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What is a Competency Framework?

H. Bliss
Updated May 16, 2024
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A competency framework is a document that identifies the skills needed to perform a job within an organization. The main goal of a competency framework is to clearly identify and communicate the skills an employee needs to thrive in a job. Once a framework of competencies is defined, employees can be evaluated based on how they meet those competency requirements. The framework competency components will differ for each position.

This type of framework is similar to a competency profile, except it identifies only the skillset necessary for performing a job and does not identify individual employee competencies within a profile. A competency profile will identify employee competency levels in addition to listing required competencies. Competency frameworks are used in performance management, which is usually handled by a human resources (HR) department. They contain similar information to that found in a typical job description.

Skills listed within a competency framework are often relative to the employee's past performance to encourage on-the-job improvement for the employee. Competencies that require the employee to constantly improve include taking initiative and learning. When designing a framework to evaluate job competency, it is important to balance specific job-related skills with general skills that lead to success in any job.

Human resources departments typically handle everything related to the human resources in an organization, which means they are responsible for everything related to the workers. Workplace communication, hiring, and firing all fall under the scope of human resources. When business management needs to communicate a message to employees, they often turn to the HR department to relay the message.

It is important for an HR worker designing a competency framework to define competencies that are specific enough for an employee to focus on an area of improvement. For instance, if a job requires good hygiene and an employee has bad breath, the competency framework should require that all employees performing that position maintain good breath. This is more likely to affect positive and specific competency improvement than a general requirement for good hygiene that does not define what good hygiene means.

Creating frameworks that encourage both general and specific skill improvement can help employees make competency improvements. Focusing competency framework guides too closely on the performance level of specific job talents and skills can frustrate an employee who has difficulty acquiring skills in an individual area, but labeling competencies too broadly can leave an employee confused about how to improve the results on his competency framework. A balanced competency framework might include performance evaluation of skills used on the job, but will also evaluate general performance including attitude and skill in interpersonal communications.

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H. Bliss
By H. Bliss
Heather Bliss, a passionate writer with a background in communication, brings her love for connecting with others to her work. With a relevant degree, she crafts compelling content that informs and inspires, showcasing her unique perspective and her commitment to making a difference.
Discussion Comments
By anon228778 — On Nov 10, 2011

Thought it might be helpful to include some further examples that illustrate that competency frameworks are being developed in places other than HR departments and by people other than HR specialists.

For example, other competency frameworks have been developed by professional organizations (some examples are below): A National Interprofessional Competency Framework, Canadian Interprofessional Health Collaborative (2010)

Canadian Nurse Practitioner Core Competency Framework developed by the Canadian Nursing Association.

There are also examples of competency frameworks from higher education: University of Surrey, Competency Framework.

Royal Roads University (Doctorate of Social Sciences Program) Competency Framework.

University of Edinburgh leadership and management framework for professional services staff.

All of this indicates a growing movement towards closer integration between professional associations, the world of work, and higher education.

In short there is work underway to encourage better integration across all sectors to improve and build human competency. Hope this makes sense.

By anon228770 — On Nov 10, 2011

Competency frameworks can be developed and used in other areas outside of HR. For example, there are competency frameworks that are used for government occupational classification systems, for higher education, for professional associations, etc. This current definition is probably too narrow and could be misleading.

H. Bliss
H. Bliss
Heather Bliss, a passionate writer with a background in communication, brings her love for connecting with others to her...
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