It has been hotly debated over the last decade as to whether the focus of job descriptions should be on skills or competencies. Skills Skills vs. Competencies: What’s the Difference? | Indeed.comare the specific learned abilities that you need to perform a given job well. Examples, depending on the specific role, range from paying invoices to writing code to installing a garbage disposal or writing communication. Competencies, What is Competency? | Meaning, Definition & Types | HR Glossary (darwinbox.com)on the other hand, are the person’s knowledge and behaviors that lead them to be successful in a job. Examples of competencies, then, include the improvement of business processes, innovation and data-based decision making. Competencies effectively explain a trait a candidate has to have in order to do the job well.
The growing concern with a competency-based approach is centered around the fact that a competency, or lack thereof, is hard to quantify. How do you determine if a candidate, internal or external, has the proven capability to plan strategically or to innovate? And, if they don’t, how do you provide training to ensure that they ever will?
Most job descriptions 3 Most Overlooked Elements of Writing a Job Description – Workest (zenefits.com)can be broadly considered to be either skills-based or competency-based. They differ in that skills-based job descriptions typically consist of the job title, responsibilities and skills required, whereas competency-based job descriptions tend to take a more holistic approach by also considering the traits that will lead to success in the job.
The concern is that neither approach fully captures all that will be required of any person to be successful and they do little to quickly develop talent. A fundamentally different solution is needed if we want to grow better talent faster. Enter Experience Designing. We know that experiences accelerate development and demonstrate a person’s capabilities. If properly utilized, experiences will develop better talent faster. How to Develop a More Stable and Talented Workforce (workplaces.org)
Unfortunately, despite widespread recognition that experiences accelerate development, few companies use them as their development framework. Instead, managers and employees are left to struggle with complex and difficult to apply competency or skill based models.
Those models rely on managers to determine how to best develop employees, which leads to training-based development plans. They don’t prioritize which capabilities are most valuable to the company, so development efforts are often misdirected. They don’t easily fit into a larger career framework, so employees don’t understand how today’s development contributes to future career growth.
In short, typical competency or skills based approaches don’t help managers to accelerate development or provide employees with a guide for managing their careers.
Offering employees a hybrid approach of specific skills needed ( i.e. demonstrate the capability to create pivot tables in excel) and experiences ( have created a successful strategy for a $100M business unit or have created a college recruitment program and successfully recruited 50 new hires) provides a tangible and easy to understand framework for their future development needs and ensures the company has a plethora of viable candidates poised for success.