The Importance of Employee Competency Development

Spring has officially arrived, and as the days get longer, our gardens spill over with flowers, and our upper management offices and HR departments turn lightly to thoughts of growth.

Growth! Productivity! This is the season for a renewed focus on skill development and personal enrichment. Plus the promise of all that these things bring, including swelling revenue streams, new ideas, and burgeoning bottom lines. To make the most of the season and its effect on your employees, it might be time to turn your HR focus to competency development. Great employees are always interested in learning new things and expanding their skill sets, and there’s no better time than the present to provide the resources employees need to increase their value to the company. Here are a few considerations to keep in mind as you move forward.

Employee Core Competencies as an HR Tool

Competency-based assessments are not a new innovation or trend but an overall good practice to adopt. Employee competency assessments have been around long enough to have withstood the test of time and have proven to be a very useful tool for the HR professional’s toolbox. Employee competencies are a list of skills and behaviors that are specific and well defined and are used to lay out an organization’s performance expectations for a job or the organization’s culture as a whole. There are many resources out there for the HR professional to help them develop and customize a list of competencies their organization can call their own[1].

Employee competencies can be used in a variety of ways. They can be integrated into performance appraisals, hiring practices, succession planning, as well as on-boarding orientations and other forms of employee communication. Competencies are a way to address both the technical skills of a job and the more difficult-to-define behavioral expectations of a job – sometimes referred to as the “soft skills.” But, there is nothing soft about these skills and a well-defined set of competencies can help an organization better evaluate and measure employee performance.

Competency Skill Checklist[2]

The actual number of competencies an organization may choose to use varies widely from one organization to the next, but a good rule is between 10 and 20. Some examples of competencies organizations might use would be:

1. Business acumenEmployee Competency Development
2. Emotional stability
3. Interaction with others
4. Problem solving
5. Use of software tools
6. Work ethic

Notice that they are a combination of both skills such as “Business Acumen” and “Use of Software Tools” and behaviors such as “Emotional Stability” and “Work Ethic.” How the employee competency is defined should be determined by how each organization chooses to define it to fit their current work culture or the way they want it to be.

Competency Development: Building the Skills Needed for Success

1. Tailor training resources to the needs of your staff. Before you adopt a training program to bolster existing skills sets and build new ones, you’ll need to have a strong understanding of current employee benchmarks. Managers should know exactly how well-equipped their teams are for certain tasks. They should also know where employees are headed, and what they need in order to get there. Goal setting starts with the annual review process, and meaningful reviews start with solid metrics, excellent record maintenance, and sophisticated review software. Can your software track employee progress across multiple metrics from year to year? If not, it’s time to switch to emPerform.

2. When it comes to training programs, discriminate carefully. Not all training modules are created equal. Once you know what your employees need, do some research and find the training resources that work for your business model, your culture, and your environment. Some modules may seem like they fit the mark, but look closer. Don’t waste budget resources on a program your employees can’t use or won’t retain.

3. Allow your employees to guide the process. Keep communication channels open and encourage managers to do the same. That way you’ll be prepared when employees request specific training and educational resources that can help them meet their personal career goals.

4. Set clear expectations and document progress. Automated solutions, such as emPerform, allow employees and managers to create competency development plans, set expectations, track progress and monitor results. Having a platform for properly documenting competency development not only keeps employees on track, but it sets clear performance goals for employees to follow and gives managers the tools needed to monitor and assess results.


[1] Payscale.com ‘Employee Competency Checklist’ https://blogs.payscale.com/compensation/2010/01/employee-competency-checklist.html

[2] Payscale.com ‘Employee Competency Checklist’ https://blogs.payscale.com/compensation/2010/01/employee-competency-checklist.html