Identifying and Utilizing Employee Core Competencies

by Candice Wolken - May 3, 2019
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Understanding core competencies required for a role is critical for human resources professionals throughout an employee’s journey. From the hiring process, to performance appraisal, to succession planning, the best way to know how to measure an employee’s success is to match core competencies of the role to the job.

What Are Examples of Core Competencies?

Employee core competencies include the skills, knowledge, and capabilities needed to be successful in a job. An employee core competencies list might include:

  • Adaptability
  • Computer proficiency
  • Industry expertise
  • Detail-oriented
  • Problem solving
  • Team building
  • Creativity

Types of Competencies

Competencies can represent a very specific skill, such as proficiency in specialized computer software. They can also reflect a quality or way of performing in a job, such as paying close attention to detail.

When identifying the core competencies for a job, an organization’s culture should also be considered. What are the behaviors your organization wants to invest in to help achieve company goals? One way to express these is through core competencies.

Key Core Competencies for Employees Are a Useful Tool

Employee core competencies are useful in a wide variety of ways to help your organization motivate employees and achieve goals. Examples include:

  • Job descriptions – When documenting core competencies, you should provide detail that will help the employee understand that competency in the specific context of your organization. For example, a core competency of “adaptability” might be described as the ability to easily adapt to and accept change in a fast-paced startup environment.
  • Performance appraisals – When core competencies are well-documented, the employee’s performance assessment can then include how they are performing against those competencies. This can be especially valuable when an employee may need coaching in a “soft skills” area that would not have otherwise been covered in their job description.
  • Hiring decisions – When recruiting for an opening, knowing the core competencies needed for the job can be helpful in many areas. You can form behavioral interview questions around core competencies and compare candidates relative to their soft skills and hard skills. For instance, you could use competencies to evaluate whether a candidate lacking some technical skills may still be successful in the job based on having ample industry experience and proven problem solving skills.
  • Succession planning – When you consider employees who may be candidates for succeeding another incumbent in a job, it’s a good idea to keep core competencies in mind. While a candidate may have the technical skills needed, you must consider whether they have other competencies needed for their potential future job. If not, consider how your organization could help them gain experience with those core competencies.

Once you’ve identified the core competencies needed for a specific position, communicating them throughout an employee’s journey will provide benefit for both the employee and the organization as a whole, helping all parties achieve their goals.

Download Job Description Examples and Templates:

Download our Job Description Examples and Templates as a starting point for documenting employee core competencies.

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