Competence (human resources)
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Competence (or competency) is the ability of an individual to do a job properly. A competency is a set of defined behaviors that provide a structured guide enabling the identification, evaluation and development of the behaviors in individual employees. The term "competence" first appeared in an article authored by R.W. White in 1959 as a concept for performance motivation. Later, in 1970, Craig C. Lundberg defined the concept in "Planning the Executive Development Program". The term gained traction when in 1973, David McClelland, Ph.D. wrote a seminal paper entitled, "Testing for Competence Rather Than for Intelligence". It has since been popularized by one-time fellow McBer & Company (Currently the "Hay Group") colleague Richard Boyatzis and many others, such as T.F. Gilbert (1978) who used the concept in relationship to performance improvement. Its use varies widely, which leads to considerable misunderstanding.
Some scholars see "competence" as a combination of knowledge, skills and behavior used to improve performance; or as the state or quality of being adequately or well qualified, having the ability to perform a specific role. For instance, management competency might include systems thinking and emotional intelligence, and skills in influence and negotiation.
Competency is also used as a more general description of the requirements of human beings in organizations and communities.
Competency is sometimes thought of as being shown in action in a situation and context that might be different the next time a person has to act. In emergencies, competent people may react to a situation following behaviors they have previously found to succeed. To be competent a person would need to be able to interpret the situation in the context and to have a repertoire of possible actions to take and have trained in the possible actions in the repertoire, if this is relevant. Regardless of training, competency would grow through experience and the extent of an individual to learn and adapt.
Competency has different meanings, and continues to remain one of the most diffuse terms in the management development sector, and the organizational and occupational literature.
Dreyfus and Dreyfus on competency development
Dreyfus and Dreyfus introduced nomenclature for the levels of competence in competency development. The causative reasoning of such a language of levels of competency may be seen in their paper on Calculative Rationality titled, "From Socrates to Expert Systems: The Limits and Dangers of Calculative Rationality". The five levels proposed by Dreyfus and Dreyfus were:
- Novice: Rule-based behaviour, strongly limited and inflexible
- Experienced Beginner: Incorporates aspects of the situation
- Practitioner: Acting consciously from long-term goals and plans
- Knowledgeable practitioner: Sees the situation as a whole and acts from personal conviction
- Expert: Has an intuitive understanding of the situation and zooms in on the central aspects
The process of competency development is a lifelong series of doing and reflecting. As competencies apply to careers as well as jobs, lifelong competency development is linked with personal development as a management concept. And it requires a special environment, where the rules are necessary in order to introduce novices, but people at a more advanced level of competency will systematically break the rules if the situations requires it. This environment is synonymously described using terms such as learning organization, knowledge creation, self-organizing and empowerment.
Within a specific organization or professional community, professional competency, is frequently valued. They are usually the same competencies that must be demonstrated in a job interview. But today there is another way of looking at it: that there are general areas of occupational competency required to retain a post, or earn a promotion. For all organizations and communities there is a set of primary tasks that competent people have to contribute to all the time. For a university student, for example, the primary tasks could be:
- Handling theory
- Handling methods
- Handling the information of the assignment
The four general areas of competency are:
- Meaning Competency: The person assessed must be able to identify with the purpose of the organization or community and act from the preferred future in accordance with the values of the organization or community.
- Relation Competency: The ability to create and nurture connections to the stakeholders of the primary tasks must be shown.
- Learning Competency: The person assessed must be able to create and look for situations that make it possible to experiment with the set of solutions that make it possible to complete the primary tasks and reflect on the experience.
- Change Competency: The person assessed must be able to act in new ways when it will promote the purpose of the organization or community and make the preferred future come to life.
McClelland and Occupational Competency
The Occupational Competency movement was initiated by David McClelland in the 1960s with a view to moving away from traditional attempts to describe competency in terms of knowledge, skills and attitudes and to focus instead on the specific self-image, values, traits, and motive dispositions (i.e. relatively enduring characteristics of people) that are found to consistently distinguish outstanding from typical performance in a given job or role. It should be noted that different competencies predict outstanding performance in different roles, and that there is a limited number of competencies that predict outstanding performance in any given job or role. Thus, a trait that is a "competency" for one job might not predict outstanding performance in a different role.
Nevertheless, as can be seen from Raven and Stephenson, there have been important[peacock term] developments in research relating to the nature, development, and assessment of high-level competencies in homes, schools, and workplaces.
Competencies required for a post are identified through job analysis or task analysis, using techniques such as the critical incident technique, work diaries, and work sampling. A future focus is recommended for strategic reasons.
- Competency-based management
- Dunning–Kruger effect, the tendency for incompetent people to grossly overestimate their skills
- List of management topics
- Performance appraisal
- Performance improvement
- Personal development
- Peter principle, the tendency for competent workers to be promoted just beyond the level of their competence
- Professional development
- Seagull manager, management style
- Collin, Audrey (1989). Managers’ Competence: Rhetoric, Reality and Research. Personnel Review, 18, 6, pp. 20 - 25
- Dreyfus, Stuart E.; Dreyfus, Hubert L. (February 1980). A Five-Stage Model of the Mental Activities Involved in Directed Skill Acquisition. Washington, DC: Storming Media. Retrieved June 13, 2010.
- Raven, J., & Stephenson, J. (Eds.). (2001). Competency in the Learning Society. New York: Peter Lang.
- Robinson, M. A. (2010). Work sampling: Methodological advances and new applications. Human Factors and Ergonomics in Manufacturing & Service Industries, 20(1), 42–60. http://dx.doi.org/10.1002/hfm.20186
- Robinson, M. A., Sparrow, P. R., Clegg, C., & Birdi, K. (2007). Forecasting future competency requirements: A three-phase methodology. Personnel Review, 36(1), 65–90. http://dx.doi.org/10.1108/00483480710716722
- Gilbert, T.F. (1978). Human Competence. Engineering Worthy Performance. New York: McGraw-Hill.
- Mulder, M. (2001). Competence Development – Some Background Thoughts. The Journal of Agricultural Education and Extension, 7, 4, 147-159.
- White, R. W. (1959). Motivation reconsidered: The concept of competence. Psychological Review, 66, 5, p. 297-333.
- Shippmann, J. S., Ash, R. A., Battista, M., Carr, L., Eyde, L. D., Hesketh, B., Kehoe, J., Pearlman, K., and Sanchez, J. I. (2000). The practice of competency modeling, Personnel Psychology, 53, 703-740.