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Factsheet:

Competence and competency frameworks

Resource summary

This factsheet was last updated in Augus 2014.

What are competence and competency frameworks?

'Competency' and ‘competencies’ may be defined as the behaviours (and, where appropriate, tehnical attributes) that individuals must have, or must acquire, to perform effectively at work – that is, the terms focus on the personal attributes or inputs of the individual.

'Competence' and ‘competences’ are broader concepts that encompass demonstrable performance outputs as well as behaviour inputs, and may relate to a system or set of minimum standards required for effective performance at work.

A ‘competency framework’ is a structure that sets out and defines each individual competency (such as problem-solving or people management) required by individuals working in an organisation or part of an organisation.

In the past, HR professionals have tended to draw a clear distinction between 'competences' and 'competencies'. The term ‘competence’ (competences) was used to describe what people need to do to perform a job and was concerned with effect and output rather than effort and input. ‘Competency’ (competencies) described the behaviour that lies behind competent performance, such as critical thinking or analytical skills, and described what people bring to the job. However, in recent years, there has been growing awareness that job performance requires a mix of behaviour, attitude and action and hence the two terms are now more often used interchangeably.

In line with the approach developed in a number of CIPD publications, including Competency frameworks in UK organisations, the term 'competency' is preferred in this factsheet except when specifically referring to the use of occupational standards (that is, an 'outcome-based' approach) in which case the term 'competence' is used.

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  • What are competence and competency frameworks?
  • Basic principles of competency
  • Developing a competency framework
  • The practical use of competencies
  • Strengths and weaknesses
  • CIPD viewpoint
  • References
  • Further reading.

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