Competency definitions describe the required performance environment—the physical setting in which an individual or team performs a task, including elements such as information, job aids, tools, workspace, air quality, noise level, and lighting—and the levels of potential performance. These definitions explain what’s needed to perform successfully in a role; they help us understand what we need to measure to determine if someone is suitable for that role.

A competency framework that incorporates well-defined competencies provides a useful reference point for other talent management functions:

What are the Benefits?

A well-designed competency framework helps stakeholders at every level of an organization:

Senior leaders gain a reliable basis for talent decisions about who should fill available positions and what their organization’s strategic development requires. These frameworks, which align HR’s strategies with those of the entire organization, can be revised and clarified to meet changing priorities.

Managers obtain critical targets for talent acquisition, development, evaluation, and reskilling. Managers who adhere to these frameworks can confirm that their decisions are fair and match up with the rest of the organization.

Employees at all levels learn how to achieve desired results in their current role and prepare for the future roles they want.

The HR Team gets a roadmap for building and connecting talent management systems, with competency profiles at their fingertips for recruitment, onboarding, performance appraisal, and professional development.

Using Competency Frameworks

Popular applications of competency frameworks include:


Organizations that clearly define the skills, capabilities, and behaviors they need for specific roles are far more likely to fill positions quickly and appropriately than those who don’t pin down these details. Participating in interviews and assessments that align with competency frameworks helps new hires understand what their jobs will require and prepare for what’s ahead.

Learning and Development

Competency frameworks offer a roadmap for assessing performance, providing feedback, prescribing learning programs, and charting future professional development plans.

Succession Management

Leaders seeking talent to fulfill organizational goals need clear standards for assessing individuals at all levels. Data from assessments that reflect those goals make it possible to pinpoint talent gaps and identify individuals’ suitability for particular roles.

Performance Management

By articulating the skills, capabilities, and behaviors that bring success, competency frameworks give leaders and managers road maps for how to create performance plans that achieve desired objectives and outcomes.

Career Planning

Employees and managers who stay informed about critical skillsets and mindsets for job success can chart practical professional development plans and prepare knowledgeably for what’s next.

Cultivating Organizational Culture