competency frameworks

Competency-based interviews are the most common selection method across all sectors. Competency frameworks are increasingly popular, as they can support high organisational performance through individual capability and potential.

Competency frameworks originally measured the behaviours or ‘soft skills’ employers want but have evolved to include technical skills. All skills and behaviours included should have the capacity to be measured. The Chartered Institute for Personnel and Development (CIPD) recommends that no more than 12 elements – preferably fewer – should be included for any role, with an explanation and example(s) of each included.

The amount of detail included is important: if requirements are too general, they risk becoming meaningless and, arguably, not measurable; but if they are too detailed, they become excessively bureaucratic and as a result, may lose credibility. Increasingly, competency frameworks look at employees’ strengths and match those strengths to types of work that enhance individual performance. 

In an environment of digital technology, robotics and automation, employers are realising that hard skills are far easier to automate than soft skills like communication, empathy, creativity and leadership. Equally, as the workforce ages and a wider age range must work together, skills to facilitate collaboration and two-way mentoring feature in the mix.

The ten most popular headings in a competency framework include:

  • team orientation
  • communication
  • people management
  • customer focus
  • result orientation
  • problem-solving
  • planning and organising
  • technical skills
  • leadership
  • business awareness.

It is important to ensure that required competencies do not breach state equality and discrimination acts and that organisations do not solely look at what an employee has achieved in the past, but also at what they are capable of achieving in the future. Competency frameworks should be regularly reviewed so they keep pace with organisational needs.

essential soft skills

When job descriptions talk about ‘soft skills’, the list has tended to be headed by communication, presentation and leadership. In a time of rapidly changing markets, a further set of skills is now coming to the fore. These include the creativity needed to forge new ideas and lead the market and the flexibility and adaptability needed to respond to fast-changing demands.

A recent Randstad survey conducted in the UK (perhaps link the Uk survey here?) asked 19,000 working-age adults what they believed were their most important soft skills:

  • 20% rated their creative and problem-solving skills
  • 16% adaptability and flexibility
  • 14% persistence, perseverance and patience
  • 8% leadership and the ability to inspire others
  • 8% communication and presentation skills.

It’s telling that creativity, flexibility and adaptability are the attributes job-seekers want to promote about themselves. Some believe that ‘softer’ traits are innate, although training can be beneficial. On a communication course, for instance, the importance of listening and empathising may be emphasised, which can enhance the skills of many. 

How people are organised, managed and incentivised is a key part of engagement. Many organisations now stress the importance of giving all staff time to put forward and develop new ideas, rather than just people in dedicated departments like product design or R&D teams. They are also promoting greater staff autonomy as a way to boost flexibility, for example in giving call centre staff sufficient licence to meet a customer’s request or sort out a problem, rather than constantly having to refer issues up the line.

The attitude of line management is crucial in promoting the necessary soft skills. Being pivotal to how an organisation is run, they can be an aid or a barrier to creativity, flexibility and adaptability. As staff become more empowered, a lot of organisations now emphasise the importance of line managers being good coaches and good listeners, rather than just vocal leaders. Indeed, learning to let go may be the hardest soft skill to acquire.



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